The internment of 1LT Fanelli
I fell into Switzerland on September 5, 1944 at approximately 1:00 PM accompanied by nine other shaken, scratched but otherwise unhurt men. We had been set afire by 105 anti-aircraft shells in our number one engine, closely followed by the loss of the number two engine. Two shell bursts also occurred- one under the bomb bay which twisted up the bomb racks with four one thousand pound bombs askew and the second burst under the right wing which threw us over on our backs. We dropped from 27,500 feet down to 9,200 feet before I was able to get control and level the old Liberator off. I had the co-pilot ring the warning bell to have the men standby with their chutes on. We concentrated on the fire in the number one engine and got it out with the fire extinguisher, feathered the number two and headed West while losing altitude like a brick latrine. It didn't take long to figure out that we were not going to make it over the Vosges Mountains, so we changed our heading South, stripped the plane of everything important, and picked up an escort of two P-51s (who just several minutes later shot down two Swiss Me109s who were sent up to intercept us). By this time the radio operator and flight engineer had disarmed the four one thousand pounders and dumped them out along with the big strike photo camera we had in the waist. The prop on the number one over-revved, heated up the crankshaft to a cherry red color and damn near spun off, finally breaking the crankshaft and pushing into the front of the crankcase.
We crossed the border into Switzerland at about 1,000 feet off the ground, headed in the general direction of an airfield marked on the map. We spotted the windsock, dropped the gear and got ready to set it in. We were on a straight-in final approach and just cleared the hangars. The brakes weren't worth a damn and so we nosed over into a drainage ditch at the side of the field. A while later we learned that it was Dubendorf.
Our crew was sent to Adelboden the next day, September 6, 1944. We spent two weeks in quarantine at the Beau Site Hotel and then we were moved over to the Palace Hotel in Adelboden. A few weeks later I was escorted under armed guard from Adelboden back to Dubendorf to attend a Swiss military tribunal and investigation into the shooting down of their two Me109 fighters. In attendance were several high-ranking Swiss officers and General Staff members. I was questioned at length and asked to verify my entry route on their radar maps. Our embassy people asked me not to talk about the incident, which I haven't. This is the first time I have disclosed the details to anyone. When several authors contacted me I refused to give them any details on my stay in Switzerland, explaining that I was writing my own book. The truth of the matter is that the two Swiss fighters did a pursuit curve across our tail with guns firing, and the two P-51s that were escorting us jumped them immediately. There was no error, no excuse; it was deliberate. Of course, the P-51s shouldn't have been over Swiss airspace- thank God they were. Whoever they were, they got a swastika each on their fuselages.
After a few weeks I was moved out of Adelboden and put in charge of a small punishment camp at Greppen am Rigi. I had to report twice each day to the Swiss officer in command of the Second Swiss Army Corps, Colonel Zurcher, who was a close friend to the family of one of the Swiss pilots who were shot down by the P-51s. The camp at Greppen was authorized by our embassy in Bern to be put to use as a way station for our men escaping out of the mountains. We managed to get quite a few through before the Swiss authorities caught on, but that is another story- it would make a great James Bond movie. I was in command there until December 22, when the camp was closed and I was transferred to Davos Platz. I remained at Davos until the entire group was brought out in February 1945.
I probably have been more fortunate than most of our internees in that I was hospitalized upon my return to the U.S. from the war zone in Europe. The diagnosis was "severe combat fatigue" and "anxiety stress" for which the only treatment was rest. At the time they had no Valium or other tranquilizers. They also gave out no disabilities for this condition. In 1981, when the Post Stress Syndrome for the Vietnam veterans was put into effect, and close friend of mine- a retired Army Colonel, convinced me to sign an application with Veterans Affairs for enrollment under this program. What followed was typical: "We have no record of your ever being in the service," and "if you were a serviceman, your records were destroyed in the St. Louis warehouse fire," etc. etc. Luckily I had a complete record of my hospital stay in the service, so they accepted it and gave me a VA POW card. A year later they asked for the return of the card and issued me the standard (purple) service connected disability card. I go into the VA hospital three or four times a year for a checkup of my blood pressure and nerves, and they also supply my medication.