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Association History

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Internee Stories

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Internment Camps

War Crimes Testimony

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Welcome to the Swiss Internees Association Website

     On 13 August 1943, the U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberator bomber "Death Dealer" sustained heavy battle damage that left only two out of four engines functioning. The pilot, First Lieutenant Alva "Jack" Geron, knew that they would never make it back over the Alps to their base in North Africa, so he instructed his navigator to divert to Switzerland. After crash-landing at Thurau near Wil, Switzerland, the crew set fire to Death Dealer before their capture and interrogation by the Swiss military.
      As the Allied Strategic Air Offensive increased in scope, many other crippled U.S. aircraft also sought refuge in neutral Switzerland. By the end of World War II, over 1,500 American airmen had entered Switzerland in such a manner and were interned by the Swiss government. Those who attempted escape were sent to punishment camps, where many suffered conditions comparable to imprisonment by the Axis powers.
      The Swiss Internees Association, Inc. became a non-profit corporation in February of 1986. The SIAI membership is composed of those Army Air Force veterans who endured captivity by the Swiss Government, as well as their survivors. The SIAI seeks to ensure that this important chapter in American history is truthfully represented and is never forgotten. Over time, they have assembled an extensive archive that includes documents from the Swiss Federal Archives, Swiss newspapers and magazines, the U.S. National Archives and the USAF historical repositories. The SIAI also archives the personal stories and memorabilia of its members to ensure that their first hand accounts are available to future generations.


30 April 2014: The USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, awarded the Prisoner of War Medal to eight surviving internees in a ceremony held at the Pentagon. The USAF video of the ceremony is available here . A total of 143 airmen were authorized the medal as of October 2013, by order of Acting USAF Secretary Fanning.

3 January 2013: The President signed the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Section 584 of the act modified Title 10, Section 1128 to allow award of the POW Medal "to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the armed forces, was held captive under circumstances not covered by [the 1985 statute], but which the Secretary concerned finds were comparable to those circumstances under which persons have generally been held captive by enemy armed forces during periods of armed conflict. This amendment was a direct result of the denial of dozens of requests for this medal by U.S. airmen who were confined in Wauwilermoos prison camp for escape attempts. According to those who authored the amendment, "it appears these individuals were held in conditions comparable to those in which POWs are held by enemy armed forces." The amendment is expected to allow the award for any U.S. airman confined in Wauwilermoos for attempting to escape.

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