Official protest from American Legation to Swiss Federal Political Department, 5 June 1944

No. 1639                      LEGATION OF THE
                     UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The legation of the United States of America presents its compliments to the Federal Political Department and has the honor, under instruction from its Government, to refer to the attack on April 24, 1944, by Swiss aircraft upon an American bomber flying over Switzerland which resulted in the death of three officers and three non-commissioned officers.

The American plane, severely damaged by enemy anti-aircraft and fighter fire, was rapidly losing altitude and scarcely maneuverable when approached by Swiss fighter aircraft about one minute after crossing Lake Constance and entering Swiss air space. The plane twice circled the Zurich area and then proceeded to the south end of Lake Greifen, where it was attacked twice by two Swiss fighters which had been hovering above the bomber. The second Swiss fighter attack set the bomber on fire, necessitating the bailing out of crew member at less than six hundred feet. One non-commissioned officer was killed in the parachute jump; one officer was drowned after the plane fell into the lake, and some remaining crew members may have died from wounds prior to landing or may have drowned because of their inability, resulting from wounds, to extricate themselves from the plane.

In addition to firing upon a plane which was obviously in distress and which made no hostile maneuvers, the Swiss fighter aircraft apparently attacked the American machine in contravention of instructions issued by the Swiss military authorities. It is understood that these instructions prescribe that single of isolated foreign aircraft entering Swiss air space will be approached from the side by one of two Swiss fighter aircraft flying in the same direction which will give the landing order by firing green flares and eventually lowering their landing gear. Foreign aircraft, it is understood, are to reply to such a landing order by return flare. In this instance the Swiss fighter aircraft attacked the American plane after the latter had answered the green rocket signal of the Swiss planes by a like signal. That the American plane was in distress was also evidenced by the fact that its left front wheel had been shot off and right wheel and tail wheel were down.

The attack is considered to have been unjustifiable and the Legation has, in consequence, been directed to lodge a formal energetic protest. Furthermore, the Legation expresses the hope that the now clarified and supplemented instructions to Swiss air corps personnel will avoid recurrence of such tragic indicent.

The Legation avails itself of this occasion to renew to the Federal Political Department the assurance of its highest consideration.

Bern, June 5, 1944.

To the
      Federal Political Department,