740.0011 European War 1939/33951

The Swiss Minister (Bruggmann) to the Secretary of State

Sir: Acting upon the instructions of my Government I have the honor to draw your attention to the bombing of Schaffhausen by American planes which took place on April first.

When, on the evening of that day, I called at the State Department, detailed information was lacking and I could only request that an examination of the facts be made, and an explanation of them be given to the Swiss Government at the earliest possible moment.

Soon thereafter your Government officially pronounced the bombardment to be the result of error, and expressed its regret over the tragic consequences.

It also declared its intention of making a thorough investigation to determine the reasons of this disaster, and to take measures to prevent a recurrence. Moreover, it has expressed its readiness to make good as far as possible the damage wrought.

I have now received a first statement of facts as established by Swiss authorities which reads as follows:

“On April first several formations of American bombers flew over Swiss territory north of the Rhine between 10:28 and 11:01 in the morning, some of the planes reaching Eglisau. More than 70 planes entered Swiss air space. At 10:50 a.m. the city of Schaffhausen was violently bombarded by a formation of about 30 planes coming from [Page 797] Lake Constance, flying at an altitude of 15,000 feet and heading westward. The bombs were dropped in a volley, causing serious damage. So far, 35 bodies have been removed from the ruins. Furthermore, about 50 persons were gravely injured, two of whom have since died, and others are still in danger of death. Among the dead are a member of the Government of Schaffhausen and a cantonal Judge. More than 50 houses are badly hit, notably a wing of the Museum housing precious collections which were destroyed, part of the City Hall, a wing of the railroad station, the power plant, a garage and several factories, among which are a spinning mill, a leather factory, a pottery factory, a silver-ware factory and a twine factory.”

The report further states that the bombardment took place under fair weather conditions, with good visibility and with a light wind.

The above is a very brief statement of the results of the investigation to date and you will appreciate, without my stressing it, that the event has caused consternation among the Swiss people and anxiety as to the future.

The penetration of the Swiss air space by American planes resulting in the bombing of Schaffhausen constitutes a most serious violation of Swiss sovereignty and territory. The mistake which caused in broad daylight the partial destruction of a Swiss city is so grave an incident that the Government of the Swiss Confederation cannot consider it settled by its protest and by the expression of regret of the American Government. It is essential that the causes of this tragic error be determined exactly and that effective measures be taken to eliminate them in the future.

I am, therefore, instructed to request that the detailed results of the investigation, which is being conducted by the American authorities, be communicated in full to the Swiss Government, together with definite proposals of precautionary measures for preventing further infringement of Swiss rights.

Inasmuch as the American Government has voluntarily signified its intention of making “appropriate reparations for the damage resulting from this unfortunate event in so far as that is humanly possible”, it is not necessary for me to dwell further upon this subject in this note. The Swiss Government is forming a Commission of Appraisal, working with local authorities, which will, in due time, present its findings and make a report.

I may add that the Swiss Government appreciates the spontaneous expression of regret and sympathy, voiced officially by your Government and has confidence that your Government, in accordance with its attitude as already declared, will make not only full reparation and restitution for the injuries inflicted upon the Swiss people, but will likewise do the necessary to insure respect of their sacred rights in the future.

Accept [etc.]

Charles Bruggmann