740.0011 European War 1939/34014

The Secretary of State to the Swiss Minister (Bruggmann)

Sir: With reference to your note dated April 7, 1944 regarding the bombing of Schaffhausen by American planes on April 1, 1944 and particularly to your request that the detailed results of my Government’s investigation into the causes of this accident together with definite proposals of precautionary measures for preventing further such incidents be communicated to the Swiss Government, I have the honor to inform you that the Secretary of War has advised me that investigation of the accidental bombing of Schaffhausen by aircraft of American Army Air Forces has disclosed certain circumstances which led to this unfortunate and regrettable incident, as follows:

“The aircraft engaged in this mission encountered winds more than sixty miles per hour greater than expected. The leading aircraft of the air units involved was shot down and was replaced by the deputy leader. While the aircraft were approaching the target over almost solid clouds, there occurred a malfunction of special navigational equipment in the aircraft of the deputy leader. The loss of the leader of the formation, together with the unanticipated high wind and the failure of navigational equipment, caused a variation from the intended course. The bombardier of the leading aircraft dropped his bombs and markers on what he believed he had identified as the primary target through breaks in the clouds. Following aircraft released their bombs at the point marked by the leading aircraft, again in the belief that they were bombing the primary objective.

“Photographs taken on the mission show that the majority of the bombs pictured struck in woods outside of the town. The remainder of the bombs fell in the railroad yards and river front areas of the town of Schaffhausen.”

I am also informed by the Secretary of War that directives now in effect prohibit the bombing of any targets in Germany not positively identified if they are within fifty miles of the borders of Switzerland.

It is further understood that the War Department communicated to the American Military Attaché at Bern full details of the investigation as well as of the concrete measures to prevent similar accidents [Page 800] in the future, and that he has already discussed these matters with the appropriate Swiss authorities.

I am sure that you will appreciate the necessity of my urging that the foregoing information be treated as confidential by your Government and not be given publicity either here or in Switzerland.

Accept [etc.]

Cordell Hull

[On October 11, 1944, a second installment of $3,000,000 was paid to Switzerland to assist those in distress as a result of the bombing of Schaffhausen. Then several years later, October 21, 1949, the State Department in a note to the Swiss Legation offered the Swiss Government 62,176,433.06 Swiss francs, which included interest through that date, in full and final settlement of balance due on all claims for losses and damages inflicted on persons and property in all Switzerland during World War II by units of the United States Armed Forces in violation of neutral rights. By a note of the same date the Swiss accepted the offer and agreed that the Swiss Government would assume responsibility for making the payment of individual claims involved. The money for the payment had been appropriated by the 81st Congress on October 14, 1949. For texts of notes exchanged October 21, 1949, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 2112.]