Join 3,376 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The bombing of Switzerland
January 22, 2003 1:20 PM   Subscribe

The bombing of Switzerland. This morning, CBC Radio 1's "The Current" covered the last year's friendly fire incident in Afghanistan. In the course of the programme one of the interviewees mentioned a part of the history of WW2 that I'd never heard of before - the repeated bombing of Swiss towns and cities by the USAF, which escalated to the point where the Swiss shot down a US bomber and forced down more. Will the USAF ever be able to eliminate the problem of friendly fire, and is it a uniquely American one?
posted by pascal (19 comments total)

 
I ask the last question, because as a brit living in Canada, all I seem to hear about is American friendly fire. I'd be surprised if other countries didn't have similar incidents, but do the US forces have proportionally more?
posted by pascal at 1:25 PM on January 22, 2003


I'd imagine it's anything but friendly if you're the one being shot at.
posted by skylar at 1:32 PM on January 22, 2003


Interesting link, Pascal. What an underreported incident from WWII.

To answer your question, other countries have done the same. Sadaam accidentally dropped gas and nerve agents on Kurds in his own country.

Ooops, I'm sorry. That wasn't an accident, was it?

Nevermind.
posted by darren at 1:33 PM on January 22, 2003


Just to nit-pick, the Swiss NEVER shot down a US Air Force plane, they shot down a US Army Air Force plane, the USAAF doesn't even exist in the capacity it did then! That aside, of course friendly fire is not a US only problem, its been going on since distance warfare came about, its just in the news lately because of some recent, notable events. I'd like to see any other military exist in so many places with so many troops and not have a notable event!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:36 PM on January 22, 2003


You hear about American friendly fire because:

a) The American media, as well as the rest of the world, loves to make the American military look bad.

b) America is the last superpower with the most powerful (and widely deployed) military. Good or bad, (and that's been the topic of many a thread) the fact is the more bullets you shoot, the more bullets are going to hit good guys.

c) Belive it or not, the amount of friendly fire incidents reported is a direct result of just how good (good meaning powerful and accurate) our military is. We've managed to minimize our own casualties and as a result friendly fire gets noticed a *lot* more. There were *thousands* of friendly fire casualties in WWII but it didn't quite get noticed amoung the 35,000,000 or so other deaths.

I'm sure I'll be attacked with cries of "jingoism" or "nazi" or some such but if alied casualties were as high as they were in previous wars a few dead Canadians wouldn't be much of a news story.
posted by bondcliff at 1:40 PM on January 22, 2003


a) The American media, as well as the rest of the world, loves to make the American military look bad.

Some things are easy to love! How 'bout you actually back up that statement with something substantive. (And since you don't seem to notice the obvious, Canadian casualties ARE allied casualties. That's what makes it friendly fire, yes?)
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2003


I'm sure I'll be attacked with cries of "jingoism" or "nazi" or some such

p.s. Get over the pity party. If you say stupid things, it isn't the fault of others that they notice it.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:17 PM on January 22, 2003


How 'bout you actually back up that statement with something substantive

I don't have time to point to the 2878918713983 articles out there criticizing America's military, sorry.

And yes, I do realize canadians are allies (until we get tired of Bryan Adams and Celiene Dion and the M1s drive across the border, anyways) which I thought I made clear. To clarify though, if we (and by 'we" I mean the US, Canada, Britian, and whoever else is on our side in whatever war we happen to be involved in) lost thousands to enemy fire a few friendly fire casualties would not be noticed by the media.

The next time Canada uses their military might to liberate a country or keep a communist superpower from taking over the world I'm sure you'll accidentally kill a few of your own allies too.

I'm not saying friendly fire is "right" or "good" I'm saying the media loves to report on casualites and "friendly" fire seems to be the only type of casualty we have these days. Unless you count enemy casualties, of course. In my view that's a Good Thing. I'd much rather see reports of a few friendly fire deaths than newsreals of thousands of dead soldiers storming a beach.
posted by bondcliff at 2:24 PM on January 22, 2003


p.s. Get over the pity party. If you say stupid things, it isn't the fault of others that they notice it.

*sigh*

I said that in order to pre-empt the anti-american crowd who will jump on me for defending a country who does nothing but kill brown people in order to keep the cost of running their SUVs to a minimum.

I'm not defending our military actions, I'm trying to answer the question posted, which was "but do the US forces have proportionally more (friendly fire)?"
posted by bondcliff at 2:30 PM on January 22, 2003


I don't have time to point to the 2878918713983 articles out there criticizing America's military, sorry


You know, when there are THAT many articles, THAT many countries and THAT many protestors against the Bush administration (not the military, they earned respect)..you think there may be something wrong???
posted by CrazyJub at 2:32 PM on January 22, 2003


First off, google searches 3 trillion web pages. I find it hard to believe that close to that many pages all contain articles dissing the Armed Forces of the US. Yes. I know you were intentionally overstating.

Second, I think a good argument has been made that the US's disproportionate deployment makes for a higher raw count of "friendly fire" incidents. The question remains as to whether they are dis-proportunate as regards our deployment compared to other countries. Numbers would help here, and, unfortunately, I don't have any. What I, and I'm sure others, would like to see is some evidence one way or the other.

Third, when a claim is made that the "friendly fire" incidents involving US forces are reported with a particular anti-military agenda, I have to ask for some backup. The US media reports remarkably favorably about our military, in my opinion. Do we just have conflicting opinions here, or is their some evidence of bias to which I am ignorant?

Finally, I'm not Canadian ... though y'all might conscider Montana part of Canada. That's okay, ussually I don't mind. It's just that the foods better South of that border. My opinion, of course ;-)
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:53 PM on January 22, 2003


You know, when there are THAT many articles, THAT many countries and THAT many protestors against the Bush administration (not the military, they earned respect)..you think there may be something wrong???


Wow. By that reasoning, Britney Spears really is the greatest muscian of all time!

If a lot of people say it then it must be true! The majority is never wrong!
posted by nyxxxx at 3:57 PM on January 22, 2003


I don't have time to point to the 2878918713983 articles out there criticizing America's military, sorry.

Fair enough, we're all busy around here (well, almost).
But may I ask you, at least, the names of a few of those anti-military big, influential papers/big, influential tv networks/big, influential radio stations? I'm just curious. You'll help American patriots, who will then be able to avoid those poisoned media wells. Also, would you mind suggesting us a few balanced information sources?
This thread will stay open for 30 days -- please find a minute to do that, many users here will thank you for it
posted by matteo at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2003


Jimmy Stewart and the Swiss Bombing

Indeed, a court martial was held on 1 June 1945, at the headquarters of the Second Air Division, Eighth Air Force, Horsham St. Faith, England. The presiding officer was Colonel James M. Stewart (who despite his fine war record is more widely known for his acting career). The pilot and the dead-reckoning navigator of the plane that had led a makeshift squadron over Zurich were charged with violation of the 96th Article of War: they had "wrongfully and negligently caused bombs to be dropped in friendly territory" and had negligently and incorrectly determined the location of the aircraft. Considerable evidence was presented regarding equipment malfunction, poor visibility, errors of judgment, and the zeal with which attacks crews were necessarily imbued. The fliers were acquitted of any criminal intent.

Fascinating article. It appears the U.S. eventually paid the Swiss $14 million and change to settle all of the claims.

The U.S. also gave a wide berth to Switzerland later in the bombing campaign to avoid additional incidents.
posted by newlydead at 6:40 PM on January 22, 2003


More on friendly fire from Global Security

As long as there is war, there will be many accidental deaths at the hands of allies. On one fateful night, 410 Americans died from a bombing blunder in the Second World War.

It has been calculated that 21 per cent of U.S. casualties in the Second World War were from friendly fire. In Korea it was 18 per cent, in Vietnam 39 and in the Gulf War a whopping 49 per cent.
posted by newlydead at 7:55 PM on January 22, 2003


Not only is the USA it's Allies' worst enemy, it's its own worst enemy...

The CBC program talked about how Britian won't allow its troops to encamp anywhere near the Marines. THey're just too gung-ho to kill to be at all safe.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:06 PM on January 22, 2003


The next time Canada uses their military might to liberate a country or keep a communist superpower from taking over the world I'm sure you'll accidentally kill a few of your own allies too.

How can you say crap like this in the same context as discussing the dropping of bombs on Canadians? They were there in Afghanistan fighting alongside U.S. troops in order to get bombs dropped on them. They were there in the Gulf war. They were there in Korea. They were there in Europe (long before the U.S. was). Never mind Canada's disproportionate contribution of peace keepers around the world.

And you wonder why other people in other countries sometimes find American jingoism hard to swallow. Talk out of your ass and someone is bound to notice the smell, lame preemptive disclaimers or not.
posted by srboisvert at 4:00 AM on January 23, 2003


THey're just too gung-ho to kill to be at all safe.

Blatant, nonsensical, gossipy drivel. The U.S. Marines are the most well-trained and disciplined divisions of the U.S. military, period. Green berets too.

What is the purpose of this thread?
posted by hama7 at 4:16 AM on January 23, 2003


With Britain's armed forces so poorly equipped that they're buying their own kit (link to google cache, the BBC appears to be down?) a letter in The Guardian yesterday suggested UK forces may as well wear US military uniform thereby minimising the chance of usual friendly fire mistakes.

What is the purpose of this thread?
I've always been curious as to whether the US military deserves it's piss-poor reputation?
posted by niceness at 8:30 AM on January 23, 2003


« Older Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's MDMA...  |  Place your vote for the ten mo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments