Life in Switzerland


The entire crew of 'Baby' (the four officers, and all the enlisted men except Hommer) was initially sent to Chaumont for quarantine. On May 17, they were sent to Adelboden for their initial internment. Hommer, who was in critical condition, remained at the hospital in Rorschach, near the Altenrhein airfield. Hommer later escaped directly from the hospital (!) (See Roy's story .)
The first permanent internment camp, at Adelboden, was named Camp Moloney, after Joe Moloney, the first American airman to die in Switzerland during WWII. During the war, the isolated resort town of Adelboden had been largely deserted, and provided an ideal location to establish an internment camp.In contrast, see Adelboden today.


By June, 1944, so many Allied flight crews had landed in Switzerland, Adelboden was getting overcrowded. Davos-Platz was chosen as a new internment site for American officers, leaving Adelboden for enlisted men only. Davos-Platz has a neighboring village , Davos-Dorf, which had been for some time the main "rest and relaxation" destination for German officers during the war - some even brought their wives. The Swiss government decided to move all the interned American officers from Adelboden to the one town in Switzerland next to all the vacationing German military officers! Good idea!

The first Americans arrived in Davos-Platz on June 24, 1944. The officers of 'Baby', who arrived on June 30, were assigned to stay at the Palace Hotel (now Hotel Europe) in Davos-Platz. Across the street from the Palace Hotel was the office of the German  Consulate . The consulate displayed a prominent Nazi eagle and swastika emblem on the front of the building. Americans walking in Davos-Platz would see the swastika every day, reminding them of the war still going on and the fact that Switzerland was entirely surrounded by Germany and German-occupied countries. German and American officers, both in military uniform, would see each other daily in Davos-Platz.

Just a few days after the Americans arrived in Davos-Platz in June, the Americans began a series of pranks against the Germans, especially targeted at the consulate. On July 4, the Americans celebrated by aiming fireworks and rockets at the German consulate. A local Swiss chemist is reported to have made the fireworks for the American officers.

American internees were watched by Swiss soldiers and Davos police, were not allowed outside of town except on special passes, and had curfew at 10 PM with bed checks. The police soon realized that the internees would be in their rooms at 10 PM, but began sneaking out the back windows at 10:05. The police soon had to assign 3 police officers to each American officer.

In war-time Switzerland, dependent on Germany for coal, food, and other necessities of life, citizens and internees alike were on rations. Rooms were unheated, and at least 5 meals a week were just potatoes. Crewmen spent time playing cards, baseball, and drinking at bars when their small monthly allowances permitted. The Palace Hotel provided some entertainment at least once during the first full month of internment. From Davoser Zeitung, the local newspaper:

Palace Hotel
Samstag, 29 Juli 1944
20 - 22:30 Uhr
"The Rythym Stylists"

(Black out 10 PM)

At a similar dance on July 4, many young women of Davos were invited to meet the newly arrived American officers. At this dance, the officers of  'Baby' met the Buol sisters - Pauly and Betty. The officers were often guests at Strela Alp, the Buol family farm, restaurant, and lodge over the following weeks. The men helped the family rake hay, since the girls' father had died in 1939. The men also were invited to occasional dinners, which were modest since rationing was in effect. You can still visit Strela Alp, now run by Paula's niece Hedy.

John Steichen tells the following story about playing chess during his stay in Davos:
"After Sam left I was trying to teach Paula how to play chess.  As I was showing her the moves, I had almost all of her men wiped off the board.  She had to take care of some customers, and suggested I play with one of the patrons who just happened to be a tri-country champion (unbeknownst to me!).  As he sat down I said we should set up the pieces, but he said, 'Let's finish this game'.  I had nearly all my men and he had only three or four.  The only way I  won was by trading nearly all of mine.  The next two games only took him a maximum of five moves to beat me".

The American officers had arrived at a very important time of the war. Both the Americans and Germans in Davos could see the same news stories in Davoser Zeitung. On the front page of the newspaper during June and July of 1944 there was daily news of all the war fronts: "Normandie", where the Allies had landed on June 6; the Eastern Front, where the Russians were mounting new offensives; the Italian front, with Rome falling to the Allies on June 4; and the "Total Air War" being waged by the British (by night) and the Americans (by day) over all of occupied Europe and deep into Germany itself. The invasion of southern France would begin on August 15, just a few weeks ahead.

The only good news for the German officers vacationing in Davos was the V-1 section of the Davos newspaper, announcing the latest strikes of the "buzz bombs" on London. It had to be discouraging to be a German soldier at that time, vacationing in peaceful Switzerland, knowing your country was starting to lose the war on all fronts, and having to go back to fight a defensive war in your now embattled homeland. The Americans, however, were anxious to get back into the fight, and a steadily increasing exodus of internees started in August.

Davos in 1940, before the Americans arrived
See a series of photographs of the Buol family farm.

An American Escapee in Davos
Read about an American escapee (free to travel in Switzerland) and his encounter with German Luftwaffe officers while skiing in Davos! Read Lt. Foster's story .

A Series of German Language Lessons from the Davoser Zeitung
The local newspaper, the Davoser Zeitung, started a series of German language lessons on July, 1, 1944. The intended purpose was to allow the growing number of Americans to interact more easily with the local population, but some of the lessons explaining the use of the efficient Swiss train system were good preparation for future escape plans! Read some of the lessons.

A Series of Letters while Oscar Sampson was still in Switzerland
All mail had to pass through both US military censors and the German Army mail service, since Switzerland was completely surrounded by Germany and German-controlled countries. Read some of the letters.

An Excerpt from the Davoser Revue Magazine , December, 1998, has a photograph of Garcia and Sampson along with a brief story of the theft of the 'Hakenkreuz' - the swastika - from the German Consulate. (Garcia was from Puerto Rico, and Sampson was actually of Swedish descent, not Norwegian.)


John Steichen playing the harmonica in his hotel room, 1944.

American internees and a friendly Swiss bear in front of the Palace Hotel. Photo courtesy James A. Hewlett (via Robert Martyr). Hewlett was with the 44th BG and was interned on July 21, 1944. The photo was apparently taken during Winter, 1944-1945, as it looks like there is a sleigh in the background.

John Steichen and Pauly Buol at the Buol family farm. 

The Buol family of Davos-Platz. Sampson and Garcia became friends with the daughters, Pauly and Betty, who lived at the family's farm and inn at the top of the Schatzalp funicular near the Palace Hotel. This picture was taken in happier times - December, 1945.


The Palace Hotel today, now the Hotel Europe.


See Davos in 1940           Visit Davos today .


Wauwilermoos - Punishment Camp in Switzerland during World War II

Sampson and Garcia were to be sent to Wauwilermoos on August 16, 1944, after their theft of the German Consulate insignia. The living conditions in the Wauwilermoos "labor" (actually disciplinary and punishment) camp were known to be the worst of any camp in Switzerland. Conditions were "especially difficult" and it was the only camp run on "severe authoritarian principles", according to the official Swiss post-war report. An understatement, to say the least. The commanding officer was eventually sentenced to several years in prison for his abuses. Any internee committing a major offense (for example, stealing the German swastika symbol from the front of the German Consulate!) was sure to be sent to Wauwilermoos, in the Canton of Lucerne. Fortunately, Samson and Garcia were able to escape before the Swiss military police came to escort them to Wauwilermoos.

Read the official report from the Swiss EDA Task Force

Read the story of  1Lt. George W. Mears at Wauwilermoos

Chapter 1
The Flight Across the Atlantic
Chapter 2
Life at Podington
Chapter 3
The Missions of Baby's Crew
Chapter 4
The Last Mission
Chapter 5
Life in Switzerland
Chapter 6
Escape from Switzerland
Baby's Crew
Retracing History:
The Author's Trip
What's New on the Site
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Copyright © 2001 by Ed Rathje

Web page created by Ed Rathje - last updated August 25, 2002.