THE SWISS ARMY 575
The Swiss Army is one of the few undefeated armiesof Europe. That is a certain distinction these days, even if it is undefeated because it has not been attacked.Germany might have attacked France throughSwitzerland instead of the Low Countries, but as in 1914,so again in 1940, Germany chose the easier route to get ather enemy.For a country of its size, Switzerland's military conditionis strong. Her entire manhood is trained for defense, in peace time as well as in time of war. So uncomfortablysituated in the midst of powerful neighbors rivalling eachother, the Swiss were forced to work out a system thatwould have the country's maximum military strengthalways in readiness for self defense. They found this in amilitia system based on a constitutional requirement of military service by every male as a condition of citizenship. At the age of 20 the Swiss boy becomes of age,gets the right to vote and the obligation to do militaryservice. No man is exempt. If physically unfit or livingoutside Switzerland, he must pay a tax proportionate to hisfinancial status in lieu of service and is liable in wartimefor auxiliary service.The Swiss find no contradiction between the democraticideals of their country and this constant military preparedness. They began fighting in the 13th century andthey have been good soldiers ever since. The period whenSwiss mercenaries were the most sought-after soldiers inEurope has so completely passed that (except for the VaticanGuard) it is illegal for the Swiss to do military service for any other country. That would jeopardize Swiss neutralityand deprive the country of its full defensive strength.
*Population speaking German. 71.9%; French, 20.4%; Italian. 6%;Romansch, 1.1%; other languages, 0.6%; Protestant population. 57%;Catholic population, 41%.
But compulsory military service fortifies Swissdemocracy in another way. It is a melting pot of classdistinction, because every Swiss must begin his service asa simple recruit, no matter to what rank he aspires. The sonof a distinguished family and a young peasant wear thesame uniform and must share the same work. A spoiledyoungster who has never learned to obey has to swallowhis stubbornness and take orders. Those who have nointerest in sports are built up physically by the rigoroustraining. In a country with four official languages (German,French, Italian and Romansch) and denominationaldifferences,* the unifying effect of such a military systemis most important. The Italian-speaking Tessin boy of Catholic faith may do his service in the German-speaking,Protestant city of Thun, the French-speaking Genevesesomewhere in German-speaking Switzerland. Thus astrong factor in the striking unity of the Swiss is themilitary service in which every citizen, regardless of his background, participates.M
The Swiss militia system differs from the systems of other countries in that the soldier has not one year or moreof successive military training, but is called in for coursesof short duration, and in accordance with the new militaryorganization of June 24, 1938, the total peace time servicefor an infantryman between the ages of 20 and 48 is 320days. Before that date a shorter period of service wasrequired, but the more complicated modern militarymachines made it necessary to extend the time. The plan of service of a Swiss private is as follows:At the age of 19 he must pass an educational test, whichincludes reading, arithmetic, geography, Swiss history and politics, and composition, and a physical test consisting of performance of gymnastic exercises. After having passed amedical examination, also, and been pronounced fit for military service, the boy may name the branch in which hewould prefer to do his service and if possible his wishes arefollowed.At 20 he enters the Recruit School, for a course whichlasts 116 days for all branches except cavalry, in which ittakes 130 days. On reporting for service the recruit issupplied with full equipment, including a regulation rifle,all of which he takes home after finishing the course. Buthe is responsible for having his equipment always inreadiness and in perfect order, and yearly inspections at thetime of his annual 19 days' drill course are an effectivecheck-up. When he leaves the army at 48 his equipment becomes his personal property.This practice of having every soldier keep hisequipment, including his rifle, at home has the greatadvantage that the army can be mobilized in a minimum of time. But for reasons of public safety it might not befeasible in many countries. An Irishman who had livedseveral years in Switzerland still found this practiceastonishing. "Why," he said laughing, "think of therevolutions that might be set off! The Irish would think itwas a great opportunity missed." But in Switzerland this isno danger. The Swiss considers himself a part of thesovereign, and is conscious of the responsibility which that puts on him. He is proud to have his arms at home as asymbol of his freedom.The training of the recruits is necessarily rigorous, becauseit is so short. It means eight hours of strenuous daily work,including night work, such as patrolling, entrenching andmaneuvers. From the completion of this course until the ageof 32 the young soldier belongs to the Elite troops (First Lineor
). In the first six years he is called in each year for a19 days' drill course and afterwards only every other year, sothat at the age of 32 he has completed eight such drillcourses. These drill courses of the Elite troops are arranged to provide an adequate balance of training in smaller tacticalunits and in larger units.