Capt Chuck Yeager takes a vacay (vacation) in Switzerland during World War II

December 1944:

A few weeks before Christmas, I received an unexpected vacation from the British. Group sent me off to Switzerland. The assignment was so hush hush I wasn’t even told why I was going.


                                Lake Annecy

I flew over to Lyon where we now had advanced fighter bases, and was driven over the Alps to Lake Annecy, just south of Geneva and was put up at the Beau Rivage Hotel At Leiston, we slept in sleeping bags on a GI mattress, and this bed was so comfortable, I couldn’t get used to it. I quickly learned what my mission was about when Peter De Paolo, a famous racing car driver, now the Air Attache to Switzerland, arrived at my room and took me to dinner. As a former evadee, who had escaped from France by climbing over the Pyrenees, I was asked to help with an escape plan for 800 American fliers who were interned in neutral Switzerland. There were also 1600 Americans interned in Spain.

“We want to do some discreet smuggling,” said Pete. “Maybe set up a mountain-climbing expedition one of these moonless nights. We can’t just ask the neutral Swiss to let them go home. The Germans would see that as a hostile act.” He asked my advice about the ideal group size trying to get across, the best time to try it, and so on. Frankly, it sounded to me like a better war movie than a practical plan. Those alps were mighty big even compared to the Pyrenees. I told Pete, I’d help plan it, but not help climb it.

Annecy liberated WW 2

                    Annecy liberated WW 2

Between Christmas and New Year’s, we planned a small smuggling operation, bringing in canvas covers to protect a half-dozen American airplanes that had force-landed at Swiss air bases shot up but still serviceable, if we could get them out.

Here’s some footage of the escaped pilots being transported out of Annecy.

It was amusing when I left because I gave a lift to an OSS guy. He sat on my lap when I took off from France in my mustang. I carried him, his bag, and a case of champagne in that tiny cockpit. We flew back low with the canopy open.