The war in Europe had become a catastrophic failure for Germany following the Allied assault into France. With the Soviets encroaching in the East and the Allies marching from the West, Germany was faced with the realization defeat was inevitable. Despite limited offensive operations, such as the counteroffensive in the Ardennes, realistically Germany could no longer maintain the tempo to continue the war. To salvage the Nazi regime, German leaders and commanders considered using the alpine region of Austria as a last stand bastion against the Allied assault. While never used by the German regime, the Alpine Redoubt was a real threat to the Allies. The cost to take the region would have been high and prolonged the war in Europe longer. Luckily it never came to pass, but the concept remains a great “what if?” for historians and readers of World War II.
A national redoubt is a concept where the military forces of a nation can be withdrawn to in in the case of a military defeat. Redoubts are typically chosen to be used in areas where geography favors a defensive fight, such as mountains, and are designed so an effective resistance movement can arise to counter the invading forces. Following the German invasion of France in 1940, the French government considered using the region of Brittany as a national redoubt, but those plans were scrapped and Free French forces evacuated to the United Kingdom and French colonial holdings. The Dutch and Belgians had national redoubt plans in place, turning Amsterdam and Antwerp into respective last stand bastions. Fearing invasion from Germany, the Swiss turned their entire nation into a national redoubt, constructing hidden bunkers and fortifications that would also be used during the Cold War when the Warsaw Pact threatened Western Europe.
The British planned to turn Palestine into a national redoubt had the Afrika Korps defeated the Commonwealth forces in North Africa. Following World War II, the Chinese nationalist fight against the communists turned the city of Kunming into a national redoubt. The Chinese garrison in Kunming joined the communists during the war, forcing the Chinese Nationalist government to flee to the island of Taiwan, which continues to remain the national redoubt for Nationalist China today.
While not technically a national redoubt, during the American Civil War, Washington DC was heavily defended and garrisoned with Union troops to defend against a Confederate assault on the capital. The Confederates used similar plans in their defense of the capital at Richmond. When Union forces seized the city in 1865, the Confederates evacuated their government to Danville, Virginia.
Look for more information regarding Germany’s national redoubt in the future World at War issue #46 with the article “Nazi Germany’s Alpine Redoubt: Myth or Reality” and join the conversation on Facebook!