Posted 5 years ago
When a Swiss soldier reaches age 55 he is retired from military service. There is a retirement ceremony which centers around the return of his weapon. I have also run into a retirement medal dated 1991 which is a good way to end my Swiss military medals series. There is one more medal type which should be mentioned here since I frequently see it incorrectly listed as a military medal on ebay and that is the Swiss Gratitude Medal of WWI.
As the Swiss learned during the Napoleonic wars; declaring neutrality is not enough unless you can defend it. By the time WWI started the Swiss were prepared. They mobilized their armed forces and were ready to defend their fortified borders. Calling up about 25 percent of the population to military service for a small nation like Switzerland has some serious economic costs. Besides the obvious direct costs there were hidden costs. The tourist trade income was drastically cut as was industrial and agricultural production. Added to this is the cost of feeding and housing large numbers of refugees and military internees. This was a dire situation for a small country that needed to import food even in peace time. Fortunately for the Swiss the United States was able to prevent famine in Switzerland and the Swiss were very grateful. President Wilson as the representative of the American People, was presented with a medal on behalf of the Swiss People. The medal was funded by public subscription and every one who donated enough money got a bronze or silver medal like the two illustrated here. The design is the same as the official medal given to President Wilson featuring an American eagle flying to the right (east) with wheat in it’s talons and an inscribed reverse. The fact that the medals are not rare indicates that large numbers of Swiss participated in the funding effort.