National Redoubt
A national redoubt is a general term for an area to which the (remnant) forces of a nation can be withdrawn if the main battle has been lost—or even beforehand if defeat is considered inevitable. Typically a region is chosen with a geography favouring defence, such as a mountainous area or a peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

, in order to function as a final hold-out to preserve national independence for the duration of the conflict.

France and the Low Countries

From the middle of the 19th century until 1914 the fortress city of Antwerp was the official National Redoubt of Antwerp
Réduit national
Fortress Antwerp was a defensive belt of fortifications built in two rings to defend Antwerp. Antwerp was designated to be a national reduit in case Belgium was attacked. It was built in the period 1859–1914...

 in Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, and until 1940, the "Fortress Holland" was that of the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, although in neither case did the "redoubt" prove defensible — even though the same area of Holland proper did manage to stop the advances of the French troops in the Rampjaar 1672
The rampjaar was the year 1672 in Dutch history. In that year,the Republic of the Seven United Provinces was after the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War and the Third Anglo-Dutch War attacked by England, France, and the prince-electors Bernhard von Galen, bishop of Münster and Maximilian Henry of...

, providing the Dutch with much-needed time to eventually gain the upper hand. In 1940 Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 was briefly considered as such in the last stages of the Fall of France, but again proved impractical.


During the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the city of Kunming
' is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China. It was known as Yunnan-Fou until the 1920s. A prefecture-level city, it is the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government...

 was prepared as a national redoubt in case the temporary capital in Chongqing
Chongqing is a major city in Southwest China and one of the five national central cities of China. Administratively, it is one of the PRC's four direct-controlled municipalities , and the only such municipality in inland China.The municipality was created on 14 March 1997, succeeding the...

 fell, an elaborate system of underground caves to serve as offices, barracks and factories was prepared but never utilized.

Kunming was again to have served in this role in the renewed Chinese civil war
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

, but the Nationalist garrison changed sides and joined the Communists. Instead, Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 became the last redoubt and home of the Nationalist government, a role which continues to this day.

Nazi Germany

The Alpine Fortress was the World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 national redoubt planned by Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 in November/December 1943 for Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

's retreat to an area from "southern Bavaria across western Austria to northern Italy". The plan was never fully endorsed by Hitler and no serious attempt was made to put the plan into operation.

In the six months following the D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 landings in Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 in June 1944, the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 armies advanced to the Rhine and seemed poised to strike into the heart of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, while the Soviet Army, advancing from the east through Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, reached the Oder
The Oder is a river in Central Europe. It rises in the Czech Republic and flows through western Poland, later forming of the border between Poland and Germany, part of the Oder-Neisse line...

. It seemed likely that Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 would soon fall and Germany be cut in half. In these circumstances, it occurred both to some leading figures in the German regime and to the Allies that the logical thing for the Germans to do would be to move the government to the mountainous areas of southern Germany and Austria, where a relatively small number of determined troops could hold out for some time.

A number of intelligence reports to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) identified the area held stores of foodstuffs and military supplies built up over the preceding six months, and could even be harbouring armaments production facilities. Within this fortified terrain, they said, Hitler would be able to evade the Allies and cause tremendous difficulties for the occupying Allied forces throughout Germany.
The Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 minister for propaganda, Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

, set up a special unit to invent and spread rumours about an Alpenfestung. Goebbels also sent out rumours to neutral governments, thus keeping the Redoubt myth alive and its state of readiness unclear. He enlisted the assistance of the intelligence service of the SS, the SD
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

, to produce faked blueprints and reports on construction supplies, armament production and troop transfers to the Redoubt. For Germans, the Redoubt became part fantasy and part official deception plan.

Although Adolf Hitler never endorsed the plan, he issued an order on April 24 for the evacuation of remaining government personnel from Berlin to the Redoubt; he made it clear that he would not leave Berlin himself, even if it fell to the Soviets, as it did on May 2. When the American armies penetrated Bavaria and western Austria at the end of April, they met little serious resistance, and the National Redoubt was shown to have been a myth.

Nevertheless the National Redoubt had serious military and political consequences. Once the Anglo-American armies had crossed the Rhine and advanced into western Germany, they had to decide whether to advance on a narrow front towards Berlin, or on a broad front, with a view to securing both the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 coast and southern Germany before advancing further. The American commander, General George S. Patton
George S. Patton
George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from...

, had consistently advocated a narrow front ever since D-Day, and did so again at this point. But the Allied commander in chief, U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower, took a more cautious view, and the broad front strategy prevailed.

Goebbels' deception plan over the Redoubt was one of the great successes of German intelligence during World War II, albeit one that came too late to alter the outcome of the war. The Allied intelligence services were completely fooled by Goebbels' false trail of rumours.

The Alpine Fortress was one of three reasons associated with SHAEF's movement of forces towards southern Germany rather than towards Berlin (cf.
cf., an abbreviation for the Latin word confer , literally meaning "bring together", is used to refer to other material or ideas which may provide similar or different information or arguments. It is mainly used in scholarly contexts, such as in academic or legal texts...

 Berlin was planned to be in the Soviet Zone of Occupation and the Battle of Berlin
Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

 would entail unacceptably high Western Allied casualties).

Evacuations to the Alpine Fortress

  • February/early March 1945, SHAEF received reports that German military, government and Nazi Party offices and their staffs were leaving Berlin for the area around Berchtesgaden
    Berchtesgaden is a municipality in the German Bavarian Alps. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich...

    , the site of Hitler's retreat in the Bavarian Alps.
  • In February 1945, the SS evacuated V-2 rocket
    V-2 rocket
    The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

     scientists from the Peenemünde Army Research Center to the Alpine Fortress.
  • SS Generalleutnant Gottlob Berger
    Gottlob Berger
    Gottlob Berger was a German Nazi who held the rank of Obergruppenführer during World War II and was later convicted of war crimes.In 1939, he was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's main recruiting officer...

     claimed Hitler had signed a 22 April 1945 order to evacuate 35,000 prisoners to the Alpine Fortress as hostages, but Berger did not carry out the order (many evacuated locations also failed to obey Hitler's order requiring Demolitions on Reich Territory
    Nero Decree
    The Nero Decree was issued by Adolf Hitler on March 19, 1945 ordering the destruction of German infrastructure to prevent their use by Allied forces as they penetrated deep within Germany...

    , e.g., Mittelwerk
    Central Works was a World War II factory that used Mittelbau-Dora forced labor in 2 main tunnels in the Kohnstein. The underground facility produced V-2 rockets, V-1 flying bombs, and other Nazi weapons.-Mittelwerk GmbH:...


Post-war claims

A post-war period or postwar period is the interval immediately following the ending of a war and enduring as long as war does not resume. A post-war period can become an interwar period or interbellum when a war between the same parties resumes at a later date...

 claims regarding the Alpine Fortress include:
  • The Alpine Fortress "grew into so exaggerated a scheme that I am astonished we could have believed it as innocently as we did. But while it persisted, this legend of the Redoubt was too ominous a threat to be ignored." (General Omar Bradley
    Omar Bradley
    Omar Nelson Bradley was a senior U.S. Army field commander in North Africa and Europe during World War II, and a General of the Army in the United States Army...

  • Allied assessments of the Alpine Fortress were "the worst intelligence reports of all time, but no one knew that in March of 1945, and few even suspected it." (author Stephen E. Ambrose)


According to the "Total National Resistance" defense doctrine of the second Yugoslavia, a rugged highland area roughly encompassing Bosnia was to function as a redoubt to which the Yugoslav People's Army
Yugoslav People's Army
The Yugoslav People's Army , also referred to as the Yugoslav National Army , was the military of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.-Origins:The origins of the JNA can...

 would retreat in case of a Soviet or NATO invasion. Defense of the rest of the country was to be left to the guerrilla-warfare efforts of the Territorial Defense forces. A network of fortified bases was developed in anticipation, including an underground air force base
Željava Air Base
Željava Air Base, situated on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina under Plješevica Mountain, near the town of Bihać in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was the largest underground airport and military airbase in the former Yugoslavia and one of the largest in Europe.-History:Construction...

 at Željava and a command bunker complex intended for the use of Marshal Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito
Marshal Josip Broz Tito – 4 May 1980) was a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian, Tito was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad, viewed as a unifying symbol for the nations of the Yugoslav federation...



Swiss National Redoubt (Schweizer Alpenfestung or Réduit suisse) was a defensive plan developed by the Swiss
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 government during World War II to respond to a possible German invasion
Operation Tannenbaum
Operation Tannenbaum , known earlier as Operation Green, was a planned but cancelled invasion of Switzerland by Nazi Germany during World War II.-Background:...

, which had been planned but was never carried out.

The plan was three staged, first to hold an invading army on the border, if that failed to launch a delaying war that would allow the bulk of Swiss forces to withdraw to a defensible perimeter in the Swiss Alps
Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps are the portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. Because of their central position within the entire Alpine range, they are also known as the Central Alps....

, and three to defend that mountain stronghold.


During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, Austria developed a similar plan called Raumverteidigung (area defense). The plan was primarily directed against Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

 (and later the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

) but it also included plans against an attack by NATO forces. The Austrian Armed Forces would retreat into key zones situated in the alpine region and defend it. They would also employ guerilla warfare behind enemy lines and delay the enemy advance in the area's security zones.


The concept of a "last stand" national stronghold also appears in fictional works, perhaps most famously in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers
The Two Towers
The Two Towers is the second volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. It is preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring and followed by The Return of the King.-Title:...

. In that book the people of Rohan
Rohan is a realm in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy era of Middle-earth. It is a grassland which lies north of its ally Gondor and north-west of Mordor, the realm of Sauron, their enemy . It is inhabited by the Rohirrim, a people of herdsmen and farmers who are well-known for their horses and cavalry....

, fearing an attack of superior numbers by the armies of Isengard
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth, Isengard , a translation of the Sindarin Angrenost, was a large fortress. Both names mean "Iron fortress" In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth, Isengard , a translation of the Sindarin Angrenost, was a large fortress....

, leave their capital city of Edoras to take refuge in the fortress of Helm's Deep
Helm's Deep
In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth writings, Helm's Deep was a large valley in the north-western Ered Nimrais .The valley was described as being blocked over its entire width by the natural series of hills called Helm's Dike and behind that lay the fortress of Aglarond or the Hornburg, at the...

. Tolkien also uses the concept in The Return of the King
The Return of the King
The Return of the King is the third and final volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, following The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.-Title:...

, where during the Siege of Minas Tirith most of the civilian populace retreats to the vales of the White Mountains
White Mountains (Middle-earth)
The White Mountains, a loose translation of the Sindarin Ered Nimrais "Whitehorn Mountains", is a fictional mountain range in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. The mountains are named after the glaciers of their highest peaks...

, while the majority of the military holds up in Minas Tirith.

See also

  • Battle of Berlin
    Battle of Berlin
    The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

  • The Brisbane Line
  • The March (1945)
    The March (1945)
    "The March" refers to a series of death marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in...

  • Masada
    Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE...

  • Partisan (military)
    Partisan (military)
    A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

  • Réduit
    A reduit is a fortified structure such as a citadel or a keep into which the defending troops can retreat when the outer defences are breached...

  • Redoubt
    A redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, though others are constructed of stone or brick. It is meant to protect soldiers outside the main defensive line and can be a permanent structure or a...

  • Werwolf
    Werwolf was the name given to a Nazi plan, which began development in 1944, to create a commando force which would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany itself. Werwolf remained entirely ineffectual as a combat force, however, and in practical terms, its value as...

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