Surrounded

Originally published as "Here Be Dragons."

During its darkest hour Switzerland is surrounded by aggressive fascist armies--its politicians quavering and its people beginning to lose hope of regaining their freedom. Switzerland is not ready for war. Not the men, not the equipment, not the General. There are no plans, little organization, scant intelligence.

Readers Comments


I have always had a love of history and majored in it in college. Later, as a Marine, we studied many of the battles in all of our wars, but especially WW2. The narrative in this book makes this interesting aspect of the war practically come to life before your eyes. The battles in Europe have so much drama, which is probably why Hollywood has made so many movies on the subject. This is a very interesting book and not only for the history buff. Because this time in history is so important to our own country, it is imperative that we keep these memories alive – if only to avoid another world war.
Tim Webster - Marana, AZ

Many people refer to themselves as “Switzerland” when they wish to remain neutral in an altercation or argument. But how many really know or understand the world events that found this little country surrounded by the Axis armies and how they survived World War II and became the neutral country that we know today? This is a very interesting novel that takes you right into the midst of what was happening and how Switzerland’s small army, led by a single general, dealt with the mass genocide that was all around them. Once the title’s meaning is explained, it becomes clear that this book couldn’t be called anything else. I recommend it very highly.
Leigh Webster - Marana, AZ

"Here Be Dragons" is the perfect title for this book. War is never pleasant, and sometimes requires more of us than we think we can give. Stories about war can easily turn to the maudlin or turn into an overly gung-ho shoot-em-up type of tale. This book is a wonderful tale of Switzerland during World War II. This book will sucker you in and keep you bound tight to the story from the first page to the last. I highly recommend it to war, history, and great story buffs alike!
Laura Patrick - Statesboro, NC

I’ll be the first to admit, books about war are not usually my cup of tea. However a friend introduced me to "Here Be Dragons" and I could not put it down. I found myself excited when I knew I would have some time to read more of it. The author describes things wonderfully. I felt like I was right among them waiting to find out what was going to happen next. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a love of history, or even if you do not you will not be disappointed.
Heather Shockney - Greensboro, PA

Howard Burman has created a story that has changed my outlook on war stories. Never having been a fan of war stories or history tales in the past, I decided I’d give this one a chance. I’m glad I did. "Here Be Dragons" kept me at the edge of my seat, eagerly reading through each page until, before. I knew it, I’d reached the end. It is a very exciting, quick read! This book was definitely not the drab war story I expected. It’s an excellent tale and I would definitely recommend it to anyone!
Faith Eversole - Richmond, IN

"Here Be Dragons" has a story line that normally doesn’t catch my interest, but the title alone drew me towards the book. Then as I began to read, I got caught up in the story and wanted to continue to the end. The descriptive qualities and conversational style are great! It is easy to understand what the author has to say throughout the story. I recommend this book to anyone who thinks a war story is boring, because “Here Be Dragons” is definitely NOT and will quickly prove itself as worthy of attention.
Shawnee Bowlin - Atlanta, TX

On the brink of doom when it looks as if only a miracle will save Switzerland. The struggle begins with only 4 million Swiss soon to be invaded by 20 million Nazis. This book is so precisely written that it is nothing short of captivating. Normally, I am not drawn to books of this type but I was compelled to read it anyways and I am so glad that I did.
Cheryl Hinneberg - Roseville, MI




From the first chapter:

The General is in the crosshairs.

He stands alone on the snow-covered ridge. Alone because he needs to think and the crisp Alpine air is good for thinking. From where he stands all he can see are white mountains and blue sky. A serene picture of a tranquil land. Not a trace of the war beyond the peaks, not a hint of the turmoil that surrounds him.

This cowardly little state, said Göring, will become part of the Third Reich by choice or force. It's up to them.

Göring doesn’t understand. These unassailable Alps with their deep crevasses and jagged peaks are the womb of the country, a refuge high and impregnable, a constant in a world of chaos. Efficacy is in their spirituality; inevitability in their serenity.

Despite the biting foehn, the General’s only concession to discomfort is to pull his collar up. If the men are watching, they will not see him surrender to the wind.
Henri Guisan, the Swiss Army’s only general, an avuncular figure at 65, has recently assumed command. His mandate: Keep the war away from his country. Failing that, defend it to the last living soul.

In the end, the mountains will make the difference. They always do.

He ambles along the narrow ridge. To his right beyond the mountains, the plains; not far beyond them, Germany. To his left beyond the mountains, Italy.

On the plains are the Swiss cities; in the cities are the Swiss people. When the Germans come, and they likely will, they will flood across the plains with Panzers and men the Swiss cannot match. Left unchecked, they will take the cities and the people in them, and they will keep going toward the mountains. Fight them at the border and they will destroy the Swiss Army then take the cities and people and keep going toward the mountains.

The General has decisions to make. Not easy ones. Those are the province of others. The tough ones, the ones with the biggest consequences, these are reserved for generals. No trumpets sound when they make life and death decisions. Destiny moves silently.
One thing he knows: Switzerland is not ready for war. Not the men, not the equipment, not the General. There are no plans, little organization, scant intelligence.


From the col below, the General appears silhouetted against the setting sun, framed as Leni Riefenstahl might frame Hitler in one of her propaganda films. A Teutonic knight before a brooding sky.

Men do watch.

He has been up there for an hour. Soon it will be dark and the path down, treacherous, but no one moves toward him.

With his back to the men, the General lights an un-general like cigarette.

Corps Commander Wille, watching through field glasses, is the only one who sees this. He smiles.