Skip to comments.'Beast of Omaha' weeps as he recalls slaughter of thousands on beach
Posted on 06/11/2007 12:17:14 AM PDT by LibWhacker
FOR Hein Severloh the Longest Day meant nine hours constantly machine-gunning American soldiers as they attempted to land on Omaha Beach.
One image still brings tears to his eyes. A young American had run from his landing craft and sought cover behind a concrete block. Severloh, then a young lance-corporal in the German army in Normandy, aimed his rifle at the GI. He fired and hit the enemy square in the forehead. The Americans helmet flew away and rolled into the sea, his chin sank to his chest and he collapsed dead on the beach.
Tormented by the memory, Severloh now weeps at the thought of the unknown soldiers death.
Severloh was safe in an almost impregnable concrete bunker overlooking the beach. He had an unimpeded view of the oncoming Allied forces. He was the last German soldier firing, and may have accounted for about 3,000 American casualties, almost three-quarters of all the US losses at Omaha. The Americans came to know him as the Beast of Omaha.
He had been saved from the waves of Allied bombing by the poor weather. The US aircrews were worried that if they allowed their bombs to fall too soon they might destroy their own landing ships. As they flew over they lingered before releasing their weapons, meaning the bombs often landed far behind the Nazi bunkers.
The Germans joked that the Amis - their slang for the US forces - had merely bombed French cows and farmers rather than the German installations.
Alerted by the bombers, Severloh and the 29 others in his bunker rushed to their firing holes and prepared for the onslaught. Severloh, then just 20, gasped when he saw the ocean. He was confronted by what seemed to be a wall of Allied ships. He said: "My God. How am I going to get out of this mess?"
The veteran explained: "What could I do? I just thought that I was never going to make it to the rear. I thought that I was going to shoot for my very life. It was them or me - that is what I thought."
As the landing ships neared the beach, Severloh listened to the final orders from his commander, Lieutenant Berhard Frerking. They wanted to stop the Americans while they were still in the water and could not move easily. But if he fired too soon - while the soldiers were still some way out in the water - he risked missing them.
Frerking explained: "You must open fire when the enemy is knee-deep in the water and is still unable to run quickly."
Severloh had seen little action before. His previous stint on the Eastern Front had been cut short by tonsillitis. But he was anything but enthusiastic. Severloh said: "I never wanted to be in the war. I never wanted to be in France. I never wanted to be in that bunker firing a machine gun.
"I saw how the water sprayed up where my machine gun bursts landed, and when the small fountains came closer to the GIs, they threw themselves down. Very soon the first bodies were drifting in the waves of the rising tide. In a short time, all the Americans down there were shot."
He fired for nine hours, using up all the 12,000 machine-gun rounds. The sea turned red with the blood from the bodies. When he had no more bullets for the machine-gun, he started firing on the US soldiers with his rifle, firing off another 400 rifle rounds at the terrified GIs.
A leading German historical expert of the Second World War, Helmut Konrad Freiherr von Keusgen, believes Severloh may have accounted for 3,000 of the 4,200 American casualties on the day.
Severloh is less sure about the number, but said: "It was definitely at least 1,000 men, most likely more than 2,000. But I do not know how many men I shot. It was awful. Thinking about it makes me want to throw up. I almost emptied an entire infantry landing craft. The sea was red around it and I could hear an American officer shouting hysterically in a loudspeaker."
Lt-col Stuart Crawford, formerly of the Royal Tank Regiment, and a defence consultant, said it was entirely possible that a single German soldier had killed so many GIs.
He said: "I have fired that machine-gun. I did it as part of my training, and it has an extremely high rate of fire. He was in a position which was almost impervious to the weapons which the Americans could bring to bear on him. The Americans made the mistake of not landing tanks with the first wave of troops, so they had no support or protection."
Why was there no heavy armor landed on the beaches?
You sir, did your soldier’s job. Our boys did theirs. The battle cost both sides and the casualties were the best and the bravest. I carry no ill will towards you and I respect the fact that you stood your post in time off war when lesser men would have run.
Let go of your demons sir, they are but phantom’s of the past.
The US didn’t HAVE any heavy armor. The M26 Pershing tank didn’t make it to the battlefield until February of 1945. The most advanced weapon available was the M4 Sherman. A number of them were converted for amphibious operations, but none survived the swim to the beach.
US tanks couldn’t land because of the MILLIONS of tank traps the Germans had set up on the beaches. Armor couldn’t land until the infantry blew up or removed the antitank barriers.
Here's a pic of the antitank barriers. Rows of these extended out into the water, making it nigh-impossible to drop vehicles in the surf.
12,000 rounds / 3,000 kills = 4 rounds per kill.
4 rounds per kill from a mg? Seems wrong.
Hear, hear! He merely did a soldier’s job. We would congratulate one of ours that killed 3000, how is he different? Just because Adolph Hitler was the Chancellor of Germany changes nothing. Herr Severloh took an oath to do his duty and obey lawful orders, and he did so.
I know you all don’t get to spend as much time here as you used to, but I thougth this might interest you all.
Well, he’s only claiming 2000 or so, and perhaps 400 of those were rifle kills.
12,000 rounds/ 1600 kills = 7.5 rounds per kill.
Don’t forget that these were either files or waves of men charging the guns, and that the men still in the boats were essentially in death traps where *any* round entering the front meant an injury or death.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Different war, but seems appropiate here.
Because the American generals blew off General Montgomery’s advice to use armor in assaulting the beach - Montgomery had the British Army develop specialized assault vehicles for D-Day and offered some to the American Army - they refused. For more details on this American fiasco, read the “Blitzkrieg Myth” by John Mosier.
And the good Lt. Col. may not have studied the British organized fiasco at Dieppe, where most of the tanks were never able to advance off the beach, and those few that did were fairly quickly abandoned.
OK, here’s your bonus for the night - a thread about British amphibian tanks at Normandy:
The FReeper Foxhole Profiles Hobart’s Funnies - January 9th, 2004 http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-vetscor/1054522/posts
Here’s a general Omaha Beach thread:
The FReeper Foxhole Remembers D-Day On Omaha Beach (6/6/1944) - June 6th, 2003 http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-vetscor/924248/posts
It wouldn’t have necessarily helped. We didn’t take out the German shore guns, we didn’t have anything that could bull through the tank traps.
Let’s also not forget that Monty was a complete ass and without massive American support wouldn’t have won his Africa campaign.
The Americans deployed 64 amphibian Shermans at Omaha beach. The British deployed 40 Churchills. Now, what was that advice again?
The British tanks were much more successful in reaching the beach, but one factor may have been that the Shermans were launched from too far out.
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