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Heinrich Severloh The beast of Omaha

Discussion in 'Omaha Beach' started by Jim, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Heinrich Severloh took 40 years to begin to process what happened to him on Omaha Beach. He had taken up a concealed position on the eastern side of the beach along with 30 other German soldiers, and he recalls watching the horizon turn black with dozens of ships and landing craft racing for the shore. His commanding officer, Lt. Bernhard Frerking, had told him not to open fire until the enemy reached knee-deep level, where he could get a full view.

    "What came to mind was, 'Dear God, why have you abandoned me?' " he recalled. "I wasn't afraid. My only thought was, 'How can I get away from here?'"

    But rather than run, Severloh slipped the first belt of ammunition into his MG-42 machine gun and opened fire. He could see men spinning, bleeding and crashing into the surf, while others ripped off their heavy packs, threw away their carbines and raced for the shore. But there was little shelter there. Severloh said he would occasionally put down the machine gun and use his carbine to pick off individual men huddled on the beach. He is still haunted by a soldier who was loading his rifle when Severloh took aim at his chest. The bullet went high and hit the man in the forehead.

    Heinrich Severloh The beast of Omaha

    [​IMG]

    "The helmet fell and rolled over in the sand," Severloh said. "Every time I close my eyes, I can see it."

    Severloh said he was the last man firing from his position. By mid-afternoon, his right shoulder was swollen and his slender fingers were numb from constant firing. When a U.S. destroyer pinpointed his position and began to shell it, he fled to the nearby village of Colleville-Sur-Mer, where he was captured that evening.

    In Severloh's telling of D-Day, there are few heroes and several surprises. The German occupiers had warm relations with their French farm hosts before the invasion, he contends. Lt. Frerking, who died on D-Day, was an honorable man who spoke fluent French and once gave one of his men 10 days' punishment for failing to help an elderly French woman with her shopping bags, Severloh said. The U.S. invaders slaughtered farm animals and soldiers, he said, yet that evening he and his ravenous U.S. captors shared a baguette.

    Severloh said he first told his tale to an inquisitive correspondent for ABC News during the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984. But the real breakthrough came when an amateur war historian named Helmut Konrad von Keusgen tracked Severloh down. Von Keusgen, a former scuba diver and graphic artist, said he had heard from U.S. veterans about the machine gunner they called the "Beast of Omaha Beach" because he had mowed down hundreds of GIs that day. Severloh confessed he was that gunner. Von Keusgen ghost-wrote Severloh's memoirs, published in 2000, and still visits him regularly.

    The two men contend that Severloh might have shot more than 2,000 GIs. That's an impossible figure, according to German and American historians, who say that although the numbers are far from exact, estimates are that about 2,500 Americans were killed or wounded by the 30 German soldiers on the beach.

    "My guess is yes, he helped kill or wound hundreds, but how many hundreds would be hard to say," Roger Cirillo, a military historian at the Association of the U.S. Army in Arlington, wrote in an e-mail. He added: "Omaha is like Pickett's Charge. The story has gotten better with age, though no one doubts it was a horror show. Men on both sides were brave beyond reason, and this is the sole truth of the story."

    Hein Severloh said he takes no pride in what he did, but telling his tale has given him a sense of relief.

    "I have thought about it every single day that God gave to me," he said. Now, he said, "the pressure is gone."

    Heinrich Severloh The beast of Omaha
     
  2. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    Great read Jim, 40 years before he began to share this story. The man's head must have been in turmoil. Its hard to put yourself in this position, after all the only thing he is guilty of is fighting for his country. :wtf:

    Had this been a soldier fighting for the Allies, i am sure it would not have been silent for 40 years. :der:
     
  3. worldwarIIstories

    worldwarIIstories recruit

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    Jim, really enjoyed your article on Severloh.....I think he wrote a book about his Normandy ezxperiance, but I haven't been able to find a copy.

    Dick Avery
     
  4. the_diego

    the_diego Member

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    He just found himself in a well-established condition know as the-right-place-at-the-right-time: several thousand enemy soldiers helpless on the beach, he with an mg-42 and several thousand rounds of ammo.
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    As well as several other German machinegunners...Not to mention the German mortarmen and artillerymen. Yet, the focus somehow remains on Severloh.
     
  6. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    I grew up next to a German Omaha veteran. I was too you to realise what he had been through and never asked him to tell his story. I remembe rhim telling that his job wasa cemetary warden in Normandy because he was the last survivor of his squad and it was his way to stay with his comrades.
     
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    This is tired old news with the "journalist" recycling old canards without any critical comment, such as the claim that Serverloh "might have shot 2,000 US soldiers" - i.e almost every US casualty on OMAHA beach.

    This is not true.Serverloh's account appears in "The invasion their coming" by former Nazi war correspondent Paul Carell published in 1962. Serverloh is an old man and Von Keusingen wants to promote his book and artwork.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2017
  8. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I count about 9 resistance nests fronting Omaha Beach. Nest 62 (Severloh's) was the largest of these. Even so, it is doubtful that even this one nest could be responsible for the great majority of the American casualties. What then were all the other resistance nests doing-having a coffee break? Severloh was a prime example of soldiers of every army, who, scared out of their minds, did their duty as they saw it despite their fear. However, I could believe that he and his MG accounted for a couple of hundred American casualties. Even at that, it would put him as one of the more successful machine gunners of the war!
     
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Agreed. Nor has anyone has mentioned the contribution made by Serveloh's commander, who did not survive. The Artillelry of 352nd Infantry Division had not been detected or targeted by allied aircraft or naval gunfire. They expended most of their ammunition by noon. Much of this would have been behind the sea wall where man y assault troops would have taken shelter. Artillery and mortars caused many of the casualties - its the logic which supported Cota's call to get off the beach.
     
  10. shooterike

    shooterike Member

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    Severloh likely did kill or wound some 2000 GIs on D-Day! To understand how this is not only possible, but likely. You must first understand how the German machinegun squad operated. The Germans considered that the machinegun was the most powerful defensive weapon. Every man in the infantry was taught how to use it, including all officers. (Yes, generals too!) The basic infantry platoon consisted of about a dozen men. A NCO as commander. A second NCO was second in command. A machinegun squad which consisted of the machine gunner, who got his job by being the best shot in his platoon. The machine gunner had two or three assistant gunners who assisted him. The rest of the platoon GUARDED the machinegun crew! This mint that they faced in all directions around the MG, just in case some sneaky enemy tried to attack from behind, for example. This is important, in that the "guards" rarely fired a shot in even a very heavy battle.
    The standard German machinegun of WW2 was the MG34, later supplemented with the MG42. If you are familiar with Allied weapons, you know less than NOTHING about the correct use of the MG34 or MG42. Forget everything you have read in print, learned in Uncle Sugar's trade school or was told by some "expert". This is how you really use a MG34 or MG42:
    Both MG34 and MG42 look very much like a WW1-WW2 rifles because they are intended to be used like a rifle! Both MG34 and MG42 have sights like a rifle because they are aimed like a rifle. AT A SINGLE TARGET. (With a properly tuned 34 or 42, I can hit a coke can EVERY TIME at 100 meters!) As the rate of fire of an MG34 is 15 shots per second and the MG42 has a rate of fire of 25 shots per second, a very short burst from either, 3 to 7 shots, has a hit probability of well over 90 per cent. German soldiers were taught to use very short bursts to conserve ammo! MG34 has dual trigger for single shots or full auto. I can do SINGLE shot with full auto trigger. MG42 has full auto trigger only! Trigger not as smooth as 34 so bursts run 5 to 7 shots each.
    Combat drill for both MG34 or 42 is as follows:
    MG Gunner in place with hands on weapon.
    Assistant gunner supplies ammo in belt of 50 to 250 rounds by either sliding loading tab in ammo slot of mg or placing belt across fed tray. Gunner then locks belt in place.
    Gunner fires when given order or acquires target. Both assistant and gunner count each burst. Watch for end of belt. With average of 5 shots per burst, 250 round belt equals 50 bursts per 250 belt. Little less than 50 with mg42.
    When count of 50 nears or end of belt is close, either assistant gunner or gunner will shout "lauf" meaning time to change barrel. (Each MG supplied with 8 spare barrels.) Gunner will lock bolt to rear position and expose barrel. Assistant gunner will pull hot barrel out with cartridge tab or tool from gunners kit. Second assistant gunner will put fresh barrel into barrel jacket and gunner will lock in place. Assistant gunner will bring fresh 250 round belt and put feed tab into ammo slot and gunner will pull to lock it in place. Bolt already locked back from barrel change. So gunner can fire at next target at will. Entire procedure takes about 30 seconds with well trained 34 crew. A little faster with MG42.
    Do the math. If Severloh fired 10,000 plus rounds on D-Day, then he killed or wounded near 2000 GIs. No doubt about it.
     
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Sorry. This is nonsense and your maths is out by a factor on 100

    #1 Serveloh was not part of an MG squad operating as a well trained team with the NCO controlling fire supported by a n2 loading ammunition. Instead he was the buckshe driver/brew bitch for the artillery Op party. There is no evidence, apart from Serverloh's statements that he killed any US troops, and nothing to connect him to 2,000 casualties apart from this being the estimated TOTAL casualties on D Day at Omaha beach.

    #2 The Total US losses on Omaha beach were of the order of 2,300-3000 casualties. Serveloh's arc of fire covered less than 25% of Omaha Beach. Although there is ne published breakdown of casualties by unit, the landings were much more successful on the sector covered by Serveloh than by the 116th Infantry opposite the Vioerville draw. It is extremely improbable that serverloh single handed caused 2/3 of all US casualties.

    #3 The effectiveness of weapons on the battlefield is far far lower than from calculations based on experiments on the ranges. Men take cover quickly when under fire. Smoke, dust and stress degrades the effectiveness of shooting. In Italy it took around 80,000 rounds of all natures to kill each German. British Operations Research teams calculated that each machine gun should cause around 20 casualties on infantry from an assault company crossing the D Day beach. The OR teams counted 85 machine guns covering Omaha Beach, which would have accounted for some 1700 casualties, to which would be added those from mortars and artillery fire - the same order of magnitude as the actual US casualties.

    If Severloh cause 40 casualties on D Day, he would have been twice as effective as the best case.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  12. shooterike

    shooterike Member

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    You obviously do not know anything Go and study a whole lot and then come back to talk with the big boys when you know a little bit.
     
  13. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Seriously? Then that means that Franz Gockel must not have killed or wounded anyone! Oh the horror! :rolleyes:

    Frankly, the sheer stupidity of your posts are offensive. What are you, ten? Go away, read something other than comic books and graphic novels, then come back when you're an adult and ready to converse at an adult level.
     
  14. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    [​IMG]
     
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  15. shooterike

    shooterike Member

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    I am not being offensive, I am merely being corrective. Your ignorance is very apparent to anyone who is even slightly knowledgeable concerning the facts of what happened on Omaha beach on June 6,1944. I first heard of Severloh back in the 1960's. I was in contact then with several German Wehrmacht veterans as I was interested in weapons and tactics. My basic procedure was to simply let them talk. I never ask their names or what unit they had belonged to or expressed any opinion about their service. My sole concern was weapons, how they were used, kept in repair, technical aspects and so forth. This means that I have 50 plus years worth of actual, hands on experience with real weapons including the MG34, MG42, MP40, StG44, Mauser rifle series and so forth. I did not get it out of a book! If I tell you that Severloh very likely did kill or wound something close to 2000 GI at Omaha beach, it is because the facts bear him out.
     
  16. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    As someone also with "hands on experience with real weapons", I find you are being far too generous to the MG34 / 42 or perhaps your own shooting abilities. You can hit a coke can every time - with a GPMG - at 100 yards? Sorry, but I don't buy that.

    Your claims regarding the barrel change times between MG34 and MG42 are also somewhat questionable. The barrel change on the MG34 is a fair bit more "elegant" (read: complex) and time consuming than with the MG42.

    Also, what's with the emphasis on "sights like a rifle"? This was not unique to the MG34 / 42. Look at the sights on the M1919A4 / A6, Vickers, DP28, etc to name a few.
     
  17. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    You need a mirror. The five (or six, accounts vary) MG in WN 62 represented less than a tenth of the MG's that could bear on OMAHA. Furthermore, they could only bear on roughly a quarter of the 8,000 meter wide beach, and not all of them could cover the entire arc. Gockel could only fire on the center and left of FOX GREEN and the right of FOX RED. Severloh's arguably could reach most of EASY RED, FOX GREEN, and the right of FOX RED. Thus, the targets they had were the 16th Infantry and its attachments, which suffered 179 KIA, 68 MIA later judged dead, and 912 WIA. It is physically impossible for Severloh alone to have inflicted casualties of "close to 2000 GI" on 6 June. That you continue to believe so makes your own ignorance very, very apparent.
     
  18. shooterike

    shooterike Member

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    What I have posted is FACT. I have many years of experience with machineguns. In particular with the MG34 which is my favorite. To get very accurate fire with one requires the right tools and knowledge. Sadly, most MG34s and MG42s in the hands of American collectors have not had proper attention and do not perform anywhere near to their actual potential. To properly tune a MG34 for accurate fire requires (1) A first class barrel. Kaliberzylender 7.95mm must not enter muzzle. Kaliberzylender 7.98mm must not enter breech more than 125mm as measured from the rear of the barrel locking ring. Bore straightness gauge 7.88mm must pass freely entire length of vertical bore under no more pressure than it's own weight. Visual inspection of bore with scope must not show pits, rust, rings or other imperfections. (2) Part J64453 inside diameter must not exceed 22.225 mm. There is a gauge to check this. (3) Part J64451 must have a small hole diameter no greater than 11.25mm. There is a gauge to check this. (4) Front sight and rear sight must be examined for completeness, correct function of parts, gauged and tested for correct height and barrel jacket must be gauged for eccentricity and found true. (5) If all is well, then it is time to go to the range. One that has at least 100 meters and a safe back stop. Set an appropriate target at 100 meters. I prefer a inverted triangle, 150mm to a side. You can use whatever you wish. Set the rear sight at 100 meters. By live fire, with ONE cartridge in the feed tray and the MG34 on the bipod or sandbagged. I prefer sandbagged. I'm old. Take careful aim at the target and fire. (If you have never fired an MG34 or other open bolt belt fed. It is a bit like shooting a flintlock. There is a definite time lag between trigger pull and boom!) If all has gone as it should, bullet impact should be within a few inches of point of aim. You may need to correct bullet impact with a higher or lower front sight. Left, right corrections are done with a front sight tool. Check corrections with further single shots and adjustments. Check the sights with all barrels you intend to use with the gun. Any that are too far out are just for fun.
     
  19. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Actually more important is to understand the ground and what actually happened on Omaha which you seem intent on ignoring.
    Now that's a rather inane comment. Consider that if you are not familiar with allied weapons you are not qualified to make it if you are then you are not qualified to tell us about the use of the German weapons.
    Without mentioning a target or a range this statement is rather meaningless nor is it clear how the rate of fire is all that important in PH.

    The math doesn't work out that way though. Indeed there were somewhere between 5,000 and 50,000 rounds fired for every fatality so that means he likely killed a couple of GI's and wounded a few more.

    Given the facts above you need to learn the difference between your opinions and facts. (capitalizing it doesn't enhance your position.
    Even if true largely irrelevant.
     

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