AMERICANS FED INTO THE REICH’S MEAT GRINDER
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For many Allied troops who poured onto the beaches France during the Allied invasion of Europe the 666 sign of the devil had a special significance. The Allied invasion was symbolically launched at 06.00 on day 6 of the 6th month.
During the invasion, just one German machine gunner slaughtered 2,000 American troops thereby saving his beleaguered nation from much rapine.
The German soldier’s heroism went unrecognised until 1984 when the machine gunner gave a four-hour interview to American television journalists who were preparing the film for the 40th anniversary of the Normandy landing.
The claim was that he fired for several hours, using up 12,000 machine-gun rounds and 400 rounds of the two carbines he had. The shoulder was swollen from the butt, and hundreds of blood-soaked attacking bodies stood before his eyes. ‘There seemed to be no end to this madness’, he said.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies’ promise to open a second front finally began to materialise. In Normandy, an unparalleled operation was carried out to land the Anglo-American forces. The actions of the Allies were facilitated by the fact that the so-called Atlantic Wall, a system of fortifications on the coast of northern France, was never completed. Instead of a solid line of defence, a network of strongholds was created, called the Widerstandsnester (Resistance Nests).
In the invasion sector, which received the code name Omaha Beach from the Allied Command, there was a line of strongpoints from WN-60 to WN-74. It was on Omaha that the events took on the most ominous character for the attackers. Ship batteries were supposed to suppress the resistance on the coast, but their fire was completely ineffective. Then, in difficult weather conditions, Allied bombers attacked targets.
When the landing itself began, it got worse. Of the 32 floating Sherman tanks, 27 drowned immediately. Part of the landing barges unloaded the soldiers at a depth of more than two meters, as a result of which the soldiers carrying heavy weapons and equipment did not die from enemy fire, but simply drowned under the weight of their equipment.
Captain Richard Merrill of the 2nd Rangers Battalion recalled: I was the first to land. The seventh soldier, just like me, jumped ashore without getting any damage to himself. But everything between us was shot down: two were killed, three were wounded.
Once on the shore, soldiers and officers of the 5th Corps of the 1st American Army fell into the fire zone of Widerstandsnest 62, in the small garrison of which 21-year-old corporal Heinrich Severloh served as a machine gunner.
A native of Metzingen he was drafted into the Wehrmacht in the summer of 1942. He began his service at the 19th Light Artillery Reserve Division in Hanover-Bottfeld. Then he was transferred to France, where Heinrich served as a motor carrier in an infantry division.
In December 1942, Heinrich Severloh was sent to the Eastern Front until in December 1943, his division was redeployed to Normandy, where Corporal Severloh became the machine gunner of Widerstandsnester (Resistance Nests) WN-62. At his disposal was the MG42 easel machine gun, also known as the Bone cutter or Hitler’s Saw, as well as two Karabiner 98k rifles.
He recalls, “Thousands of American soldiers began to slowly move to the beach in front of our bunker. At that moment there was complete silence in the bay, not a single shot was fired. Everything was so calm, so organized that it seemed as if they were just doing some kind of exercise,’ the machine gunner himself later recollected. These people looked like understanding lambs going to the slaughterhouse.
The corporal opened fire, having received a command from Lieutenant Bernhard Frerking when the approaching Americans were within a couple of hundred meters.
“They were in front of me at a glance. I could clearly see the spray from the bullets and the terrified, warped faces of the enemy soldiers. I had to tinker a bit with the first ones to understand how to cover them from the first stage, but then it became easier, the corporal confessed in his memoirs.”
“I waited for the flaps of other landing barges to open to release a new portion of grey figures, and began to shoot right into the ramp opening, and yet, some were lucky to crawl out onto the wet sand.”
They rushed about, crawled and tried in every possible way to find shelter behind the corpses of their murdered comrades, with whom the entire beach was already littered. But the conical bullets of 7.92 caliber from my MG 42 easily flashed any meat; ten dead, twenty, thirty … Then the bill went not to tens, but to hundreds. Heinrich Severloh stopped only when he was completely out of ammunition.
The corporal was among the German troops who survived the battle. Captured, he was taken in the village of Collville-sur-Mer, where WN-63 was located. Among those who captured Severloh were fighters who his comrades massively killed on Omaha. But the Americans did not know about it, and the machine gunner wisely did not report.
Afterwards, the trooper was sent to the United States, where Heinrich Severloh was engaged in the harvest of potatoes and cotton in the state of Mississippi. In May 1947, he returned to his native Metzingen.
In the 1960s, German writer Paul Karel, formerly SS Obersturmbannführer Paul Schmidt, was preparing a book about the battles in Normandy. With him, Heinrich Severloh, who had previously been silent about his story, first opened up.
But genuine fame came to him in 1984. Then the machine gunner gave a four-hour interview to American television journalists who were preparing the film for the 40th anniversary of the Normandy landing. In it, he called the number of Americans killed by him, 2000 people.
When the film was released on ABC, newspapers from many countries around the world wrote about Severloh. He earned the nickname “The Beast of Omaha”. Although the former Wehrmacht soldier assured him that he was sorry for the dead Americans and that he had not touched weapons since that day, Heinrich Severloh was clearly flattered by such attention.
In 2000, Heinrich Severloh published his own memoirs. He was regularly invited to events on the occasion of the next anniversary of the Normandy landing, and the German never refused, talking with pleasure to veterans from England and the USA.
The machine gunner died in a nursing home in January 2006 at the age of 82. They say that Severloh kept his mind clear until the last days. Like this story? Share it with a friend.
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MICHAEL WALSH is a worldwide journalist, broadcaster and author of 64 book titles with 36 years’ experience.
MICHAEL WALSH is an Irish British-born journalist. His 60 books include best-selling historical books THE ALL LIES INVASION, WITNESS TO HISTORY, TESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION), REICH AND WRONG, HEROES OF THE REICH, HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH , THE FUHRER’S PROCLAMATION TO THE GERMAN PEOPLE , ODYSSEY ADOLF HITLER, UNCENSORED ADOLF HITLER, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, MEGACAUST, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH , DEATH OF A CITY, RISE OF THE SUN WEEL, EUROPE ARISE, TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROES, MEGACAUST, THE BUSINESS BOOSTER , THE FIFTH COLUMN VOLUME I and II, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, IMMORTAL BELOVED, INSPIRE A NATION Volume I, INSPIRE A NATION Volume II , SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY , and other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.
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