Thursday, 5 June 2014

Feldwebel Severloh's stand at Omaha beach

US troops preparing to land at Omaha
Tomorrow (6th June) is the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy. The landings are

the largest seaborne invasion in history with the support of over a thousand Allied aircraft and millions of soldiers, sailors, paratroopers, support staff and airman.

The German army facing them were veterans of the Eastern front but were frightfully out numbered and outgunned. Their lines of communication were severed, their were paratroopers roaming behind the lines and backed up by French resistance fighters. Armoured support was miles away and their advances painfully slow as the Allied airforce severed the railway lines and roved over the countryside with rockets and 20mm cannons shooting up anything that moved.

In a day full of brutality and heroics there were many who deserved the mantle and medals. One such man has been overlooked by many for the service he performed for his country.

The young conscript Corporal who was just shy of 22 years old and already a veteran of two years, found himself at the forefront of action on Omaha beach. As his Lieutenant co-ordinated artillery on the enemy positions he took to a machine gun and defended his position whilst his comrades brought him ammunition  for the heavy machine gun and two rifles. He was at his position for several hours holding up the enemy advance until he ran out of ammunition.

Heinrich Severloh
His name was Heinrich Severloh, though History remembers him as the "Beast of Omaha", he was responsible for the deaths of up to two thousand American soldiers on his own. As the ramps opened on the landing ships he would aim the MG-42 into the mass of tightly packed soldiers cutting them down before they could even get onto the beach. His suppression fire forced the GIs on the beach to cling to the sands and he claims that his shots with the KAR 98 rifles was so accurate that he was killing on one shot every time. He expended 12000 Machine gun rounds and 700 rifle rounds at the enemy whilst Leutnant Freking tried to coordinate the artillery.

As the American advance began to break through they were ordered to abandon Widerstandsnest 62 and taking a small group of prisoners with two other soldiers, withdrew to the nearby village of Colleville-sur-Mer where they surrendered to the Americans on the following day. He was exceptionally lucky as Freking and the survivors of Widerstandsnest 62 were taken prisoner by vengeful American soldiers angered by their heavy casualties on the approach to the bunker and executed on the spot.

It is one of the great problems with history that one man's hero is another man's villain. Servolah is one such man. In an article written in the Daily Mail many years ago wrote of the brave heroism of the Allied soldiers then wrote exceptionally critical description of the Servolah's actions. History will always be written by the victor but when a soldier is fighting for an evil regime their actions, no matter how brave or honourable they may be, will always be considered abhorrent and decried.

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