Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Beast of Omaha

Today is the 63rd anniversary of the Normandy D-Day invasion during World War Two. The fighting was fierce and the allied took huge causalities on the first day. The D-Day Museum notes, "Total Allied casualties on D-Day are estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. British casualties on D-Day have been estimated at approximately 2700. The Canadians lost 946 casualties. The US forces lost 6603 men."

Astonishingly, almost a third of these causalities may be attributable to one man! Murdo Macleod wrote an article for the Scotsman in 2004 titled 'Beast of Omaha' weeps as he recalls slaughter of thousands on beach. It tells the tale of Hein Severloh who was a 20 year old German corporal on D-Day.

Macleod wrote, "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."

Macleod continued, "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."

Severloh survived the battle and died in 2006. In this 2004 interview with Macleod, he recounts his story. Not surprisingly, those nine hours haunted him for the rest of his life.

I find this story hard to fathom. I realize the Allies took more causalities during D-Day than the US has in the entire current Iraq War. However, one guy with a machine gun took out 3000 soldiers alone in nine hours? Severloh was only doing his job but I can see why the survivors named him the Beast of Omaha.

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