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Thread: Heinrich Severloh (ᛉ1923 – ᛣ2006) - The Hero of Omaha Beach

  1. #11
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    I'm not sure about this ^ at all

    Severloh's position on the map seems like guesswork to me because he was much further over to the left, in the darker green zone of the WN62 complex. I also happen to know that an MG42 has a firing range way beyond 500 yards!


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    Perhaps a slight digression but Franz Gockel should not be forgotten either. He was Hein Severloh's comrade who also fired his gun until about 2 p.m. that day until he had to retire injured. Here is an interview with him in 2004, shortly before his death (*WARNING* it contains some 'anti-Americanism') ...

    D-Day? France preferred us to the US even then, says German veteran

    Franz Gockel sits on the grassed-over remains of his former machine-gun nest above Omaha beach, and quietly weeps as he looks out across a broad stretch of sand towards the English Channel.

    Sixty years ago this week, he was a raw 18-year-old private in the German infantry, about to suffer the full onslaught of the D-Day invasion. Of his 25 comrades who manned the gun emplacement WN62 near Coleville-sur-Mer, 18 were killed. The experience marked him for life.

    "Whenever I return here I am overcome with emotion," he said. "I know that the Germans were on the wrong side but I feel that I owe it to my fallen comrades to revisit this place and remember that we all suffered terribly as well."

    Mr Gockel is troubled by more, however. "D-Day is remembered almost exclusively from the Allied point of view," he said. "We Germans have been depicted merely as the occupiers of France. In fact many French people became our friends.

    "During D-Day there were many French who were angry about the destruction of their towns and cities by American bombers." As a result, he said, the French were more hostile to the Americans than to the Germans who were, ostensibly, their enemies.

    In the days after the invasion, he met a Frenchman in the badly bombed town of Vire who pulled a six-inch dagger from his pocket. "I said, 'I hope you're not going to use that on me.' He replied, 'No, I'm saving it up for the Americans, look what they've done to our town.' The whole place was in ruins," he said.

    He recalled one French woman boasting that she would marry a German soldier. "She said, 'After the war I will be Frau Koch, and I'm proud about that,"' he said.

    On his first return visit to Coleville-sur-Mer with his wife Hedwig in 1958, a local farmer greeted him warmly and cracked open a bottle of champagne.

    Next Sunday, Mr Gockel will be back again, among German D-Day survivors who will meet Gerhard Schroder at a formal ceremony in Caen - the first time a German chancellor will have joined British, French and American leaders to commemorate the invasion.

    Mr Gockel's memories of June 6, 1944 are strong. It began at 1am as he was ordered from his bunk into his machine-gun nest. Only months beforehand, the entire emplacement had been condemned as inadequate by visiting Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. To the west Mr Gockel saw flares and heard gunfire as American paratroops began the descent which was to launch the attack.

    When dawn broke, he and his comrades were aghast to see the sea before them black with ships and landing craft. "It appeared that there were more ships than there were German soldiers to fight them.

    We realised that we had no hope of repelling the attack. It was to be just a battle for survival," he said. The assault on Omaha beach began in earnest soon afterwards. For four hours Mr Gockel's emplacement was pounded with artillery shells.

    "As the shells came in I hid under the big wooden platform on which my machine-gun was mounted. The only thing I could do was pray," he said.

    When the shelling stopped, Mr Gockel looked over his parapet to see hundreds of American troops pouring out of landing craft 300 yards away. "I got up and started firing. My machine gun was a big water-cooled Polish contraption.

    There was too much going on to be afraid. I watched men falling into the water. Then there was a massive splitting noise and the gun stopped firing. It was shot to pieces, but mercifully I was unharmed," he said.

    About 18 hours after the invasion began, Mr Gockel crawled out of his emplacement to find food for himself and his fellow soldiers. As he made for a trench he felt a violent blow to his left hand. "When I looked, it was covered in blood and three of my fingers were dangling from their tendons. But for me it was a million dollar shot - I could leave the battlefield," he said.

    Together with other far more seriously wounded Germans Mr Gockel commandeered a horse and cart and made for nearby Bayeux, where his wounds were patched up. He was sent back to Germany to recover, but soon returned to the front. His own war ended in November 1944 when he was captured by advancing US troops.

    About 21,000 of his comrades were killed during the D-Day invasion - yet, apart from ruined remains of bunkers and gun emplacements, there was nothing to commemorate the German dead on Omaha beach last week.

    Earlier in the war, Mr Gockel had worked as a roofer in his family's business. Much of his time was spent repairing the damage caused to Ruhr towns by British and American bombing raids. "I saw enough dead bodies before my time in Normandy. When D-Day finally came I felt as if I had to defend my homeland in retribution for these attacks," he said.

    The Gockels still return to Normandy, often renting a cottage owned by Yvonne Lemaire, 78, a farmer's daughter who sold the Germans milk during the occupation.

    "At least around Omaha beach, the Germans treated us correctly," Mrs Lemaire said last week. "They were not all barbarians and not all the French were in the Resistance. Franz and Hedwig are our friends now."

    --------------------------

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wor...n-veteran.html

    And here is a video of Franz Gockel with an American veteran at the La Cambe German cemetery ...


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