Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger, Knight's Cross
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Josef “Sepp” Allerberger was the second most successful sniper of the German Wehrmacht and one of the few private soldiers to be honored with the award of the Knight’s Cross.
An Austrian conscript, after qualifying as a machine gunner he was drafted to the southern sector of the Russian Front in July 1942. Wounded at Voroshilovsk, he experimented with a Russian sniper-rifle while convalescing and so impressed his superiors with his proficiency that he was returned to the front on his regiment’s only sniper specialist.
In this sometimes harrowing memoir, Allerberger provides an excellent introduction to the commitment in field craft, discipline and routine required of the sniper, a man apart. There was no place for chivalry on the Russian Front. Away from the film cameras, no prisoner survived long after surrendering. Russian snipers had used the illegal explosive bullet since 1941, and Hitler eventually authorized its issue in 1944. The result was a battlefield of horror.
Allerberger was a cold-blooded killer, but few will find a place in their hearts for the soldiers of the Red Army against whom he fought.
Trembling with cold he crouched before the roaring fire of the stove, then thrust his soaked boots close to the warmth. A pleasant feeling of relaxation must have crept over him, for he slumped back against the wall and was soon asleep. A short while later when I happened to glance in his direction I noticed smoke rising from his boots. Within a few moments he jumped up with a cry of, ‘Shit! That’s hot!’ and began to hop around the room. His efforts to pull off the boots, though assisted by a
sent up unannounced in support of the break-out, made their appearance. It was another half hour before the last of the fleeing made their sheepish return, and accepted a kick in the pants as a disciplinary measure for their action. By evening the break-out by Gruppe Lorch through the Russian lines had been achieved. The main force, Gruppe Wittmann, forced the Russian encirclement north-west of Bakalov and German units poured through in disorder. The objective was the Kutschurgan river via the
to the regimental armourer. In my hearing he passed it to another young Jäger saying, ‘You see all the little notches carved in the stock and hand-guard? Each is one less Russian. To receive this weapon is honour and duty. Do your best and show Sepp on his return that you have been worthy of it.’ Hearing these heroic words the young rifleman looked rather embarrassed and I laid my hand on his shoulder saying: ‘Don’t go mad, just remain on the alert and keep your head out of sight making the
feared Soviet weapons, the ‘Stalin organ’, a multiple rocket launcher mounted on a lorry. The full battery would transform a football field into a blizzard of steel splinters and worked earth. The rhythmic, howling noise of discharge played at full volume made the stomach turn. When my co-trainees asked me what was the best defence, I replied, ‘Find the deepest hole possible, and pray.’ To round off, a new kind of infantry ammunition was shown. This was known as the ‘B-Patrone’ (B-bullet), ‘B’
open plain. Two men volunteered for a rescue mission. This seemed to me to be highly unwise. Cautiously using the sparse and inadequate cover, they worked their way to their wounded comrades of the other unit. When they reached the first casualty, helper number one raised him to inspect the wound. A shot whipped across the slope and bored a fist-sized hole in the helper’s chest. Blood sprayed out from the wound like a fountain. Apparently the explosive round had severed an artery. The body