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Joe Beryle - an impostor or the real thing?

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  • Joe Beryle - an impostor or the real thing?

    Hello, perhaps you know about Joseph Beyrle, he is the only officially confirmed soldier of WWII to have fought both for the Americans on the Western and the Soviets on the Eastern Front. He passed away some years ago, but before that he was decorated by Yeltsin in the 1990s.

    I bought a book The Simple Sounds of Freedom (can not post links) based on his exploits. However after reading it I now have doubts that mr. Beyrle actually fought with the Soviets.

    He claims to have escaped from a German prison camp in Poland, and join an advancing tank battalion and fought with them for three weeks until wounded in an air raid.

    Things that make me doubt his story:

    - He does not state the name of his unit, he only knows it was part of 6th Guards Army. He knows neither the name of his battalion, nor regiment, nor division.

    - He names not a single of his fellow co-combatants by name. The closest he comes is when he states his battalion commander had a unpronouncable 5 syllable name.

    - He states the tank battalion commander was a female mayor. I have heard of Soviet female tank drivers, but not about female tank battalion commanders. Would such a person not become famous after the war like Litvyak and Pavlichenko?

    - He explains that he observed a clear racial hierarchy. In his unit the tank crews and the recce elements were Slavs and the infantry Mongols. A Russian recce unit would probe the lines, then the Mongols would be sent to breech them. He states "the Mongols" were "the cannon fodder" and were aware of their status as such.

    - He says in his whole time with the unit, they never sent prisoners to the rear albeit they took prisoners on every day he was with them. He speaks of executing prisoners as the norm for the unit.

    - He describes the Soviets gunning down an elderly Silesian German couple, then chopping them down to small pieces with an axe and throwing them to their hogs.

    - He claims to have been wounded in an air raid by a Stuka dive bomber during a daylight battle. I understand by this time in the war the rule was that Stukas operated at night when it was safer.


    Each of these things he claimed are plausible. But each of them are also very incredible sounding and from what I know about the Soviet army, quite unlikely. Taken all together they make me doubt mr. Beryle ever fought with the Soviet army. How can you go fight shoulder to shoulder with 500 other soldiers, but not come to know a single one of them by name, or even know the name of your unit?


    What do you think about these points I bring forward? Would they cast doubt?
    Last edited by bricklayer; 12 Feb 11, 07:25.

  • #2
    Don't have much time at the moment, I'll give you a more detailed answer a bit later. For a start, the only female T-34 tank battallion commander I know of was Alexandra Samusenko



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksandra_Samusenko

    There was also Irina Levchenko, who commanded a battallion of T-60 light tanks.

    As for the man himself, his is the Ambassador of the United States to the Russian Federation. I have very strong doubts he would've been chosen for this post had his father compromised himself and his family in such outrageous fashion.

    By the way, Stryker's got a book about this guy and he can shed more light on his biography.
    www.histours.ru

    Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by bricklayer
      ...decorated by Yeltsin in the 1990s
      Though never impossible, I doubt ol Boris would make such a mistake as to decorate a foreign individual for some military purpose if it did not have some basis in fact...

      Barring the purely political or grossly mistaken, one generally doesn't decorate a foreigner for their service with ones own armed forces so easily... especially if they might be lying.


      Last edited by Admiral; 12 Feb 11, 09:53.
      On the Plains of Hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest-and resting... died. Adlai E. Stevenson

      ACG History Today

      BoRG

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by bricklayer View Post
        Hello, perhaps you know about Joseph Beyrle, he is the only officially confirmed soldier of WWII to have fought both for the Americans on the Western and the Soviets on the Eastern Front. He passed away some years ago, but before that he was decorated by Yeltsin in the 1990s.

        I bought a book The Simple Sounds of Freedom (can not post links) based on his exploits. However after reading it I now have doubts that mr. Beyrle actually fought with the Soviets.
        The book itself seems to have been poorly written or edited, at least as far as Mr Beyrle's story is concerned. I've seen shorter but better versions.

        Originally posted by bricklayer View Post

        - He claims to have been wounded in an air raid by a Stuka dive bomber during a daylight battle. I understand by this time in the war the rule was that Stukas operated at night when it was safer.
        I'd never heard of that rule. It maybe a misinterpretation of a effort to reduce losses by starting missions before dawn. There are pleanty of examples of daylight operations, including ground attacks, by the GAF that late in the war. Mostly experienced German pilots flew at night, most by that time were rookies with too few flying hours. Losses to accidents for the GAF were well over half the total losses by this time due to brief training & night ops aggravated that. In operations like Bodenplatte the mass of aircraft were launched long before dawn with the bulk of the attacks scheduled for close to dawn. The loss rate amoung the inexperienced pilots in this Op. was severe.

        As for the names, I have difficulty remembering the names of people I worked with thirty or fourty years ago, so it is not suprising Beyrle cant recall names of people he knew for only a few weeks.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Admiral View Post
          [CENTER]Though never impossible, I doubt ol Boris would make such a mistake as to decorate a foreign individual for some military purpose if it did not have some basis in fact...
          Yeltsin was a drunken baboon. Handing out medals to the undeserving would be the least of his blunders.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by bricklayer View Post
            - He does not state the name of his unit, he only knows it was part of 6th Guards Army. He knows neither the name of his battalion, nor regiment, nor division.

            - He names not a single of his fellow co-combatants by name. The closest he comes is when he states his battalion commander had a unpronouncable 5 syllable name.
            Could you write the name of the commander? This would be quite helpful. The Russian language isn't exactly about stubby words

            - He explains that he observed a clear racial hierarchy. In his unit the tank crews and the recce elements were Slavs and the infantry Mongols. A Russian recce unit would probe the lines, then the Mongols would be sent to breech them. He states "the Mongols" were "the cannon fodder" and were aware of their status as such.
            By early 1945 the Red Army started having a serious manpower shortage. In order to make up for the losses Central Asian men were drafted, whom it was previously avoided to draft because of their poor education and Russian language skills. Unsurprisingly, they were used as cannon fodder as they couldn't perform more sophisticated tasks. To be fair, similar things could happen to ethnic Russians as well - my Russian grandpa told me boys under the official draft age were drafted in the end of the war. He was called up in March 1945 and after training for a month in a boot camp he had to be sent to the frontline, but avoided this cause he had good scores for several subjects and he was sent to an artillery academy. I doubt one can perform much better tasks than charging in a frontal attack after only one month of training. So the bottom line he could see this as "racial hierarchy" but it wasn't so.

            - He says in his whole time with the unit, they never sent prisoners to the rear albeit they took prisoners on every day he was with them. He speaks of executing prisoners as the norm for the unit.
            I suppose he didn't witness the executions or the sending away of prisoners either. There were different incidents, and sometimes prisoners were executed on the spot, but given the large numbers of prisoners captured and sent to the camps in 1945 it's not something practised universally and all the time.

            - He describes the Soviets gunning down an elderly Silesian German couple, then chopping them down to small pieces with an axe and throwing them to their hogs.
            Well, many things happened at the time. I've read of a soldier who threw a hand grenade on a freshly laid dinner table a German family was sitting at in its neat house. This could be a tall tale as well, in soldiers' memoirs imaginary things are often passed for reality even without the intention to lie. Still, I can't see anything absolutely improbable here.

            - He claims to have been wounded in an air raid by a Stuka dive bomber during a daylight battle. I understand by this time in the war the rule was that Stukas operated at night when it was safer.
            Nope, as Carl noted, they operated in daytime as well.

            Each of these things he claimed are plausible. But each of them are also very incredible sounding and from what I know about the Soviet army, quite unlikely. Taken all together they make me doubt mr. Beryle ever fought with the Soviet army. How can you go fight shoulder to shoulder with 500 other soldiers, but not come to know a single one of them by name, or even know the name of your unit?
            Truth is stranger than fiction. I couldn't find references to the unit he served in, though. By the way, he was first recognised in the Soviet Union in 1979 and invited to a veterans' meeting. So what Yeltsin did was a formal confirmation of what had been established in the Soviet Unon earlier.
            www.histours.ru

            Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ShAA View Post
              Could you write the name of the commander? This would be quite helpful. The Russian language isn't exactly about stubby words
              I can not give you the name, because mr. Beryle himself does not give the name. He only states it had five syllables and "was unpronounceable".

              Originally posted by ShAA View Post
              Well, many things happened at the time. I've read of a soldier who threw a hand grenade on a freshly laid dinner table a German family was sitting at in its neat house. This could be a tall tale as well, in soldiers' memoirs imaginary things are often passed for reality even without the intention to lie. Still, I can't see anything absolutely improbable here.
              Well, I don't know what is the point of chopping up human cadavers and throwing the pieces to pigs. Sounds like a lot of work for nothing. Of course it could have happened, but it is improbable, and when placed with other improbable events it sows doubt.

              Truth is stranger than fiction. I couldn't find references to the unit he served in, though. By the way, he was first recognised in the Soviet Union in 1979 and invited to a veterans' meeting. So what Yeltsin did was a formal confirmation of what had been established in the Soviet Unon earlier.
              He was in possession of a letter from Georgy Zhukov that he is a Soviet battle veteran. Zhukov wrote this letter for him, when he visited a hospital Beryle was recuperating in and the marshal took him by his word. Now a letter by Zhukov will get you far in the USSR, even in 1979, but there is any number of ways he could have been wounded.

              Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
              The book itself seems to have been poorly written or edited, at least as far as Mr Beyrle's story is concerned. I've seen shorter but better versions.
              What would be some of these other versions? I would be interested to read them.
              Last edited by bricklayer; 13 Feb 11, 08:17.

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              • #8
                Beryle's memoirs are on the Internet:
                We hid in the barrels and rode almost out of camp. As the wagon went past the last guard post at the gate, it went down a small hill, made a right turn, hit a stone and rolled over. The three barrels upset into the ditch and we came out running between the small trees and brush. The guards opened fire with machine guns and the two men who had escaped with me were hit and killed, but I was able to make it to a stream.*

                By this time the guards had released the dogs, German Shepherds as big as small ponies. But, as I was hiding in the stream, the dogs couldn't get my scent. I stayed in the stream and traveled all night, going east and hid in barns during the day avoiding all people at farms.

                As I traveled, I could hear artillery and small arms fire coming closer. On the third day I stayed in a hay loft in a barn and the next morning firing and explosions were all around and I stayed hidden all day.*

                In the evening, a Russian armored unit came into the farm yard. I came out and identified myself to the Russian commander as an "Americanski Tovarish" in English and broken Polish. I told her that I was an escaped U.S. POW and I wanted to join them and go to Berlin with them and kill Nazis.*

                After much consultation between the commander and the Soviet Commisar, I was allowed to join them and was given a Russian sub-machine gun with a round drum. The next morning after very heavy artillery saturation of the area to our west, we left the farm and headed west. There I was, an American escaped POW on an American Sherman tank, with a woman tank commander!

                I was in the seventh or eighth tank back from the front. Most of the time for the next few weeks we continued west, getting into several heavy fire fights with the retreating Germans. About two or three days after I joined them we were advancing west on a two track road when the lead tanks opened fire.*

                I learned later that they had fired on a column of U.S. POWs being marched from the camp I had escaped from, IIIC. The Germans had several scout cars and vehicles at the head of the column and many Germans were killed or wounded and two to three U.S. POWs were killed and some wounded.*

                At that time, we went cross country north-west and then west. The next day we came upon the camp I had escaped from. Some of the POWs hid out and did not march out with the rest. After a small fire fight with the guards, we entered the camp and I was asked to come to the commandant's office.*


                Continues here: http://www.military.com/Content/More...le=dday_0034p4
                Last edited by Egorka; 13 Feb 11, 09:58.
                Kind regards
                Igor

                * My grandfathers WW2 memoirs - Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, 1944-1945.
                * On the question of "2 mil. rapes" by RKKA
                * Verdicts of RKKA Military Tribunals for crimes against civilians in 1945

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by bricklayer View Post
                  Well, I don't know what is the point of chopping up human cadavers and throwing the pieces to pigs. Sounds like a lot of work for nothing. Of course it could have happened, but it is improbable, and when placed with other improbable events it sows doubt.
                  If you've read anything about the fighting between the SS and partisans, this story would pale in comparison in terms of sheer brutality and irrationality.

                  He was in possession of a letter from Georgy Zhukov that he is a Soviet battle veteran. Zhukov wrote this letter for him, when he visited a hospital Beryle was recuperating in and the marshal took him by his word. Now a letter by Zhukov will get you far in the USSR, even in 1979, but there is any number of ways he could have been wounded.
                  I don't exactly understand what you mean here - do you doubt the fact he had a letter from Zhukov or the fact he was wounded? I think his injury is the least of what could be used to confirm his service with that Soviet unit. A much more convincing proof would be the name of this unit, its female commander and ultimately, the unit's records, if they weren't destroyed in the course of the fighting.
                  www.histours.ru

                  Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
                    I don't exactly understand what you mean here - do you doubt the fact he had a letter from Zhukov or the fact he was wounded?
                    I'm saying neither the fact that he had a letter from Zhukov nor the fact that he was lying wounded in a Soviet hospital is conclusive proof.

                    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
                    A much more convincing proof would be the name of this unit, its female commander and ultimately, the unit's records, if they weren't destroyed in the course of the fighting.
                    Agreed. Or a Soviet co-combatant who remembers him.

                    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
                    If you've read anything about the fighting between the SS and partisans, this story would pale in comparison in terms of sheer brutality and irrationality.
                    I was interested in a book based on interviews with mr. Beryle to see how an outsider with first hand experience saw the Soviet Army. I was open to any view, but expected the description would reveal something new, be in some way original.

                    Instead I encountered an all familiar description of the Soviet Army from the German memoirs since then adopted by their Cold War allies the Americans as an assembly of Asiatic Hordes. A collection of exotic beasts from the plane of Abyss (chaotic evil), streaming forward, knowing only how to fight as cannon fodder, murdering their way toward the Odre, not going a single day without committing atrocity. (With the difference that mr. Beryle unlike the Nazis expresses sympathy for the drunken, murdering Mongols.)

                    But then I start noticing, what kind of evidence is there in the book mr. Beryle ever observed this first hand as he claimed? These three weeks of his life he is most famous for take up a meager 30 pages in a 340 page book and reveal neither the name of the unit, nor a single personal name. Nothing that could be checked against records, or survivors.

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                    • #11
                      The Germans were a Baatezu, while Soviets were Tanar'ri!

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                      • #12
                        As I read it from wikipedia, he was with them for a month. Did he speak russian? If not, then it is not a surprise he doesn't know or remember any names.
                        Wisdom is personal

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                        • #13
                          I know his son, John Beyrle, the current U.S. Ambassador to Russia. I believe this book is legit.
                          "If you have too firm a belief in the glories of soldiering, try a war."

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                          • #14
                            I wish I had a scanner, I would scan some of the pages full of documents regarding this. I have also seen the documents in person in Pskov at a traveling exhibit last summer. Dude was in no way an impostor.
                            Кто там?
                            Это я - Почтальон Печкин!
                            Tunis is a Carthigenian city!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Stryker 19K30 View Post
                              I wish I had a scanner, I would scan some of the pages full of documents regarding this. I have also seen the documents in person in Pskov at a traveling exhibit last summer. Dude was in no way an impostor.
                              Please do. A summary of docs is good too.

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