April 29, 2012

68 years ago - Operation Tiger

The rehearsal for D-Day cost more lives than the D-Day invasion itself.
From Giles Milton writing at Surviving History

REHEARSAL FOR D-DAY: THE FORGOTTEN DISASTER OF WORLD WAR TWO
It was three minutes past two in the morning: 28 April, 1944.

A flotilla of American ships was approaching Slapton Sands on the Devon coast, a crucial practice exercise in advance of the D-Day landings.

Exercise Tiger was a 300-vessel, 30,000 men dress rehearsal for the biggest amphibious landing in history. It would enable Allied commanders to fine-tune their Normandy battle plan.

Angelo Crapanzano one of those involved in the operation. He was in the engine room of his vessel, named LST 507, when it was unexpectedly rocked by a tremendous explosion.

‘I got this sensation of flying up, back, and when I came down I must have bumped my head someplace and must have been out for a few seconds, because I felt cold on my legs,’ he later recalled.

As he recovered consciousness, he realised the ship had been hit by a torpedo. A German naval squadron had encountered the fleet by chance and immediately opened fire.

‘The ship was burning,’ said Crapanzano. ‘[It] was split in half … fire went from the bow all the way back to the wheelhouse.’

The ships were massed preparing for the mock 'invasion' and a nine German ships happened to be there when they arrived. It gets worse:

The beach landings were to prove the setting for the day’s second tragedy. The Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, had ordered that real ammunition be used, so that men would experience actual battlefield conditions. It was a disastrous decision, for the entire exercise was miss-timed. The British cruiser, HMS Hawkins, was shelling the beach as the soldiers stormed ashore, killing a further 308 men.

Tragic and for this to be kept secret for 40 years is unconscionable. The families deserved some measure of closure.

Posted by DaveH at April 29, 2012 03:46 PM
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