On April 28, 1944, landing tanks carrying U.S. personnel and military equipment “converged in Lime Bay” to get into formation to storm the Slapton Sands for a D-Day rehearsal, Exercise Tiger.
This rehearsal would cost 1,000 American lives.
Warfare then was different than it is now. The mission was so critical and the determination of leadership so great that live fire was used in the practice. It not only had to feel real, it had to be real.
However, according to BBC News, a group of German E-boats were alerted to the heavy American presence in the waters and attacked.
They began their attack by going after the “slow moving tank landing ships” at “the unprotected rear of the American convoy.” The vessels taking part in Exercise Tiger were supposed to have been escorted by a “British Navy Destroyer” which could have offered protection, but the destroyer was not there–“it had been ordered in Plymouth for repairs.”
In the end, the American training mission turned into a battlefield at sea, and the lion’s share of lives lost were lost “to lifejackets worn incorrectly” and “the extreme cold of the sea which resulted in hypothermia.”
Commanders feared officers who went missing during Exercise Tiger would end up in German hands and reveal the plans for the June 6 D-Day. But every body was recovered and “the tactics of D-Day were deemed to be secured.”
Today, a practice mission that resulted in the loss of 1,000 lives would result in Congressional hearings and perhaps even calls to withdraw from the war. In 1944, American leadership was just glad no secrets had been unveiled and that the military was on track for the day that would change everything–June 6, 1944.
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