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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY & HERITAGE COMMAND

Exercise Tiger

By Operational Archives, Naval History & Heritage Command

Related resources:

Oral History: Recollections by LT Eugence E. Eckstam, MC, USNR (Ret.), medical officer on USS LST 507

MacDonald, Charles B. "Slapton Sands: The 'Cover Up' That Never Was," Army 38, no. 6 (Jun. 1988): 64-67.

"U.S. Toll in France is 70,009; 116,148 Total Allied Casualties." Stars and Stripes [European edition] 4, no. 237 (7 Aug. 1944): 1-2. (Includes a brief description of incident at Slapton Sands). [Original newspaper in collection of Stars and Stripes held by the Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.]

In preparing for the Normandy Invasion, the United States Army conducted various training exercises at Slapton Sands in Start Bay and in the nearby Tor Bay, beginning on December 15, 1943. Slapton was an unspoiled beach of coarse gravel, fronting a shallow lagoon that was backed by bluffs that resembled Omaha Beach. After the people in the nearby village were evacuated, it was an almost perfect place to simulate the Normandy landings. The training was long and thorough. The culmination of the joint training program was a pair of full scale rehearsals in late April and early May.

TIGER was the code name of the training exercise for the Utah Beach assault forces under Admiral Don P. Moon. It was held from April 22-30, 1944. The troops and equipment embarked on the same ships and for the most part from the same ports from which they would later leave for France. Six of the days in the exercise were taken up by the marshaling of the troops and the embarkation of the landing craft. During the night of April 26-27, 1944, the main force proceeded through Lyme Bay with mine craft sweeping ahead of them as if crossing the channel. Since German E-boats, which were high-speed torpedo boats capable of operating at speeds of 34-36 knots, sometimes patrolled the channel at night, the British Commander in Chief, Plymouth, who was responsible for protecting the rehearsal, threw patrols across the mouth of Lyme Bay. These patrols consisted of two destroyers, three motor torpedo boats and two motor gunboats. Another motor torpedo patrol was sent to watch Cherbourg, the main ports where the German E-boats were based. Following the "bombardment" on Slapton Sands, the exercise "landings" were begun during the morning of April 27, and the unloading continued during the day and the next when a follow up convoy was expected.

This Convoy T-4 consisted of two sections from two different ports. The Plymouth section, LST Group 32, was composed of USS LST-515, USS LST-496, USS LST-511, USS LST-531, and USS LST-58, which was towing two pontoon causeways. The Brixham section consisted of USS LST-499, USS LST-289, and USS LST-507. The convoy joined with HMS Azalea as escort and proceeded at six knots in one column with the LSTs in the same order as listed above. When the convoy was maneuvering in Lyme Bay in the early hours of April 28, they were attacked by nine German E-boats out of Cherbourg that had evaded the Allied patrols. No warning of the presence of enemy boats had been received until LST-507 was torpedoed at 0204. The ship burst into flames, and survivors abandoned ship. Several minutes later LST-531 was torpedoed and sank in six minutes. LST-289, which opened fire at E-boats, was also torpedoed but was able to reach port. The other LSTs plus two British destroyers fired at the E-boats, which used smoke and high speed to escape. This brief action resulted in 198 Navy dead and missing and 441 Army dead and missing according to the naval action reports. Later Army reports gave 551 as the total number of dead and missing soldiers. The final training exercise FABIUS took place between May 3-8, without any enemy attacks.

To keep the Germans from possibly learning about the impending Normandy Invasion, casualty information on Exercise TIGER was not released until after the invasion. On August 5, 1944, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force released statistics on the casualties associated with the Normandy Invasion, which included information about the German E-Boat attack on April 28. This information was also published in the August 7 issue of The Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper of the U. S. Armed Forces in the European Theater. The Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001, holds the originals of both these sources. Over the years, details on the training exercises and the resulting losses have appeared in such published sources as Samuel Eliot Morison's The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944-1945 (1957), volume XI of his 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, and Roland Rupenthal's Logistical Support of the Armies (1953) and Gordon Harrison's Cross-Channel Attack, which are both part of the multi-volume series United States Army in World War

Thus, since August 1944, information about the training exercise also commonly called Operation TIGER has been available to the public. The naval records relating to Operation TIGER, which are declassified, were transferred to the Modern Military Records Branch, Naitonal Archives and Records Admiistration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. Before transfer, the Operational Archives Branch had placed all the naval action reports from this exercise on microfilm reel, NRS-601. To order a duplicate film for the cost indicated on the fee schedule, please complete the duplication order form and send it with a check or money order made payable to the Department of the Navy, to the Operational Archives Branch, Naval History & Heritage Command, 805 Kidder Breese SE, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060.

The Exercise Tiger Association, National Commemorative Foundation, a non-profit organization recognized by the Department of Defense and Congress, promotes education on the events of Exercise Tiger, and holds annual ceremonies honoring the participants in Exercise Tiger. The address of the Exercise Tiger Association is P.O. Box 1050 Beach Haven, NJ 08008.

Other Published sources:

Greene, Ralph C. and Oliver E. Allen, "What Happened Off Devon," American Heritage 36, no. 2 (Feb./Mar 1985): 2635.

MacDonald, Charles B. "Slapton Sands: The 'Cover-Up' That Never Was," Army 38, no. 6 (Jun. 1988): 64-67.