Could you guys elaborate on Operation Tiger in the lead up to D-Day and the German patrol that discovered the live exercise? It the literature this isn’t something that is commonly discussed nor taught.
It was a couple of practice landing in late April 1944 in preparation for D-Day.
On April 27th, a practice landing by “Higgins boats” (the little ones) at Slapton Sands is marred by casualties among landing infantry by live-fire naval gunfire. But that’s nothing compared to…
On the 28th, a much larger landing force in the same location is ambushed by German E-boats around 1:30am (before the practice even starts). The 9 LST’s full of men and vehicles have exactly one escort, an RN corvette. (There were two, but one had been accidentally rammed by an LST and gone home and not been replaced.)
A warning of the e-boats approach was on the wrong frequency. Two LST’s were torpedoed and sunk, but not before spreading burning oil on the surface. On LST-531, 467 of 493 men die of explosion, drowning, burning, or hypothermia in the 42F-degree water. Infantry on board the LST’s had not been instructed in how to put on life-belts, and so some drownings were by men actually wearing life-belts, just in the worst possible way (around the waist, instead of under the arms.)
The rest of the LST’s, having no orders, plough on toward the beaches - still practicing radio silence, as ordered - leaving the survivors from the two sunk LST’s on their own. But we’re not done yet.
The LST’s beach, and infantry begin to disembark. They are “opposed” by Allied troops to give the whole thing a bit of ‘reality.’ Too much reality - unbelievably, the ‘defenders’ have been given LIVE AMMUNITION. Also the RN cruiser force that shelled its own men yesterday shows up and does exactly the same thing. Between the two, they inflict over 300 dead and wounded among the landing infantry.
It will be later asserted that the ‘defenders’ had been instructed to fire over the heads of the landing force - an instruction that does not appear to have actually been issued. Even though a clear “over the head” measure was presented - the 75 foot high LSTs - ‘defenders’ nevertheless fired on their bretheren for quite a while.
A total of 749 US soldiers are killed in the ‘exercise’. Bodies wash up on the Slapton Sands beach for days.
But there’s still more. 10 of the officers on the LST’s are fully briefed on the D-Day landing. If any had been captured by the e-boats, the whole operation would be blown. Fortunately, sort of, the e-boats had fled after their original attack, and all 10 officers are found to have been killed.
Survivors of “Operation Tiger” will still go ashore on D-Day. No Allied officers are ever punished in any way for the amazing (in the bad way) stupidity shown by everybody from planners to operators of the ‘exercise.’
As you say, the whole matter has been swept under the rug as best as can be. Victor’s history, and all that.
Hope this helps
Exercise Tiger had resulted in friendly fire incidents occurred due to poor communications and coordination. Rumors spread that as many as 450 men were killed. The Germans had 9 E-Boats that took part in the battle of Lyme Bay where 749 Allied soldiers were killed. The incident was highly secretive due to the impending D-Day landings. However, the many mistakes from Exercise Tiger resulted in the following changes:
- Radio frequencies were standardised; the British escort vessels were late and out of position due to radio problems, and a signal about the E-boats’ presence was not picked up by the LSTs.
- Better life vest training was provided for landing troops
- Plans were made for small craft to pick up floating survivors on D-Day
See Caddick-Adams, while operation Tiger got a lot of attention because of its problems BUT there were a lot of bigger very successful training exercises. They feared Somme like casualties but actually more people were killed in training than the landings itself.