Although the worst American training accident during WW2, Exercise Tiger was invaluable in preparing the Allies for D-Day and the liberation of Europe.
Exercise Tiger was a dress rehearsal for the WW2 Normandy D- Day landings to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.
- Took place 22 - 28 April 1944. (D- Day 6 June 1944).
- U.S. Army’s VII Corps were practising for D Day landings at Utah Beach, Normandy, France.
- 8 American tank landing ships, or LSTs involved.
- 23,000 troops.
- Supported by a lone British corvette.
- Slapton Sands, Was chosen as it was similar to the beaches of Normandy.
- Mines, barbed wire, and anti-tank concrete obstacles were installed to simulate Normandy beaches.
- The local population was evacuated to allow a live naval gunfire shore bombardment.
- Poor communications initially caused friendly fire casualties.
- Using different radio frequencies, the British and Americans contributed to a surprise attack by German “Schnellboote,” or “fast boats.” with top speeds of 40 knots.
- These “E-boats” were small, nimble raiders with torpedoes and 40mm guns that destroyed two LSTs and damaged others.
- Many American troops drowned due to a lack of training in lifejacket use with heavy and bulky combat gear.
- Hypothermia cost many lives.
- 749 American sailors and soldiers were killed and several hundred more injured.
- Casualties were kept secret for fear of alerting the Germans to Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe.
- Consideration was given to scrapping the Normandy invasion if the bodies of several officers with direct knowledge of the attack hadn’t been recovered.
- The survivors were threatened with court-martial if they spoke of the tragedy to anyone.
- Radio communications procedures and lifejacket use were improved post the ambush.
- Proving the value of the Exercise, the American losses (197 Army killed) in the actual Utah beach landings were less than in the Exercise.
- The U.S. military publicly acknowledged the losses of Exercise Tiger in the months after D-Day.
- During Exercise Tiger, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower must have learned lessons for D-D Day.
- Some lessons learned included using larger escort forces if available, having rescue craft, ensuring vital information on enemy contacts was disseminated quickly and, introducing standard operating procedures and special communication circuits for each operation.
- Other lessons were that lifeboats and life rafts should always be kept in a state of readiness. Boot laces should be loosened when an order to abandon ship seemed likely to make it easier to remove heavy, waterlogged boots once in the water.
- A salvaged Sherman tank sits as a memorial to the 749 servicemen who lost their lives at Slapton Sands.