In preparation for D-Day, American armed forces requested somewhere to practice with live ammunition - somewhere that had the features of Utah beach, their objective in Normandy.
In response the British government ordered the mass evacuation of hamlets and villages around Slapton Sands in South Devon. Three thousand people were ordered to leave their homes so the practice landings could begin.
On the night of 28th April 1944 eight American landing ship tanks all packed with young American servicemen and their equipment were on a night exercise, simulating D-Day, approaching Slapton Sands in an operation named Exercise Tiger.
They were attacked by two German E-boats leaving two landing ships sunk and 749 American servicemen dead. In other similar practice landings more young American servicemen died on Slapton Sands as they came ashore, with the bombardment of the beach wrongly calculated.
In all around 1,000 young American servicemen died. This was kept from the public until the early 1970's when the Americans passed their Freedom of Information bill and questions were asked about what had happened at Slapton Sands.
In South Devon in late 1944 people returned and rebuilt their homes, rumours rife as to what had happened during those months leading up to D-Day. There are still a few Exercise Tiger survivors remaining - now in their late 80s - together with civilians affected by the mass evacuation.
– JOHN CASSON, MEMORIAL WEEKEND ORGANISER
“This is the last opportunity whilst there are survivors still alive to commemorate this very tragic event, to show respect and remember that it was their sacrifice that contributed to the freedom we enjoy today”.
*Memorial Events *
To commemorate the start of the 70th anniversary of Exercise Tiger there will be a weekend of events concluding in a special memorial service on the anniversary of Exercise Tiger, on Sunday 28th April 2013.
More than 1,000 guests are anticipated to attend, including a group of family members affected by Exercise Tiger, who are travelling from the USA with three veterans of the tragedy.
Among the guests is the daughter of Admiral Moon, US Navy, who oversaw the practice landings and who shortly after committed suicide.
Also attending is the acting US Ambassador and her Naval Attaché’s to the UK together with senior officers from the UK armed forces and other dignitaries.
The Military Wives Choir from the Royal Marines base at Chivenor will accompany a memorial service. Further information here.