Slapton Sands, England: The American tragedy before D-day

(source unknown)

Exercise Tiger was intended to prepare American soldiers and seamen for the invasion of Normandy.

On the night of 27 April 1944 Slapton Sands on the coast of Devon was selected for American troops to practice their landing at Utah beach because the area resembled the French coast. It was around 2 in the morning when their convoy which included landing crafts full of American soldiers were heading towards the beach when they were suddenly attacked by German E Boats which were on a routine patrol.

By the time the fast-moving E boats had left the area and the Royal Navy arrived 639 (some reports state 749) American soldiers and seamen had been killed. A subsequent investigation discovered many who abandoned their ships and landing crafts died from hyperthermia, others died in the flames of burning oil on the surface of the sea and many soldiers wearing heavy equipment drowned because they had not been taught how to use their life preservers.

To ensure D-day remained secret those who survived were ordered not to speak of the attack, all leave was cancelled to ensure news did not leak out and these soldiers later took part in the seaborne invasion.

The Slapton Sands Memorial

The fall details of the loss of American servicemen only came to the attention of the wider public in 1984 and there is now a memorial to those who were lost at Slapton Sands.

Normandy: The Airborne Invasion of Fortress Europe (Public information film by US Department of Defence) Excellent coverage of Glider Operations

Archive information

Creator(s): Department of Defense. Department of the Air Force. 9/26/1947- (Most Recent) Series: Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities, 1947 – 1984 Record Group 342: Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations, 1900 – 2003 Shot List: Summary: World War II scenes starting out with CU of Army Field Order #1, IX Troop Carrier Command, then shifts to a group of high-ranking officers looking at Mosaic of Europe. Shows the joint chiefs of Staff at Shape Headquarters sitting around a long table talking. Shows paratroopers loading jeeps and small armament into gliders and cargo planes pulling gliders loaded with men and equipment. Also shows mass parachute drops, mass glider flight, and glider take-offs and landing. Shows Gen Eisenhower talking with enlisted personnel. (USAF By Army Air Force Combat Film Service, WWII). Contact(s): National Archives at College Park – Motion Pictures (RDSM), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road College Park, MD 20740-6001 Phone: 301-837-3540, Fax: 301-837-3620, Email: National Archives Identifier: 65988 Local Identifier: 342-USAF-19674