Exercise Tiger, 1944
Exercise Tiger was one of the many full scale rehearsal exercises conducted by the Allies in preparation for Operation Overlord. Tiger was developed to provide training for the American troops scheduled to invade France at Utah Beach, using the British beach at Slapton Sands.
On the morning of April 28, 1944 a flotilla of eight LSTs loaded with American troops, combat engineers, and equipment were operating in Lyme Bay, on the English Channel, when they were attacked by nine German E-Boats. E-Boats were similar to the American PT-Boats and were armed with machine guns and torpedoes. One of the vessels assigned to protect the LSTs was not present due to its having been damaged in a collision with an LST. A replacement escort had not yet arrived.
Four of the LSTs were attacked by the E-Boats. One of the LSTs was damaged by friendly fire as the Americans attempted to engage the E-Boats. Another was set afire by the German attack but managed to make it to shore, although over one hundred Navy officers and sailors were lost. LST-531 was sunk by a torpedo attack, over 400 Army and Navy personnel were lost.
A fourth vessel, LST-507, took the lives of another 202 US Army and Navy servicemen when it sank. Many of the casualties were from hypothermia in the cold waters of Lyme Bay. Others, in a grim foreshadowing of the D-Day invasion, drowned when the weight of their combat gear pulled them underwater.
All survivors of Exercise Tiger were placed on maximum security to ensure word of the disaster did not become known prior to the actual invasion. A total of 749 US Navy and Army personnel died during the dress rehearsal for the invasion of Utah Beach. By comparison, 197 American servicemen were killed in the actual invasion of Utah Beach.