Exercise Tiger took place on April 27, 1944 off of an English
Coast on the beach Slapton Sands, which was geographically similar to Normandy.
The United States wanted to practice the Normandy invasions to make sure they
were well aware of the risks and that the troops were prepared. This was a
live ammunition rehearsal. During the exercise there was failed air cover,
late landing craft, confusion on the beachhead, amphibious tanks misaiming
their guns, one tank sank, and there were soldiers wounded. The outcome of
the exercise made Dwight D. Eisenhower worry about when the actual operation
was put forth.
On April 28th, 1944
nine German Schnellbotes at 2am attacked eight US Tank-landing ships, LSTs. “German torpedoes struck 3 LSTs at
the end of the line. LST-531 capsized and sank within minutes, taking hundreds
of lives. The torpedo that hit LST-289 crumpled her stern, but she stayed afloat
to make it to port. Gasoline aboard LST-507 exploded and set the ship afire.” Eugene
Eckstam was a medical officer on the LST-507. He told National Geographic “I
saw only fire – a huge roaring blast furnace. Trucks were burning; gasoline
was burning; and small-arms ammunition was exploding. Worst of all were the
agonizing screams for help from the men trapped inside… But I knew there
was no way I – or anyone else – could help them. I knew that the
smoke inhalation would soon end their misery, so I closed the hatches into
the tank deck and dogged them tightly shut.” The LST-515 disobeyed orders
to continue on and went back for survivors. By going back they saved 132 lives.
Eisenhower did not want Germany or the other Allies to find out that 749 sailors
and soldiers had died. He was also worried that a Schnellbote may have picked
up survivors who carried the most guarded secret of the war in their pockets,
the date for D-Day.