Newspaper report from an unknown British newspaper from June 1954. This article explains that, during a ceremony to unveil a memorial which the Americans had erected in honour of the local people who had given up their homes, US General Gruenther, had revealed some of the details of Exercise Tiger. This ceremony took place on 24 June 1954.
Germans Eluded Naval Patrols and Sank Landing Craft
Seven hundred American soldiers were killed and three tank landing craft were sunk when, on April 28, 1944, German U-boats eluded the naval screen and attacked vessels taking part in the training off Slapton Sands for the D-Day landings in Normandy
This was revealed officially for the first time on Saturday afternoon by the American General A M Gruenther, when he attended a ceremony to mark the tenth anniversary of the allied assault on Hitler’s Atlantic wall.
This tragic happening was a well-kept secret – so well-kept, in fact, that after ten years, astonishment was expressed even in official circles when General Gruenther’s speech was published. The facts were known to quite a number of local people, but they loyally and discreetly kept their mouths shut on the subject.
Earl Fortescue, the Lord Lieutenant, said later that it was “complete news” to him, the War Office knew nothing and the US Navy headquarters professed ignorance. There was a reference in a dispatch from Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay which referred to the sinking of LSTs by enemy E-boats in Lyme Bay during an attack on “the last convoy to sail” but this does not appear to have been the same incident.
In the Drizzle
After a bad morning with fog and drizzle, the sun tried to break through the low clouds as people began to assemble at the obelisk erected near the ruins and rubble that were once the Slapton Sands Hotel. But thin drizzle closed down again, and spectators, as well as the Guard of Honour were thoroughly damped before the proceedings commenced.
It was 1943 and the people of one of the most fertile areas of farm land in the country were evacuated so that it might be used as a training area for the United States Forces. They returned after the war to find buildings razed and land ravaged, but it was stated that the sacrifice had been instrumental in saving many lives when the Americans went ashore under enemy fire, benenfiting by the lessons they had learned in South Devon.
Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps it was the rather bitter memory of the evacuation days, but there was only a thin attendance of the local folk at the memorial yesterday. Holiday-makers and officially-invited people swelled to some three or four hundred the numbers gathered around the hollow square formed by the Guard.
To the south was a detachment of seamen from the Royal Navy, spick and span in their summer rig, with long bayonets flashing and glinting as they sloped and presented arms with the precision of clockwork. There was an assemblage of county and local dignitaries and officers of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Army with their ladies on the seaward side, when the Guard gave the general salute as General Gruenther arrived.
After inspecting the Guard, he was introduced to the assembly by Earl Fortescue, Lord Lieutenant of Devon. A short man, wearing the American dark khaki jacket and light trousers, the General stood at the base of the obelisk and made an informal, chatty little speech with, albeit a strong political flavour to give it bite.
He told of his first acquaintance with Devon as a schoolboy when, being asked to locate it, he described it as a province of England, in the north of Scotland! He expressed American gratitude for the facilities provided for their training during the last war by the people of the South Hams. He extolled NATO, saying it was necessary that the politicians should have adequate military backing and he referred to another portion of the free world “disappearing into Soviet darkness as an outcome of the happenings of the last few days.”
General Gruenther was thanked by Mr R W Prowse, chairman of the Kingsbridge Rural District Council; naval ratings stationed at the halyards broke the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes from the flag-poles erected on either side of the memorial, the band played “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Save The Queen” – it was all over, sailors and soldiers marched back to their buses, the elite hurried to their cars and the locals strung out along the road on their way home to tea.