Independent Statement written August 3rd, 1995.
FACTS ABOUT EXERCISE TIGER
English Channel LST Sinking with 639 men lost.
Eugene E Eckstam, M.D. (Served aboard LST 507)
On April 28, 1944 639 soldiers and sailors were lost during a pre-invasion ‘practice’ exercise in the English Channel off the southern coast of England. German E-Boats (Torpedo Boats) hit three LSTs, sinking two. Eisenhower’s staff has been quoted as saying the loss of 3 LSTs reduced the LST surplus to zero. He worried about prisoners being taken that knew the time and place of D-Day (no prisoners were taken). These few people were code named “Bigots”. The heavy loss of life and the other problems that caused the tragedy almost were enough to postpone or even cancel D-Day. That is why much has been written about “Exercise Tiger”.
“Tiger” was but one of several practice landings on Slapton Sands, South Devon, East of Plymouth and South of Torquay. The beach resembled Utah beach. The first wave of ships, landing craft and army troops and equipment hit the beach on April 27. I have been able to identify some of those units.
Five LSTs (515, 496, 511, 531 and 58) had loaded army troops and equipment at Plymouth and 3 LSTs (499, 289 and 507) had loaded at Brixham. These 3 LSTs joined the convoy of 5 LSTs as they sailed North-East past Torquay. As the single file Convoy T-4, consisting of 8 LSTs, in the above order, was making a slow clock-wise circle in Lyme Bay and heading almost south, they were attacked by nine German E-Boats that came out of Cherbourg, France. The location was 30 miles due East of Torquay and about 12 miles West and South of Weymouth – Portland.
LST 507 was hit by one torpedo at 0203. Because of the fires and heat, all had to abandon ship by 0230. LST 507 partially floated till dawn and then the bow was sunk by fire from a British destroyer. About half of the approximately 500 army and navy men died. The army units were: 478th Amphibious Truck Co., 557th Quartermaster Railhead Co., 33rd Chemical Co., 440th Engineer Co., 1605 Engr Mat Sec., 175th Sig Rep Co. and 3891st Quartermaster Truck Co. There were two 1/4 ton trucks, one 3/4 ton truck 13 2 1/2 ton trucks and 22 DUKWS.
LST 531 was hit by two torpedoes at 0218 and rolled over and, except for the bow, sank in 7 minutes. After he men that were on the bow were taken off, a British destroyer sank it. About 80% of approximately 500 army and navy men died. The army units were: 462nd Amphibious Truck Co., 3206th Quartermaster Services Co., 531 Eng Spec Regim., 218 Sig Dep Co., 607 QM Gr Co., 35 Sig Constr Bn. and the same mix of vehicles.
The LST 289 was hit in the stern by a torpedo killing about 13 men. Her own small boats towed her to port. There were 13 fatal casualties on LST 289 and some non fatal casualties on this and LST 511 due to cross fire by the LSTs, mainly LST 496, and the E-Boats. Army 625 Ord (Am) Co., was on one of the ships.
All living and dead casualties were taken to Portland. The survivors were taken to various army hospital units across southern England for examination and then to army and navy bases for reassignment, if able. The official order was not to talk about the disaster with anyone outside our own unit.
The first publication of the sinking of ‘some allied shipping’ with about 300 casualties was the next day in the English newspapers. A short article, released by SHAEF, appeared in the US newspapers in August 1944. A military history book in 1946 mentions Exercise Tiger and a reasonably[sic] account appeared in military history books in 1951 and 1956. In the USA the freedom of information act apparently released all information in the early 1970’s. None of these releases were publicized.
On the 40th anniversary, and 20/20 program based on an Army physician’s research (Ralph Greene, MD) finally publicized the event and it became better known. However, in England in 1981, Leslie Thomas wrote ”The Magic Army”, the first detailed account published.
There have been many newspaper articles and some TV programs headlining a mass grave for 750 casualties! There was NO mass Grave! The 605th Grave Registration Co. transported the deceased from Portland to Brookwood Cemetery near London and gave them proper burials in individual graves. I have letters regarding this information from men in the 605th GRC.
My hobby is the research of Exercise Tiger. I have compiled a list of sources of information for any one that is interested. The list includes historical files of the army and navy, the log of the German E-Boats and books and articles written by others who have done research on Exercise Tiger.
The articles appearing so far have some discrepancies. This is due to the fact that continued research finds new certifiable information. Two recent British books are out now, and they are more accurate, but still have a few errors: Ken Small, “The Forgotten Dead” and Nigel Lewis, “Exercise Tiger” (“Channel Firing” in England).
I am trying to locate all Tiger participants, Army and Navy. In England I have located eye witnesses to the event, and divers that have located the wrecks. In England it may be known as the “Slapton Sands Event” or “Lyme Bay Event”.
I still have a few questions that need answers and I am still looking for all the information I can find. Only in this way can history be set straight. Please contact me if you were involved, even remotely. Thanks
Eugene E. Eckstam, M.D.
USS LST 507