As the war on the Eastern Front continued to go south, and with Stalin begging the Allies to open a second front in Europe, the British government set up a training ground at Slapton Beach, Devon to be used by the American "U" Force. These would later be the Americans who would land on Utah Beach in June of 1944.
Slapton beach was selected as it was an almost perfect twin beach for Utah Beach. The 3,000 local residents were evacuated so that during the live-fire exercises no civilians were injured.
The planned landing would take place in April-May of 1944, just prior to the actual D-Day landings in June. On April 22, Nine large tank-landing crafts and 30,000 American troops prepared to land on Slapton Beach.
Due to poor weather, the practice landings we delayed until April 27th, but the practice did not go as planned. It was doomed by a friendly fire incident. To make the exercise more real, live rounds were to be used so that troops were prepared for what June 6th would bring. Due to a miss-communication, a number of the destroyers did not receive the change in fire-orders, and began to bombard the beach. The beaches were lined with white tape, where troops were supposed to stop until the live-fire ended, but many missed the tape and continued forward.
Making matters even worse, troop convoys waiting in the English Channel were attached by German E-Boats. This attack, has become known to Historians as the Battle of Lyme Bay. Two British corvettes were leading the Tank carriers and troop carriers towards Slapton beach when Nine German E-Boats attacked.
The attack lasted a couple hours, and in the end 2 of the Tank transporters were sunk, and 2 more were damaged. 946 Americans were dead, most who drowned, and another 200 left injured from Friendly Fire. There were no German casualties.
The aftermath of the landing where a number of operational changes to the D-Day planning:
Radio Frequencies were standardized
Better Life Vest Training for troops - as lack of training caused most of the drowning cases
Better plans for rescuing troops floating in the Channel
|This Sherman DD Tank was located in 1974 and lifted out of the water near Slapton Beach in 1984. It stands as the memorial to the Americans who died practising for the D-Day invasion which turned the tides of the war in the Allies favour. They did not die in vain. |