AN OVERVIEW OF WHAT HAPPEN AT SLAPTON SANDS

     In research for other incidents, it was about ten years ago I had heard of the "Slapton Sands Incident". I did not explore at that time so did nothing about it, because, no body when I ask questions seems to know what went on with this incident. As my curiosity grew it was then two years ago and because it happened in Southern England I approached my English friend Steve Pena who is Curator of our 91st BG Tower Museum at Bassingbourn. I ask him, Steve do you know anything about the Slapton Sands Incident? Funny he said, how did you know how did you find out? Why sure he said I just recorded a VCR tape off English History Channel about the incident. He volunteered to mail me a tape, but he said it is in English PAL Format, you will have to get somebody to transfer it to your American Format. This presented a problem at first, question where do you go to transfer VCR tapes? I found this Indian Grocery Store nearby who had as small sign saying they do transfers PAL format to American format for VCR's. I had it transferred and play it frequently on my VCR.

   All military build-up beginning in February 1944 at that time was so highly secret because of the upcoming near Spring D-Day Landing. Keep in mind the approaching season of the year and location, this part of England was a beach area and the Summer season was for bathing, sunning and good times. A strict censorship of communications by mail and telephones were severely enforced. When the deployment of American troops began this is hard to believe because of tight security our American Military was allowed to go off base area to British Pubs and mingle with British civilians.

   In my possession I also have a book from an English lady about the huge area 25 square miles that was sealed off and vacated of 3500 British civilians in Devon, Southern England. This was the area needed to disperse these men and machines for D-Day, included was Churches, Pubs, Schools, Farmers, Fishermen and Whole Towns. The name of the book, "The Magic Army" by Leslie Thomas it could only be printed as fiction in June 1981, but the happenings was real. There was considerable anger among the citizens because they had to vacate the area, displaced people they were, displaced to other area of England. They accepted it because it was war and the Brits had been into the war for several years already. I do wonder how a secret could be kept by the anger of the people?

   I will not dispute Geo's story because he was part of the Grave Registration detail he should know. By his number there may have been more deaths than was first documented.

   In March of 1944 there were lots of casualties in the Tiger Practice Exercise. There were 50 deaths from drowning, overhead fire from live ammo guns. There was a British Navy Group help supposedly to fire Rockets a t 8:15 in the morning and due to poor timing 50 to 60 more men were killed. There was British military assisting as ground land personnel and they observed bulldozers used for the digging of graves to bury the dead.

1. The name for this secretive exercise was "Tiger Exercise". Then on April 27, 1944 a full-scale practice exercise was initiated because the real thing D-Day was only six weeks away. An American navy Admiral Moon was in charge. Due to a one hour postponement the rocket action the above paragraph of death to American soldiers happened. Beside that there was 29 additional casualties.

   Also, on April 27, 1944 there were 500 defenders (acting as German troops) on English coastline (acting as German military) delegated for the exercise with a British and American Colonel Thompson as observers. When the American's stormed the beach for a practice exercise against the defenders this was when the rocket attack happened. Again due to the one hour postponement when the rockets were fired it was too late, the rocket could not be stopped. The observers said the total dead was more like 150 American's dead. The mistake was reported to General Bradley who told his Colonels to not say anything about what happened. Not to even speak of the circumstances.

   On April 28, 1944, the loading of LST's at Plymouth England begun for the actual D-Day invasion. It comprised 8 LST's, a convoy of ships 5 miles long. Protection of the convoy was under the British Navy. It was so highly secret the American troops were not told and did not know where they were going, some thought this was the big day.

   The German Navy listens to Radio Signals and knew what was happening, so they sent out nine German E-Boats to intercept.

   My VCR version numbers could be altered to cushion the impact on whoever views this tape. Any way there were about eight American loaded LST's ships coming from Plymouth, England right off the coast of Devon, England loaded with men, tanks, guns, ammo loaded for D-Day invasion. One ship that was sunk had 22 ducks on load manifest. They were to practice the landing by cruising along the English Coastline up from Slapton Sands. As they turned slightly northeasterly off Portland Bill up this particular Channel coastline two German E-Boat (Gunships) got between them and the English Coastline and sunk two ships as I observed the tape. One ship when sunk lost 256 men another ship sunk and lost 493 men about 749 total in number. With the trucks loaded with gas and ammo there were terrific explosions and heat. The destruction of the two LST's destroyed and sunk one additional damaged took only 15 minutes. Most of the men wore Mae West type jackets but were never instructed how to use them. It was training exercise that lasted for 40 minutes with a loss of 800 men.

   Due to the British Admiral Forbes he put the blame on his personnel for lack of protection. Untrained and inexperience they were on a road to disaster. So the protective escorts were to blame. The radio circuits were mixed up trying on a different frequency trying to make contact than what the British were using. There were no shots, no shots fired in self-defense, eight ships 3500 men totally defenseless.

   There had to be strict secrecy so the Germans did not know what destruction they ensued. The three LST ships were badly needed for D-Day invasion but now lost. The resources inventory for LST's at this time was not adequate there were no replacements. It was revealed there were more men who died on this Slapton Sands Incident than died on Utah Beach D-Day invasion. It was said only one third of this number who died on Utah Beach.

2. I am like Geo I would tend to believe there were more casualties because it was one great cover-up. Most of the men were Privates and PFC's. After a few days the dead bodies started floating ashore where the English people who were not in the zone became curious as to what happened. The US military had a bad time picking up the bodies before to many were discovered by English citizens. The bodies removed into the Secured Staging area for burial in darkness. The British military did the preparation for burial, 262 were embolm it took 4 days. The 500 wounded were taken to a special hospital cordoned off by police around the hospital for security reasons. With the real D-day only six weeks away Major General Collins was in charge of this detail and made responsible for what to say to the families. The American families when notified of their sons death, were told they were (MIA) Missing in Action.

   My question is had the cover-up ever been revealed as to the true incident happening to the families? Have any of the bodies been returned to America? Are there grave markers placed where they were buried? These questions are sadly answered on the VCR tape.

   It is said the English people from that area when the war was over wanted to create a Memorial for those who died there. How did the British know what happened there? So the English Government was able to remove one of the tanks from one of the sunken ships out in the Channel and it is suppose to be placed and Dedicated in Remembrance.

     This is from the book mentioned above "The Magic Army". This is what the Memorial says: `This Memorial was presented by the United States Army Authorities to the people of the South Hams who generously left their homes and their lands to provide a battle practice area for the successful assault on Normandy in June 1944. Their action resulted in the saving of many hundreds of lives and contributed in no small measure to the success of the operation. The area included the villages of Blackawton, Chillington, East Allington, Slapton, Stokenham. Strete and Torcross together with many outlying farms and houses.'

----- Marion Hoffman

LINKS

Biography of Ed Braun with links to other stories

Back To Justin Oral History, Army Anecdotes

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