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Slapton Sands, Exercise Tiger Exercise Tiger. Courtesy Library of Congress

Exercise Tiger American LSTs in Devon Gain Protected Status

The wrecks of two US landing ships, used in the tragic D-Day rehearsal at Slapton Sands, are to be added to the National Heritage List for England

Published on May 1, 2020

Two American Landing Ships used in the fateful WW2 Exercise Tiger, at Slapton Sands in Devon, are being given protected status in England.

The two craft, LST-507 and LST-531, were sunk during the D-Day rehearsal which took place in the early hours of April 28, 1944. A mixture of mis-communication and mis-co-ordination, combined with an attack by German E-boats based in Cherbourg, led to the loss of over 700 American service personnel.

In announcing the granting of protected status, Historic England have revealed how the two particular craft were lost during the operation:

"LST-507 was carrying nearly 500 US army personnel, trucks and 22 amphibious vehicles as well as live ammunition when it was struck in the engine room by a torpedo fired by a German E boat. This knocked out the ship’s electricity, preventing the lowering of lifeboats and started several fires in the tank deck with petrol tanks and ammunition exploding. More than 200 army and navy servicemen were lost."

"LST-531 was struck by two torpedoes and burst into a fireball following two explosions. Ammunition started firing from the bow armament and surviving personnel immediately jumped into the freezing sea, amid burning fuel oil. Many personnel were also trapped below decks as the ship rolled over and sank within six minutes. Some 424 army and navy servicemen were lost. Two other LSTs were severely damaged in the attack and further lives lost."

Explaining the protected status, Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said that "The underwater remains of ships involved in the D-Day rehearsals are a tangible reminder of the sacrifices made in planning and delivering this huge military operation on a scale never previously attempted, 76 years ago. By protecting the wrecks of two United States Landing Ships we are remembering all of those who lost their lives in the struggle for liberty during the Second World War."

Nigel Huddleston, the UK's Heritage Minister, went on to say that "I am pleased that as we prepare to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, these important relics will be protected. D-Day is one of the defining moments of the Second World War and preserving these wreck sites is a fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives in Exercise Tiger."

If you would like to find out more about Exercise Tiger, we have published a series of articles in recent years telling the story, and we've also spoken to those involved with protecting the memory of the incident. The links are below:

Historian Harry Bennett explains what happened during Exercise Tiger
Laurie Bolton tells us about protecting the memory of the American personnel who lost their lives during Exercise Tiger
Dean Small, and his father Ken, helped to ensure the story of Exercise Tiger could be commemorated. We spoke to Dean.
Peter Lawler finds out more about the story of Exercise Tiger


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