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Exercise Tiger LST 507 lost 76 years ago Today

Nine O Nine

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Nine O Nine

76 years ago today the Exercise Tiger tragedy took place. Here is a photo of LST 507 which was lost that night. The photo was taken by M I C H A E L  M A Z U R a crew member aboard LST 55. This photo was taken in Brixham Harbour the day before the Exercise. Below is a brief history of that night taken from ExerciseTiger.org.uk

For another item related to Exercise Tiger please see my collection thread in the Displays section.



April 1944, preparations for the Normandy Landings were well under way. All around the British Isles, men and women of various nationalities were making ready for the forthcoming advance into Nazi-occupied Europe. One of the many military operations was taking place on the South Devon coast at Slapton Sands. This area had been evacuated of civilians during the previous year, the beach there having been specially selected for its resemblance to the area between Pouppeville and La Madeleine in Northern France – codenamed Utah beach.

Taking part in the practice landings at Slapton Sands were 30,000 American troops consisting of Infantry, Artillery, Engineers, Medical personnel, Tank Battalions and support staff. The purpose of this operation was to prepare these troops for the D-Day Landings in surroundings as similar as possible to those they would eventually face on June 6th, including the use of live ammunition. The codename given to this operation was Exercise Tiger.

In the early hours of 28th April 1944, with the bulk of the infantry already ashore, eight tank landing ships (LSTs) were making their way towards Slapton. These ships carried engineers, quartermaster staff, signallers, medics and some infantry as well as tanks, trucks, jeeps and equipment. These men and their supplies formed part of the vital support for the initial assault troops.

Without warning, the LSTs suddenly found themselves under attack. Unbeknownst to the American servicemen, a flotilla of nine German E-boats had been ordered to investigate unusual radio activity in the area. The E-boat logs show that they believed they had stumbled across several destroyers and they immediately opened fire.

LST507 was the first to be torpedoed. Lieutenant James Murdock was the Executive Officer on board. He stated that, noticing these boats on the radar, they had assumed that ‘perhaps they were part of our escort’. His account continues: ‘As they came abeam we were suddenly hit by a torpedo on the starboard side which tore through the sides and exploded in the near vicinity of the auxiliary engine room.

In addition to her crew of 165 men, LST507 was also carrying 282 Army personnel together with trucks, jeeps and gasolene, which immediately caught fire. The flames quickly spread to the decks and as the fuel spilled and leaked over into the water, the sea too appeared to catch fire. The ship’s company tried to extinguish the flames on board, but to no avail and she began to sink by the stern.

Eventually, the ship’s Captain, James Schwartz, gave the order to abandon ship. Although only two lifeboats were undamaged by fire, these were quickly lowered. Both the army personnel and the ship’s company were wearing life jackets and those that could not make it to a lifeboat found themselves in the chilling water, swimming as best they could, away from the sinking ship and flaming water. Many of these men died from shock or exposure, including Captain Schwartz – who, according to Naval tradition had been the last man to leave the stricken ship. The survivors, including Lieutenant Murdock, were picked up by LST515.

Within minutes of this initial strike, two more ships were hit. LST531 was torpedoed and sank inside six minutes, with the loss of over 400 lives, while LST289, having been hit in the stern, managed to eventually limp back to port.

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  • 1 year later...

I like the photo and short story.I have a Purple Heart medal that was given to the family of a crewmember on the LST531                                                                                                                    Jessie

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