Even D-Day buffs probably hadn’t heard about this shockingly lethal training debacle in the lead-up to the Normandy invasions:
The shocking double tragedy of a D-Day rehearsal exercise 75 years ago this weekend has been remembered in a new book.
More than 1,200 Allied soldiers were killed over two days off Slapton Sands in Devon, a disaster that was kept hidden by the authorities for decades.
On April 27, 1944 over 400 of them were slaughtered by the friendly fire of shells bursts on the beach due to a timing error. The following day nine German E-boats passing through Lyme Bay stumbled upon the exercise and opened fire on the mock-invasion fleet, killing 749 men.
Scores of bodies washed up on to the beach in harrowing scenes that would be replicated six weeks later on the beaches of Normandy.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted his men to be battle-hardened ahead of D-Day so he insisted on live ammunition being used during the trial run. But a calamitous error with timings meant some of the landing craft arrived at the wrong time where they came under heavy artillery fire. The tragic mishap meant a wave of servicemen taking part in the rehearsal were killed on the stony beach.
I very much doubt Eisenhower would ever have been elected President if the American people had been permitted to know about his very costly error in judgment. Apparently the U.S. military still has not admitted the live-fire incident, although it did come clean about the E-boat attacks in 1954.