Thursday, June 7, 2012

Oldest Military Blogger Refers to Exercise Tiger

On a previous posting in 2007,titled, "Limited Service", I ended the article
with, "What in the world am I doing here on the beach on D Day?"
Through the Freedom of Information Act, two years ago, Ken Small, the author
of " A Memorial For A Sherman Tank ", obtained the answer to that question for me.
He related that in April of 1944, the culmination of a project
called Exercise Tiger and how this rigorous training with live ammunition,
was held as a preamble to Operation Neptune, the invasion of France
across the English Channel.
Exercise Tiger had a previous dry run in December of '43 but the
April 44th rehearsal led ultimately, to be one of the most horrendous
misfortunes of WWll.

Exercise Tiger was staged off South Devon England, at a beach
called Slapton Sands, just 6 weeks before the D Day landings
in Normandy.
South Devon then, was a quiet little hamlet on the southeastern English
coast with beaches, whose configurations were similar to the Normandy
terrain of Utah Beach.
An ideal place for Exercise Tiger were it not for Murphy's Law.
"If anything could possibly go wrong ,it will".
On April 29th 1944, in the English Channel less than 40 miles from
the German occupied French soil, Exercise Tiger was devastated by
E Boats from their base in Cherbourg, France.
The Cherbourg Peninsula was a huge E Boat base that harrassed and
sunk Allied shipping.
E Boats are the equivalent to the U.S. PT 109,the torpedo boat
commanded by John Kennedy in the South Pacific long before he
became the President of the U.S.
These E Boats were fast and deadly and surely held in the highest
regard for the safety of Allied troops and ships by the leadership
of the exercise.
Unfortunately, the 2 Destroyers assigned to defend the men and
equipment had difficulty with their communication gear.
Exercise Tiger was a disaster.
The Army's 1st Engineer Special Brigade and the US Navy suffered
losses in the Channel and on the English beach due to heavy shelling.
The Brigade losses were more than two Companys
At first I thought my Battalion was a replacement for the casualties
of the Brigade.
Later I wes told that our three Port Battalions with the the 1st Engineer
Special Brigade were assigned there originally.... and not as replacements.
In addition.....The Port Battalions were to cover the retreat of
the Landings should it have been necessary...

We would have been the last troops to leave the Beach.

This last line reminds me of the movie
.."On The Waterfront"
where the Hero, Marlon Brando, who portrays a professional boxer,
laments to his brother about the last fight he just lost...

" I could've been a contender." he pleads..,

then adds with a moan,

"I could've been "a somebody ! "

That last line means to me, I was a contender.

Contrary, to Marlon's second Classic expression,

I, Am, A Somebody!


CI-Roller Dude said...

Guten tag,
Thanks to you and all your buddies, half the world doesn't have to speak German.

Pat Tillett said...

You are most certainly a "somebody" my friend. In fact, you are part of the best generation, that this country has ever known. I'm always happy to see that you have posted some additional history for us. And I thank you for it!

Anonymous said...

Being in the Military may sound honorable and patriotic; however, the tasks to be performed are unknown to the "soldier" at the time.
The training and exercises endured by you and your Battalion can be costly in lives. We, as civilians, celebrate you as "somebody" who has lived to share these writings of your personal wartime experiences, Marlon Brando's "classic quote" is truly symbolic. I

solfine said...

Thanks for celebrating with me about my Hyper link success.

Elizabeth Bacher said...

That's a piece of history I did not know Sol. Had you been on the original battalion of Exercise Tiger, myself and your other followers may never have known you. There was a reason for you not being there. You are most assuredly "somebody"!

Henry said...

That was an interesting read. Thanks for sharing this with us.


sam said...

Most defiantly you are somebody and a brave one at that. Yes everything that can go wrong usually does and that when you just need to adapt and overcome as you did .

solfine said...

Dear Sam,
Thank you for your comment today..
Please keep reading ....
Be sure to enjoy the experiences
I relate here...
I sure enjoyed them.
Finnegan (keep reading)