15 Mar 17
Our “Unarmed” Forces!
“Operation Tiger” was a code-name given to a large pre-D-Day “dress-rehearsal,” which took place near Slapton Sands, Devon on the south coast of England in April of 1944. It turned into a disastrous tragedy, where nearly one thousand troopers were killed, mostly Americans, via friendly fire and gumptious enemy action.
Mis-communication, poor coordination, poor intelligence, poor planning all combined to doom the operation. When the scope of the catastrophe became fully known the next day, it was all quickly hushed-up, in order to keep the information from the enemy of course, but mostly to bury embarrassing details in order to protect careers of the incompetent.
Some things never change!
In any event, the real D-Day Invasion of 6 June 1944 quickly overshadowed this embarrassing debacle, and it has been largely forgotten ever since.
A squadron of fast-moving German “S-Boats” (sometimes called “E-Boats), slipped past a laughably inadequate British protective screen. S-Boats were armed with torpedoes and 20mm guns.
It was the middle of a War, and S-Boats, based out of Cherbourg, regularly patrolled the English Channel, but no one seemed to be as concerned about them as everyone should have been!
S-Boat crews spotted the low-moving American LSTs (for “Landing Ship, Tank”) and boldly attacked. Two LSTs were torpedoed and sunk. One was torpedoed, but made it safely to shore. One other was damaged but also made it to shore. Many troopers and crew abandoned ship, but downed or died of hypothermia in icy water before they could be rescued.
S-Boats came close enough to the LSTs to fire upon them with their 20mm guns and machineguns.
Conversely, LST crews and troopers had no ability to return fire. It was, after all, only a “rehearsal!”
Two British destroyers were assigned to protect the entire operation, but only one showed-up! Several shots were exchanged with Germans, but no German S-Boats were lost, nor even damaged!
It was not until 1974 that civilian residents of Devon took it upon themselves to erect a memorial to the brave victims of Operation Tiger, since neither the British nor the Americans ever officially displayed any interest.
Success has a thousand fathers. Disaster is always an orphan!
In the after-action report (at the time, highly classified), improvements in communication, coordination, security, and risk assessment were all mentioned, as one would expect.
Then, there was this sentence, buried near the end of the document:
“… making rifles and pistols more generally available to fire on S-boats when they paced close aboard, especially when (mounted) guns could not be depressed sufficiently”
American troopers, practicing amphibious landings, during wartime, in contested waters, were not armed that day! I’m sure some timid bureaucrat, serving under Eisenhower, said the week before, “We can’t let them have guns. They might hurt themselves!”
Lessons, that we naive, gullible Americans painfully relearn over and over:
1) Whenever you’re told, “You don’t need guns,” or “You’re safe here,” or “Protection is provided.” or “You can relax now,” never believe it! Never believe a word of it!
2) Whenever you’re told, “Don’t bring guns,” bring guns!
3) Whenever you’re told, “We’ll provide you with the equipment and training you need,” acquire and bring your own weapons, and seek competent training, outside the “System.”
4) When you set foot in “utopia,” go armed!