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Keith at Tregenna
28th April 2021, 10:20 PM
In the run up to DDay in 1944, Operation Tiger was taking place on the South Coast of England. In the early hours of the 28th April 1944, around 1:30 a.m. a German E-boat attack began. This terrible attack led to the loss of 749 Americans and was covered up for years.

As eight American LSTs lumbered toward Slapton Sands in Lyme Bay, their crews were startled by an eruption of gunfire and the flash of tracer rounds in the night sky. The flotilla was caught completely off guard. British forces had been monitoring the approach of the E-boats, but due to an error, they were operating on a different radio frequency than the Americans. To make matters worse, the landing ships’ main escort, a British destroyer called the Scimitar, had sustained damage earlier in the evening and returned to port for repairs. When the shooting started, their only protection was a 200-foot corvette called the Azalea.

The Allies’ confusion turned to panic shortly after 2 a.m., when a German E-boat torpedo careened into the side of an American landing ship called LST-507. While LST-507 burned, another landing ship called LST-531 was hit by two torpedoes in quick succession and consumed in a ball of flames. As its crew hurled themselves overboard, a fourth torpedo plowed into LST-289, turning its stern into a mangled hulk. LST-289 would manage to stay afloat in spite of its damage, but LST-507 and LST-531 both sank within a matter of minutes. The survivors of the wrecked landing ships huddled in life rafts or floated helplessly in the chilly waters of Lyme Bay. Having not received proper instruction in the use of their lifejackets, many drowned under the weight of their bulky combat gear.

The Allied fleet had scattered and steamed toward the shore during the attack, but once the German E-boats retreated, a lone LST and a British destroyer returned to the scene and began plucking survivors out of the water. By then, hundreds had either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.

The losses from the disaster eventually totaled 749 American sailors and soldiers killed and several hundred more injured, yet they were not immediately made public. With Operation Overlord still looming, the Allies temporarily kept the debacle under wraps out of fear that it might tip off the Germans.