Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Exercise Tiger"



Unlike most War Veterans who are clam-mouthed about their endurances in war-time, Sol, in the  early 1980's, gained sufficient computer knowledge to write and document significant experiences with the U.S. Army…from intensive training to long-buried war atrocities.  His writings as blog entries were therapy for his soul. Today, he is recognized as Oldest Military Blogger...a site to which you can connect on the Internet. He is now 91 years of age  with a very keen mind and well-sustained memory! 

With special permission, I present his writings from personal experience pertaining to:  The Preparation manoevers for D Day...and the Landing Assault on Normandy Beach, June 6, 1944. These I am posting as  as two separate entries,  I request that you take the time to read every word he wrote.
Sense his emotions.
Relive the Action!  Be in his Mind!
Think his thoughts about Life and his fellowmen...
as you read his descriptive narrative on these eventful days!

Ken Small, the author of  “A Memorial For A Sherman Tank” related the culmination of a project in April 1944 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 WWII.

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 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 that harassed 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 Companies.  At first, I thought my Battalion was a replacement for the casualties of the Brigade. Later I was told that our three Port Battalions with 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 then have been the last troops to leave the Beach.

The last  line reminds me of the movie, “On the Waterfront.”  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!”

The last line means to me, I was a contender.
Contrary, to Marlon's  second classic expression,
I ~ Am A Somebody!

(Be certain to read...D-Day Delay...to be published June 6)

Merle Baird-Kerr...scripted May 16, 2014
Comments welcome...e-mail to:

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for your generous comments
    and efforts to embellish my character
    with your praising prose.
    Thanks, on this 70th, D Day remembrance
    for your readers and us.
    Sol

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, Sol, this is your written material about experiences in WWII...I've just extended readership on it. So wonderful to have a first-hand-account...and most informative it was! With all the media publicity about the 70th Anniversary..."yesterday has become alive!"
    Thank you for your complimentary comment!

    ReplyDelete