MYSTERY OF SECRET WWII EXERCISE THAT ENDED IN TRAGEDY REVEALED IN
‘AMERICA’S SECRET D-DAY DISASTER’
ONE-HOUR SPECIAL TO PREMIERE ON SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL™
ON SUNDAY, JUNE 1 at 8PM ET/PT
New York, May, 22,2014 – In April 1944, six weeks before the massive D-Day invasion of France on June 6th, nearly 700 Americans were killed during a clandestine Allied training exercise that went horribly wrong. It resulted in more fatal American casualties than the actual D-Day landings on Utah Beach.
“Exercise Tiger,” a top-secret rehearsal in England for one of the most significant operations in military history, became one of the enduring mysteries of World War II. Now for the first time, a new one-hour documentary, AMERICA’S SECRET D-DAY DISASTER premiering Sunday, June 1, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel, sheds new light on why so many American servicemen died and reveals the truth behind some of the myths surrounding this tragic event.
On April 27, 1944, Allied Forces of America, Britain and Canada gathered off the shores of England at a massive training camp for “Exercise Tiger,” one of the largest in a series of full-scale dress rehearsals for the invasion of Europe. The allied supreme commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, concerned about the lack of combat experience amongst his men, prior to facing the German Army, had ordered a full-scale military exercise involving 300 British and American ships and 30,000 U.S. Army and Navy servicemen — using live ammunition.
When “Exercise Tiger” was over, two huge American landing ships were sunk, one was heavily damaged, and nearly 700 American servicemen were dead. Caught by a surprise attack by a fleet of German torpedo boats, there were no German or British casualties and the Germans who ambushed the American convoy disappeared back into the night. Eisenhower ordered an immediate secrecy crackdown as questions were raised about the death toll and who was to blame. The families of the dead were not told what happened and the official documents relating to the most controversial training disaster of WWII remained classified for decades. As the Smithsonian Channel film reveals, “Exercise Tiger” was fraught with logistical and communication problems. The U.S. and British Navies were working on different radio frequencies and were unable to communicate directly with each other. Also, an agreed-upon Royal Navy bombardment was delayed by an hour, but the radio signal notifying the U.S. Navy of the change was not picked up –resulting in the British ships beginning their live shelling as the American soldiers were landing on the beach. Lastly, further out in the English Channel, a support convoy simulating the trip to Normandy was ambushed by a flotilla of nine German S-Boats boats that had intercepted the military chatter.
In AMERICA’S SECRET D-DAY DISASTER, experts examine a series of major issues leading to unnecessary deaths during the exercise, including the Army-issued life belt that differed from those worn by the Navy and an awful tragedy associated with the M1 helmet, which a large number of the army troops wore. As the soldiers jumped from the ships, the sudden rush of water lifted their helmets, breaking some of their necks—a tragic flaw whose detection reportedly may have saved countless lives in the subsequent D-Day invasion.
AMERICA’S SECRET D-DAY DISASTER also uncovers something that has been overlooked by historians until now. General Eisenhower admitted to using the men taking part in “Exercise Tiger” as a test to see how the Germans would react to an Allied convoy in the seas between England and France, when he published his official report on D-Day after the Normandy landings.
Some of the veterans offering searing personal accounts of the chaos and horror of Exercise Tiger include:
- Doug Harlander, of Wisconsin, who, as senior surviving officer on one of the sunken landing craft, gave the order to abandon ship. His official report, previously classified, provides firsthand details to family members of the dead, who can now read for the first time how their loved ones perished;
- Paul Gerolstein, of Florida, who was on the only landing ship that turned back to help rescue soldiers in the water;
- John Casner, Jr., who worked communications for the gun crew and witnessed the decimation from his post;
- Nathan Resnick, a gun loader whose landing craft was ambushed by a German S-Boat;
- Thomas Glynn, then a 17-year-old rookie seaman who witnessed the death of 300 men on a nearby landing ship.
AMERICA’S SECRET D-DAY DISASTER is produced by TVT Productions for Smithsonian Channel. Executive Producer for TVT is Charles Thompson. Executive Producers for Smithsonian Channel are Charles Poe and David Royle.
Source: ©2014 Smithsonian Channel. All Rights Reserved.
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