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Researcher says D-Day rehearsal was not covered up

In the early morning hours of April 28, 1944, at Slapton Sands on the coast of Devon, England, 946 American servicemen lost their lives by shellfire, torpedo and drowning. They were aboard seven LSTs on an exercise called Tiger. Naval commander Adm. Moon was in charge of the operation.

Two British ships, a corvette and an old destroyer, were supposed to serve as LST escorts. The destroyer was rammed and pulled off duty. That left the corvette to protect the LSTs.

During the exercise nine German E-Boats attacked and torpedoed three of the LSTs resulting in the tremendous loss of lives. The E-Boats met with no interference and all nine returned to their base unharmed.

Was a court of inquiry ever ordered on this incident and, if so, what were the findings of the court?

Leo Thomas

Response: Exercise Tiger was a rehearsal for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Some 30,000 American troops took part in the mock assault.

News reports have stated that hundreds of servicemen were trapped and killed when the fast, light German E-boats torpedoed three of the amphibious landing craft. Others died when some Americans opened fire on their own boats thinking they were German. Still others drowned, unable to right themselves in the water because their life vests were tied below the waists for easier firing.

Although the death toll was officially set at 749, Charles B. MacDonald, retired deputy chief historian of the U.S. Army who researched the exercise, said the toll probably was 946.

As to whether a court of inquiry was ordered into this affair, the Army's Center of Military History sent us to the National Archives, and the folks there said they were unable to locate any reference to a court of inquiry.

The British apparently did investigate. We inquired of that source but have not received a reply.

According to an article by MacDonald (who has since died), "a subsequent official investigation revealed two factors that may have contributed to the tragedy _ a lack of escort vessels and an error in radio frequencies."

Because of a typographical error in orders, the LSTs were not on the same radio frequency as the corvette or the British naval headquarters ashore. When the E-boats were seen, the LSTs did not get the word.

Whether an absence of these factors might have prevented the tragedy would be impossible to say, MacDonald said, adding that "it was simply one of those cruel happenstances of war."

There was no attempt to cover up somebody's mistake, he said. Naturally orders went out imposing the strictest secrecy on all who knew of the tragedy. The Army did not want the enemy to know what it had accomplished or afford a clue that might link the incident to the upcoming D-Day invasion.

However, three months later Gen. Eisenhower issued a news release about Exercise Tiger. A detailed and unclassified account of the tragedy, prepared soon after the end of the war, has since rested in the National Archives for anyone to see.

MacDonald said that charges of a coverup may have stemmed from the fact that these dead servicemen were never officially honored until a Slapton Sands resident badgered the U.S. military into commemorating a memorial there Nov. 15, 1987.

Humana agrees to pay

after a full review

I was a member of Humana Gold Plus. The primary doctor assigned to me went bankrupt and when I suffered a stroke Dec. 28, 1990, I still had not been assigned another doctor. My wife took me to a Humana Hospital, but I have not been able to get Humana to pay the bills.

I have called and written Humana many times trying to get an appointment. I either get a busy signal or the computers are down. We had tried to get released from this insurance but the release was not official until Jan. 1, 1991. Therefore Medicare will not pay the claim, either.

Any help will be appreciated.

Walter Matteson

Response: After a full review of your medical records, Humana has decided to pay your claim.

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