28 Apr 1944 — at sea off Slapton Sands, Devonshire, United Kingdom
Shortly after midnight on 28 April 1944, nine German torpedo boats moved into Lyme Bay, along the southern coast of England near a place called Slapton Sands. Drawn in by heavier than normal radio traffic, they suddenly found themselves caught up in the midst of OPERATION TIGER -- one of several amphibious exercises secretly being conducted by the Allies in preparation for the Normandy Landing. In minutes the German torpedoes hit their mark. One LST (landing ship, tank) was seriously crippled. Another burst into flames trapping many of the victims below deck. And a third sank immediately, sending hundreds of U.S. soldiers and sailors to a watery grave. It was the costliest training exercise in all of World War II. As the bodies washed ashore in days ahead, the official count rose to 749. Quartermaster soldiers on board LST 531 were among the hardest hit. The 3206th Quartermaster Service Company was virtually destroyed. Of its 251 officers and men, 201 were killed or wounded. The 557th Quartermaster Railhead Company also lost 69 men. The brave men who died that day contributed to the success in France six weeks later. Indeed their sacrifice was a prelude to victory. At Cambridge, England, there stands an impressive official memorial erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission to all those Americans who died during World War II while stationed in the British Isles. That includes the 749 who died in the tragedy off Slapton Sands, and there one finds the engraved names of the missing.