On 27th-28th April 1944, Just a few miles from 115th Station Hospital on Dartmoor, Double tragedy happened during a large-scale rehearsals with 23,000 allied servicemen for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, which took place on Slapton Sands in Devon. Coordination and communication problems resulted in friendly fire deaths during the exercise, and on the following day under the cover of darkness an Allied convoy of 8x USS-LST positioning the ships for a beach landing were attacked by 9x E-boats of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine, 2x USS-LST were sunk and 1x severely damaged by the torpedo attacks with around 500 men on each ship fully laden with fuel, weapons, medical trucks and half tracks, resulting in the deaths of at least 749 American servicemen. This disaster was classified as top secret, as this could effect morale and jeopardise the D-Day invasion of Normandy six weeks later, Slapton Sand Disaster for 40 years was not officially recognised.
My grandfather's 115th Medical Unit on Dartmoor were the closest U.S. Army Hospital with 750 beds to Slapton Sands, just over 20 miles away. with 392 combat trained field medics and 120 nurses. All medical staff at military hospitals who treated the wounded were sworn to secrecy under threat of court martial and prison. My grandfather took this secret to the grave when he passed away 1977 and in the 1980s the disaster became public for the first time. We may never know the official role the 115th played during Operation Tiger.
U.S. FIELD MEDICS
2019 "Disaster Before D-Day" book was published that claimed over 1200 American soldiers were killed and not the official 749 - Daily Mail
One day, I hope we know the full truth and maybe for the first time a sitting U.S. President will visit Slapton Sands and honour the young men who made ultimate sacrifice, and will finally have the recognition they deserve for their contribution to the allied cause in World War II, with acts of heroism and courage not being lost and forgotten on the sands of Slapton.
US Navy radio operator Steve Sadlon on LST-507, describes how after the torpedo struck "All hell was breaking loose, fire was everywhere". After weighing up his options, he decided to take his chances in the sea. I found out years later that the captain of LST-515 disobeyed orders, returned to where the ships went down and picked up survivors. If it wasn't for that captain, John Doyle, I wouldn't be here today." only 72 survived out of 496 onboard on LST-507 BBC News
USS LST-507 at anchor just off Brixham Harbour, at Berry Head England, 27th April 1944, This photo was taken the day before LST-507 was sunk in the English Channel by Nazi E-boats.
25th July 2017, While on a solo fishing trip just a few miles from Slapton Sands an incredible moment was captured on my iPhone, a pod of dolphins swam along side my small RIB at Berry Head. This was made even more special as it happened 40 years to the day my grandfather passed away and was the exact location LST-507 was anchored off Brixham harbour in the photo taken the day before being sunk.
115th, D-DAY ORDERS
On 15th May 1944, the 115th unit received additional orders for its function during the forthcoming military invasion of the Normandy coast. It was designated as Hospital Plant No. 4101 and Transit Hospital No. 2 for the evacuation of casualties from mainland Europe. News of the invasion was received via wireless at the facility on the morning of 6th June 1944, and all staff were instructed to prepare the hospital to receive its first trainload of patients, bed capacity was increased from 750 to 1500 within 6 months the 115th Hospital treated over 10,000 patients.
4th June 1944, Two day's before D-Day, Brixham harbour embarking for UTAH beach Normandy, France, loading tanks and trucks with around 500 U.S. troops on each USS - LST (Landing, Ship, Tank)