The United States Exercise Tiger Foundation National Tribute took place at the Missouri Exercise Tiger Army and Navy Anchor Memorial outside the Audrain County Courthouse in Mexico on Saturday, April 28. This was the 30th National Ceremony commemorating the WWII “Battle of Exercise Tiger.”
The ceremony began with the National Anthem sung by Scott Weber, of Audrain County. After which, the Missouri Military Academy Cadets presented the Posting of the Colors.
Mexico City Council Member Dr. Ayanna Shivers gave the welcome as did Audrain County Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs.
Hobbs noted that it had been about 20 years since the memorial was established at the Courthouse and was moved in 2014.
Remarks were read that were sent in by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.
USTF National Director Susan C. Hains talked on the two words “General Orders.”
She read remarks about the tank landing ships (LST) and what took place 74 years ago during the historic World War II battle.
Secretary of Navy remarks were given by Lt. Sean C. Roberts, USN, SWO, UMC NROTC (deployed on LSD 43 against ISIS Forces in 2015).
Brigadier General WilWilliam Ward, Mo. Army National Guard, the Asst. Adjutant Gen. and Duputy Chief of Army Engineers, made some brief remarks
He thanked the veterans in attendance for their service.
He also presented the Governor’s Proclamation to Presiding Commissioner Hobbs.
Wreaths were presented with the assistance of SFC John Biddle, 101st ABN ret., MMA Instr. to BG William Ward and Rennie Davis along with Lt. Roberts and Western Commissioner Tracy Graham.
A Special Wreath Honoring Toronto Victims was presented by Susan Haines and Janet Frazier (Canadian national). Family members and veterans were allowed to lay flowers the anchor base or wall.
The U.S. Navy Bell Toll was performed by Nicholas Tago, Petty Officer 1st Class U.S. Navy.
Final Roll Call to LST’s of Taffy 4 (Navy Bell toll for each LST), eight Audrain County soldiers with bell toll for each, and Victims of Toronto attack had two bells for the hour it took place (2 p.m.)
The Missouri Military academy cadet bugler played Taps.
Scott Weber, MMA presented the Retiring of the Colors.
Vietnam Pins and Veterans medals and certificates were to be given out.
The Battle of
What began as a top secret naval operation to prepare U.S. Army and Naval forces for the June 6 D-Day Invasion, would end with one of the highest losses ever suffered in combat by the U.S. Army and Navy in WWII.
At 1:35 a.m., on the morning of April 28, 1944, eight Tank Landing Ships (LST’s) and their lone escort, the British corvette HMS AZALEA, were en route to the landing area. Slapton Sands was selected because its beach looked every bit like the beaches at Normandy that would be code named “Utah” and “Omaha” by the allies.
The eight LST’s of LST Group 32, formed convoy T-4. They were the support group for elements of the 4th and 29th infantry, 82nd airborne and 188th Field Artillery Group already ashore at Slapton Sands.
The LST’s were carrying the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, the 3206th Quartermaster company from Missouri, the 3207th Company and 462nd and 478th combat truck support companies as well as other elements of the U.S. Army’s engineer, signal, medical and chemical corps along with some infantry. Miles south in the mouth of Lyme Bay, lay the bulk of the Tiger naval force. Protected by the cruiser USS Augusta and the new British “O” class destroyers HMS ONSLOW and HMS OBEDIENT as well as the Tribal Class destroyer HMS ASHANTI and a covering force of motor torpedo boats. Anchored along with LST’s 55 and 382 they would be of no help to the ambushed LST force of T-4.
Attacking in the pitch black night, nine German Navy “E” boats (torpedo) struck quickly and decisively. Without warning LST 507 was torpedoed first.
Explosions and flame lit the night. At 2:17 a.m., LST 531 is torpedoed. It sinks in six minutes. Of the 496 soldiers and sailors on her, 424 of them died. It would be on this ship that the state of Missouri would lose some 201 of its boys of the 3206th.
LST 289 tried to evade the fast German “E” boats but was hit in the stern. LST’s 496, 515, and 511 all began firing at their attackers. LST 289 joined in returning fire while lowering landing craft to pull it out of harms way.
At 2:25 a.m., the LST 499 radioed for help. Minutes later the lead ship, LST 515 sent out an urgent and chilling message. “‘E” boat attack.” Radio stations along the coast picked up the dramatic calls for help, unaware of the top secret operation underway, the calls went unanswered. Only after an alert radio operator heard the words “T-4,” did the Naval command realize the calls were from “Tiger” and send help.
By 2:40 a.m., the horror was slowly realized. Two LST’s sunk, a third lay crippled. Of the 4,000 man force, nearly a fourth were missing or killed. Official Department of Defense records confirm 749 dead, 551 US Army and 198 US Navy. The death toll makes “Tiger” the costliest battle to U.S. forces at that point in the war after Pearl Harbor.
On April 28, 1944, the LST’s darkest, yet finest hour occurred.
When, for one hour, the men and ships of convoy T-4 fought the greatest naval battle ever faced by an LST force in history. Against superior enemy warships, the Tiger amphibious force held its own.
The German attack did not stop Exercise Tiger.
Landing operations resumed later on the 28th. It is a credit to the tenacity and determination of the soldiers and sailors involved in Exercise Tiger, that the D-day invasion at Normandy occurred as planned.
The events surrounding Exercise Tiger were officially declassified in early August 1944, two months after the Normandy Invasion. On April 28, 1996 Secretary of the Navy John Dalton stated in his remarks, “Tiger…was the LST’s finest hour.”
This day marked the 30th straight year of honoring the “Battle of Exercise Tiger.” There were four major ceremonies taking place coordinated by the USTF, to include the National Wreath Laying at Audrain County and the USCG National Wreath Laying in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The USCG Wreath Laying at USCG Station Barnegat Light is now the longest in USCG history.
We honor the “Missouri Boys,” US Army and Combat Engineers, and the Navy who gave their lives that night. We also honor Vietnam War vets and all veterans who don the U.S. Armed Forces military uniforms to protect this great country.
They may have passed from the earth, but not from our hearts. We also extend condolences for the victims of our neighboring country, Canada, and the recent Toronto attack. Special thanks were given to the Audrain County Commissioners Tracy Graham, Alan Winders, Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs, Missouri Military Academy, and all who helped as well as the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command, NRS Columbia, Petty Officers AM1 Hunziker, and NC1 Rivera.