D-Day Assault, The Second World War Assault Training Exercises at Slapton Sands

B1997

The author has told the full story of Slapton Sands in a very readable style with some interesting and evocative images in a photographic plate section. This is a valuable addition to the available pool of knowledge of the greatest amphibious landing in history.

The author has drawn on first hand accounts of those who lived and trained at Slapton Sands, producing a unique account of the training area. This is a book that makes a sense of D-Day that eludes most accounts of the actual Normandy landings. Those many books on the D-Day invasion have to concentrate on the battle and this makes it difficult to present those battles in context with the extensive and lengthy training programme that made success possible. A highly recommended book.

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NAME: D-Day Assault, The Second World War Assault Training Exercises at Slapton Sands
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 200814
FILE: R1997
AUTHOR: Mark Khan
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 198
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, Second World War, D-Day, amphibious assault, beach landings, landing craft, landing ships, armour, training
ISBN: 1-78159-384-1
IMAGE: B1997.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/mljg55z
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The author has told the full story of Slapton Sands in a very readable style with some interesting and evocative images in a photographic plate section. This is a valuable addition to the available pool of knowledge of the greatest amphibious landing in history.

Slapton Sands became infamous because a group of German S-Boats got in amongst the landing craft during one of the later landing exercises and some 800 US Army lives were lost. The author has included this episode in his absorbing account of the use of Slapton Sands, but it is just one part in an important story.

The probing exercise at Dieppe demonstrated the serious risks that would be faced Allied Forces as they attempted to land in Normandy. The losses at Slapton sands were modest by comparison and the lessons they taught, together with the lessons of Dieppe not only saved many lives in Normandy, but they made possible the successful Normandy landings and the advance on Germany that ended the Second World War in Europe.

In any beach landing, the advantage is with the defenders. They are already located in defensive positions that reduce the risk of casualties, whilst the landing force is very exposed to fire from these positions. The further advantage is that those guns that can fire on the defenders are subject to the movement of the craft they are mounted on and most guns can only be brought into action after they have been landed. Even ashore, the invaders have to cross open beaches and may have to climb cliffs before they can engage the defenders on equal terms. The result is that any amphibious assaults require careful training before they are attempted and therefore require training grounds that most closely resemble the target beaches.

In preparation for D-Day, there were a great many unknowns and an equally large number of known or suspected risks. The sheer size of the Normandy landings was daunting. Never before had any army attempted an invasion on anything like that scale. Perhaps the closest experience was in WWI at Gallipoli and that was not an experience that the Allies could afford in this second global war.

There were two critical challenges. The first was to find realistic training beaches, The second was make the training as realistic as the conditions on D-Day. That meant a stretch of beach on its own would be insufficient because the Normandy landings would involve the dropping of airborne troops behind the beaches and the first wave of landings would be followed by a series of later waves and the delivery of ammunition, food and fuel to support the breakout. Training for a single beach would have been demanding enough, but the Allies would land on a number of neighbouring beaches at the same time to produce the depth required to stand a realistic chance of success. Hundreds of vessels of every size would have to form up and navigate to their designated beaches. In addition, amphibious tanks and trucks would accompany the various sizes of landing ship and landing craft. It was a potential logistics nightmare.

To conduct the essential training, the Allies had to identify several beaches and decide whether each beach should be allocated to a single army, or to mix the Allied Forces. It was a matter of great complexity, made more challenging by the many items of new technology. Armoured troop carriers and fighting vehicles that would swim ashore had never been tried, certainly on the required scale, or at all before. Many nationalities made up the Allied Forces and they included some items of equipment unique to them and some tactics and attitudes that were unique.

The author very ably describes how Slapton Sands came to be selected and allocated for US troops to train on. He also shows the size of the area of productive farm land that was transferred to training of soldiers and their weapons. It was hugely disruptive as hundreds of homes were vacated by the local population. This huge area was not only used to train virtually every US soldier, allocated to take part on D-Day, in beach landings, but it was also used to train the paratroops who would drop behind the beaches to take and hold key positions.

However, these enormous training exercises faced one special set of problems. There was a danger that they would attract German attention and betray the true location of the D-Day beaches, and there was a very strong risk that the level of activity would attract the attention of German aircraft and warships. It was extreme good fortune that only Exercise Tiger would become victim of a German attack during the exercise.

The author has drawn on first hand accounts of those who lived and trained at Slapton Sands, producing a unique account of the training area. This is a book that makes a sense of D-Day that eludes most accounts of the actual Normandy landings. Those many books on the D-Day invasion have to concentrate on the battle and this makes it difficult to present those battles in context with the extensive and lengthy training programme that made success possible. A highly recommended book.

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