|Death: ||Apr. 28, 1944, At Sea|
US Army WORLD WAR II
Pvt. Walter W. Alexander MIA/KIA
Hometown: Rhode Island
557th Railhead Company
Awards: Purple Heart
Mission Date: 28-Apr-44
LST 531 U. S. ARMY
Location: Slapton Sands on the Devon
Cause: German E-Boat attack
Commanded by Admiral Don P Moon United States Navy
One of several assault rehearsals for D Day conducted at Slapton Sands on the Devon coast. So vital was the exercise that the commanders had ordered the use of live naval and artillery ammunition to make the exercise as real as possible to accustom the soldiers to what they were soon going to experience.
The exercise was conducted between 22nd and 30th April 1944 and commenced with the marshalling and embarking of the troops to the LST’s (a landing ship tank is a flat bottomed four and a half thousand tons assault ship capable of carrying several hundred men, lorries and tanks) off the coast of south west England. The first assault landings were made on the morning of the 27th April, following the “bombardment” and was continued throughout the day. A follow up convoy of eight LST was expected later that night and it was this convoy which met with tragedy.
The convoy was moving at a speed of 5 knots in a single row, keeping a distance of about 400 yards and stayed in the order LST 515, 496, 511, 531, 58, 499,289 and 507.
On the night of 27th of April, few minutes after 10 pm a group of nine German E-Boats set out on a normal reconnaissance mission from their base in Cherbourg into the Lyme Bay area. They followed the usual channel route without any sign of a convoy or ‘enemy’ ships. As they headed towards the Lyme Bay area, they suddenly came in visual contact with the LST convoy. Since they could not see any naval escorts, they quickly positioned themselves for a torpedo attack.
As the convoy approached Lyme Bay it was manoeuvring a loop to head back towards the shore. It was here that the E-Boats made contact and opened fire. A few minutes past 2 am LST 507 was torpedoed, hitting its auxiliary engine room cutting all electric power.
The ship burst into flames, the fire fighting attempted by the crew proved futile as most of the fire fighting equipment was inoperative due to the power failure.LST 531 was hit by two torpedoes shortly after LST 507 was hit. The ship burst into flames, rolled over and sank in six minutes.
Trapped below decks hundreds of soldiers and sailors went down with the ships. There was little time to launch lifeboats and some of the lifeboats were jammed. Many leapt into the sea, soon many drowned, some weighed down by the waterlogged coats and others who had wrongly put on their life belts around their waists rather than under their armpits. Others succumbed to hypothermia in the cold water. In all 749 American soldiers and sailors died that night, 946 in total during Exercise Tiger.
Visit the virtual cemetery of the soldiers lost in Exercise Tiger
Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
South Cambridgeshire District
Plot: Plot E Row 4 Grave 51
Maintained by: John Dowdy
Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
Record added: Aug 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56287318