Santa Cruz Sentinel from Santa Cruz, California on May 8, 1984 · Page 6
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Santa Cruz Sentinel from Santa Cruz, California · Page 6

Santa Cruz, California
Issue Date:
Tuesday, May 8, 1984
Page 6
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World II A-6 Santa Cruz Sentinel Tuesday, May 8, 1984 Recalling the pre-D-Day tragedy at Slapton Sands By MARK S. SMITH The Associated Press LONDON (AP) - As the 40th anniversary of D-Day draws near, the English have been recalling the invasion's "darkest secret," the night German torpedo boats slipped into a fog-shrouded bay on the English Channel coast and torpedoed three landing craft practicing for the Normandy assault. At least 749 American GIs were killed, more than the number who died five weeks later in the real invasion when their units stormed ashore on Utah Beach. So disastrous was the attack that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied commander, ordered it kept secret. The victims were buried in mass graves, and their didn't learn the truth until after the war. It was just past midnight on April 28, 1944, when the convoy of landing craft chugged slowly into Lyme Bay on the Devon coast. On board were soldiers of the U.S. 4th Division, mostly engineers, shifting heavy backpacks and peering into the predawn mist. The target, Slapton Sands, had been chosen for its resemblance to Utah Beach. At about 1:30 a.m., two flotillas of German E-boats, as the torpedo boats were known, charged into the bay and loosed a string of torpedoes at the convoy. As the E-boats turned and fled, there were flashes, booms and shouts Three landing craft were hit. Two sank. , "At least 1,000 yards astern of us, you could see a jeep flying through the air," recalls Manny Reuben, a U.S. Navy signalman on one of the ships. "You could see black dots that we knew were men just on the fringe of it. It was just like hell, like every sailor's nightmare." Those who weren't killed in the explosions drowned under the weight of their equipment or burned to death as flaming gasoline poured over the water. "As it got lighter, we saw the most horrible sight," Reuben said. "As far as you could see out in the sea, there were men floating dead bodies." U.S. Army records show at least 749 men were lost, but the researcher who filed them said they "may be incomplete." Gordon Harrison, in his 1951 official U.S. Army history of D-Day, "Cross-Channel Attack," said the Exercise Tiger fiasco was "particularly critical in view of the general shortage of landing craft." "Gen. Eisenhower reported to the combined chiefs of staff that the sinkings reduced the LSTs (landing craft) surplus to nothing." But because of the secrecy so strict that survivors were held in an isolation camp the Germans didn't know how deadly they'd been. .1 Hans Schirren, One of the E-boat commanders, learned 6nly this year, when a British television company researching a documentary contacted him. He declined to be interviewed, but wrote: "To my utter surprise, I have learned now from you about 750 lives lost that night in Lyme Bay. Please allow me to say I feel very sad about the heavy losses." The documentary, "Sands of Silence," aired on Britain's Independent Television network, called Exercise Tiger "an astounding catalogue of incompetence and misunderstandings." The exercise was conducted with live ammunition. One ammo truck exploded, killing 50 GIs. Two young schoolboys were killed when they found a grenade and pulled the pin. The night of the landing, an escorting destroyer collided with an assault ship and had to return to port. The operation was left with just one escort, the British corvette HMS Azalea. Meanwhile, supplies went astray and there were terrible traffic pileups around the beach. When the documentary was screened for local residents in Devon, one of them, Dorothy Seekings, of Stoke Fleming near Dartmouth, disclosed one of grisliest aspects of what the London Daily Mall called "D-Day's Darkest Secret." She wrote to a local newspaper saying she recalled seeing "dozens" of GIs' bodies piled into mass graves in a field about two miles from her home. Mrs. Seekings, now 64, was 23 that spring and was delivering bread and doughnuts to the soldiers stationed near her home. She was traveling on a special pass and was given a lift by a soldier in an Army truck. Soon after he picked her up, he pulled to the roadside and said he had to make a delivery. , ; "I thought it was ammunition or something, she recalled. "Not until I got out of the truck and went around the back did I see all these dead men laying one on top of another in the back of the truck," she told The Associated Press. ' Across the road, a group of soldiers was digging in a field, "and I could see the earth mounted up in the field, and they came out and they carried these men into the field." Asked about Mrs. Seekings account, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania confirmed its accuracy. "About half of the victims were never recovered, and the remainder were buried the next day in a field in Devon," said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be Identified. "After the war, they were exhumed and moved to other cemeteries In accoroance with the wishes of their next of kin." On the beach near Plymouth, an obelisk has been erected, and its plaque thanks the people of South Devon for their patience and sacrifice during the preparations for the D-Day landings. But it makes no mention of a disaster the local people speak of as the invasion's darkest hour. " ixJ ftW Violence marks Panama election AP Laierphoto Defense forces officer tries to calm angry support of one of the candidates. PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) Supporters of the two main presidential candidates clashed outside the building where votes were being counted in the closely contested election. Authorities said at least one person was killed and 50 injured. . The violence, which included gunfire and fire-bombs, broke out Monday afternoon outside the national legislative palace, where thousands of supporters of the military-backed governing party and the main opposition coalition had gathered. The two rivals, opposition candidate Arnulfo Arias and official candidate Nicolas Ardito Barletta, had assured their supporters of victory, based on unofficial vote counts by their own parties. Inside the palace, gunshots could be heard as election officials counted ballots, and at one point a group of armed men forced way into that section of the building. One of them shouted a pro-Barletta slogan and the group then dashed away. The vote counting finally was suspended Monday night as shooting continued outside. Election officials said they would resume counting today. There was concern, however, that there were not sufficient security measures to guard uncounted ballots inside the palace- during the night-long recess. As the crowd was gathering Monday outside the palace, located in a poor section of the downtown area, witnesses heard a shot ring out from somewhere in the direction of the group supporting Ardito Barletta. Sporadic gunfire and the booms of Molotov cocktails were heard for about an hour, when a handful of gunmen in civilian clothes forced their way through a side entrance of the palace and into the area where the vote count continued. The apparent leader of the gunmen, brandishing an Israeli-made automatic weapon, shouted "Long live Nicky Barletta, Long live the 11 of October movement!" before disappearing with his men down one of the palace's interior passageways. . Oct 11 is the date of the military coup that forced Arias out of the presidency in 1968. He was elected to the presidency three times and each time was overthrown by the military. Arias, 82, was last elected in 1968, but the national guard ousted him In a coup directed by Gen. Omar Torrijos, who was killed in a plane crash in 1981. Subsequent changes in the government were domi nated by the armed forces. Sunday's election was the first direct presidential balloting since 1968. The high command of the military, led by Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, has made it clear it does not like Arias, but Noriega has said the results will be respected. The new president will take over Oct. 11 for a five-year term. Both candidates are considered friendly toward the United States, which has more than 9,000 military personnel here, and each has pledged not to change the status of U.S. military installations. Witnesses said scores of uniformed security force officials inside the palace stood by passively Monday when the gunmen forced their way inside. One of the gunmen, a husky man wearing a baseball cap with the colors of the governing Revolutionary Democratic Party, approached two news photographers and stripped them of their camera gear, smashing it to the' ground before carrying it off with them. Capt. Manuel Gonzalez, head of the security forces inside the palace, failed to explain how the gunmen managed to break inside the palace with no resistance from his men. Get a bonus for beings smart!' Karen Adams Citrus Heights llranch MaiiaRcr W nil anoihiT way (Jiiii'()ipSavinppn(s)uu ahead. .,.I.,I.M.,III, O Citicorp Savings now offers interest bonuses up to $200. Amount of new or Interest Bonus additional deposit Amountf $100,000 S200 75,000 150 50,000 100 25,000 50 5.000 10 and term of your new deposit. Smart Investors get a choice of terms with these high rates. The Citicorp Savings Money Market Investment Account offers you high rates and a bonus on monthly terms from six months. 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