Practice Makes Perfect
April 28, 2012 8:28 PM   Subscribe

"[It's] all the more staggering when you realize that more people were killed in the rehearsal for the landing at Utah beach than were killed in the actual landing at Utah beach." Operation Tiger, the disastrous secret rehearsal for D-Day, marks its 68th anniversary today.
posted by Spike (20 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Bad dress (rehearsal), good show.

As we say in show business.
posted by sixswitch at 8:37 PM on April 28, 2012

Mod note: Fixed the typo, carry on.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:40 PM on April 28, 2012

There were about 200 Allied casualties on Utah Beach on D-Day; 946 Americans were killed during Operation Tiger.
Among the Americans that landed at Utah Beach were Teddy Roosevelt Jr. (the only general to land with the first wave of troops on D-Day; he was awarded a Medal of Honor) and J. D. Salinger.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:47 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's kind of a misleading headline from NPR - it may have been disastrous on the day, but the lessons learned may have saved many more in the actual invasion.
posted by carter at 9:09 PM on April 28, 2012

I was not aware of this, thanks for posting.
posted by arcticseal at 9:10 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Never knew that about JD Salinger and had never heard of Operation Tiger, excellent post. I'm always surprised the numbers of casualties weren't higher given the number of troops involved in the D-Day invasion. It's difficult to conceive of how these operations were carried out with such limited communication compared to what is available today.
posted by karlos at 9:13 PM on April 28, 2012

First I'd ever heard of it. Amazing. Thanks for the post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:16 PM on April 28, 2012

The Foyle's War episode "All Clear" was about a (fictionalized) consequence of this event.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:54 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Spoiler: During the rehearsal, the Allied forces were ambushed by German submarines. That's why so many died.
posted by victory_laser at 10:18 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

There were about 200 Allied casualties on Utah Beach on D-Day

Yeah, but they basically walked on and walked off Utah. Comparing Tiger to Neptune is just being silly -- and to be honest, it's being insulting to the over 3000 casualties that happen on Bloody Omaha -- never mind the other 9000 that happened during the landing on the five beaches and three LZs during the initial push.

Yes, Operation Tiger ended tragically -- and not just because of German E-Boats, there was a fair amount of friendly fire casualties, which kill you just as dead. But even attempting to compare Tiger to Operation Neptune (part of Overlord) is just wrong.

For one thing, most of the people shooting live ammo at Tiger weren't trying to kill anybody. On D-Day, pretty much every shot was fired in anger.
posted by eriko at 12:10 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

During the rehearsal, the Allied forces were ambushed by German submarines. That's why so many died.

Wrong. Although the article isn't clear about it, the German patrol which stumbled upon (rather than "ambushed") the landing craft was made up of small, fast torpedo boats ("E-Boats"), not submarines.

Also, (and the article is clear about this) the Germans were responsible for two-thirds of the casualties, but the remaining third was a result of Eisenhower's somewhat rash decision to use live fire in the exercise. Although the shore barrage was supposed to end before the landings, bad communications resulted in US soldiers landing directly under British fire.

Although the lessons learned were indeed invaluable, it is generally acknowledged that they could have been learned at a lower cost. The Royal Navy in particular signally failed to provide an adequate escort to the landing ships in its own waters.
posted by Skeptic at 12:50 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why was D-Day called "D-Day"? What does the D stand for?

This is one of my favorite trivia questions, because people know about D-Day and World War II and the Nazis and the Normandy invasion, but don't know how the letter D got connected with the word "day" to make the phrase "D-day". It's actually pretty trivial. Very few people know the correct answer.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:13 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

After years of hearing about D-Day, I was kind of shocked at how low the casualty figures were compared to, say, the first day of the Somme (where the BEF took 20,000 dead and 40,000 wounded). I'd have expected they'd be much higher. I think the impression one gets from media is that the entire invasion area was as bad as Omaha Beach, which, thankfully, was not the case.
posted by thelonius at 4:40 AM on April 29, 2012

I don't like Ike.
posted by jpburns at 7:51 AM on April 29, 2012

Twoleftfeet, that is good trivia. Makes me think of the cold attitude you have to take to be able to plan and execute such an operation. I don't know how military leaders do it. I know they are trained, but all the training in the world wouldn't help me detach enough to follow through.
posted by double bubble at 7:56 AM on April 29, 2012

First time I've heard of this. Surprising, given how regularly D-Day is remembered and how TV tries to uncover all the 'hidden' stories. This would make an interesting companion film to "Saving Private Ryan".
posted by epo at 8:22 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

It may help to balance one's sensibilities to realize the following factoids: It's widely known that the American casualties from the Vietnam War era numbered (about) 58,000. It's not widely known that American armed forces elsewhere in the world also numbered (about) 60,000.

You can play with the stats (for example, % of military in SEA) to deal with this various ways, but dead guys are dead guys, and, whether they are shooting at you or not, being a military person always has been somewhat dangerous.
posted by mule98J at 11:14 AM on April 29, 2012

Why was D-Day called "D-Day"? What does the D stand for?

It stands for "Day"-Day.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:25 PM on April 29, 2012

Hence in French it's called Jour-J.
posted by jontyjago at 7:26 PM on April 29, 2012

For all that it cost to learn critical lessons the hard way in this case, a practice run like this would have been useful in the Gallipoli campaign, if only so they had a better chance of landing on the right beaches!
posted by dg at 10:32 PM on April 29, 2012

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