Thursday, November 11, 2021

Review of "The Invasion Before Normandy: The Secret Battle of Slapton Sands," by Edwin P. Hoyt

 Review of

The Invasion Before Normandy: The Secret Battle of Slapton Sands, by Edwin P. Hoyt ISBN 0812885627

Four out of five stars

An accidental battle that could have been worse

 In the early months of 1944, the Allies were gearing up for what would be the greatest seaborne assault in the history of warfare. The plan was to land on the beaches of Normandy and one of the major parts of the plan was to keep the German leadership guessing as to the exact location. To do this, they created an elaborate sequence of deceptions, hoping to split the Axis forces and weaken the defenses.

 Extensive training of the assault forces was also part of the planning, and the beaches of Slapton Sands on the English coast were very similar to those of Normandy. Therefore, in April of 1944, there was a massive exercise where Allied troops were transported to the area and engaged in a realistic storming of the Slapton Sands beaches.

 By accident, a collection of German E-boats, small, fast attack craft armed with torpedoes, were patrolling the area before the troops disembarked their transport ships. The E-boats attacked, damaging and destroying some of the troop transports and leading to somewhere in the area of 750 deaths. Although that number still seems to be uncertain.

 Knowing that secrecy of the landing site must be maintained at all costs, the American and British leaders did all they could to prevent the knowledge of the success of the E-boats from reaching the German leadership. Even the location was kept secret for fear that the Germans would realize that the location and terrain of the exercise would indicate that the landings would be in Normandy.

 This book is an extensive description of the battle and the aftermath. While the description of the background and the actual battle are thorough, there is a bit of a dispute over the level of the suppression of the facts of the battle. Two months later, after the Normandy landings were a military reality, there was no need to keep the facts of Slapton Sands secret. On the back cover, it is stated that, “… the results of this failed mission were hidden for the next forty years.” That is really not the case, the basic events were known by many in 1946.

 Like so many chance military disasters, Slapton Sands led to changes in the plans that were positive. Given the destruction wrought by the German E-boats, the Allied commanders realized that they had to be neutralized if the Normandy invasion was to be successful.

No comments:

Post a Comment