Edward Sobczyk, survivor of Exercise Tiger, has elected to return to the site of the training exercise in honor of those lost to the unexpected conflict which arose when the military training session was ambushed by German troops. Before taking part in the Utah Beach invasion and surviving D-Day, Sobczyk helped hundreds of his comrades survive at Slapton Sands during the tragedy which struck Exercise Tiger and nearly endangered the invasion.
Sobczyk revisited Slapton Sands in late April, on the anniversary of the training run. While the soldiers were training, many of the local residents had left their homes. This turned out to be in their fortune, as it was not long before German fleets happened upon Exercise Tiger and opened fire on the Allied forces, who were not expecting to take part in an actual conflict that day. Nearly 750 men died as a result of the ambush, hundreds more than those who fell at Utah Beach.
The discovery of the training seemed at first to be a huge security concern, as there were worries that the Germans may have realized just what they had stumbled upon. Slapton Sands was used due to its similarity to Utah Beach, so Allied commanders feared that the Germans may connect the dots and realize that Exercise Tiger was in preparation for an actual assault. As a result, the troops were unable to speak of their losses that day, and the incident was not reported in the news media, the Omaha.com reports.
One of the reasons Sobczyk was honored so late is because he never received a Silver Star he was expecting for his heroic actions during the ill-fated training session, in which he saved potentially at least a hundred men from certain death. Exercise Tiger left him discontent with the forces for which he served, although he claims he still to this day does not regret joining in the fight for world freedom. Despite wishing he had received formal honors, he does not want to be considered an actual hero, preferring to think himself simply as a man who did his duty.
Exercise Tiger may have been disrupted, but it certainly went above and beyond the call in preparing troops for the horrors they were about the experience. Sobczyk’s efforts are now rewarded with eleven service medals. He remembers his actions in earning each and every one, though Exercise Tiger will likely remain among his foremost memories.