USS LST-507

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1463496
Date first listed:
29-Apr-2020
Location Description:
Lyme Bay, off Sidmouth, Devon.

Map

Ordnance survey map of USS LST-507
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2020. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Lyme Bay, off Sidmouth, Devon.
National Grid Reference:
SY4843961677, SY4855261553

Summary

USS LST-507 comprises a Landing Ship, Tank that was torpedoed on 28th April 1944 during a full scale rehearsal for D-Day. The wreck is a military maritime grave and remains the property of the US Government.

Reasons for Designation

USS LST-507, located off Sidmouth in Lyme Bay, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period: as a material record and an eloquent witness to the preparations around England’s coast for the largest amphibious invasion ever undertaken, on June 6th 1944;

* Rarity: one of only two surviving Landing Ship, Tanks anywhere within UK waters;

* Potential: forming a primary source of archaeological evidence relating to material preparations and personal equipment for Exercise TIGER;

* Survival: although broken and lying inverted in two separate sections, recent remote vehicle survey work confirms the wreck structure is largely intact;

* Group value: directly co-located and associated with the loss of LST-531 (also a scheduled monument, National Heritage List for England entry 1463495).

History

In preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, Commanders realized that a combined arms operation on such a scale had never been attempted and most of the Allied sailors, soldiers and airmen had not been involved in an amphibious landing before. This necessitated the use of coastal training grounds that resembled the invasion beaches of Normandy as closely as possible; D-Day landings would never have been such a success if it wasn’t for the numerous practice assaults that occurred in south west England in the spring of 1944.

Exercise TIGER, which occurred in late April, was the last full scale rehearsal for Force U (destined to land on UTAH Beach on D-Day on the right flank of the invasion) before the invasion, which was now only 5 weeks away. The plan was to put the bulk of the US VII Corps ashore at Slapton Sands, from which it would advance and ‘capture’ Oakhampton, some 25 miles inland. Co-ordination and communication problems resulted in friendly-fire deaths during the exercise, and an Allied convoy positioning itself for the landing exercise was attacked by German E-boats, resulting in the deaths of at least 749 American service personnel and the sinking of both LST-507 and LST-531 in Lyme Bay, Devon, in the early hours of the 28th.

The Landing Ship, Tank (LST) is an ocean going ship capable of shore to shore delivery of tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, and troops. Developed in response to a need for amphibious armoured infantry assaults, the bow of the LST had a large door that would open to allow for the embarkation of vehicles. A special flat keel allowed the ship to beach and remain upright while twin propellers and rudders had protection from grounding. The LSTs served across the globe during the Second World War, particularly in the European and Pacific theatres. Over one thousand LSTs were built in the United States during the war with a further eighty built in the UK and Canada.

USS LST-507 was a LST-491-class landing ship launched at Jeffersonville, Indiana, in September 1943. Displacing 3698 tons (when loaded), the one hundred metre long landing ship had a complement of some 130 officers and enlisted men.

In preparation for Exercise TIGER, the LST was carrying nearly 500 US army personnel from 478th Amphibious Truck Company, 557th Quartermaster Railhead Company, 33rd Chemical Company, 440th Engineer Company, 1605th Engineer Map Depot Detachment, 175th Signal Repair Company, 3206th Quartermaster Service Company and 3891st Quartermaster Truck Company. In addition, two 1/4 ton trucks, one 3/4 ton truck, thirteen 2½ ton trucks, and 22 amphibious vehicles as well as assorted calibre live ammunition.

Just after 0200hrs on the 28th April, LST-507 was struck amidships in the auxiliary engine room by a torpedo fired during a German E-boat attack. This knocked out both the ship’s electricity (preventing the lowering of lifeboats and operation of the fire-fighting pumps) and communication and starting several fires. The vehicles on the tank deck caught alight, petrol tanks exploded, small arms ammunition began exploding prematurely and the LST began taking on water. Those who could escape the flames and smoke jumped into the freezing sea – amid burning fuel oil – many of whom could not swim. Two other LSTs were severely damaged during the attack: LST-289 was torpedoed but was able to make headway to Dartmouth; LST-531 was hit by two torpedoes and sank within six minutes.

Listing at the stern, LST-507 was finally abandoned some 30 minutes after it had been hit. The ship partially floated until dawn when it was sunk by gunfire from a British destroyer. Out of the total of 749 US personnel who died during the German attack, 202 army and navy servicemen were lost from LST-507.

Details

Discovered by divers lying in two parts, LST-507 is described as being well broken with the bow door or ramp lying open and to the west. The stern is completely upside down showing the two long skeg keels and the guards around the two four-bladed propellers. At the stern, the propeller and stern of an Infantry Landing Craft (LCI), carried by LST-507, can be seen poking out from under the bulwarks of the mother ship.

In 2014, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) survey was undertaken by Hydroid, Inc., with additional data provided by the Royal Navy's Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team. This survey confirmed the positions of LST-507 and 531.

Survey commissioned by Historic England in 2018/19 confirmed that LST-507 lies in two separate bow and stern sections and is inverted, the vessel having capsized as it sank. The wreck structure is largely intact, although it is now starting to show the impact of ongoing corrosion; some shell plating from the hull is being lost, though most remains in situ. The hull has collapsed just aft of the bow, the bow doors having detached lying nearby on the seabed. 40mm ammunition has been observed in the bow area. At the stern section, the twin propellers are in position and twisted metalwork, vehicle parts and possible weapons lie within a debris field.

LST-507 is a sensitive archaeological site. Though not designated as a military maritime grave, it does comprise the final resting place of an unknown number of US service personnel who died almost 76 years ago in the pursuit of liberty. As such, the wreck is deserving of respect, particularly as the deceased are commemorated annually at the Exercise TIGER memorial, Torcross, Devon.

Records held by Historic England show that LST-507 and LST-531 are the only two Landing Ship, Tanks in British waters. Despite being built in substantial numbers during the Second World War, LSTs are very rare. Only one other LST survives; LST-325, which landed at OMAHA beach on D-Day, and is preserved on static display in Indiana, USA.

Sources

Books and journals
McDonald, K (author), Dive South Devon, (1995), 39
Small, K (author), The Forgotten Dead, (1988), 38-60, 61-70, 73, 230-32
Symonds, C L (author), Operation Neptune, (2016), 210-18, 339
Dunkley, M, Scott, G, 'Exercise TIGER: Archaeological echoes of rehearsals for the D-Day landings' in Current Archaeology, , Vol. 350, (2019), 42-45
Websites
Exercise Tiger Memorial, accessed 08/03/2019 from http://www.exercisetigermemorial.co.uk/
Marine Robots Survey D-Day Rehearsal Wreckage for the First Time in History, accessed 08/03/2019 from https://www.km.kongsberg.com/ks/web/nokbg0238.nsf/AllWeb/A0FA6A82A56A9F67C1257CC40030388A?OpenDocument

Legal

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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