Rome native killed in Exercise Tiger remembered 78 years later
ROME — For 78 years, Margaret Mayes has kept her brother’s memory alive.
Mayes, 96, lives in Rome with her husband, Joe. Margaret was happy to pull out her binder and notes about her brother, Joseph Galluppi, who died in 1944 as part of Exercise Tiger. The binder is where she keeps track of his history, recalling a brother and soldier lost in war.
Sebastian and Flavia Galluppi came to America in 1910 from Alatri, Italy, and settled down in Rome to raise their children and put down roots in a growing nation.
“We were 10 in the family ... and Joe was the first one to die,” Mayes said solemnly. “We didn’t even know how he died until 50 years later.”
Mayes said Joseph was “… the most wonderful brother,” who was a great help to the family and cared for his parents. He was one of three boys while Margaret was one of seven girls.
While working at General Cable, Galluppi was an air raid warden.
“He had tried to enlist [in the Army], but he was put on 4F,” Mayes said. For whatever reason, the United States Army had deemed Galluppi unfit for military service. “But when things got really bad in ‘43, my brother got drafted. I think if he had been enlisted, he’d be alive.”
Private Joseph Galluppi would have been one of the many brave soldiers who helped the Allies get a foothold in Europe by taking part in the D-Day naval invasion — but what was supposed to be a training exercise resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,000 service personnel.
Exercise Tiger was the name given to the large-scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Slapton Sands, England, was chosen for the exercise because of its physical similarities with Pouppeville, La Madeleine in France — or as it was known by its code name: Utah Beach.
Exercise Tiger was planned to be the largest of the exercises, lasting from April 22 to April 30, 1944. Every part of D-Day was to be simulated and drilled for a successful naval invasion.
But it did not go as planned.
Two incidents resulted in massive casualties for Allied soldiers — one caused by friendly fire, the other by enemy action.
A landing drill was carried out on April 27, 1944, and would include a live-fire exercise with an artillery bombardment set for 7:30 a.m. — referred to as “H-Hour” in internal documents.
But many landing ships were delayed, and U.S. Rear Admiral Don P. Moon delayed H-Hour to 8:30 a.m.
However, due to a communication breakdown, the order wasn’t received, and some of the landing craft approached the beach at the original time of 7:30 a.m., putting them in the line of friendly fire.
By the end of the bombardment, around 450 men had lost their lives.
Even after the deaths, the decision was made to continue with the exercise.
On April 28, 1944, American Landing Ship Tanks, or LSTs, were getting into position for an exercise, only to be attacked by German E-Boats.
These small, fast-moving boats were armed with heavy torpedoes and designated as fast attack craft.
The British ships HMS Scimitar and HMS Azalea were supposed to be protecting the convoy from just such an attack, but the Scimitar had been involved in a collision and was ordered to dock for repairs. HMS Saladin had been instructed to replace the Scimitar, but due to differing radio frequencies between the American LSTs and British Naval Headquarters, the changeover wasn’t made known, and a gap formed in the naval defense.
German E-boats exploited this as Saladin struggled to get into position. As a result, two LSTs were sunk, and another two were damaged. The convoy fired back on the German E-boats, causing them to retreat, but the damage was done.
While the official number of casualties has never been released, it’s estimated that approximately 946 U.S. servicemen were killed, and more than 200 were wounded.
Among those who died on April 28, 1944, was Private Joseph Galluppi.
It’s believed that some of these deaths could have been avoided with better training.
According to the website Historic U.K., (www.historic-uk.com), there was a lack of training on how to properly use the life vests on board, and combined with the cold water and heavy packs soldiers wore, many of the men drowned or died of hypothermia before they could be rescued.
Exercise Tiger was kept top secret for fear of the D-Day invasion being leaked to Axis forces. D-Day was almost canceled when it was found that 10 officers were missing who knew of the D-Day plans and feared to be captured by the Germans. Those fears were only assuaged when those officers turned up dead.
The survivors of Exercise Tiger were sworn to secrecy to protect the plans for D-Day, and the deaths of the American servicemen were not released.
The actual invasion of Utah Beach on D-Day resulted in the deaths of around 197 lives — a fraction of the lives lost in Exercise Tiger, and a fraction of the total number of the estimated 29,000 American lives lost in the invasion.
On May 13, 1944, the Galluppi family received a telegram informing them that Joseph was missing in action as of April 28, 1944. Then, around a month later, they received another telegram that he had been officially declared dead.
No other details were revealed, Mayes said, and his body was never recovered.
When the Galluppi family received word that Joseph was missing in action, Mayes said the family was devastated — especially her mother, who was inconsolable.
Shortly thereafter, the family received confirmation that Joseph was killed in action, but the only information the Galluppi family could get from the Army was that “... he died somewhere in England.”
“At the time, President Eisenhower said [the soldiers] would be court-martialed if they told anyone,” Mayes said. “And some of the families had no idea what had happened.”
The family, Mayes said, remained in the dark until 1994, 50 years later, when a book shed some light on what had happened.
Ken Small, a hotelier who had been beachcombing near his hotel on Slapton Sands, came across a few bullets, buttons, and coins that started to paint a picture. But, it wasn’t until a diver friend of Small discovered a Sherman tank submerged a mile out from shore that they realized they had uncovered something big.
Exercise Tiger was officially declassified in August 1944, but the information about what had happened wasn’t actively released to those that had lost friends and loved ones.
Small began to do his research and unearthed the story of Exercise Tiger and the death tolls behind it. It prompted him to write a book and recover the tank to be turned into a memorial for all those who lost their lives.
The Sentinel at the time ran a story from the wire titled “U.S., Britain honor 749 Americans who died in WWII Tragedy.”
Mayes had noticed the date. Exercise Tiger matched the date of her brother’s death and wrote to her local representative, asking if “... he could find out more about the exercise and if our brother was killed during it.”
They had gotten confirmation from the congressman — Private Joseph Galluppi had died in Exercise Tiger.
In May 1994, The Syracuse Herald-American carried a story about Small and his campaign for the memorial for the U.S. Army and Navy men who died in Exercise Tiger and mentioned Small had written a book.
Mayes ordered a copy of Small’s book, “The Forgotten Dead,” and there she learned more of what had befallen her brother.
“My mother and father never got any closure,” Mayes said. “There’s no grave for Joseph. It’s heartbreaking, you don’t know. I think my mother died of a broken heart.”
Mayes’ love for her brother has helped her keep his memory alive over the past 78 years with any scrap of information or mention of Joseph being immediately gathered and cataloged.
She has multiple binders full of information to help remember Joseph’s legacy. As difficult as it has been to painstakingly piece together the situation around her brother’s death, she said it was important to know and remember.
“When I’m gone, I have a certain niece that’s getting all of this,” Mayes said. “And I said to her, ‘You have to promise me that you keep this up, so everyone will know about our family.’ We’re preserving it for the next generation.”
At St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England sits a large, leather bound book known as The Roll of Honor in the American Memorial Chapel.
The Roll of Honor lists the name of 28,000 American servicemen who died in World War II while based in Britain. Each day, a page is turned, a continuous process done since 1958.
Joseph Galluppi’s name is among those recorded.
“To the Glory of God in memory of the Americans who gave their lives in military operations from the British Isles.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here