NEW BEDFORD — Dozens of people gathered around the memorial M4 Sherman tank at Fort Taber Military Park Sunday to pay their respects to servicemen lost over 70 years ago off Slapton Sands in Devon, England. 

Operation Tiger was a large-scale rehearsal by Allied Forces preparing for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. On the early morning of April 28, 1944, the servicemen were attacked by German forces and two Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) were sunk and two others damaged. A total of 749 American soldiers and sailors were killed.

Looking back at this tragedy, Army veteran and New Bedford Veterans' Agent Chris Gomes said it's a reminder of the dangers of serving our nation overseas.

"Being an Army veteran, I've been in many training exercises," Gomes said. "You never think anything really bad's going to happen to you because that's why your training, you're training to do something bad, but it just goes to show that you always have to be on your toes. You always have to be aware of what's going on. You have to pay attention to detail."

New Bedford is the only home to a memorial for this training exercise gone awry and the second in the world, mirroring a memorial erected on the shore of Slapton Sands.

Brig. Gen. Francis Magurn speaking during memorial ceremony. Greg Desrosiers/TSM

Keynote speaker Brigadier General Francis B. Magurn II, Assistant Adjutant General of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, said a tribute to this tragedy is notable.

"We tend to only celebrate victories," Magurn said. "There's some exceptions, 9/11, the attack on Pearl Harbor, but it's notable that this community has gotten together to honor people who would otherwise have been literally swept beneath the sands of history."

Also among the honored guests was Vincent Ricciardi, 93, who is one of the last surviving local participants of Exercise Tiger. The US Navy veteran laid a wreath in front of the memorial for his fallen brothers.

Greg Desrosiers/TSM