The son of four-star Admiral Joseph Strauss, Elliott Strauss followed his father into the naval profession. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1923 and soon went on the shakedown cruise of the light cruiser USS Concord (CL-10). He subsequently was in the battleship USS Arkansas (BB-33), various destroyers, and the cruiser USS Nashville (CL-43); he commanded the USS Brooks (DD-232). In the mid-1930s he was an assistant naval attaché in Great Britain, later flag lieutenant for Commander Atlantic Squadron, Rear Admiral Alfred Johnson. Strauss became a naval observer in England on the eve of World War II, then was the first U.S. naval officer on the staff of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations. Strauss took part in the Dieppe operation and later served on various staffs in the months leading up to the invasion of France in June 1944. He later commanded the attack transport USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) and the cruiser USS Fresno (CL-121). After duty in OpNav he commanded Destroyer Flotilla Six and later served with the U.S. mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After retirement he was chief of the U.S. aid mission to Tunisia.
Based on four interviews conducted by Paul Stillwell in October and November 1986, the volume contains 364 pages of interview transcript plus an index and appendices. The transcript is copyright 1989 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.
In this selection from his second interview at his home in Washington, D.C., on 30 October 1986, Admiral Strauss recounts the Dieppe raid.
Admiral Strauss: The Dieppe raid was on the 19th of August. Prime Minister Churchill had decided that some fairly large effort should be made. The war had become so stagnant by then he felt that some activity was due, and it was decided that an operation which would give them some information should take place. Another thought was that the Canadians had been in England for some time and were restless. And so a plan was conceived to land on Dieppe and to try to take prisoners, destroy the batteries, and test the ability to land on an enemy coast. A subsidiary aim was to try to capture a German radar.
A plan was made in Combined Operations, but then the Canadians were called in, the actual landing force, because it was a principle that the people who did the operation would make the plan that obtained. Combined Operations felt that to go in directly across the beach was probably not feasible. They should attack from the flanks. But the Canadians felt that they could do a direct assault. And a compromise was made that was a combination of a flanking movement and a direct assault.
The Canadian brigade was commanded by a Major General Roberts, and there were assorted units from other parts of the British Empire which took part in it. It took place on the 19th of August of '42. And the surprise element was a combination of landing ships, which carried landing craft and craft which went directly across from the Portsmouth area. The support was seven "Hunt"-class destroyers and one Polish destroyer. A "Hunt"-class destroyer wouldn't qualify as a DE today in our Navy. It had 4-inch guns with step-by-step fire control. And the units arrived there on time for the most part--there were two that didn't--and effected surprise. So for the first hour or so, there were no German planes up.
I was in the "Hunt"-class destroyer called the Bleasdale, which was to give fire support, make smoke. The landings started. The Canadian troops started ashore. They had a hard time, because some of them landed in too deep water and when the tanks got ashore, the beach was shingle and the tracks rotated on the shingle, and they had a difficulty in getting off the beach. Then eventually, in an hour or so, the German planes started coming over, and the British planes came over from England, but the fighters could only stay a very short time, so they had to come over in waves, really.
From a naval standpoint, the raid, I think you could say, was a success. The air battle was a success, considering the limitation of the numbers available and the flying range of the planes. From the military side it was almost a fiasco, because a great many of the Canadian troops were killed and many more were captured. One of the few successes was on the one flank. A commando under Lieutenant Colonel Lord Lovat got up and silenced one of the 5.9-inch guns. The other one was never silenced. Captain Hughes-Hallett was the naval commander for the operation, and I heard him afterwards say that he had read in accounts of battles that the decks ran with blood. And he said, "I never expected actually to see that, but on this raid I did. The decks were running with blood."
We took on board a great many people: troops who had escaped from the beaches and some aviators who were shot down. And I saw one Spitfire shot down by our own antiaircraft fire in the latter's enthusiasm. This is not a rare occurrence at all. I sometimes thought of trying for a doctorate on the amount of casualties that in any war one inflicts on its own side. I mean, at a wild, uninformed guess this would run between 10 and 15%.
For an excellent overall account of the 1942 operation, see Terence Robertson, Dieppe: The Shame and the Glory (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962).
Major General John Hamlton Roberts, Commander Second Canadian Division.
Lieutenant Colonel Lord Lovat was commander of Number 4 Commando.
The Spitfire was a British fighter plane that won fame in the Battle of Britain. It was faster and more maneuverable than the German Messerschmitt ME 109.