Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP)
The landing craft, vehicle, personnel (LCVP) or Higgins boat was a landing craft used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. The craft was designed by Andrew Higgins based on boats made for operating in swamps and marshes. More than 23,358 were built, by Higgins Industries and licensees. Typically constructed from plywood, this shallow-draft, barge-like boat could ferry a roughly platoon-sized complement of 36 men to shore at 9 knots (17 km/h). Men generally entered the boat by climbing down a cargo net hung from the side of their troop transport; they exited by charging down the boat's lowered bow ramp.
Andrew Higgins started out in the lumber business, but gradually moved into boat building, which became his sole operation after the lumber transport company he was running entered bankruptcy in 1930. Many sources say his boats were intended for use by trappers and oil-drillers; occasionally, some sources imply or even say that Higgins intended to sell the boats to individuals intending to smuggle illegal liquor into the United States.
Higgins' financial difficulties, and his association with the U.S. military, occurred around the time Prohibition was repealed, which would have ruined his market in the rum-running sector; the U.S. Navy's interest in the boats was in any case providential, though Higgins proved unable to manage his company's good fortune.
The United States Marine Corps, always interested in finding better ways to get men across a beach in an amphibious landing, and frustrated that the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair could not meet its requirements, began to express interest in Higgins' boat. When tested in 1938 by the Navy and Marine Corps, Higgins' Eureka boat surpassed the performance of a Navy-designed boat, and was tested by the services during fleet landing exercises in February 1939. Satisfactory in most respects, the boat's major drawback appeared to be that equipment had to be unloaded, and men disembarked, over the sides, thus exposing them to enemy fire in combat situations and making unloading time consuming and complex. However that was the best available boat design and it was put into production and service as the landing craft, personnel (large), abbreviated as LCP(L). The LCP(L) had two machine gun positions at the bow.
The Japanese had been using ramp-bowed landing boats like Daihatsu-class landing craft in the Second Sino-Japanese War since the summer of 1937 — boats that had come under intense scrutiny by Navy and Marine Corps observers at the Battle of Shanghai in particular, including from future general, Victor H. Krulak. When Krulak showed Higgins a picture and suggested that Higgins develop a version of the ramped craft for the Navy, Higgins, at his own expense, started his designers working on adapting the idea to the boat design. He then had three of the craft built, again at his own expense.
On May 26, 1941, Cdr. Ross Daggett, from BuShip, and Maj. Ernest Linsert, of the Marine Equipment Board, witnessed the testing of the three craft. One involved off-loading a truck; another the embarking and disembarking of 36 of Higgins' employees, simulating troops. This craft later was designated LCVP—Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel.
At just over 36 ft (11 m) long and just under 11 ft (3.4 m) wide, the LCVP was not a large craft. Powered by a 225-horsepower Diesel engine at 12 knots, it would sway in choppy seas, causing seasickness. Since its sides and rear were made of plywood, it offered limited protection from enemy fire but also reduced cost and saved steel. The Higgins boat could hold either a 36-man platoon, a jeep and a 12-man squad, or 8,000 lb (3.6 t) of cargo. Its shallow draft (3 feet aft and 2 feet, 2 inches forward) enabled it to run up onto the shoreline, and a semi-tunnel built into its hull protected the propeller from sand and other debris. The steel ramp at the front could be lowered quickly. It was possible for the Higgins boat to swiftly disembark men and supplies, reverse itself off the beach, and head back out to the supply ship for another load within three to four minutes.
During the war years, the Higgins boat was built in New Orleans and all workers, white, black, male, female, were paid the same wage based on their job position.
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Higgins Industries, New Orleans, LA
United States Navy
Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP)
18,000 lb, (8,200 kg) light
36 ft 3 in (1.05 m)
10 ft 10 in (3.30 m)
3 ft (0.91 m) aft
2 ft 2 in (0.66 m) forward
Gray Marine 6-71 Diesel Engine, 225 hp (168 kW) or Hall-Scott gasoline engine, 250 hp (186 kW)
12 knots (14 mph; 22 km/h)
6,000 lb (2,700 kg) vehicle or 8,100 lb (3,700 kg) general cargo
4: Coxswain, engineer, bowman, sternman
2 x .30 cal. (7.62) Browning machine guns
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The Supreme Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, declared the Higgins boat to have been crucial to the Allied victory on the European Western Front and the previous fighting in North Africa and Italy:
“Andrew Higgins ... is the man who won the war for us. ... If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”
The island-hopping campaign in the Pacific war was totally dependent on landing craft like the Higgins boat. APA troop transports, such as USS Elmore, were the mother ships for Higgins boats. In the Pacific theater, such landing craft were involved in operations at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Higgins boat was also used for amphibious landings against the Nazis, including Operation Overlord on D-Day in German-occupied Normandy, and, before that, Operation Torch in North Africa, Operation Shingle in the Allied invasion of Sicily, and Operation Avalanche in Italy.
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By Michael S. Rosenwald
June 6, 2017
American servicemen climb into a military landing craft, known as a Higgins boat, during World War II.
Andrew Jackson Higgins, the man Dwight D. Eisenhower once credited with winning World War II, was a wild and wily genius.
At the New Orleans plant where his company built the boats that brought troops ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944, Higgins hung a sign that said, “Anybody caught stealing tools out of this yard won’t get fired — he’ll go to the hospital.”
Whatever Higgins did, he did it a lot. “His profanity,” Life magazine said, was “famous for its opulence and volume.” So was his thirst for Old Taylor bourbon, though he curtailed his intake by limiting his sips to a specific location.
“I only drink,” he told Life magazine, “while I’m working.”
That Higgins was able to accomplish what he did — provide U.S. forces with the means to swiftly attack beaches, including on D-Day — despite his personal shortcomings is a testament, historians say, to his relentless talent and creativity as an entrepreneur.
“It is Higgins himself who takes your breath away,” Raymond Moley, a former FDR adviser, wrote in Newsweek in 1943. “Higgins is an authentic master builder, with the kind of will power, brains, drive and daring that characterized the American empire builders of an earlier generation.”
Higgins was not native to the South, despite his love of bourbon. He grew up in Nebraska, where, at various ages, he was expelled from school for fighting. Higgins’ temperament improved around boats. He built his first vessel in the basement when he was 12. It was so large that a wall had to be torn down to get it out.
He moved South in his early 20s, working in the lumber industry. He hadn’t thought much about boats again until a tract of timber in shallow waters required him to build a special vessel so he could remove the wood. Higgins signed up for a correspondence course in naval architecture, shifting his work from timber to boats.
In the late 1930s, he owned a small shipyard in New Orleans. By then, his special shallow-craft boat had become popular with loggers and oil drillers. They were “tunnel stern boats,” whose magic was in the way the “hull incorporated a recessed tunnel used to protect the propeller from grounding,” according to the Louisiana Historical Association.
Higgins called it the “Eureka” boat. The war brought interest by U.S. forces in a similar style vessel to attack unguarded beaches and avoid coming ashore at heavily defended ports. The Marines settled on the Higgins boat, transforming what had been a 50-employee company into one of the world’s largest manufacturers.
“To put Higgins’s accomplishment in perspective,” historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in a 2000 article for American Heritage magazine, consider this: “By September 1943, 12,964 of the American Navy’s 14,072 vessels had been designed by Higgins Industries. Put another way, 92 percent of the U.S. Navy was a Higgins navy.”
Though Eisenhower and even Hitler acknowledged the importance of the Higgins boat — military leaders came to call it “the bridge to the beach” — its builder went mostly unmentioned in histories of the war. That is, until 17 years ago, when the World War II Museum opened in New Orleans and recognized Higgins’s life, displaying a reproduction of his boat.
Still, there’s been just one biography written: “Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats that Won World War II,” by historian Jerry Strahan.
“Without Higgins’s uniquely designed craft, there could not have been a mass landing of troops and matériel on European shores or the beaches of the Pacific islands, at least not without a tremendously higher rate of Allied casualties,” Strahan wrote.
Higgins, who died in 1952, certainly wasn’t modest about his accomplishments.
“You’re the only man I’ve ever met,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt told him, “who has done all the talking.”
That’s another thing he did a lot — talk.
“His majestic laughter booms like thunder in the mountains,” Life magazine wrote. “He has an immense stock of stories.”
Including the one about winning a war.
Andrew Higgins during ceremony for completion of the U.S. Navy's 10,000th Higgins Boat at Lake Pontchartrain in July 1944.
Source: Washington Post