Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day Craft

On this 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, while we're remembering the brave men who risked everything to liberate Europe, let us also take a moment to honor Andrew Higgins, the man President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a 1964 interview, said “…won the war for us.”

Andrew Higgins built wooden workboats in Louisiana. Once the war broke out, he anticipated a need for thousands of small boats for the US Navy, and he knew steel would be in short supply. In 1939 he bought the entire crop of mahogany from the Philippines and stored it himself.

As the war progressed, Higgins tried to convince the Navy of their need for small wooden boats, and was finally given a contract to develop his LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel).

The “Higgins boats” were 36 feet by 11 and, powered by a 225-HP diesel engine, could maintain a speed of 12 knots. They carried two .30-caliber machine guns and a platoon of 36 combat-equipped infantrymen, a Jeep and a 12-man squad or 8,000 pounds of cargo.

The boat could land on the beach, lower the bow ramp, disembark men and supplies and be back out to sea in 3 to 4 minutes.

Higgins and other American factories had produced more than 23,000 Higgins boats by the end of the war. As one USMC Colonel put it, "It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages this craft gave US amphibious commanders in World War II.”

If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, according to Eisenhower, "…we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”