The Higgins Boat (LCVP)
“The Higgins boats broke the gridlock on the ship-to-shore movement. It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages his craft gave U.S. amphibious commanders in World War II.”
Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret)
A FELLOWSHIP OF VALOR – The Battle History of the United States Marines
The landing craft, vehicle, personnel (LCVP) or Higgins boat was a landing craft used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. Higgins designed and produced two basic classes of military craft. The first class consisted of high-speed PT boats, which carried antiaircraft machine guns, smoke-screen devices, depth charges, and Higgins-designed compressed-air-fired torpedo tubes. Also in this class were the antisubmarine boats, dispatch boats, 170-foot freight supply vessels, and other specialized patrol craft produced for the Army, Navy and Maritime Commission.
The second class consisted of various types of Higgins landing craft (LCPs, LCPLs, LCVPs, LCMs) constructed of wood and steel that were used in transporting fully armed troops, light tanks, field artillery, and other mechanized equipment and supplies essential to amphibious operations. It was these boats that made the D-Day landings at Normandy, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Leyte and Guam and hundreds of lesser-known assaults possible. Without Higgins’ uniquely designed craft there could not have been a mass landing of troops and material on European shores or on the beaches of the Pacific islands, at least not without a tremendously higher rate of Allied casualties.
As late as 1930 Higgins was involved in the lumber importing and exporting business. By 1940 he was producing workboats and prototype landing craft in a small warehouse located behind his St. Charles Avenue showroom. When the government began ordering his craft for military purposes, Higgins expanded into eight separate plants in the city, employing more than 20,000 workers. At the peak of production, the combined output of his plants exceeded 700 boats a month. His total output for the Allies during World War II was 20,094 boats, a production record for which Higgins Industries several times received the Army-Navy “E”, the highest award that the armed forces could bestow upon a company.
During the 1930’s Higgins Industries had perfected a workboat, dubbed the ‘Eureka’ model, designed to work in the swamps and marshes of south Louisiana. The shallow-draft boat could operate in only 18 inches of water, running through vegetation and over logs and debris without fouling its propeller. It could also run right up on shore and extract itself without damage. As part of his sales demonstrations, Higgins often had the boats run up on the Lake Ponchartrain seawall. The “head log” – a solid block of pine at the bow – was the strongest part of the boat, enabling it to run at full speed over floating obstacles, sandbars, and right up on to the beach without damaging the hull.
A deep “V” hull forward led to a reverse-curve section amidships and two flat planning sections aft, flanking a semi-tunnel that protected the propeller and shaft. Aerated water flowing under the forefoot of the boat created less friction when the boat was moving and allowed for faster speeds and maneuverability. Because of the reverse curve, objects in the water would be pushed away from the boat at a point between the bow and amidships (including the aerated water – only solid water reached the propeller). This allowed continuous high-speed running and cut down on damage to the propeller, as floating objects seldom came near it. The flat sections aft, on either side of the shaft tunnel, actually had a catamaran/planing effect which added to the hull speed.
All of these features contributed to the boat’s successful adaptation as a landing craft, and when a bow ramp was added at the request of the Marine Corps, the LCVP design was complete.
The boat could land a platoon of 36 men with their equipment, or a jeep and 12 men, extract itself quickly, turn around without broaching in the surf, and go back out to get more troops and/or supplies. This was critical – any landing craft that could not extract itself would hinder the ability of succeeding waves to reach the beachhead. The tough, highly maneuverable Higgins boats allowed Allied commanders to plan their assaults on relatively less-defended coastline areas and then support a beachhead staging area rather than be forced to capture a port city with wharves and facilities to offload men and material. The 20,000+ Higgins boats manufactured by Higgins Industries and others licensed to use Higgins designs landed more Allied troops during the war than all other types of landing craft combined. Col. Alexander (cited above) was accurate in calling the LCVP “…a world-shaking innovation, one that would defeat Germany and Japan as ineluctably as any other technology.”
SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE HIGGINS INDUSTRIES 36-FOOT LCVP:
- Construction Material: Wood (oak, pine and mahogany)
- Displacement: 15,000 Pounds (light)
- Length: 36-Feet, 3-Inches
- Beam: 10-Feet, 10-Inches
- Draft: 3-Feet Aft and 2-Feet, 2-Inches Forward
- Speed: 12 Knots
- Armament: Two .30-Caliber Machine Guns
- Crew: Three – Coxswain, Engineer and Crewman
- Capacity: 36 Troops with gear and equipment, or
- 6,000-Pound vehicle, or
- 8,100-Pounds of Cargo
- Power Plant: Gray 225-HP Diesel Engine