The LCVP: The Boat That May Have Won WWII


LCVP Photo Album

A screenshot photo of some Landing Craft Vehicle/Personnel (LCVPs), as they approach Omaha Beach in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (MOHAA).

A group of LCVPs, or Higgins boats, transports Lt. Mike Powell’s Ranger battalion toward Omaha Beach.

Imagine yourself crammed in a 17-by-seven-foot plywood barge with 35 other people.

Now, imagine that “cigar box” in rough seas, waves breaking over the five-foot-high sides.

Its flat bottom doesn’t cut through the waves well, and almost everyone is seasick. Vomit mixes with seawater and flows around your legs.

Soon, it runs aground, the steel ramp in the bow opens, and you’re swept up with the crowd as they funnel out into a hail of bullets.

It may not sound like a pleasant experience – it would be hard to find a positive story about time spent on such a craft – but according to Stephen Ambrose (though the validity of these interviews is now in question), Dwight D. Eisenhower told him that these boats “may have won the war for us.”

Possible interview fabrication aside, this landing craft was most definitely an innovation that changed how amphibious landings were conducted, and consequently, the style of warfare as a whole.

Meant to ferry vehicles and personnel to the shore (thus their designation LCVP), these small boats were designed by Andrew Higgins, the founder and owner of Higgins Industries, a company based in New Orleans. Higgins’ association with boatbuilding began in 1922 when he began the Higgins Lumber & Export Co., which imported hardwood from the Philippines, Africa and Central America, while exporting indigenous wood, like bald cypress and pine. To keep his product moving across the seas, he acquired a large number of ships and soon build a shipyard to service his fleet.

A photo of Andrew J. Higgins, creator of the Higgins Boat, as he looked in 1944, from Wikipedia.

Andrew J. Higgins, as he looked in 1944.

In 1926, he designed the Eureka Boat, which was similar to the LCVP in that it was flat-bottomed and could maneuver easily in shallow water. By the 1930s, Higgins’ lumber company was out of business, but he continued to produce ships, supplying individuals, businesses and the U.S. Coast Guard.

In 1938, the Eureka Boat was tested by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy, outperforming the Navy-designed boat. In 1939, it was tested in fleet landing exercises. While it performed well, it still required equipment to be unloaded and its occupants had to disembark over the sides – exposing them to enemy fire and placing them in the water. But, they were still deployed as landing craft, personnel (large) or (LCP(L)).

Higgins took his next design from the Japanese, who had been using ramp-bowed boats since 1937. In 1941, he replaced the bow of the Eureka Boat with a ramp and tested it on Lake Pontchartrain, proving that its design was feasible. However, the two machine gun positions that flanked the ramp caused a bottleneck as troops disembarked. Still, these were designated LCP(R), (ramped), and put into service.

The boat became the LCVP later in 1941 when the two machine guns were moved to the rear and the bow ramp was made as wide as the craft itself. This allowed troops to exit much easier, and also allowed equipment, such as Jeeps, to simply drive, or be towed, out, rather than being unloaded. This also allowed the LCVPs, now also called “Higgins Boats” to run aground to unload, back up, turn around, and return to the larger ships for reloading. This also minimized the logjam that would have been created at the beach with craft that could not return to sea after unloading.

A screenshot photo of U.S. Army Rangers in a Landing Craft Vehicle/Personnel (LCVP) taking cover as German artillery shells land in the water nearby in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (MOHAA).

Off Omaha Beach, the Rangers in Lt. Powell’s LCVP take cover as German artillery shells land in the water nearby.

In Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, the LCVPs are used in the D-Day mission, as one transports Lt. Mike Powell and his squad of 2nd Rangers to Charlie sector of Omaha Beach. Of the five LCVPs visible, none of them experience any of the problems faced by LCVPs on June 6, 1944. None were sunk by rough seas (ten were lost at Omaha alone on D-Day), and no one in Lt. Powell’s craft gets seasick. However, one is struck by a German shell and destroyed – a plausible occurrence for an open-topped plywood boat.

As for the depiction of the LCVP itself, the in-game ones are made of wood, with a steel ramp, and appear to be at least close to the dimensions of real LCVPs, but each craft is ferrying nowhere near the 36 men they’re capable of carrying. There’s also a crew of one, as opposed to a crew of three. This is because the two .30 caliber machine guns have been omitted, leaving only the driver.

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~ by John on June 22, 2011.

2 Responses to “The LCVP: The Boat That May Have Won WWII”

  1. Another great post!

    • Thanks! And double thanks for being the only commenter. My views per day have tripled, but my interactions haven’t. Maybe I need to quadruple them…

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