LCVP (United States)
LCVP side elevation and plan
|Builders:||Higgins Industries and others|
|Displacement:||18,000 lb (8,200 kg) light|
|Length:||36 ft 3 in (11.05 m)|
|Beam:||10 ft 10 in (3.30 m)|
|Propulsion:||Gray Marine diesel engine, 225 hp (168 kW) or Hall-Scott gasoline engine, 250 hp (186 kW)|
|Speed:||12 knots (14 mph; 22 km/h)|
|Capacity:||6,000 lb (2,700 kg) vehicle or 8,100 lb (3,700 kg) general cargo|
|Crew:||4: Coxswain, engineer, bowman, sternman|
|Armament:||2 × .30 cal. (7.62 mm) Browning machine guns|
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 20,000 were built, by Higgins Industries and licensees.
Typically constructed from plywood, this shallow-draft, barge-like boat could ferry a 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 bow ramp.
Andrew Higgins started out in the lumber business but gradually moved into boatbuilding, which became his sole operation after the lumber transport company he was running went bankrupt in 1930. Most sources say the boats his company was building 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, and that the trappers and oil-drillers story was mainly a cover. Higgins' financial difficulties, and his association with the U.S. military, occurred around the time Prohibition was repealed, which would have ruined his market in the rum-running sector; the navy's interest in the boats was in any case providential, though Higgins proved unable to manage his company's good fortune.
Fortunately for Higgins, 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. However 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 LCP(L), commonly called the "U-boat" or the "Higgins" boat, was supplied to the British (from October 1940), to whom it was initially known as the "R-boat" and used for commando raids.
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 shown a picture of one of those craft in 1941, Higgins soon thereafter got in touch with his chief engineer and, after describing the Japanese design over the telephone, told the engineer to have a mock-up built for his inspection upon his return to New Orleans.
Within one month, tests of the ramp-bow Eureka boat in Lake Pontchartrain showed conclusively that successful operation of such a boat was feasible. This boat became the landing craft, personnel (ramped) or LCP(R). The machine gun positions were still at the front of the boat but closer to the side to give access between them to the ramp. The design was still not ideal as the ramp was a bottleneck for the troops as was the case with the British Landing Craft Assault of the year before.
The next step was to fit a full width ramp. Now troops could leave en masse and a small vehicle such as a Jeep could be carried, and this new version became the LCVP (landing craft, vehicle, personnel), or simply, the "Higgins boat." The machine gun positions were moved to the rear of the boat.
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. 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 right 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.
Legacy of the Higgins boat
No less an authority than the supreme Allied commander, 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 Higgins boat was used for many amphibious landings, including Operation Overlord on D-Day in Nazi German-occupied Normandy, and previously Operation Torch in North Africa, the Allied invasion of Sicily, Operation Shingle and Operation Avalanche in Italy, Operation Dragoon, as well as in the Pacific Theatre at the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Battle of Tarawa, the Battle of the Philippines, the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa.
Only a few Higgins boats have survived, often with substantial modifications for post-War use. A remarkably preserved Higgins boat, with the original Higgins motor, was discovered in a boat yard in Valdez, Alaska, and moved to the Museum of World War II just outside Boston in 2000. It had been used as a fishing boat in very shallow areas but, except for an easily removed addition to the cockpit, had not been altered; all of the armor plate was complete, as were gauges and equipment. The only restoration was a repainting to the original color.
An original Higgins boat discovered in Normandy is being professionally restored by the North Carolina Maritime Museum for the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. This Higgins boat was located in Vierville-sur-Mer, Normandy, by Overlord Research, LLC, a West Virginia company formed in 2002 for the purpose of locating, preserving, and returning WWII artifacts to the United States. Overlord purchased the vessel from its French owners and then transported the Higgins boat to Hughes Marine Service in Chidham, England, for initial evaluation and restoration. During this evaluation, the First Division Museum acquired the Higgins boat from Overlord Research, LLC, and moved the vessel to Beaufort, Illinois, for extensive restoration.
Another original Higgins boat was located by Overlord Research, LLC, on the Isle of Wight and acquired by the company. It was transported to Hughes Marine Service, where it underwent extensive restoration. Upon completion of the restoration work to standards set by the United States Army Center of Military History, this Higgins boat was purchased by the Center of Military History for future display in the National Museum of the United States Army, which is being constructed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. It is currently being stored at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, until the National Army Museum is completed.
An original Higgins boat LCVP was found in a farmyard in Isigny sur Mer in 2008 and has been put on display at the side of the car park at the German Headquarters at the Maisy battery in Grandcamp-Maisy, Normandy, 1.5 miles from Omaha Beach. The Maisy site was the scene of one of the largest US Army Rangers' assaults of operation Overlord in 1944.
An original Higgins boat is located in Port St. Lucie, Florida and is awaiting restoration there.
The USS LST-325 operates two LCVPs built in the 1950s.
An original Higgins boat, from the USS Cambria, which survived seven Pacific Theatre invasions, is on display at Motts Military Museum in Columbus, Ohio.
An intact surviving example is known to lie beached at King Edward Point on South Georgia although this craft is in poor condition due to the Antarctic environment.
There also appears to be an example registered as the Megan Meredith in Ewell, Smith Island, Maryland. It has the number 36VP6970 on the stern.
A replica Higgins boat, built in the 1990s using the original specifications from Higgins Industries, is on display in the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
A post war example (utilising fibreglass construction instead of plywood) is in the Shopland Collection, located near Bristol, England. It has been used in the filming of both Saving Private Ryan and several documentaries about Operation Overlord. This vessel is currently stored awaiting restoration.
- Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel
- Landing Vehicle Tracked ("Amtrac")
- Landing Ship, Tank (LST)
- Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM)
- Landing Craft Assault
- Landing Craft Personnel (Large)
- Gray Marine Engine
- Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, Random House, New York, NY. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4. pp. 204-206
- Goldstein, Richard. "Victor H. Krulak, Marine Behind U.S. Landing Craft, Dies at 95". The New York Times, January 4, 2009. Accessed January 5, 2009.
- "The Higgins Boat". Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- "MAHS Salisbury/Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP)". Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- "LST 494 LCVPs (Higgins Boats)". Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- Morgan, Thomas J. "D-Day saga on display as never before at World War II Museum". The Providence Journal, May, 31, 2014.
- Dday65.org, retrieved September 12, 2008.
- Record for Overlord Research, LLC, West Virginia Secretary of State, Business Organization Information System.
- Price, Jay. McClatchy Newspapers; "Rare Boat Crucial to Winning WWII Being Restored". The Sunday Gazette-Mail, Page 12A, Charleston, West Virginia, September 7, 2008.
- About the Museum. The Army Historical Foundation. Accessed 19 June 2009.
- LCVP landing craft at the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth. Flickr. Accessed 19 June 2009.
- (French) Challenge LCVP - Higgins Boat, retrieved December 14, 2014.
- Collection, Road to Victory Military Museum. Accessed 19 June 2009.
- "Motts Military Museum :: About Us". Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- National World War II Museum - New Orleans: Home of the Higgins Boats
- Administrator. "Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP)". Retrieved 23 September 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LCVP.|
- Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940–1945: LCVP
- History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II Volume I Chapter 3: "Development of Landing Craft"
- USS Rankin (AKA-103): LCVP
- USS LST 494 Higgins Boats
- Higgins Industries Motor Torpedo Boat Diagram Collection in the LOUISiana Digital Library
- Armagnac, Alden P. (October 1941). "New Tools for Army Power". Popular Science: 76–77. Photos of early testing of Higgins's first landing boats.