LCVP Higgins Boat
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 of Louisiana, United States, based on boats made for operating in swamps and marshes. More than 18,000 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 and quickly developed an association with the U.S. military.
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 the 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 a combat situation. 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 where it was initially known as the "R-boat" and used for Commando raids.
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.
No less an authority than the Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight 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."
Our Higgins boat arrived at the museum August 31st, 2013, after a lengthy transport cross country from Blue Hill, Maine. It had been advertised for sale on the internet. This particular boat is a rare find for the museum as out of nearly 20,000 Higgins Boats manufactured, less than 12 are known to currently exist in the United States. In keeping with our motto, restoration of this relic will give generations to come a close up look at something that was common at one time during our military history. Mumeum member Gary Corippo, raised over $10,000 to have it loaded and transported to Paso Robles.
According to the numbers on her hull, she was last assigned to the LST-1188 USS Saginaw, as boat number 4. The Saginaw was launched in 1970 and sold to Austrailia in the lat 1990's. The USS Saginaw re-entered service early in 2000 as part of the Royal Austrailian Navy under the name HMAS Kanimbla. Another of the sister boats to ours, once assigned to the USS Saginaw can be seen here. Although records are not available at this time, these particular Higgins Boats were probably built during the same time period as the USS Saginaw.
Major Van Harl, USAF Ret, noted that "For those of you who have seen the movie Saving Private Ryan, you will recall the opening minutes where the army troops are on landing craft headed for the beach on D-Day. One of the classic photos of D-Day is taken from the back of a landing craft with the ramp down, soldiers rushing forward into the water.
Or there is the John Wayne movie Sands of Iwo Jima where Wayne, as Sergeant Striker is telling his Marines to "lock-n-load" just prior to hitting the beach from their landing craft. In all those movies the landing craft they were using was a Higgins Boat. It is a flat bottom, thirty six foot long landing craft, made of plywood with some metal plating to protect the troops from hostile fire.
Our Higgins boat is constructed of metal, wood and reinforced fiberglass. It is not in the best of shape and initially looks to be a rusted bucket of bolts. Many of the incredible aircraft and vehicles now on display at the Estrella Warbirds Museum, came to us in the same type of condition. With a little bit of dedication and lots of hours of restoration, we know that generations to come will be able to see first hand, in pristine condition, this excellent example of one of the tools used by our military past in conquest for the freedoms we enjoy.
Stay tuned. Updates to follow. In the meantime, if you have extra time on your hand and would like to join a wonderful band of dedicated volunteer restorers, contact us today. We'd love to meet you!