Monday, June 6, 2011

D-Day, The Higgins Boat & The Big Easy

Today marked the 67th anniversary of D-Day, the day the Allied assault on fortified coastal German positions in occupied Northern France began in earnest after months of preparation.

The decision to establish a National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, LA was influenced in large part by the then-ubiquitous barges used to ferry troops and supplies to shore for the Allies, not only on D-Day, but throughout the Pacific Theater as well. These craft were called 'Higgins Boats', named after Columbus, NE native Andrew Jackson Higgins.

In the 1920s, the woodworker left his native Nebraska to set up shop in New Orleans where he started an import/export lumber business. He also used some of that lumber to build shallow draft boats for trappers and oil men along the Gulf coast.

During the Great Depression, Higgins used his own capital to start up his own boatmaking business and had persistently lobbied the US Navy to demonstrate small craft of his design. Eventually the Navy relented, and while they were pleased with the performance of his 'spoonbill' bowed-craft during trials in the late 1930s, there was still the matter of men and equipment having to disembark by climbing over the sides of the craft, leaving them exposed to enemy fire in the process.

However, the US Navy learned of Japanese landing craft during the Manchurian invasion that featured a ramp for troops, supplies and vehicles to disembark via the bow once in shallow water or the beach. Higgins and designers from his shop were able to incorporate the front-end ramp into his design. The new craft was approved by the Navy and was known as the LCVP (short for Landing Craft- Vehicle, Personnel). However, the Higgins factory in New Orleans would turn out around 20,000 such boats throughout the course of the war- giving them the moniker 'Higgins Boats'.

1 comment:

  1. Please check out my tribute page to my dear departed grandfather: Diary of a Higgins Boat Sailor in the Pacific