The Boat that Won the War

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5/5,
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  • Author:
    Charles. C. Roberts, Jr
    In almost every war film, or wartime documentary or picture ( D day landings especially), a small boat appears bobbing along carrying men off to battle, the injured to safety, or materials to the landing zone, This is the famous Higgins 36 foot Landing craft , I was under the impression that these American built craft were like their larger siblings constructed in steel and of welded construction , it was only when inspecting one in a museum that I noticed the craft was built entirely out of timber, with steel only added for protection against enemy fire.

    The title of this book comes not from the author, but from General Eisenhower, he called it the Boat that Won the War.

    In wartime, technology advances at an alarming rate, and many new discoveries come out of this research, also many dead ends are arrived at, failed experiments, faulty components however the Higgins boat ,joins the Jeep, the Gooney Bird, The Hurricane, the Morris Quad the Sherman tank the 6x6 and many other well designed methods of transportation in the history books as icons of design.

    The Higgins boat's use of timber today would seem unusual and a retrograde step, but in the late 30s early 40s timber boats were the preserve of small craft, men used to working in timber were plentiful timber is easily moulded shaped and formed and boat builders used to this method were plentiful

    The author has done a fantastic job in bringing this underrated craft to the fore, with his knowledge gained from the restoration of one of these craft, his long experience of sailing and racing in Sailing boats and ships and as an Army Officer who tested military equipment and performed research on Amphibious vehicles he is well suited to the task.

    A few years back I visited an area of Devon, and examined the Concrete training craft, that had been built to train the troops in the loading and unloading of landing craft, the difference in size between those representing the Higgins boat and the much larger tank landing craft was noticeable, and yet for its small size it represented a manageable craft that could easily be suspended from the davits on the larger ships and launched quickly.

    Chapters

    The Landing craft concept
    Detailing early attempts and the input from the Higgins company and from the US Navy

    The Higgins LCVP Design
    Showing technical drawings, close ups and photographs during the evolution of the craft

    The Construction
    How Higgins mass produced the craft and also engaged other companies to mass produce the boat, many of them well known names in boating, information on each component involved and their variants, a very comprehensive chapter

    The Power plants
    Detailing the early Petrol engines, then the later Diesel engines and the installation methods and engine life, the cooling and lubrication systems, and the training of the crew

    Performance and Handling
    A great deal of testing was done under arduous condition's and much knowledge gained, all of this is enclosed in this chapter , including origional US navy drawings and instructions for crewmen

    Wartime service
    This chapter covers the theatres of operation, the loading and unloading of the craft, and how the boats were used when beach landings are carried out,

    Appendices
    Every single component of the Higgins boat is listed here from the original specifications showing part numbers, quantities used in each craft and the technical names used for them plus the materials used.

    In this outstanding book the Author has provided hundreds of first class images, mostly original photographs showing the construction of the Landing craft at the factories, close ups of the engines, gear systems and drive systems, armour and controls, and also images showing the boats being tested and in use

    I had not realised that much use was made of images taken of the Japanese Landing craft used in the invasion of China, built by the Daihatsu engineering company, some of these rare images are provided in this book.

    The Author covers every part of the construction of the craft, from the timber uses and its cutting, to the metal sheeting added, the different types of engines, and the clever closed loop cooling that used seawater through a heat exchanger to protect the engine against corrosion, the subtle details such as the ability of the steering gear to be raised and lowered to aid protection when entering battle zone, and the ship's armament.

    Also included are original plans and drawings for every part of the Craft. Modern colour images showing the external lines of the boat, plus a skeleton view of the structure and framing are also included and these would be of great assistance to model makers or historians. The choice of the Higgins boat was taken after exhaustive testing, and included a boat deigned by the US Navy, however the Higgins Company had a wealth of experience with craft designed to operate in shallow water, later on the craft was built on a mass production basis and manufacture subcontracted out to other companies.

    Over 23 thousand of these craft were constructed by eight different companies during WW2, and the fact that so many survive is testament to their inherent good design and the choice of quality materials and construction.

    The book begins by explaining the use of landing craft , the history of the Higgins Boat company and about their early high speed boats called the Eureka from which many components of the Higgins boat came. The technical requirements for a Naval landing craft are then specified and many pictures are included to show the early versions under test and examination; the early models did not feature the launching ramp that became the most significant part of this fine craft.

    Initially the troops disembarked by jumping off either side of the craft , this was soon abandoned as it was quickly realised that the men would be exposed to enemy fire and the time taken was too long, luckily US Marine personnel had observed and photographed Japanese Landing craft in the far east and so instigated the construction of a hinged ramp at the front. Some very rare photographs are included in this chapter

    A very well written and comprehensive treatise on one of the greatest contributions to the second world war



    One small item of note, the Higgins Boat Company finally ceased trading in 1975, however it lives on as the National WW2 Museum in New Orleans is based upon the site and uses some of the old buildings recognisable from this book.

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  1. Mikal
    A replica made for the film "Saving Private Ryan" has pride of place at the Holmbush Roundabout at Shoreham By Sea. It's showing a bit of wear and tear now.

    Shoreham was also the home to the Landing Craft Association which disbanded a few years ago after their final service on Hayling Island.
      Joshua Slocum likes this.
  2. overopensights
    I remember reading of the major problems of getting the Higgins back from Sicily and Italy after the landings there, and in time to refurbish them and make up numbers required for D Day.