AEgis model Dutch LCU
The Landing Craft Utility, or LCU, is a general-purpose landing craft used to move vehicles and personnel from offshore amphibious assault ships to unprepared shores. AEgis’ model represents the Netherlands LCU L9525 Mk2, which is used to land vehicles as large as tanks, from one of the large Dutch Navy amphibious ships, such as the LPDs: HNLMS L 800 Rotterdam, L801 Johan de Witt, or the Joint Support Ship A833 Karel Doorman.
Although seemingly rather straightforward and unsophisticated, the ability to design a fast-maneuverable boat which can carry a load right up to the shore, unload through a bow ramp, then having protected the propeller from damage, be able to pull itself off the beach and turn around before being capsized by a wave to head back out for another load, was once in doubt.
Thank goodness for illegal liquor!
From 1920 until 1933, the United States implemented a constitutional ban, on the production, importation, and sale of what was colloquially then known as: hooch, coffin varnish, horse liniment, panther sweat, rotgut, white lightning, tarantula juice, shine, snort, bootleg, strike-me-dead, moonshine, or just plain booze. Despite the law, importation continued in order to supply a hardly diminished public demand for same. Primarily, it came by sea. At first, adventurous amateur boat owners looking for some excitement and some really good money, became the first of what was known as the ‘Rum Runners’. Large vessels parked offshore outside US territorial limits, known as Rum Row, offloaded to smaller boats for the run to shore.
Organized crime and the US government moving to push the US territorial limit to from 3 to 12 miles offshore however soon pushed out most of the independents.
The US Coast Guard was charged with intercepting the flow from offshore, and for many years was underequipped, under staffed, and poorly funded for this new mission which fell into their laps.
In the late 1920s Gulf Coast entrepreneur Andrew Jackson Higgins was transitioning his failing lumber business into boat building. One particular design of ‘Higgins Industries’ was optimized with a special ‘spoonbill’ bow, shallow draft, and protected propeller allowing it to operate among the fallen trees, sandbars, and flooded thickets of the Louisiana swamps. These boats were dubbed the ‘Eureka boats’ by Higgins. Despite supplying these unique boats to the fur, and oil, and lumber companies that operated in the resource rich Mississippi delta, sales were not proving enough to sustain Higgins business. Fortunately, the same features that made Eureka boats optimal for the swamps, made them ideal for bringing cases of liquor to the beach…
Higgin’s designs included high speed racing boats, which modified for load carrying, also proved popular with the rum runners. Seeking government contracts, Higgins offered to build faster boats for the US Coast Guard for use in pursuing the bootleggers, and was thus successful in being paid to build boats to supply to both sides of the ‘Rum War’. Higgins experience in designing and producing these blockade runners and pursuit boats, in addition to keeping his company afloat through the depression era, would later prove valuable in winning contracts to produce high speed PT (Patrol-Torpedo) boats for the US Navy during the war.
In 1937 a young Marine lieutenant, Victor H. “Brute” Krulak, who was stationed in China at the time, had the opportunity to observe troops of Imperial Japan involved in an amphibious landing. Krulak and his photographer were able to document a type of landing boat used by the Japanese that was superior in performance to those of the US Navy, then based on Atlantic fishing boats designs, which Krulak had seen in use in a Marine exercise at San Clemente earlier that year.
When Krulak returned to Quantico in 1939, he set out to investigate whether the Navy had made any progress on an improved landing boat based on the reports he had sent home, only to find the Navy had no interest in his findings. The Navy was continuing to build designs that could not get close enough to shore to keep troops from having to climb the steep sides of the boat only to jump into water over their heads.
Krulak built a balsa model of the type of boat he thought the Marines needed, and showed it to the father of a Naval Academy friend, General Holland Smith, who happened to be in charge of Marine amphibious training for the East coast. Smith made Krulak his point man in procurement of a landing craft for the Marines.
In 1941, Krulak met with Higgins, already known to the Marines for the impressive performance of a militarized version of his ‘Eureka’ boat, the LCP, which he had provided to the Marines for exercises in 1939.
Krulak showed Higgins the photos he took of the Japanese boats, and Higgins was able to modify the Eureka boat to accommodate the ramp-bow. Despite numerous objections and roadblocks thrown down by a stolid navy bureaucracy, the performance of the Higgins boat, dubbed the LCVP, was so superior that it won the day.
One of the key features to the LCVP’s remarkable performance, was how the bottom of the boat transitioned from a shallow “V” in the front, ideal for deflecting obstacles and good seakeeping, to an inverted “V” at the back which protected the prop and prevented cavitation.
Fortunately, in addition to Higgins design genius, he was also a production genius. By September 1943, the Navy owned 14,072 vessels – and 12,964 were Higgins designs. In all, 23,000 LCVPs were produced, in addition to additional designs to land vehicles (LCM-3) and PT boats.
The LCVP was a key element to every significant amphibious operation in the war. The Higgins boats landed troops in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, southern France, and Normandy, the landing which forced even Hitler to grudgingly recognize Higgins as “the new Noah”.
In the Pacific, the boats saw action in the Solomons, Tarawa, Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Brute Krulak said, “No one can overstate Higgin’s contribution to the war”.
In fact, it was none other than General Dwight Eisenhower who said, “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.”
Andrew Jackson Higgins
USCG vs Rum Runners
Scott Booth Bio:
Scott Booth Bio: Often found mucking about with 3D content development for visual simulations, or occasionally small UAS simulation. Usually found in the company of: salty NCOs, (yeah, you Tony), pilotsall types, gun nuts, manned space flight advocates, old car/truck/jeep fans, Sci-Fi readers, military historians, genius software programmers who like corny jokes, rocket scientists, dark beer drinkers, type-A sales guys, and other related near-do-wells. Experience – 30 years visual simulation content development, company co-owner-founder – CG2 1995- 2004, Small UAS simulation, AEgis-Vampire, Raven operator license, class 11-008, 2011. Visual recognition expert, aircraft, armor, ships, subs, small arms, amateur military historian and shade tree auto mechanic.