The Boat the Won the War...
...An Illustrated History of the Higgins LCVP, from Seaforth Publishing
Title: The Boat the Won the War
Author: Charles C. Roberts Jr
Publisher: Seaforth Publishing
I have long had an interest in the varied landing craft of WW2 so was pleased to see this new book by Charles C Roberts Jr from Pen and Sword Books. Apparently it was Eisenhower who once described the Higgins Boat as 'the boat that won the war'. While I think that might be a question for debate it was certainly one of the contributing factors. Thinking of WW2 there is a tendency to think of equipment being metal, whether they be aircraft, tanks, trucks, guns or naval vessels yet what we have with the LCVP, the Higgin Boat, it was made of wood. Part of the story is about taking traditional wooden boat building methods and adapting them to a production line style of mass production.
The book starts off with the background of the Higgins boat building company, who built shallow draught vessels for the civilian market, also fitted with a 'tunnel' for the propeller shaft that was designed to protect the vessels when it was beached and used by the likes of oil companies working in the shallows of Louisiana. It was therefore ideal for adaptation to Military use though in the early days did not have a bow ramp. Britain was an early customer for these, the LCPL. A significant problem was that troops had to disembark by jumping up and over the sides, exposing themselves to enemy fire. The first ramps at the front were narrow, to allow for troops to disembark but not large enough for a vehicle. It was after seeing the Japanese Daihatsu landing craft in the Pacific which prompted them to try the wider ramp that became standard on the LCVP.
The book details the design and construction of these wooden boats, even including detail of how wood needed to be seasoned/dried to be suitable for boat building, and how the Higgins Company solved the problem of a wooden hull drying out when the boat is out of the water (such as held on the davits of a larger vessel). It needed to be immediately operational when put back in the water, without having to wait for the wood to absorb moisture and close any gaps. Chapter 3 details how they were built and chapter 4 providing more detail on the power plant. In chapter 5 there are more fascinating notes on Performance and Handling, and the training needed for the cox. The final chapter deals with Wartime Service and this even includes the diagrams for various formations used when undertaking a beach assault.
Throughout the book there are lots of illustrations including archive photos, colour artwork, diagrams from manuals and company sales literature and detailed builders drawings. The appendices features annotated drawings and even the extensive list of parts relating to each drawing. The author was apparently involved in the modern day restoration of an original Higgin Boat LCVP and this is testament to the level of detail that went into it. It is a book that will interest the historian, be a fine modellers reference while being invaluable to anyone considering their own restoration project while at the same time I believe interest wooden boat builders and other woodworkers with the techniques employed in the design and construction of these boats.
Finally, another factor to think about is that while the allies built thousands of various types of Landing Craft, and that while the Japanese did employ their own, Germany did not develop any such specialised vessels. Whatever your interest, I heartily recommend this one to add to your bookshelf if you have any interest in WW2 Landing Craft.