The Best Solution to a Bad Situation
|Wading ashore on D-Day, 6 June 1944.|
There were at least half a dozen reasons why soldiers exited from the front of their landing craft rather than the rear. We'll get to them below, but first, let's learn about the landing craft themselves.
|A drawing accompanying Andrew Higgins' patent application.|
BackgroundFirst, a little background. The United States began World War II without any purpose-built landing craft. That changed quickly. Andrew Jackson Higgins, a Louisiana lumberman who began designing boats for his business in the 1930s, operated in the shallow waters of the Mississippi Delta. Higgins designed boats that rode high in the water and could unload directly onshore, and he began submitting proposals in 1938. His first designs had soldiers disembark over the sides, but this exposed them to fire.
|An LCA abandoned during the Dieppe Raid of August 1942. The British lost 17 of these at Dieppe.|
|An LCVP approaching the coast of Normandy on D-Day (The National WWII Museum).|
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.
That's quite a testimonial.
|An LCVP unloading a Jeep during training in 1943.|
Why Troops Disembarked From the FrontAs mentioned above, it wasn't obvious that troops should disembark from the front of the landing craft. In fact, Higgins' initial designs had them climbing over the sides into the water. Real-world experience, though, showed this was dangerous. After careful study, the Marines asked Higgins to install a ramp in the bows, which he did in the design he submitted on 8 December 1941. Below are the reasons why having a landing ramp in the front was necessary.
|An LCVP disgorges its 36 troops directly onto the beach.|
|An LCVP unloads a Jeep during training in 1944.|
|An LCT Mark 5.|
|Soldiers wanted to get as close to the shore as possible and then run to the cover afforded by the bluffs near the beach on D-Day.|
|The Royal Canadian Medical Corps evacuates wounded Allied soldiers from the beach during the Dieppe, France raid during the Second World War (AP).|
|The second wave of Canadian troops disembarks from landing craft at Juno beach on the Normandy coast, with bicycles, shortly before midday on 6 June 1944. One can clearly see how deep the water gets only a few yards offshore.|
|Even when they disembarked from the front of the LCVP, the troops often had to wade a long way into shore in waist-high water. This is a photo from Omaha Beach on D-Day.|