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The Invention That Won World War II

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tags: military history, D-Day, boats, World War 2



Thousands of flat-bottomed boats plowed through rough seas under cold gray skies. The smell of diesel fumes and vomit was overwhelming as the small vessels lurched toward the beaches. Waves slapped hard against the plywood hulls while bullets pinged off the flat steel bows.

Frightened men in uniform hunkered down beneath the gunwales to avoid the continuous enemy fire. Suddenly, they heard the sound of the keels grinding against sand and stone. Heavy iron ramps dropped into the surf and the men surged forward into the cold water toward an uncertain fate.

It was 6:28 a.m. on June 6, 1944, and the first LCVPs – Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel – had just come ashore on Utah Beach at Normandy. D-Day and the Allied invasion of Europe had commenced.

Less than four months earlier, the patent was issued for those very boats. Andrew Jackson Higgins had filed his idea with the U.S. Patent Office on December 8, 1941 – the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Now these 36-foot LCVPs – also known as Higgins boats – were being manufactured in the thousands to help American soldiers, marines and seamen attack the enemy through amphibious assaults.

Higgins’ creation had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the Normandy landings 75 years ago, as well as many other naval operations in World War II. The vessel’s unique design coupled with the inventor’s dogged determination to succeed may very well have swung the balance of victory to within grasp of the Allies. At least, that’s what President Dwight D. Eisenhower believed. “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us,” he told author Stephen Ambrose in a 1964 interview.
 

Read entire article at Smithsonian.com

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