The sight of a row of Landing Craft, Vehicle Personnels (LCVP) coming in to land on a hostile beach is one of the most familiar images of the Second World War. This incarnation of the Higgins boat was described by Eisenhower as a weapon without which the war could not have been won, and the flexibility that it gave to Allied operations shaped the course of the war.
The LCVP was developed from the earlier LCP(L) and LCV by Andrew Jackson Higgins of New Orleans and replaced all of the earlier small landing craft. It was produced in much larger numbers than any of its predecessors, with a total of 22,492 produced during the war. Most were produced by Higgins Industries, although other manufacturers also made small batches, often distinguished by different ramp designs. At its peak the LCVP accounted for 92% of the entire US Navy inventory of ships and boats.
The LCVP was constructed from wood (a mix of oak, pine and mahogany), with .2in Special Treatment Steel armour on the exterior hull sides and a steel bow ramp that also acted as frontal armour. Most LCVPs were powered by the same 225hp Gray Marine 64HN9 diesel engine as the earlier versions, although once again a number of other engines were used.
The LCVP could carry 36 troops, 8,100lb of cargo or three tons of vehicles. The biggest improvement compared to the LCV was in range – at full speed and load the LCVP had a range of 110 nautical miles, twice that of the LCV.
The LCVP could be lowered from its host ship while partly loaded, but heavy cargos had to be lowered into the boat once it was floating. The cargo well measured 17ft 3in long, 7ft 10in at its maximum width and 5ft high.
Sources disagree on the number of crew carried, with some stating that the LCVP had a crew of three - coxswain, a mechanic/ gunner and a crew hand/ gunner. The two .30in guns were mounted on the aft deck. However the Navy's own landing boat manual, Skill in the Surf of February 1945, gives a crew of four - coxwain, engineer, signalman and crew hand.
The LCVP was used in every amphibious landing of the later part of the war. 1,089 were available for the American landings on Utah and Omaha beaches, with 26 being lost at Utah and 55 at Omaha – losses that were high by naval standards, but sustainable. In many cases the soldiers being carried were able to escape from a sinking LCVP, but vehicles would almost always be lost.
Length: 35ft 9in
Width: 10ft 6in
Draft when light: 2ft 2in
Draft when loaded: 3ft 5in
Light Displacement: 15,000lb
Hoisting Displacement: 18,500lb
Loaded Displacement: 26,600lb
Crew: Four – Coxwain, mechanic, signalman/ crew hand and crew hand (last two also act as gunners)
Engine: Gray Marine 64HN9 six-cylinder diesel most common
Speed: 12kts, 9kts fully loaded
Endurance: 110 nautical miles (126.7 miles) at full load and speed
Armament: .30in M1919 machine guns mounted on aft deck