Landing craft take center stage during lunchtime presentation

On Wednesday June 16, 2021, LTC (R) Tim Gilhool gave a presentation on landing craft used by the military during WWII (Max Lonzanida, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)

FORT EUSTIS – On June 5 and 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of France began. Many remember scenes of carnage and destruction across ranges guarded by German troops as more than 150,000 Allied troops stormed the bridgeheads of Normandy, France in opening efforts to liberate Europe. This large-scale invasion that occurred 77 years ago and the Allied island-hopping campaign in the Pacific had one common denominator: the use of specialized amphibious landing craft of all shapes and sizes.

These specialized amphibious landing craft and their use during World War II were the subject of a historic display earlier this week at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum aboard Fort Eustis.

The presenter, Tim Gilhool, is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and the Army Combined Arms Support Command command historian at Fort Lee. A crowd of more than a dozen gathered inside the museum’s regimental hall while others stepped in via a socially distant format virtually to uncover the history of lunchtime in the middle. exhibits and historical artifacts that represented the history of the Army Transport Corps.

Gilhool began the presentation by noting the antiquity and noted that “would go back a long way here. Amphibious operations, or the launching of military operations from the sea, are as old as ancient history. In 1350 BCE, documents describing assaults on Egyptian forces by sea peoples exist. He noted the use of sailboats taking attacking armies ashore in the Mediterranean region and the Persian Gulf.

Without doubt, those peoples of the sea shared the same doctrine of placing invading armies on hostile shores with the intention of capturing the territory as modern forces. What they lacked would be replaced light years later by the combustion engine, shallow draft ships, a bow ramp and WWII.

It was at this point that his presentation shifted to using, from this author’s perspective, the acronyms that helped the Allies win the war. These acronyms, LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel), LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized) and LST (Landing Ship, Tank) took center stage. Many spectators were familiar with the Higgins Boat, or LCVP, which took center stage during the carnage and destructive beach scenes that depicted the Allied D-Day landings in the Stephen Spielberg film. Save Private Ryan.

These sturdy, flat-bottomed boats with their iconic bow ramp, allowing for the rapid disembarkation of troops on a disputed beach, were well received by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. In fact, over 23,000 of these boats were built during World War II; and many of the original boats remain today. One of them is on display at the museum, and many spectators have flocked to see the presentation up close.

It is important to note that commissioning amphibious forces required specialized training and execution. Hampton Roads played a role in the training of amphibious forces during World War II. In fact, Clay Farrington, historian emeritus at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, notes the role of the US Navy in the requisition of the Nansemond Hotel in the Ocean View section of Norfolk during World War II.

Farrington writes, in an archived blog post, that “Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt’s actions turned to the nearby Nansemond Hotel, built on the site of a former Nansemond Hotel that had been erected to accommodate visitors to the Jamestown Exhibition of 1907, but burned to the ground in 1920. The 125-room hotel already housed an army squadron headquarters, but that would change after AMPHIBLANT arrived.

Arguably, the requisition of the Nansemond Hotel changed the landscape of what was then sleepy Ocean View into a scene that was more of a military encampment. Farrington noted that tents, barbed wire and armed sentries occupied the exterior of the hotel. On the beach and just offshore, Navy and Army forces trained to land on hostile coasts with the first models of Higgins boats and to disembark from amphibious ships.

Farrington further writes that “the Nansemond Hotel continued to be the site of planning for invasions of Sicily, Italy, southern France, and ultimately Normandy. The hotel finally reverted to its old role as a vacation destination on August 20, 1945.

Gilhool moved the presentation to the innovations made by the Japanese during the interwar period before 1939. This author, somewhat distracted at the time as he checked his camera settings, jotted down Pokémon and ramen noodles in his journalist’s notebook as one of the many inventions that emerged in Japan, albeit well after the interwar years.

Gilhool noted that “the most important thing that they [Japanese] coming up with was the Daihatsu class landing craft. It had a front ramp first developed in 1930. It served as the backbone of Japanese operations throughout the war. By 1939, Japan alone had the doctrine, equipment and forces necessary to conduct amphibious operations. “

It was these amphibious operations that enabled Japan to quickly claim Pacific islands during World War II. It was these same disputed islands that were later seized by the Marines and the Army, both aboard Navy LSTs, attack transports, troop ships, Liberty and Victory ships and countless others. classes of ships. And it was these servicemen who landed on these distant beaches aboard Higgins boats and other amphibious ships in operations recorded in history.

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