USMC Museum: Landing Craft Display

After discussing the landings on Kwajalien yesterday, seemed fitting to post a few pictures from a recent visit to the National Museum of the Marine Corps just outside Quantico, Virginia.

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This rather dramatic exhibit features an LVT-1 as used in the landings on Guadalcanal and Tarawa (I don’t think they were used after that battle, correct me if I’m wrong).

For the benefit of those not familiar with the LVT story, this vehicle came not from a formal military development project, but from a civilian need to traverse the Florida Keys.  Instead of storming hostile shores, the “Alligator” was to rescue those stranded by hurricanes.  When Marine officers saw Donald Roebling‘s creation in magazines, they saw other applications for the amphibious vehicle.

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The innovative tracks were a feature of the design.  Notice there is not a “shoe” as on most tracked vehicles.  Instead there is a chain, similar to that on a bike, running around the (unsprung) road wheels, idler and drive sprocket.  But I’d bet you are fixed upon those “paddles.”  Instead of some prop assembly with its own transmission drive, Roebling opted to let the track motion propel the vehicle in water.  Worked good, except when moving on hard surfaces beyond the beach.  Later versions of the LVT improved the tracks, offered spring suspension, and provided better mobility.

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The passenger compartment of the LVT-1 showed the civilian roots of the LVT.  The amphibian carried 18 men or 2.5 tons of cargo.  Marines exited the vehicle by going out over the sides (see the foot holds down the side).  While the driver and co-driver had shutters, the vehicle lacked armor.  Note also the ersatz gun mount.  The gunner stands upon an ammo can in order to fire that .50-cal!  And spent casings on the floor!

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And did I say dramatic?  Sort of makes you want to get off the beach, don’t it?   Reminds me of this wartime photo from Tarawa.

I wanted to yell “Medic!” when I saw this guy.

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Overall a very well done display.  If in the Washington, DC area, a visit to the National Museum of the Marine Corps is worth a stop.  Fascinating exhibits at every turn.

For those interested, I did a piece on the Civil War exhibits in the museum last month.

– Craig.

3 thoughts on “USMC Museum: Landing Craft Display”

  1. I was not an amtracker, but I believe that the LVT-1 first saw combat use at the Tarawa invasion. My recollection is that the tracs arrived so late that they weren’t available for preinvasion training but proved crucial in the invasion itself.

    The fringing reef at Tarawa was a major obstacle and there were only enough tracks to carry the first few waves of troops over the reef to the beach. The plan was to have those tracks return to the reef to pick up the later waves, but the exceptionally high casualty rate and mechanical difficulties knocked out nearly all of the available tracks. The result was that later waves of troops had to get off their landing craft at the reef and wade hundreds of yards through heavy fire to the beach.

    The LVT 1 was NOT available for the landing at Guadalcanal. It may have become available for logistical tasks later in that campaign, but I cannot recall any mention of their use in any of the histories I have read.

    1. According to several sources the LVT-1s of the 1st AMTRAC Battalion were part of the initial landings in Operation Watchtower. To be precise, the first combat landings aided by LVTs were at Tulagi, across the sound from Guadalcanal. They were used as prime movers for artillery pieces later in the first week of the action, causing much wear and tear.

      See “Marines Under Armor” by Kenneth Estes.

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