The federal holiday Memorial Day began in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina by formerly enslaved Africans to honor the dead soldiers of the Union army. Eventually the holiday was expanded and today Memorial Day honors all Americans that currently serve, have served, and of course, those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Being someone who has a keen interest in the WWII conflict (especially enjoying the work of historian Stephen E. Ambrose) I think it fitting on this day to highlight Andrew Higgins, a person of great service to America (and intrigue to me) as the inventor and builder of the Higgins Boat. The landing craft that somewhat famously became synonymous with the industrious man who created it, saw action in every theater in which Americans fought and dramatically altered the outcome of World War II.
Andrew Higgins got his start in business in Louisiana as a wood importer and eventually transformed his company Higgins Industries into a large New Orleans based ship builder. In the 1930s Higgins created a shallow-draft craft for use in the Louisiana bayou called the Eureka boat. After trying in vain to develop its own landing craft in the late 1930s, the U.S. Navy eventually commissioned an adapted Eureka boat from Higgins with a quick deploying ramp-bowed design for use by the Marines. Made almost entirely from wood (to save on crucial war materials) the Higgins Boat could operate in shallow water, easily land its bow and then quickly retract after deploying up to 36 soldiers. The Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) as it is officially known, has since become one of the most iconic and important inventions that helped America win WWII.
Up to 20,000 Higgins Boats were made during WWII and the landing craft served most famously in Normandy on D-Day. Higgins boats were also used much earlier in places like North Africa and Sicily. The Marines used the LCVPs at Iwo Jima and extensively throughout the Pacific theater. Higgins’ legacy remains and should be honored this and every Memorial Day.