higgins boat

USS Gillis (AVD-12) tending Higgins type motor torpedo boats (PTs) of Motor Torpedo Squadron 13, in Casco Cove, Massacre Bay, Attu Island, Aleutians, 21 June 1943. Note the PBY Catalina flying boat astern of Gillis.

Where's Waldo in World War II?

Is he on Crete, fighting German paratroopers?
Is he in a Higgins boat, landing at Omaha Beach?
Is he in a Spitfire, fighting the Germans during the Battle of Britain?
Is he in a B-17 Flying Fortress?
Is he helping the Polish take Monte Cassino?
Is he fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad?
Is he in the Maori Battalion at Second Alamein?
Or perhaps he’s on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier!
Where, oh where, could Waldo possibly be?

“Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal” by Bernard D’Andrea

On September 27, 1942 Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro was in charge of ten boats assigned to land Marines ashore on Guadalcanal near the Matanikau River.  The landing was successful and Munro moved his boats to a previously determined rally point.  Upon reaching the rally point, Munro was informed the Marines ashore had come up against an enemy force larger than expected and were in dire need of evacuation or they would be killed.  Munro did not hesitate to volunteer for the mission.  Munro brought his boats right up to the beach under heavy enemy fire and proceeded to evacuated the Marines.  As the Marines reached the boats, Munro realized the last men off the beach would be in danger without cover, so the Guardsman maneuvered his boats so they could provide cover for the Marines, Munro manning one of the guns.  It was during this time that Munro received a fatal wound.  Reportedly, he remained conscious long enough for his last words to be “Are they off?”

Munro was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.  The citation reads:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on September 27, 1942.  After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore.  As he closed with the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy’s fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese.  When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach.  By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished.  He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country.”

3

The Boat That Won the War

The invention of small “Higgins” boats that could transport military equipment to the beaches without the use of wharves or docks was crucial to the strategy of D-Day.

In a 1964 interview, former President and Supreme Allied Commander of D-Day Dwight D. Eisenhower frankly said:

“Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us.”

Images:

“Lighter for Mechanized Equipment” by Andrew Jackson Higgins, Feb. 15, 1944. United States Patent 2,341,866.

Higgins Boat, Camp Edwards, Massachusetts.  

More on the Higgins boat in the new immersive D-Day exhibit from the National Archives on the Google Cultural Institute.

5

An Immersive Exhibit of D-Day and the Normandy Landings

“D-Day and the Normandy Invasion” is an exhibit in the Google Cultural Institute that explores wartime photos, moving pictures, audio, and documents from the largest amphibious invasion in history.

Declassified cables, reports, and maps that were critical in planning the invasion are set against high resolution photos taken by combat photographers. The exhibit features over forty multi-media items including:

  • The military conclusion signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin to choreograph a “cover plan to mystify and mislead the enemy…”
  • The patent for the strategically important “Higgins” boat that would transport military equipment to the beaches. 
  • The audio recording of General Eisenhower delivering his “Order of the Day” for Allied Forces.

D-Day on the Google Cultural Institute

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Miles off of the Normandy coastline, thousands of ships drop anchor and prepare landing craft for launch. Troops unloaded from transport ships into LCVPs and LCAs in anticipation of H-Hour.