LVT(A)-4 amtank at Iwo Jima beach, ca. February/March 1945.
|Weight||40,000 lb (18,000 kg)|
|Length||26 ft 1 in (7.95 m)|
|Width||10 ft 8 in (3.25 m)|
|Height||10 ft 2.5 in (3.112 m)|
|Crew||6 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, assistant driver, AA machine gunner)|
|Armor||0.25 inches to 1.5 inches (6 to 38 mm)|
|1 × 75 mm M2/M3 Howitzer|
|3 × .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine gun|
|Engine||Continental W-670-9A; 7 cylinder, 4 cycle, radial gasoline
|Transmission||Spicer manual transmission, 5 forward and 1 reverse gears|
|Fuel capacity||106 US gallons|
|200 km (road), 120 km (water)|
|Speed||40 km/h (25 mph), in water 11 km/h (6.8 mph)|
The Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) is an amphibious warfare vehicle and amphibious landing craft, introduced by the United States Navy. The United States Marine Corps, United States Army, and Canadian and British armies used several LVT models during World War II.
Originally intended solely as cargo carriers for ship to shore operations, they evolved into assault troop and fire support vehicles. The types were known as amphtrack, "Amtrak", "amtrac", etc. (portmanteaus of "amphibious tractor"), and "alligator" or "gator".
The LVT had its origins in a civilian rescue vehicle called the Alligator. Developed by Donald Roebling in 1935, the Alligator was intended to operate in swampy areas, inaccessible to both traditional cars and boats. Two years later, Roebling built a redesigned vehicle with improved water speed. The United States Marine Corps, which had been developing amphibious warfare doctrine based on the ideas of Lt. Col Earl Hancock "Pete" Ellis and others, became interested in the machine after learning about it through an article in Life magazine and convinced Roebling to design a more seaworthy model for military use.
Both the US Navy and Roebling resisted the idea of a military design, the US Navy because it felt conventional landing craft could do the job, and Roebling because he wished his invention to be used only for peaceful purposes. Roebling was persuaded after war broke out in Europe, and completed a militarized prototype by May 1940. The Bureau of Ships requested a second prototype with a more powerful engine, and the USMC tested the design in November 1940. Impressed by the second prototype, the Bureau of Ships placed a contract for production of 100 units of a model using all-steel construction, for a more rugged and easily produced design, and the first LVT-1 was delivered in July 1941. Another 200 units were ordered even before the first production units were delivered. After more improvements to meet requirements of the Navy, made difficult by Roebling's lack of blueprints for the initial designs, the vehicle was adopted as "Landing Vehicle Tracked" or LVT.
The contract to build the first 200 LVTs was awarded to the Food Machinery Corporation (FMC), a manufacturer of insecticide spray pumps and other farm equipment, which built some parts for the Alligators. The initial 200 LVTs were built at FMC's Dunedin, Florida factory, where most of the improvement work had been done as well. The first production LVT rolled out of the plant in July, 1941. Later wartime LVT production was expanded by FMC and the Navy to four factories, including the initial facility in Dunedin; the new facilities were located in Lakeland, Florida, Riverside, California, and San Jose, California.
The LVT-1 could carry 18 fully equipped men or 4,500 pounds (2,041 kg) of cargo. Originally intended to carry replenishment from ships to shore, they lacked armor protection and their tracks and suspension were unreliable when used on hard terrain. However, the Marines soon recognized the potential of the LVT as an assault vehicle. A battalion of LVTs was ready for 1st Marine Division by 16 February 1942. The LVTs saw their first operational use in Guadalcanal, where they were used exclusively for landing supplies. About 128 LVTs were available for the landings.
As early as January 1940, Roebling had prepared preliminary sketches of an LVT with a gun turret to provide fire support to the landing waves. The concept languished until June 1941, when USMC recommended development of an LVT armed with a 37mm gun and three machine guns and armored against 0.50 (12.7mm) machine gun fire. Development was slow and ultimately involved a complete redesign of the LVT, the LVT-2 Buffalo. Armored versions were introduced as well as fire support versions, dubbed Amtanks, which were fitted with turrets from Stuart series light tanks (LVT(A)-1) and Howitzer Motor Carriage M8s (LVT(A)-4).
Among other upgrades were a new powerpack (engine and cooling accessories), also borrowed from the Stuarts, and a rubber "torsilastic" suspension which improved performance on land. After Borg-Warner evaluated the LVT-1, Borg-Warner and FMC began work on new designs. FMC was assisted by faculty from Caltech and the University of California and developed the designs that became the LVT-2 and the LVT(A)-1. Interest in the LVT was enough that the Secretary of the Navy formed the Continued Board for the Development of the Landing Vehicle Tracked on 30 October 1943.
Production continued throughout the war, resulting in 18,616 LVTs delivered. 23 US Army and 11 USMC battalions were equipped by 1945 with LVTs. British and Australian armies also used LVTs in combat during World War II.
In the late 1940s a series of prototypes were built and tested, but none reached production stage due to lack of funding. Realizing that acquisition of new vehicles was unlikely, the Marines modernized some of the LVT-3s and LVT(A)-5s and kept them in service until the late 1950s.
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USMC LVT-1s were mainly used for logistical support at Guadalcanal. LVT-1 proved in this campaign its tactical capabilities, versatility and potential for amphibious operations.
As LVT-1s were unarmed the Marines decided to arm them using any available machine gun. Each one was armed with three .30-caliber machine guns (sometimes water-cooled models) and a .50-caliber machine gun. Organization of LVTs of the Amphibian Tractor Battalions for the assault:
In the amphibious assault on Tarawa in late 1943 the LVTs were first used for amphibious assault in order to negotiate the barrier reef and arrive to the most heavily defended beaches the Americans ever met in the Pacific. This was also the first usage of the LVT-2 Water Buffalo in combat. 2nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion LVTs took part in the first, second and third waves of landings, and carried the continuous supply of ammunition, reinforcements, and ferrying back of the injured. Of 125 vehicles used (50 new LVT-2 and 75 LVT-1), only 35 remained operational by the end of the first day. Still, a number managed to successfully ferry men and supplies across the coral reef and through the shallows to the beach.
2nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion had only about 75 LVT-1 and 50 LVT-2 (directly shipped from San Diego) available for the assault, and most of the troops had to disembark from LCVP "Higgins boats", and wade across the reef chest-deep or higher water while under heavy enemy fire. American casualties were very heavy and many who made to the beach alive had lost their rifles and other essential gear.
After Tarawa many changes were made. The USMC recommended that a battalion of armored LVTs, two companies of DUKWs and two battalions of cargo LVTs be assigned to each division in future amphibious operations. The number of LVTs by battalion was increased to 300; before Tarawa it was 100. Due to mechanical reliability problems after every landing the Marines replaced all LVTs used in operations.
As a result of Tarawa experience, standardized armor kits were provided for the LVTs to be used in contested landings. Other improvements were made in the damage repair area, machine gun shields and also in the LVT design, to increase crew and LVT survivability.
The gun-armed "amtank" LVT(A)-1 and LVT(A)-4 were developed to provide fire support. Armed with a 75mm howitzer, the latter was introduced in 1944 just before the Marianas campaign, and was especially effective in this role as it was capable of destroying Japanese fortifications as it came ashore. Its howitzer complemented the 75mm gun of the Sherman tanks used by the Marines. However the LVT(A)-4 had an open-topped turret which left the crew vulnerable to artillery and infantry attack, especially to the latter, as it lacked any sort of machine gun armament. The lack of machine gun armament was eventually rectified, though the open-topped turret remained in order to save weight. Although usually used in a direct role during landings only (once inland the "amtanks" were assigned to artillery formations to augment their firepower), in the Marianas campaign "amtanks" were employed inland, much like regular tanks.
In November 1943 US Marines landed on Bougainville Island. 29 LVTs were landed on the first day, with a total of 124 LVTs operating with the Marines during the landing.
In the campaign for the Marshall Islands the full range of the LVT models became available, including armed Amtrac LVTs based on the proven LVT-2 with a tank gun turret. This provided close-in firepower as the cargo LVTs neared the beach. The combination of armoured cargo LVT-2 and the armed LVT(A)-1 together helped to capture the Marshalls far ahead of schedule.
Saipan saw the massive use of the LVTs by the USMC with six battalions of cargo LVT, including the new ramped LVT-4, and two battalions of armored Amtracs, employing the new LVT(A)-4 with a 75mm howitzer.
From the Peleliu campaign on, a number of LVTs were fitted with a flamethrower for use against fortifications. The LVT was usually flanked by a pair of gun tanks for protection. A number of LVTs were converted to armored ambulances carrying a doctor and three corpsmen. LVTs were also employed as guide boats for tanks unloading onto submerged reefs.
The largest use of LVTs was in the Leyte landing in October 1944, with nine US Army amtrac and two amtank battalions deployed by US Army 6th Army. These US Army LVTs were later used in other Philippine islands landings.
The LVT-4 played a crucial role both as the assault vehicle to carry troops and as the chief logistical vehicle in the first days.
This was the largest landing in the Central Pacific drive. The new LVT-3, a redesign of internal arrangements, was used successfully through the long Okinawa campaign. Over 1000 LVTs took part in the Battle of Okinawa.
In Europe LVTs were mainly used for landings and river crossing operations as well as assaults in swampy zones. By the end of 1943, 200 LVT-1 had been delivered to the British Army for training, in preparation for future operations in Europe. The U.S., British and Canadian armies used the Buffalo in the Battle of the Scheldt (1944), during the Operation Plunder crossing of the Rhine, along the Po River in Italy, across the river Elbe, and in a number of other river crossing operations.
LVTs were used in the Normandy landings, but their use by the United States was limited as the US Army doctrine in Europe viewed the Sherman DD as the answer to assault on heavily defended beaches. LVT-2s were used to help unload supplies after the landings on Utah Beach, from the cargo ships off the coast to the beach and through the nearby swamps.
For the Rhine crossing the British 21st Army Group had some 600 Buffalos available, most of them used to transport the assault infantry. As mud was expected to hamper the Sherman DD tanks, some LVTs were armed with a 20mm cannon and two machine guns to give fire support until bridges could be constructed across the river. The "Specials" were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division (which operated all specialist assault vehicles), that also provided Buffalos fitted with "Bobbin" carpets to create temporary roadways over the mud.
The US Army used LVT-2s and LVT-4s in Europe in small numbers in 1944-45 for river crossing operations. LVT-2s and LVT-4s were used by US troops on the Roer River crossing in 1945. US army LVT-4's were also used by 752nd Tank Battalion to ferry 88th Infantry Division troops across the Po River in Italy in April 1945.
Five LVT-4 were supplied, through Lend-Lease, to the Soviet Red Army which used them when assaulting the well-defended west banks of the Oder and Danube rivers.
The first operational use of the LVT in North Africa was in November 1942. A small number of LVT-1 were used during the landings on the coast of North Africa during Operation Torch. Four LVT-1 and two bulldozers were assigned to each shore party engineer company. Their tasks were towing vehicles and boat salvage operations. LVT-1s proved useful in getting stranded landing craft afloat, but on the other side they experienced too many mechanical failures.
Some of the reconnaissance units of the British Fourteenth Army in Burma operated LVT-1s. They should have fought the Japanese on the Burmese coast at the end of 1943, but this part of the operations plan was cancelled and no LVT-1s were used in combat.
In 1945 Royal Marines Amphibious support unit was created. Its LVT-4 and LVT(A)-4 supported Royal Marines landings in Burma and Malaya.
In Korea, LVT(3)Cs and LVT(A)s were used in the 1950 Inchon landing and subsequent Han River crossing to re-take Seoul. It was also used in the evacuation of Hungnman Harbout when Chinese forces attacked. The LVT(3)C was used by USMC in Korea in the role of an armored personnel carrier on land and as an amphibious vehicle.
Nationalist China forces used some LVT-4s and LVT(A)-4s in China's civil war. Many were captured by Chinese communist forces.
French armored units developed the use of amphibious tracked vehicles in Indochina: The amphibious C model of the M29 Weasel (armed either with Chaterrault M1924/29 or Browning M1919 machine guns and with 57mm M18A1 recoilless guns), LVT-4s (equipped with two 0.50 and two 0.30 machine guns and sometimes equipped with 40mm Bofors guns or 57mm recoilless guns) and LVT(A)-4 (with 75mm howitzer) were used to great effect by 1er Régiment Etrangers de Cavalerie. In 1950 French Army started to receive LVT-4s and LVT(A)-4s from the US to supplement M29cs. In September 1951, first mixed unit (1er Groupement Autonome) was created, consisting of two squadrons of Weasels (33 each), three squadrons of LVT-4 (11 each) and one fire support platoon of 6 LVT(A)-4. Later a second group was created in Tonkin when more LVTs were received, this one had several LVT-4 that had been rebuilt in the navy repair yards in Haiphong to carry a 40mm Bofors gun and two machine guns. Both these groups participated in Mekong and Red River delta operations and in landing operations on Vietnam shores. LVTs were known as "alligators" in French armed forces.
In 1956 Royal Marines 40 and 42 Commando made an assault landing in Port Said using their available LVTs, 16 LVTs of which 15 worked, supported by a number of centurion tanks from the Royal Tank Regiment. French Navy assigned 13 LVT-4 to the Force H, to be used by 1ère compagnie du 1er R.E.P. and 3eme Marine Commando in their Port Fuad assault.
At the end of the war the oldest LVT versions were disposed as surplus and sold to other countries. Only LVT-3 and LVT(A)-5s remained in operational use in US armed forces.
A couple of LVT-3s were assigned in 1943 to Arctic Expedition, after being modified to operate in cold environment.
In the 1950s LVTs still in service were replaced by the LVTP-5 family of vehicles, which in turn were followed by the LVT-7 family, eventually redesignated AAV. The AAV is manufactured by BAE Systems Land and Armaments, which was the first company to produce the LVT (as FMC).
In 1958 the US Navy tested the largest LVT ever produced, the LVT(U)X2 Goliath produced by Pacific Car and Foundry. The Goliath was large enough to transport any load the conventional LCU could carry, including a 60-ton main battle tank, from a landing dock ship to shore and across beach barriers. Only one Goliath was built and it never became operational.
Currently, many of the world's militaries employ more modern versions of the amtrack. One of the latest is the now cancelled United States Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that was slated to begin replacing the AAV in 2015 but was cancelled in 2011 after going significantly over budget.
The US Army used a different naming system from the Navy. Instead of using the usual Army system of Model or M-numbers, they referred to the LVTs by Mark number using Roman numerals rather than Arabic numerals. Hence the LVT-4 was the "Mark IV" (which was not the same as the "M4").
The first military model. Traveling at a respectable 6 knots in the water and 12 mph (19 km/h) on land, it could deliver 24 fully equipped assault troops to the beach, and supply supporting fire from two .30 cal M1919 Browning machine guns though it was only intended for delivering supplies inland until wheeled vehicles could be brought ashore. It was powered by a 146 bhp six-cylinder petrol engine, mounted in a housing in the rear cargo hold. The LVT-1 was propelled on both land and water by tracks which were fitted with Roebling patented oblique shoes that gave good grip on land as well as good drive in the water. Apart of the forward Driver's compartment the bulk of the unarmoured steel hull was given over to a 4,500 lb payload cargo hold which was divided into several watertight compartments. 1,225 LVT-1s were built between 1941 and 1943, 485 were transferred to US Army and 200 to British Army. LVT-1 had a maximum speed of 12 mph on land or 6.1 mph in water; and a range of 210 miles on land or 60 miles in water.
No armor or weapons were included in its design as its role was cargo transport from ship to shore. Many vehicles were refitted prior to the Tarawa landing to hold two .50 cal (12.7 mm) Browning heavy machine guns forward, with the .30 cal guns aft. The vehicle was not armored and its thin steel hull offered virtually no protection, although prior to Tarawa some vehicles received 9 mm of armor plating to the cab. Tracks performed well on sand, but not on tough surfaces. The rigid suspension threw tracks and roller bearings corroded in salt water. Proper maintenance of the new machine was often an issue, as few Marines were trained to work on it, and early models suffered frequent breakdowns. As LVT-1 vehicles experienced many breakdowns they were gradually phased out of operational use before 1945.
This was an improved version of LVT-1. It featured a new powertrain (To save time and to simplify production it was the same as that in the M3A1 light tank) and torsilastic suspension. The aluminium track grousers were bolted on, making changes much easier since they wore out quickly on land and even more so on coral. Hard terrain performance was much better compared to the LVT-1. 2,962 units were produced for the US Navy, who then proceeded to transfer 1,507 to the US Army and 100 to the British Army. With a maximum speed of 20 mph on Land (or 7.5 mph on water) and an operational range of miles on land (or 50 miles on water) the LVT-2 could carry a payload of 6,950 lb.
LVT-2s participated in more campaigns that any other LVT variant: Tarawa, Roi-Namur, Cape Gloucester, Northern Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Europe.
The first infantry support LVT. With the first experience of Pacific amphibious operations it was clear heavier firepower than the usual .50 cal guns was needed. Based on the LVT-2, A standing for armored, this fire support version had an armored (6 to 12 mm) hull. It was fitted with a turret nearly identical to that of the Light Tank M3, with a 37 mm Gun M6 in an M44 mount, and also carried two rear-mounted machine guns. 509 units produced. The vehicle's hull was covered in 6-12mm of armor plate, and the vehicle was powered by a 262 bhp air-cooled petrol engine. Despite the limitations imposed by the turret it could still carry a limited payload of 1,000 lbs of cargo and had a quite respectable speed of 25 mph or land and 6.5 mph in water, and an operational range of 125 miles on land or 75 miles in water.
These vehicles were intended to provide fire support to the assaulting Marines in the early stages of establishing a beachhead. It was common, however, for the LVT(A)s to commence firing whilst still in the water, which, considering the amount of naval gunfire which usually accompanied a landing, may have been a waste of ammunition.
At Roi-Namur, the 24th Marines had support of LVT(A)-1s, but they could not close up enough to effectively support the troops from the beaches. Other LVT(A)-1s supported the 22nd Marines landing at Engebi. By mid-1944 all LVT(A)-1s had been replaced by much more capable 75mm gun armed LVT(A)-4s.
Armored version of the LVT-2 following US Army request of an armored variant of the LVT-2 cargo Amtrac. Service in the South Pacific soon indicated more protection was needed. This version had the driver's cab protected by 12.5 mm of armor plate, and the rest of the hull with 6.5mm armor plate. By 1944, shields were added to protect the front gunners. Surprisingly the extra weight (27,000-lb total weight compared to the 24,250-lbs weight of the unarmored LVT-2) had no impact on performance and only increased the craft drawing some 5 cm more water when afloat. Capacity 18 troops. 450 units produced.
FMC modified an LVT-2 in August 1943 by moving the engine forward and adding a large ramp door in the rear, allowing troops to exit from the rear of the vehicle. Capacity went from 16 in the LVT-2 to 30 making earlier LVTs largely obsolete. This innovation also greatly facilitated the loading and unloading of cargo. Some vehicles received armor kits. It was by far the most numerous version of the LVT, with 8,348 units delivered; the US Army received 6,083, and the British Army 500. Many of the British LVT-4 were armed with a 20 mm Polsten cannon and 2 × .30 in (7.62 mm) Browning machine guns.
Since no major changes were made to the engine and transmission of the LVT-2 the LVT-4 was completed much quicker than the LVT-3, with the first machines going into action at Saipan in June 1944.
The Sea Serpent was designed by the 79th Armoured Division for use by the British in the Far East. Its armament was two "Wasp" flamethrowers and a machine gun. These would have been used by the "flame battery" of the 34th Amphibian Support Regiment, Royal Marines in any assault on the Japanese mainland but the war ended before they were used.
Armored version of the LVT-4, never approved for production.
Developed by the Borg Warner Corporation as their Model B in April 1943. To allow for rear loading, the engines were moved to the sponsons and a ramp installed in the rear, and slightly wider to provide room for a Jeep to be carried in the cargo hold. Some received armor kits. First used in combat in Okinawa in April 1945. 2,962 units produced, with many remaining in US service until 1955 when they were finally superseded by the LVTP-5. Powered by the same twin 148 bhp Cadillac V-8 petrol engines and transmission of the M5 light tank, it could carry a payload of 9,000 lbs or 30 fully armed soldiers. It performed with efficiency and greater reliability, as more maintenance time was generally available than during the hectic days of the major World War II. The LVT(3)C remained standard with the Marine Corps until the introduction of the first major post—war design, the LVT(P)5, in 1953. Overall weight of the craft was 26,600 lbs, and the maximum speed was 17 mph on land (or 6 mph on water), and the operational range was 150 miles on land (or 75 miles on water).
The 37mm gun of the LVT(A)-1 was inadequate for fire support version so the turret of the 75 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8 - armed with a 75 mm howitzer - was used to produce the LVT (A)-4. In some cases the 75 mm was replaced with the Canadian Ronson flamethrower. A single .50 cal machine gun was installed on the ring mount above the turret rear. In the late production vehicles the heavy machine gun was replaced with two M1919A4 .30 MGs on pintle mounts and one more in the bow mount. 1,890 units produced, and 1,307 were transferred to US Army and 50 to British Army.
The Chinese PLA captured several from Nationalist forces during the Civil War and placed them in service, eventually modifying some with the 37 mm M6 tank gun (?) in place of the 75 mm howitzer and others with the ZiS-2 57 mm anti-tank gun, complete with shield, the conversion necessitating the removal of the original mantlet as well.
LVT(A)-4 with powered turret and a gyrostabilizer for the howitzer. Some were upgraded in the late 1940s by changing armor configuration. 269 units produced.
Modified LVT-3. Armored roof was fitted and the bow was extended to improve buoyancy. Armament included .30 MG in a turret and .30 bow MG in ball mount. 1200 LVT3s were converted.
A British vehicle based on the LVT-4 and known as the Neptune. Only a handful of the 2,000 ordered were completed. The Sealion was a recovery version, and the Turtle a workshop version.
War Department Jan. 1945
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