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Saturday, February 15, 2014

US Amphibious Vehicles

The fleet of amphibious vehicles assembled by the US during the war was a key element that enabled it to reclaim the occupied territories back from the axis powers. While large troop transports and ships could bring men and materiel across the world, and aircraft carriers could help control the seas and harass the enemy on land and sea, it was these vehicles that enabled them to travel that last short distance to the shore so that the infantry could occupy the land. Having enough of these vessels, also enabled the allies to land troops en masse, which was critical to be able to take and hold a beach head. Over 1000 of them were employed at the battle of Okinawa for instance. After the initial landings, they were also important to ferry supplies in, and carry out the wounded. One noticeable design trade off for these vehicles is that in order to be able to get close to the beaches, they had to be light, which meant that they could not be heavily armored or have a cover on top. Their light weight also made them very susceptible to the effects of a rough sea. It must have been a very long ride and a very tense experience to have to make it ashore on one of these vehicles under fire in a rough sea. In terms of scale models, there are not too many which come already assembled. The ones that I have found are made by BMC and MPC and are borderline between toys and models. Let's check them out. 

BMC LCVP aka Higgins landing craft - Part I
The Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel was a key vehicle used by the allies to land troops and supplies during their amphibious operations in North Africa, Normandy, Italy, as well as the Pacific theater. It was designed by Andrew Higgins and its original purpose was to navigate the Louisiana swamps. It was made out of plywood, which made it quite vulnerable to enemy fire. Later models added a metal ramp which afforded some protection to the men. It was equipped with two machine guns in the back which provided a bit of support. It could carry 36 men or 8000 pounds. The ramp was wide enough that it could also fit a jeep, in which case, only 12 additional men could be transported. It was operated by a crew of 4, and its speed was about 12 knots. Over 20,000 of them were built.

BMC LCVP aka Higgins landing craft - Part II
Here is a view of the MPC LCVP loaded with a few Conte GIs to provide a sense of the scale. It does not quite fit the 36 men that it could carry in real life. Its actual length was 36ft (11m). The sides are also a bit shorter than they would have been in reality.

BMC LCVP aka Higgins landing craft - Part III
A vew from the back. The machine guns are not included in this model. I have seen some customizations of this model in which a couple of matchbox GIs machine gunners have been cut at the waist and added to the boat. They do the trick quite well. 

BMC LCVP aka Higgins landing craft - Part IV
Here is my attempt at customizing the BMC landing craft. I was inspired by a fellow collector and conversion expert Scott Schleh. He pioneered the use of the Matchbox machine gunners as the crew for the landing craft. It does require cutting them at the waist, crafting a gun shield for them and attaching them to the craft. Once they are painted and in place, they do look like they belong there. 

BMC LVT aka Amtrack 
The LVT -Landing Vehicle Tracked- was an amphibious vehicle which could be used both in water and land to deliver supplies as well as to povide combat support for the infantry. It was designed by Donald Roebling. Initial versions were not well armored, but subsequent models included upgraded armor and weaponry. Some even carried 75mm guns with which they could blast at enemy targets even before reaching the beaches. Their open gun turrets however made them vulnerable to shrapnel and small arms fire. As far as mobility, their tracks gave them an advantage over the Higgins boats, as they could move over sandbars and reefs. The LVT could carry up to 4500 pounds or 18 fully equipped men. Over 18600 of them were built during the war and they saw action not only in the Pacific, at engagements such as Tarawa and Iwo Jima, but also in northern Europe and Italy. 

The DUKW, informally referred to as 'Duck', was built on top of the GMC CCKW 2.5 ton truck described above, which meant that it was also manufactured by General Motors. It was used to move troops and cargo over land and water. It was particularly useful for landing operations, playing an important role in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and the Normandy landings among other amphibious operations. Weighing 6.5 tons, it could move at a speed of 50 mph on land and 6.3 mph on water. Over 21,000 of them were built. This model was produced by MPC. It comes unpainted and it's not that well detailed. For instance, some Ducks had a ring-mounted MG. This one comes with three MGs, and no ring-mount. It does have a driver and it also comes with a winch in the back and a hook, to which you can attach a string. This vehicle was probably meant initiatlly as a toy, but given the fact that it is the only DUKW that comes assembled it has become relatively popular. Like other MPC vehicles, once it is painted it will probably look fairly decent.

Click here to see a post about the Normandy Landing Beaches
Click here to see a post about the Marines


  1. Most of these appear to be BMC, MPC

    1. You are totally right! I got the letters mixed up. Thanks for pointing it out!

    2. Youare welcome. I make mistakes like that all the time