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The LVT is used on D-Day

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by T. A. Gardner, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Historically, the US Army did not use the LVT series vehicles in amphibious assaults in any number. There were a few present at the Normandy landings in use by the USMC and US Navy but these were a mere handful; less than a dozen or so.

    Anyway, what if the US Army had adopted the LVT series and had sufficent to land their first waves on Omaha and Utah beaches along with their use with the Rangers at Point du Hoc? I suspect that had these vehicles been bringing in the troops along with more supporting them with 75mm and 37mm guns that Omaha would have collapsed much faster and with far fewer casualties than occured historically. In several of the draws on that beach the first wave was pinned by little more than sustained machinegun fire. An armored vehicle crossing the beach to unload would have pretty much made that useless as a defense on its own.
     
  2. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I think it definitely would've reduced casualties in the first waves of both beaches. As for Point du Hoc: I'm not sure they would've had any impact; I don't think there was much of a beach there to cross and the Germans still could have shot downwards from the top of the cliffs anyway. I'm also unsure how much they would've helped the overall situation Omaha.

    If they did choose to go across the beach to unload at the seawall at Omaha (and not just dump their load at the shore due to fear of mines), I feel the troops still would've been pinned down at the wall. If this occurred, the troops couldn't do much - it would still come down to the same methods of Bangalores and bloody attacks to get off the beach. The 37mm didn't pack too much of a punch (the 75mm version was created to fix this), and the 75mm howitzer version (with its open-top turret) would've been vulnerable to enemy fire. I think the navy offered the only firepower capable of putting down the defenders. The LVTs probably would've taken out some of the lighter defenses, but the main blockhouses would remain. Then again, if all the troops were pinned down at the wall, and none were on the beach, the LVTs would've made appealing targets for German gunners. Don't forget they were open-topped - a well placed mortar round would take it out. For me, I can't really say if they would've helped the situation that much.

    Bottom line, I feel casualties would've been reduced, but the stalemate at Omaha still would've remained.
     
  3. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    The Marine Corps and Donald Roebling developed the LVT-1, pre-war, from a vehicle Roebling had invented for hurricane rescue work. The original LVT-1 was nicknamed the "Alligator" and was originally used by the Marine Corps for logistical work. The LVT-1 was first used in combat at Guadalcanal and a unit of Marine Corps LVT-1's participated in the Torch landings in North Africa supporting U.S. Army troops.
    The first use of LVT's as assault amphibians was at Tarawa in November 1943. They were used because of the need to land assault troops across the coral reefs surrounding atolls. LCVP's would, and did, ground on the reefs forcing troops to wade ashore. The LVT-2 (alongside LVT-1's) first saw use during the Gilberts campaign, Tarawa and Makin. The LVT-2 was nicknamed the "Water Buffalo" and was the basis for all further LVT versions except for the LVT-3 "Bushmaster".
    The U.S. Army in 1942 recognized the usefullness of the LVT and eventually operated more units than the Marine Corps. In fact the LVT(A)2 was a version of the LVT used exclusively by the U.S. Army. It was the only cargo version to have the (A) designation. It was constructed of armor plate instead of mild steel and had a modified cab and armored louvres on the rear engine deck. The extra weight of the armor plate resulted in a reduced cargo capacity. All late production LVT-2's had the modified cab and engine deck making them externally identical to the LVT(A)2. This results in many people misidentifying later production USMC LVT-2's as LVT(A)2's. The U.S. Army used the LVT in virtually all it's Pacific operations. The LVT-3 was a strictly Marine Corps vehicle, had a rear ramp, and saw action only at Okinawa.
    LVT-4 the most numerous of the LVT series. A Water Buffalo with the engine moved forward to behind the driver's compartment and a rear ramp added.

    Numbers and type acquired by service:
    LVT-1 USMC-540 USARMY-485 Allies-200 Total production-1225
    LVT-2 USMC-1355 USARMY-1507 Allies-100 Total production-2962
    LVT(A)2 USARMY-450 Total production-450
    LVT-3 USMC-2964 Total production-2964
    LVT-4 USMC-1765 USARMY-6086 Allies-500 Total Production-8351

    All the other (A) designated amphibians were Amtanks. Armored with the cargo compartment enclosed and mounting a turret. The LVT(A)1 was an armored LVT-2 chassis mounting the turret and 37mm gun of the Stuart light tank. Other Amtank versions were LVTA4, LVTA5 and LVTA5(M).

    [​IMG]

    LVT-1 Alligators

    [​IMG]

    LVT-2 Water Buffalo

    [​IMG]

    US Army LVT-2 late production or LVT(A)2

    [​IMG]

    LVT-4 in front followed by LVT-2.

    I am undecided as to the utility of using LVT's at Normandy. The LVT was much slower in the water compared to an LCVP (7.5 mph vs. 14mph) and therefore had a longer exposure to the fire from enemy anti-boat guns. There was no reef that needed to be crossed, one of the LVT's biggest advantages. LVT's were normally launched from LST's therefore reducing the number of other armored type vehicles that could be transported. Early war LVT's were carried on the deck of transports, lowered over the side using booms. They then married up with troop carrying higgins boats to transfer the troops to the LVT's, a complicated proceedure.
     
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  4. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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  5. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I have to agree with USMCPrice that using such a vehicle could've reduced the number of casualties on the American side. I can't add anything more for he said it quite well.
    One question though.
    I recall reading several years ago (I can't remember the title) in a library when I was still a student about an American general officer who had served in the Pacific who was later attached to Eisenhower's staff. That officer questioned why the US Army in Europe didn't use the proven equipment that they had used in the Pacific. He claimed in that book that top brass in Europe looked down on their counterparts in the Pacific and referred to him as "consultant", which means a non-entity. According to what was claimed in that book, this was the main reason why the LVT's weren't used on D-Day. Is this true or just an anecdotal tale?
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Alot of it had to do with the Army having a "not invented here" mentality. This permeated the ordinance department in particular and seemingly always has. The USAF had alot of this same sort of thinking up through at least the 80's. I'm sure it was not confined to the US military either.
     
  7. texson66

    texson66 Ace

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    NIH is a universal "reason" for rejecting ideas, concepts, or even hardware. (In defense of the USAF, NIH didn't stop them from using a lot of US Navy aircraft or derivation of such. Examples: F-86, F-4, B-66.)
     
  8. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Thanks TA. I have to admit I didn't consider that factor.
     
  9. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Have pondered this one in discussions elsewhere. The value I see is in two directions. First on Omaha beach the LVT would get the first assualt wave across the beach to the nominal shelter of the shingle or sea wall in two or three minutes, vs the five to ten minutes it took the men to walk or run the distance. This speed vastly reduces the exposure to fire reducing casualties, and the squads or boat teams in each vehical are kept together vs being scattered as they were when crossing the beach.

    Some folks point out the LVT would be vulnerable to the German AT guns. This is correct. At Betio Island in November 1943 the density of Japanese AT guns was similar to that on Omaha beach. There the LVT suffered approx 25% losses running the first assualt wave to the sea wall & returning to the edge of the reef. However the assualt squads delivered in the LVT took far fewer casualties than the following squads that waded ashore across the reef. and, the squads of the first wave were more or less intact when they dismounted.

    So a probable result on Omaha beach would have been the lead battalions reaching the shingle more or less intact and able to begain infltrating into the dunes, bluffs, & German defenses much sooner.

    On Utah beach the possibility is more interesting. If the LVT are retained near the beach then they can be used to cross the flooded area behind the beach after the defenses are cleared. Historically the strong points at the ends of the causeways had to be reduced, and the infantry waded across the flooded areas. Both actions took time. Were the LVT used to remount a couple battalions and cross the flood the German defenses further inland would have been under attack much sooner. This is similar to how the Brits used the LVT to cross flooded fields & tidal marshes along the Adriatic coast in 1945.

    On the British beaches the landings were scheduled sixty to 90 minutes after those on the US beaches. Shallows variously described as reefs, shoals, tidal mudflats, extended nearly a kilometer from the beach itself. The Brits had to wait for the tide to rise enough to float the landing craft across these shallows. With LVT the first wave could have crossed reached the beach sooner accelerating the progress in the Brit sector.
     
  10. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    A better example is Walerchen Island in the Scheldt in late 1944. There the British deliberately broke the dykes on the island to flood about 90% of the interior of it to 4 to 6 feet in depth. This had the effect of:

    1. Denying the Germans access to any basement of buildings on the island as ready-made shelter and cover.

    2. Broke up the German defense because they could no longer easily and quickly move about the island. Instead, the German defense was now in isolated pockets.

    3. Ruined the majority of the German communications system as their field telephone wire was not capable working after of prolonged submersion in salt water.

    The British, well mostly Canadians, landed in Buffalo which they also used to drive inland on the island to take several points of high ground very quickly from the now isolated German defenders. They also were able to cut of the German path of retreat off the island and as a result the German defenses collapsed very quickly.

    Thus, as Carl points out indirectly, the measures Rommel used to flood many fields and low lying areas of what became the Normandy beachheads would have largely been to the detriment of the Germans and the advantage of the Allies were LVT present in fairly large numbers. These swampy areas would have hendered the Germans in moving their troops while allowing the US to simply drive quickly across them against light or no defenses.
     
  11. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    I think he was the ex-commanding general of the 7th ID (I might be wrong). He was transferred from the Pacific to Ikes staff. His advice was totally ignored.
     
  12. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I think you're right. I just can't remember his name. I can understand why he was ignored. Those guys in the ETO have their own amphibious assault experience and they're not about to let some yahoo from the Pacific start telling them how to do things. "I've done something like this before and it worked, so don't tell me how I should do it."
     
  13. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    That was "Lightning Joe" Collins, one of very few people to transfer from one theater to the other; they were almost two separate wars. He commanded 25th Infantry Division in the Pacific and VII Corps in Europe and later became Chief of Staff of the Army 1949-53.

    Footnote, his nephew Michael Collins was command module pilot on Apollo 11, orbiting the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin landed.
     
  14. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Thanks you saved me from searching my book pile. Come to think of it, I'd better review a few stuff. Book reading weekend!:)
     
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  15. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    I'm sure it wasn't Gen Collins.

    I remember it was another general who went by the wayside after the Normandy invasion.

    Of course I could be wrong.
     
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  16. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    That's a very interesting piece of trivia. Thanks!!
     
  17. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    I can see that keeping the squads together would be beneficial, however I do question if it would have reduced casualties. Unlike the Pacific beaches, many of the German defensive emplacements were located on the heights backing the beach. The LVT provided protection from rifle caliber machine gun fire but it's weakness was no overhead protection. While an AT/Anti-Boat gun might knock a trac out, it usually didn't result in a total loss of passengers. Indirect fire, mortars, were a much bigger threat and a hit to the troop compartment often wiped out the whole group. The Japanese used tons of mortars, I'd be interested in seeing data comparing the number of mortars and calibers, employed by the Germans vs. those employed by the Japanese in some of the tougher Pacific landings (Tarawa, Saipan, Peleilu, Iwo, etc.)
    Where I see an additional problem at Omaha is the angle of fire from machine guns. While armor may keep bullets out, if they get in they stay in until they expend all their energy or strike something soft like a soldier. Because of the topography, I see the use of tracs to ferry troops from the waterline inland as actually increasing casualties from machine gun fire due to the angle of fire. The closer to the heights, the more acute the angle and the more likely a burst could be placed into the troop compartment. BTW, P-boats were wooden with steel plating on the ramps and sometimes exterior sides. Since they discharged their troops at the waterline the angle of fire from the heights was less acute and if fire did enter the troop compartment the bullet would more than likely embed in the wood instead of ricochet around.
    I also still believe that the amtracs slower water speed would result in significantly higher casualties between the line of departure and arrival at the beach vs. the use of LCVP's.

    I haven't seen this comparison anywhere before, I'd be interested in your source, not because I doubt it, but because I'd be interested in reading the comparison. I've always read that Tarawa had the highest density of defensive weaponry of any amphibious landing.

    Very true, but that's just the initial wave (actual losses eight of the 87 in the three initial waves were knocked out with an additional 15 so riddled with bullets they sank when they hit deep water). During the first day 72% of the amtracs were knocked out with only 35 of the 125 remaining operational. Another factor that allowed the first wave to get ashore relatively intact was that the Japanese were still pinned and disoriented from the pre-invasion bombardment. The pre-invasion bombardment at Normandy was abbreviated because of the need for surprise, to prevent the germans from shifting forces to counter the landings.
    Tides and high seas are another factor, amtracs don't do well in high seas, they tend to get swamped because of their low freeboard. Their slow water speed causes them to have a problem making headway against any significant tide. The time for H-hour at Tarawa had to pushed back more than once because the tides slowed the amtracs progress towards the beach.

    Good theory. I'll buy into that one.

    I don't think amtracs would have helped make the landings less costly/more successful, with the exception of the crossing the flooded area scenario you mentioned. That is, frankly, one use I hadn't considered and I think has a good deal of tactical merit. I do think that adding amtanks, LVT(A)4 types, would have been advantageous in providing fire support for the landings. Their short barreled 75mm gun firing HE would have been quite useful, they could have filled the role of the Sherman DD's without the swamping problem and with much better performance in the water. They lacked the AP capability of the Sherman but that wasn't crucial during the initial landings.
     
  18. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    One area in particular I see the LVT being highly useful in is bringing in the shore engineering parties charged with clearing beach obstacles. Here, the vehicle not only gives them a means to carry their equipment but, gives them a measure of cover while blowing obstacles and setting charges.

    As for the machinegun fire, most of this would be relavtively flat trajectory if you look at where the actual WS positions that anchored the German defenses are. The presence of machineguns on the LVT (particularly if given armored shields) would also give the crew / passengers a means to fight back. If the incoming can reach, the outgoing can too.....
    Mortars and indirect fire would be far less a problem than direct fire HE or AT guns. Any round that is not a direct hit has very limited fragmentation in water. Accuracy is a matter of luck when it comes to direct hits on vehicles. Also, the German fuzes are not particularly efficent for use against water borne targets for the most part.


    There are some beaches on Omaha where the majority, and almost the entirety, of fire was from nothing more than small arms and machineguns. In those cases I would suspect that casualties would have been far lighter particularly among the beach parties clearing obstacles.
     
  19. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Price... not a lot of time to discuss this. I'll aim at a few points


    Part were, many were located lower down on the slopes to better cover the draws where the exit roads were. From the bluffs there was the advantage of plunging fire, but grazing fire was not practical. I suspect most of the heavy or medium MG and gun bunkers or pill boxes were located down slope to cover the exists with enfilading & grazing fire.

    At Betio the Japanese fired airbursts over the LVT with their 75mm antiaircraft guns.

    What I'm looking at here is the exposure time to fire on Omaha beach for that first wave. One thing I've noticed from both the German & US eyewitness accounts is that the Germans had a standing order not to open fire until the enemy reached the first line of obtacles. By all accounts I've seen the German fire discipline held & the first wave was not attacked on Omaha until the the first men reached the obstacles. At the LVT speed across sand that gave the Germans a maximum of two-three minutes of fire against fast moving targets. I dont see many LVT taking direct hits from mortars in that brief time.

    To reiterate I've not found yet any descriptions of substantial German fire on the lead wave before the disembarked soldiers reached the first obstacles. There is one account I ran across of a soldiers boat being hit before the ramp went down. In that case it is not clear if this boat was in the lead, or if others had reached the beach and disembarked already. After the German fire started many landing craft in the following waves were hit, but the first wave reached the obstacles relatively unscathed.

    At Betio the Japanese opened fire as soon as they could see the troop ships loading the LVT and other craft across the lagoon, 6,000 to 7,000 meters range. That cannon fire continued intermittantly until the LVT came up onto the reef and begain the final 600 to 800 meter leg to the sea wall. Then the fire increased in intensity until was at maximum practical rate from all weapons down to the LMG & rifles as the LVT passed the 200 meter line from the sea wall. Some Japanese survivors describe firing only lightly until the assualt was very close. The Marines describe the defense fires reaching full intensity a minute or two after reaching the reef.

    For Betio I have Col Alexander's 'Utmost Savagery' on my desk. Have read the several USMC historical docs, and a couple other books. 'Bloody Tarawa' by Sammel & Lane is recomended. Sherrwoods eyewitness account is usefull too.

    My take is the weapons density arrayed against the first wave of Betio was denser than on Omaha, but I've not done a itemized count. Have discussed this briefly with someone who tried & their take was the actual number of cannon, mortars, and HMG/MMG firing on the first wave was a little less than at Omaha beach. However, his judgement was of weapons able to fire onto the reef area close in rather than the entire area of the reef crossed by the first wave. Neither was he counting the weapons moved into to the landing area after the preperation bombardment ceased.

    On the Omaha Beach side I've got on my shelf Balikowski's 'Omaha Beach, Hastings Overlord, Ellesbergs 'The Far Shore', Harrisons 'Cross Channel Attack', Hargreaves 'The Germans in Normandy'.

    Thats why I've focused on the effect of the first wave using the LVT. Once they have the first companys to the shingle or seawall the usefullness declines as casualties rise.

    All the sources I have describe the landing force delayed by some fourty minutes. The preperatory fires were extended, but they tapered off & largely ceased by 08:55. The LVT touched the seawall between 09:10 & 09:22 depending on the location. The Japanese survivors described thirty to fourty minutes of 'light fire' and a shorter period of no incoming fire. Warrant officer Ota had pleanty of time to move his section from their bunkers to firing positions facing the lagoon. Others describe companys moving from the south side of Betio to the lagoon side before the LVT crossed the reef. The Marines from Col Shoup on down describe the prep fires as long ceased before they crossed the reef.

    There is a significant difference between the Japanese on Betio & the Germans at Omaha. the latter were heavily salted with the Ossies, the Slavic volunteers. Unlike the Japanese & the Korean construction soldiers those were inclined to return to their bunkers at the slightest incoming fire, surrendered as soon as practical, and in a couple of cases shot their German NCOs or officers

    Not to nitpick, but Alexander describes a westerly current, cross wise to the route from the assembly area to the beach, & a head wind, and the delays while loading the LVT & boats, & assembling them into groups. One of the oft discussed problems at Betio was a lack of noticeable tide. During the three days of the battle the water depth across the reef varied by only six inches to two feet depending on who was measuring.

    At Omaha the 'tide' was following towards the beach. There was a cross current running paralle to the beach which is a related but seperate item.

    Eh? You just described the LVT as vulnerable to swamping in the previous paragraph. Cant have it both ways here.

    Bottom line here is the rifle companys of the first wave at Betio reached seawall relatively intact, after crossing 600+ meters of reef with zero cover against intense fire. The following waves that waded across the reef suffered far worse. Even those which came ashore the next day reached the seawall as a crowd of individuals with severe casualties. They required a hour or more to coalece into effective platoons and companies, much like at Omaha beach. Unlike them the first wave at Betio was able to make multiple penetrations beyond the seawall and create a few meters of depth in the first minutes.

    At Omaha beach were the first wave to reach the seawall intact the likely result is the many more companys are infiltrating through the dunes & up the bluffs during the first hour. Where the assualt companys did reach the seawall as coherent units, there were a couple cases of that happening, they did quickly continue on to the bluffs.

    A second critcal factor is that some of the naval gunfire spotting teams would have survived. The loss of virtually every NGF spot team in the early waves @ Omaha left the assualt with far less effective fire support. it was two hours before usefull target information started coming from the beach. There should have been a spot team directing NGF with each battalion from the first minutes. On Betio enough spot teams survived in the first wave to establish accurate fire support quickly.
     
  20. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    To vary things a bit. WI the Yanks had rejected the DD idea entirely and run in the two battalions on landing craft? That is 60+ tanks cross the water line a couple minutes ahead of the infantry assualt as planned. Rather than straggling in for a couple hours or more after the infantry assualt started.
     

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