Since its inception in WWII the Landing Vehicle Tracked has found a place in the US military consistently through present day. The LVT is classified as an amphibious warfare vehicle, as well as a small amphibious landing craft. During WWII, this vehicle was introduced by the US Army, the US Marine Corps and the US Navy. The LVT was initially intended to be used only as a cargo carrier involving ship to shore operations. Not long after they began their service, the military also began utilizing them as assault troop and fire support vehicles.
The history of the LVT dates back pre-WWII. In fact, the concept for the LVT evolved from a civilian vehicle known as the ‘Alligator’, which was developed in 1935 by Donald Roebling. The vehicle was intended to be utilized in swampy areas which would otherwise be inaccessible by car or boat. Two years after his initial design, Roebling had already developed a new design which greatly increased the vehicle’s water speed.
At the same time, the US Marine Corps had been working on developing an amphibious warfare doctrine. An article in Life magazine caught their attention and they approached Roebling and convinced him to rethink his design to develop a craft that would be more seaworthy and could be used by the military. This newly designed vehicle became known as the ‘Landing Vehicle Tracked’. Eventually, an LVT-4 variant was designed with rear ramps for easier embarking and disembarking, which also aided in the vehicle to assume numerous functions.
Once the final design was approved, manufacturing rights were awarded to Food Machinery Corporation, who had previously manufactured some parts for the Alligator. During the war, this Dunedin, FL company became a major defense contractor. With the demand of WWII, three additional factories were constructed and brought on board for manufacturing the LVTs.
Specifications for the LVT 1
- Crew: 3
- Passengers: Up to 30 passengers or 18 fully equipped troops
- Cargo Capacity: Up to 4,500 lbs.
- Weight: 16.5 tons
- Range of Operation: 149 miles on the road; 50 miles in the water
- Speed: 20 mph on land; 7.5 mph in the water
- Main - 2 x .50cal Browning M2HB MGs
- Secondary – 2 x 30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns
The initial WWII Landing Vehicle Tracked was basically utilized as a logistical support vehicle at Guadalcanal. It was also used during the WWII amphibious raid on Tarawa in the South Pacific. The experience from this attack exposed the need for additional armament on the LVT as well as close-in fire support.
Throughout the Pacific theater, the vehicles were mainly used as landing crafts, but some were used on land, much like a tank. By the end of World War II, the LVTs were being used in the European theater. Variants of the original LVT were used by the US military in the Korean War, while others (supplied by the US) were used by the French Army in the Indochina War and the Suez Crisis.
A design that began prior to the inception of World War II continues to find its concept (though many generations later) in use by present day US military.