Skip to main content

tv   Lectures in History World War II Amphibious Vehicles  CSPAN  September 4, 2019 10:26am-11:39am EDT

10:26 am
presidency, and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on cspan3. >> live coverage is saturday 9:00 a.m. eastern on cspan. online at, or listen with the free cspan radio app. up next on american history tv lectures in history series, discussion on military vehicle innovations, role of american factories during world war ii. we look at the types of amphibious vehicles used in the pacific and process of testing, production, battle application. it is just over an hour. >> well, good morning, welcome back to history 3290 modern
10:27 am
american military history. and today we're going to continue our conversation about the second world war. and specifically we're going to look at an aspect of the war through the lens of industrial mobilization. industrial mobilization is often understood as a key to allied victory in this war. it is often said the allies win because they outproduce the axis powers. i'm sure many of us heard it, encountered it, you've read it, but one of the problems with that line of reasoning is that if it is simply amount of stuff that produces victory, at the beginning of the war the axis powers possessed more. so the argument about stuff cannot absolutely establish ultimately the trajectory of allied victory because the allies for a long time are deficient in that quantity of stuff. the other aspect of the material
10:28 am
argument if you will, that the allies outproduce, that's understated, oversimplified in almost all literature you consider related to the war, we have no clear sense of how the stuff is built. there are historians of technology that write about particular kinds of technology, but most of the discussions of war assume that technology is built. arrival of weapon systems on scene, aircraft that fly over, or the landing craft that arrive on shore, we assume they're built. and we have very little intricate understanding of the processes that would ultimately as i would ask translate strategic requirements in the battlefield weaponry. more elaborate process than we often considered. today our goal is to then look at an aspect of industrial mobilization, specifically through a case study that i
10:29 am
investigated extensively in navy, marine corps archives and other collections to understand how one particular vehicle which you see on screen, this amphibian tractor, how it was built for the purpose of fighting and winning not only world war ii but specifically world war ii in the pacific. and this is one particular model. in the backdrop, you see a battleship blazing away, troops are being conveyed to japanese held shores on iwo jima, near the end of the war in the pacific. it is my argument that the amphibian tractor, humble box that it was, would ultimately prove indispensable to victory in the pacific. it is the single lar vehicle to deliver troops to shore. among many islands that the japanese possessed in world war ii, if you couldn't get a shore, you can't fight and win if you're an american soldier or strategic planner. so i want us to examine this
10:30 am
case study. the amtrak is the pivot around which allied turned. we'll consider this. to borrow from the notion of the hobbit, we're going to look at from factory to the frontlines, this process whereby folks in the home front, in the navy department, headquarters marine corps, would work in concert with industry to actually build war specific material. and then figure how it works, translate problems, deficiencies and possibilities into revised vehicle designs, operational concepts and we'll see a dialogue between the folks at home and folks overseas. by the way, his tori og ravi, we can consider that the writing of
10:31 am
history. we almost always see pictures of assembly lines assume that's where everything is built. we have seen many pictures like this where there are assembly lines for aircraft being built, heavy bombers, tanks, in this case landing craft on the left of the screen. it really happens there on the factory floor. i want to complicate that a bit today. the other part of this his tore graph cal omission is that we assume things are built. we know they were built. we read the process of construction as logical,
10:32 am
necessary, and assume things will be better. the next model will be better than the previous model. it is obvious it would be that way. in reality, you find there's nothing inevitable about the military construction of an amphibian tractor, nothing whatsoever. in other words, it is up to a variety of factors, contingent forces, and what historians call agents, individuals involved in processes. consider how and where the amtrak would be built. i am giving you a handout already. on the top slide, indicates basically questions here. these are some of the questions that illuminate the process of what i find we're missing in the story of industrial mobilization. often what we overlook are people involved that make critical decisions. when to build, what to build, as
10:33 am
well as the organizations charged with determining such issues as where to build, what to build, how to build it. one of the big questions that starts the process is who envisioned the strategic requirements. such as in the war with the pacific. we all know well already that american war planners, especially eliminating the marine corps, long were anticipating war with japan from the early 20th century. so what do you need to accomplish your strategy? what technologies might you require? whether it be ships or transports or landing craft or in this particular case an amphibian tractor. who determines what's needed. depends in part what their imagination and creativity is, also the realm of the possible seems to be. another question involved in opportunity costs. who would reconcile what
10:34 am
economists call opportunity costs. as awkward a phrase as opportunity cost is, we are all familiar with the basic premise. if you choose to do something, you forego the opportunity to do something else, by virtue of being in class, you're not out snowboarding. whether that's a good decision, i can't say. but nonetheless, in military terms back in say the planning for world war ii, during the war itself, a host of decisions are made. if you build this, you may not be able to build something else. we have to figure out who makes those decisions of what to build, when not to. related to this process of construction, the assembly line we saw a moment ago, the assembly line is invariably called the navy prime contractor, the final assembly center. the assembly line where things are already built in other
10:35 am
locations, such as the transmission, radiator, brakes, machine guns are manufactured in other plants. by whom? subcontractors. in the case of the amphibian tractor, there would be hundreds of contractors for this vehicle. no different for the tank, any variety of tank or aircraft. private contractors assemble these things together, ultimately for use eventually, but there's dozens if not hundreds of subcontractors building constituent parts and relaying them, usually on rail to the final assembly center. before the subcontractors build things, they need raw materials. where do you get copper, steel, all of the essential ingredients to manufacturer brake pads, boxes, steel frame for the
10:36 am
amphibian tractor. where does it come from. know that ultimately the question of sourcing and supply and the process, steps of building is a vastly elaborate intricate, how much harder without the conveniences of say computing technology. people had to make phone calls, write a host of letters. just by way of example, the navy bureau of ships which was responsible, the agency responsible for building the amphibian tractor, for every week of the war, every week of the war there's a folder, a dossier, jacket, more than an inch of written correspondence back and forth between the navy and ancillary organization, between contractors, subcontractors, all sorts of interested parties. that's every week of the war. imagine the vast sea of communications required to build something in one sense relatively simple, a vehicle. you would think it would be simple. but it is being built at precisely the same time as a
10:37 am
host of other war urgent materials and programs are competing for priorities also. you might imagine battleship construction, aircraft carrier construction necessitates certain materials the amtrak could make use of, or aircraft or tanks. who determines who gets what and in what priority. those are essential questions we rarely consider. with respect to the notion of procurement, acquiring things, one of the key terms was bottlenecks. bottleneck, bottleneck. choke points where construction could be derailed for want of a nail or for want of a ball bearing, or a critical component. if certain parts don't arrive on time, the vehicle doesn't get built or finished. so maybe you could complete 90% of it, but if you don't have the other essential components because maybe a factory wasn't able to provide them for want of enough labor, skilled labor, or
10:38 am
enough machine tools or negative raw materials, any of those reasons or all of them, this particular contraption might not runoff the assembly line and reach forces in the field. those challenges are ones that all the war services and all of the warring countries would have to reconcile. some do it better than others, we believe. the united states will do it quite well as complex as it is. part of the reason it is able to do it better is because the home land is not blasted into smithereens. the image in the upper right is a small screen shot of correspondence from the chief of the bureau of ships, the agency challenged with building navy material, war ships and small things such as this tractor. it is informing constituent parts basically that ultimately
10:39 am
food machinery corporation which will be introduced shortly is prime contractor, charged with constructing in mass this amphibian tractor is not going to deliver according to schedule. they have problems afoot and need to resolve them. time and time again, question of bottlenecks appears as contractors were unable to meet the voracious appetites of the armed services for various specialized equipment. another kind of question that's related to building of say a tank or airplane or landing craft or vehicle is who determines how it is going to be used? into which structure does it fit? what's the doctrine that animates its use? how did the services say in the case of marine corps craft, how does the navy understand its use? are the navy and marine corps
10:40 am
relationships formed to make optimal use of the contraption rather than have problems that create deficiencies and maybe death on the battlefield. there's a host of people trying to resolve the questions. how do you train somebody to drive a tank, airplane, amphibian tractor. what does that involve? what kinds of manuals, driver's manuals? who takes pictures of the arrangement of the console, say on the dash where gauges are. such simple things as photographing and building operations manuals is part of the process of industrial mobilization because if you don't have trained crews, they don't know how to work these things. from the minutia of things like a manual to the greater complexity of building in mass, all these questions come to bear when you consider industrial mobilization. and of course, if there are
10:41 am
problems, who resolves them, and at what pace can they be resolved. are they decisions that need to be made at the highest levels or decisions at lower levels, who is responsible. all these questions surface in the arena of mobilization. so thinking about that, let's take a big picture approach. we'll consider a series of requirements, then work into a series of production challenges or puzzle. we'll examine vignettes and deployment. starting with requirements. the big picture part of the puzzle is that ultimately the u.s. navy and marine corps identify they have to cross the pacific ocean in the event of war with japan. expectation as we identified in previous classes was that the american surface fleet would sail westward, engage the japanese navy, hopefully destroy it. we call that war plan orange
10:42 am
ultimately. part and parcel to the big picture approach of crossing the pacific is something the marine corps studied intensely, the problem of bases, basing infrastructure. how do you defend bases like guam, wake, midway, philippines when you expect the japanese forces are probably going to conquer them. how do you defend them. the marines studied this for the early part of the 20th century, up to the 19 teens, and start to reorient toward amphibious assault, not just defending your own base which you probably lost, but fighting to get it back or to conquer new territory. that process of amphibious assault the marines willie lab rate on. talk about pete ellis as a pivotal figure in the 1920s. one of the critical problems was how do you get forces to shore,
10:43 am
ship to shore with combat power. in the age of the machine gun, the british have already discovered in world war i the problems with confronting a heavily fortified beach, in this case, a battle that the british discover to their dismay row boats don't work well in the age of the machine gun. the problem for the marine corps, well into the 1930s, they pretty much have row boats. realizing the technology that they possessed would not permit them to actually accomplish their mission, was a glaring source of concern to all of the marines studying problems of the pacific in the early 20th century. i have focused a little less inset picture of an island or
10:44 am
cluster of islands called tarwa. and in the bottom left is a tiny island. this little tiny island proved absolutely important for the testing of amphibious assault techniques and to progression of american forces across the pacific. in anticipation of that, how do you cross coral reef at low tide. if you have boats, they'll run afoul on the coral. and the coral stretches 400 to 800 yards wide. have you ever run in a bathtub or a swimming pool? how slow the process is, imagine the challenge of climbing out of a landing craft onto a coral reef, in which it still has water on it, these are ocean currents, and having to lumber across the coral reef, drop into the lagoon, that might be in the realm of 8 feet deep right off
10:45 am
the reef. drop into that with a pack and rifle. and somehow manage to hold your breath while you wade ashore. and you're getting shot at by machine guns, mortars and other weaponry. it is a recipe for disaster. so aware of this tactical challenge, cross coral reeves, alerted the marines to study this. the challenge is they weren't able to convince the navy this was a problem. we'll see how that works now. so we can pose this question. how would the navy and marine corps reconcile opportunity costs, marine source restraints to meet requirements for mechanized amphibious assault. after world war i concludes, talked about washington conference, how the u.s. navy was restricted by treaty regulations and prohibitions how big the surface leak could be.
10:46 am
in the midst of that environment, the navy is appreciating how much is evaporating out of their hands in terms of war ship tonnage, marine corps was approached by a designer. he built an amphibian tank on his own dime with the hopes of securing war contracts. you see a marine testing it in the caribbean in the early 1920s. marine corps would have loved to buy one, but for want of a nail, want of a dollar, the navy at this moment was not inclined to spend any money on the marine corps, especially on an innovative, unproven box ultimately. so the marines turned down the opportunity they thought might give defense, create fire power, roll forces ashore. had great hopes for it. but they weren't building it
10:47 am
themselves. would the navy rather build ships like the arizona? in that era marine corps appropriations, budgetary programs, new types of programs were subjected to navy whims. just like walter cristy, another designer not looking to make a buck, already rich, donald rublynn. you see him in the middle, dark pants on close to the fellow in the white. here you have a couple different designs he built, prototypes of what he considered to be a swamp rescue vehicle. where is he living at the time? gulf coast of florida, close to
10:48 am
tampa. and lives in a town called clearwater. the reason he is wealthy has to do with engineering inclinations and aptitude. his family already constructed the brooklyn bridge, they were engineers, inventors, built steel cable suspension systems, pioneered their construction. so young robeling retired to florida. in the 1930s in the midst of the depression, a series of hurricanes stranded them in the middle of swamps. what he came to appreciate is it was difficult for rescuers to drive a truck through swampy terrain, get a boat through man grove root systems. as a result people died that didn't necessarily need to die for want of a rescue amphibian. so he took his own money, invested in building this contraption. earlier models in the backdrop, later models which he would cannibalize and improve continuing designs.
10:49 am
ultimately the vehicle is built for saving people in the everglades, saving people in lake okeechobee, not for military purpose. that's not his vision. so happens that life magazine portrayed a several page display of robeling's contraption, diving off the sea wall into tampa bay, climbing the swamps, around rugged terrain. low and behold, a navy admiral reads it in san diego. that admiral was working with the marine corps some years on landing processes, on amphibious operations, was alert to the possibility the marines could make use of this. what does he do, passes this copy of "life" to a general. he says hey, this might be what you're looking for. what does general little do? sends it to headquarters marine corps in washington, d.c. says hey, we need to investigate this robeling design.
10:50 am
it could be the alternative for the cristy we never built. life magazine opened a new door. ultimately know at precisely th expose. the japanese imperial forces were in the midst of conquering shanghai. to the prospect of war in asia was inflamed at the very moment that to the unresolved problem. the challenge was how do you convince someone to start a war machine if they haven't made it for that purpose.
10:51 am
it was more than happy to talk to the marine corps. but he didn't want to turn the machine into the war machine. he built this for swap rescue, not for carrying soldiers or marines ashore. so he demerited. a year later. and it was obvious that war in europe or war was engulfing europe or parts of africa was stretching across china. he consented to allow the navy and marine core to use his design with the goal of mass producing it. the challenge was he built one. it was to support the weight and
10:52 am
lower it down or whether there's an elevator big enough to help it to basically put it into the sea. the gates of my estate are ten feet. and the gate my garage is opening is ten feet wide. it was a silicon valley designer building or computer in their garage. they built the amphibian tractor. he tested it in a swimming pool, off his beach front estate. it's very much a scratch built endeavor. he doesn't even have blueprints. he contracts with local firms to build other machinery he needs.
10:53 am
he spends a lot of money. with respect to the vehicle, he built one. i highlighted in the bottom of the slide that it is in europe after poland is conquered by nazi forces that they allocate money for the marine core to fire one. over the next year as things darken even more, the bureau of ships will agree to build 200. the challenge he has no clue how to build. he signs the paperwork without any idea of how to make 200 in my garage. the challenge is to deliver on the contract. so pathway for mass production was initiated in part due to the observation of one officer of
10:54 am
something in life magazine. was it inevitable by no means. you could call it chance. ultimately, we need to figure out this dynamic. clearly for 20 years the marine corps made a point it wanted to have something like this. the navy proved him different. by the time of 1941 nazi forces controlled the content of europe. if they are going to find their way in europe again, the american forces will have to fight their way ashore. it's a lot more acute.
10:55 am
is t so happens the budget skyrockets, defense appropriations in the united states go from hovering in the realm of a billion to $6 billionover night. the navy has more to spend. how do you mass produce something. especially when the one design you have has been scratch built in a garage. enter a food machinery corporation. this depicts the operations and the facilities at about the very time. they worked to scratch build some of the parts for the prototypes. now what is fmc? food machinery with head quarters and operations in
10:56 am
citrus places such as florida and california and also pesticide sprayers, you are gags equipment. but has a preexisting relationship. they have a small facility in florida which is is really close to clear water. you have factories. you mass produce things. could you build the machine. the then president of fmc depicted in the upper left saw an opportunity to serve the nation and the interests as well. so he said, sure, we can build this thing. we'll mass produce the landing vehicle track.
10:57 am
they appreciated they had no experience in building vehicles. he has a few key people in the sbril belt. they will hire to develop the techniques and the expertise one would need to build more machinery. one of key miscan sepgss is it's this or that. it's involved in agricultuing a. what's striking about the way it mobilized.
10:58 am
it added to the factory and build amphibian. so the fmc factory would actually build an entirely new factory for amphibian tractor production on exactly the opt sit side of the rail line that ran up to the back of the food machinery corporation. it's always built its factories close to a rail line. that it manufactured, put them on rail cards and ship them away. but in this case, when it got woar contracts t built new factories just on the opposite side.
10:59 am
they had to file certificates of necessity and such. these would facilitate for war purposes. companies that didn't necessarily make war machines could entertain the costs of stafrting a war machine business. with respect to the the production, the navy appreciated to its best interest could never build all of the vehicles envisions. among others they were always the primary lead.
11:00 am
and a whole network of providers too. it was up to the navy to figure out how the system of supply and procurement worked well. with respect to production, one of the challenges in the midst of all of this was could the navy and the marine corps get what they want in the time they needed. in anticipation of future operations. one of the challenges for all industrial operations in world war ii for the united states and other foreign powers was providing the necessary workplaces to create the workforce of workers that can do the work. you can't make enough equipment. so finding the critical resources, human and otherwise, who cob instruct machines was of the utmost importance.
11:01 am
but the challenge for the government as a whole as well as other war government was to identify and not which people to allow to volunteer in the armed forces and not. and in the case of my grandfather and his brother tommy, just before the war, they were working innen an automotive shop. the question is would they have been better served than joining the marine corps. about who not to let serve. whether you work in a creamery, whether you worked in a lumber mill, there are a host of specialized civilian fields that necessitated continuing production. and it's an experience.
11:02 am
ore priorities also. farm tractors will always be one of the top ten programs during world war ii for u.s. war production. ghesic farm tractors. out of the appreciation that you need to feed your own people to keep the war effort functioning. and historians such as richard ovary identified one of the reasons the allies will win world war ii is because they have better formulate their war economies for an endurance long-term affairs by minimizing the hardship of civilians so there's well-fed people, abundant resources and the challenges take a long time to do well both.
11:03 am
can you do it in time? do you have the right people in place. those are ore complexities to the puzzle. how do you foe what you're building is the best thing you could build? this particular photo is actually of another amphibian design. designed by a new shipbuilder, you have heard of him. and the higgins boat would be one of the mainstays. higgins was an industrial entrepreneur. but interested if anything in patriotic and profit-based motivations. not looking to make a buck. but higgins when approached by a
11:04 am
marine core officer. the suspension was problematic. they were prone to overheating these vehicles were. they broke down too quickly. there were a host of deficiencies with the early designs. so when he was discussing these with higgins in new orleans, he said maybe instead of a design because there's so many moving parts in which sand can infiltrate and jam up the roller barings and such. could you build a wheel vehicle. they were investigator iing the
11:05 am
vehicle. the challenge for higgins at this moment has a design. by all reports, the navy and marine corps identify his design as superior. can you switch gears. the navy decided it could not. it will already invested too much in the blueprints and the processes for industrial mobilization. you're not going to solve all of them. but in order to have any quantity, you need to start building. that's precise ly what the bureu of ships will choose to do. to build vehicles they know are deficient, but better than nothing. higgins' designs for all the promise are never built. the reason being is as much as i
11:06 am
would hope to deplace this one, the reason it doesn't is because we couldn't make the shift in philosophy. we couldn't shift gears that much. one of the complexities is not just building final product, but how many spare part dots you need. for every 25 amphibian tractors, you need another one just full of spares to cannibalize and replenish things that were breaking. it's a question of how much investment have you paid into this particular industrial program. they concluded no higgins. i'd like to introduce you to a commander.
11:07 am
we don't hear about the grand tales. we hear about battles such as mid-way or the coral sea or such. but it was ultimately tasked to a desk job state side where he worked for the duration. and what his job was was all e ultimately to be the liaison between the bureau of ships and the other contractors to actually build the amphibian tractor. his job was literally to translit the tragic requirements such as we anticipate that we need 5,000 of these or 10,000 of these vehicles in anticipation of the next campaign season where we're going to rip into the central pacific or march from the southwest pacific forward we need a quantity. it's corporate bosses to ajud daindicate concerns and mass produce such things.
11:08 am
i found by looking through bureau of ship records and seeing his name come up again and again and was intrigued by how he was and reached out with his photograph. the photograph in back is one signed by his boss who was in charge of the amphibian program. you may enjoy sharing with me the satisfaction of these marines. your most outstanding contribution toward developing the alligator and its progeny were the most important factor. so in other words, if it wasn't for you, we don't win. if it's not for the home front and this harmony of translating strategic requirements, the united states doesn't win war in the pacific.
11:09 am
to make sure things were built according to the needs of the service ises identified there are a few other kinds of jobs. these would be navy personnel assigned to factories. with others literally designing these vehicle who is identify what the defects were and more over what they should do about them. maybe six to eight months from now. those are all the kinds of questions at the home front uniformed officers and stral stril li industrialized have to answer. the presumption is lessons learned in the field made a difference in vehicle design. >> you'd hope that would be the case if troops in the field
11:10 am
detected problems with the vehicles or any vehicle or weapon system that their reports would find satisfaction and answers by factory designers to make better models. it's the case with most vehicle designs. the individuals best appreciated the weaknesses were the designers. they knew their ined a aqinadeq. they had to table certain advances they couldn't resolve yet. but for the most we're going to produce that line of the vehicle. so the designers were already anticipating the service needs and the folks in the field would say this vehicle breaks down. it's prone to this. it has this problem. they have filed the detailed reports after major operations. we need more life span and all
11:11 am
of these things. they have already put those improvements into motion in a skrubs subsequent design. there's another group we could call training centers. one built by the estate in florida. where the navy and marine core established their tractor school to teach afrss how to pras these things and prate them well. it's at these training schools where you could imagine in a driver's training car, the transmission and brakes are ruined on immature drivers. and the training centers are the experimental laboratories for beating the snot out of the amphibian tractor and discovering what works well and what doesn't. so collect iively the home front. the training schools and factories themselves had identified practically every material problem with the
11:12 am
amphibian tractor and were already working for solutions that said could you do this please. it might save some lives. it was a particular bat until november 1943. just a three-day battle. but what it represented is america's first assault in the central pacific against heavily defended japanese numbering 5,000 crack troops. the reason was to build a runway to pepper and weaken the next island chain. it's here where they have 125 vooeks they have scratched together. and they discover that's barely enough. the margin of survivability was gr grim. 90 or so of these vehicles were damaged or knocked out by enemy
11:13 am
action. what they did was carry the first three waves of troops ashore. so the tractor had shifted from in the minds of the marines as a truck to carry supplies and could carry troops, but not as an assault vehicle. they shift ed there they fought to overcome. but the life-support has always been that as a result of these after action reports. that ultimately the navy would mass produce these and deliver newer models. they said we could really use some fire power. could you put a tank on some of these. we could use more armor and use
11:14 am
more am tracks. hundreds more. guess what, three months later, they opened the marshal islands. the marines have exactly that afforded to them. they have hundreds more amtraks. they have new models like this one. and in other words they get exactly what they requested. and they are thrilled. people listen to their complaints and uncle sam responded. as i started to investigate that as a possibility, i thought is it plausible that at the end of november, 1943, reports from the central pacific could reach washington, d.c. and spread out to the designers nin these various locations. produce a change in their vehicle design, retool them, make new ones and package them on ships and send them back within three months. train crews how to use these. the answer is is no. truth be known, the vehicles
11:15 am
that armed versions of the marines were requesting were already built, were already at the landing depots or the supply depots on the west coast of the united states it's just they weren't available for this one. but the notion of cause and effect in battle one we don't have them. we asked for them and in battle two, we do. we said something. it had to do with the the fact that these vehicles would take a year to design and build. issues of deployment. one of the challenges throughout this process of designing an entirely new and innovative vehicle was could you make it
11:16 am
work. who would determine if it does work in the ways in which you want it to work. he's one of the first to validate it could work in the sea and deliver marines ashore. he and the sergeants below him were those who tool ed around i this and understood it could be useful. and their reports would have an influence to determine to mass produce it. but one of the unanswered challenges was could this vehicle really work in heavy pacific surf. like the kinds you might see in the surfing competitions in the coast of hawaii. where massive waves could be generated, slamming into coral reeves. the challenge for the marines is they are looking at the central
11:17 am
pacific. and envisioning what the complexities might entail. they wanted to ensure this particular vehicle could withstand the battering damage of heavy wastes and real coral reefs. so he was pulled out of a particular job in the western pacific and reassigned to test the vehicle. and basically his orders were destroy your vehicle. drive it to the point it breaks apart. soo what the limits of they are. how survivable it really is. and he writes about this in his pie yog if i and a few other places. but i had the opportunity. what was that like? he didn't really reveal much about the experience. i tested it in the heavy sur of. he said i was scared to death. tossed around inside the crew
11:18 am
compartment. and they were black and blue and beat ton smithereens, but they validated it could smash into coral and survive. but that report never made it to the forces getting ready. so the forces getting ready conducts their own trials where they basically went through the exact same process. so somewhere along the lines, these reports don't always make it to where they ought to go, but the marine corps would validate the idea that this truck idea could be upgraded. why make it an assault vehicle? because you don't know with my predictability what the tidal depths will be. they could not conclude with distinct determination whether the tides would be sufficient for the higgins boats to cross
11:19 am
or not. if they are not, they are stuck at the reefs edge. it will fall apart. so validating the idea that this vehicle could then be upgraded, armored and ultimately designed to fight ashore. one that individuals would establish. as much as individuals were determining the operational parameters, the tactical ewe uty and usefulness of amphibian tractors was up to the schools. established in hotels. once the navy chooses to mass produce this vehicle, the marine hs to establish a training regimen or program and a battalion.
11:20 am
from that seed bed in which a fellow here one of the most influential historians of this era really decent fellow, but victor was part of the initial battalion. that would as trained officers and crew would be farmed out to be the skeletal staff for a newly forming battalions. they would translate what they learned to the newer units. but it's at the schools they would test the concepts. he has a critical role. just because they are building it doesn't mean he doesn't retain an interest. and he'll sit on the floor with blueprints around him as they are being flushed out to try to find out ways of improving subsequent models. . that was one of the memories he had is a large individual sitting down and thumbing through things to try to
11:21 am
literally figure out solutions with chalk on the floor. but they adapted it to his own with more of a floridian theme, we can say. when these forces are deployed, the battalions that would get established, how would the navy work together to ensure they have the necessary units in place. properly staffed, properly equipped, it was when they would need it. it's a real challenge to orchestrate production. in part because fmc discovered it couldn't provide enough vehicles at any given time. and so collectively, there's an effort to shift and reallocate resources.
11:22 am
toss combine units together in the case of battlefield atrix. as a whole, the senior leadership tried to find the best way of maintaining combat power even when it was unpredictable. one of innovations that amphibian tractor crews developed throughout the war was one of these was to discover that it could be well used an an assault vehicle. another was if you're leading troops in, you can take them out. and they evacuated wounded soldiers and marines. the challenge with evacuating troops on these was is is there going to be a ship with a hospital bay waiting off the coast or not. in some of the early operations. the ships had moved on. they would search around for a
11:23 am
ship that wasn't there. so with a variety of human consequences, they would work to harmonize that. another role that the tractor played that was unanticipated was that in muddy junctigle tern in late 1943 or in okinawa when mud prevented the use of the vehicles, tract vehicles, played a vital role in distributing supplies. so the individuals responsible for defeat iing the japanese identified the amphibian tractor as etspecially useful inland as well as getting to shore to begin with. another role was also what we call fire support. yes, the version with the tank that we saw standing in front of awhile ago, that would be useful for riding to the beach and blasting apart the enemy pill boxes and coastal fortifications where they existed.
11:24 am
but another model we'll see in a moment would provide indirect fire support. but that was up to the initiative to say i think i could inb klein in such a way to function like artillery, but i haven't been trained as an artilleryist. so this cross training purpose was particularly useful. certain island campaigns and battles, tractors like this, the even early model thes say the crew would be allocated. they would harvest in the form of machine guns. to withstand assaults. in a whole variety of ways on land is and sea and interface
11:25 am
between, amphibian tractors proved useful. so i would argue this vehicle would provide a means to an end. it very much would permit american forces to fulfill their tragic ambition, which was to defeat the empire of japan. it allowed to cross coral reeves and do other things on islands and minimize the losses incurred. and just by way of refreshing, in january of 1940, two years before pearl harbor, the navy contracted to build just one of these designs. february of 1941, a year later, the bureau of ships was envisioning 200, but that suggests a limit to its imagination. because shortly thereafter,
11:26 am
contract after contract would be signed between fmc and a host of other providers and construction firms. such that more than 18,000 of these would be built between 1942 and 1945. a variety of designs and models. here's the one with the short barrelled artillery piece. collectively that would suggest diversity and richness of american central mobilization. to scratch build something seemingly out of the air, to mass produce it and to harness its potential as combat power for forces deploying in difficult terrain. roebling for his establishments and contribution would be the recipient of an award by president truman at the end of world war ii for his indispensable contributions to victory in the pacific. subsequently the marine corps acknowledged by giving an acquisitions award in defense
11:27 am
procurement. named after him. so he remains an icon in many ways, but a minor figure as we popularly know him to be. we often see these vehicles, we often see pictures of things in battlefield use, but i would suggest rarely do we think about how they get there and how the concepts for anticipating their use, their organization, the optimizing their battlefield effectiveness are actually developed. this is just the tip of the spear in so many ways. so why don't i close now and open it up to questions. we have about ten minutes or so. >> so what role, and this could be in the pacific, what role did technological superiority play when it came to the combat operations on ward. did that play a significant r e role? it doesn't seem to be the case
11:28 am
that we were ever repulsed as the japanese would have hoped. >> that's a great question. in many ways, the amphibious forces of the united states, whether it be marine or army would demonstrate increased proficiency throughout the war. it provided a lot of lessons about how to do that job better of amphibious assault. it's in concentration of the americans are going to blast them into smithereens. so as american forces become more lethal. in part because of better technology. it chaunnges tactics and wait f americans to come to them.
11:29 am
it's much more of a dialogue for the superiority. the japanese would fight to the point where they are extinguished on practically all the islands. >> the marines on new zealand where they are staging searched for anything that could be st p strapped on or attached or welded on to the front of the hulls. they had a half inch of armor. it was the best they could do. there was a tank at the narrower barrel and then other models of
11:30 am
passenger amtraks that had incorporated armor on them and much more reliable and passengers could arrive better. >> with the higgins design vehicle, did they i know there was something called the duck that was used mostly in europe. was thats bayed on the designs? >> no, but not directly. they are closely interrelated. there's a host of industrial solutions to the problems of floatation and crossing a beach. it was this wheeled amphibian, looks like a boat with wheels. s s there are these tourist operations that still drive ducks.
11:31 am
it was the idea the reef would rip apart the wheels. or that the vehicle could keep churning along. so the duck was one of these vehicles. often as a truck if you will rather than as an assault vehicle. it didn't have the defensive capabilities that the amtraks possessed. >> maybe not easy, but what was the process like if they needed to switch contractors. say he was asked to provide weapons they had to find other
11:32 am
methods. s that problem that as best as you could some of these companies couldn't provide what they pledged to. the way they accommodated was securing contractors that would enlarge their production should another fall short. none of them could change what they were doing on the cuff. as whole, if somebody fell behind t meant that production quota was less than ideal. other questions?
11:33 am
>> so for the case of logistics, how did they find the rough number of projected ship ped thy might need for assault, supply, logistics. kind of a new technology and new field. what were they using as the base? >> initially, they don't have any firm numbers whatsoever. the expectation was on average a bo tallon would have about 95 to 100 vehement vooeks. that could carry a good portion of the assault infantry. wouldn't carry it at all. so ultimately in order to carries one or two divisions, the fellows you need ashore fist that republican you need no less than 500 amtraks.
11:34 am
so realizing not only numbers, but replacements too. so that's where in 1943, you see contracts for more than 3,000 and then that number is doubled again. they are going to take losses. it was focused in the pacific.
11:35 am
>> i know like the marine corps had the sher mans. the marine corps would in the question of prefer a tank as a tank or act fib yan as amphibian, it's not good as a boat and as an armored vehicle. it's both. so its hybrid characteristics meant it was less efficient as a tank. it wasn't configured in the same way a land vehicle could be designed. the two qualities blended together. they take casualties because they are higher than they need to be. be the challenge with the tank is could you get the tank ashore.
11:36 am
>> they would use this on the beach. a lot of the form will have to conclude the questions for the sake of time, but a lot of these models would stay on land. na part because they are not carrying troops around. they would provide that organic indirect fire support artillery role. and the challenge with this particular model and the infancy is in contrast to the earlier model, it's not stabilized. as you can only imagine, bobbing and weaving in the surf, how inaccurate that fire might be, but it has a very powerful round like the marine corps medium tank would. so it could destroy just about anything it encountered, especially in the form of japanese tanks. on that note, thank you very
11:37 am
much. i'll see you on thursday. all week we're featuring "american history tv" programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. lectures in history, american artifacts, reel america, civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy "american history tv" now and every weekend on c-span 3. weeknights this week we're featuring americ"american histo programs as a preview of ones available every weekend on c-span 3. on friday we feature the 400th anniversary of the first africans in virginia beginning by ralph northam. the cureuate tort shares stories
11:38 am
about individuals who led slave revolts and took part in john brown's raid on harpers r ferry. then the history behind the african-american hmuseum in washington, d.c. this is the story of how this whole new economy was built. it was one of public and private partnership in many ways. ways that are sometimes unseen and so this was i think the story is a really great way to get into that. >> the university of washington history professor discusses her book "the


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on