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Landing Vehicle, Tracked (Armored) LVT(A) in World War II

708th Amphibian Tank Bn. crew stands by their LVT(A)1 Amtrac, with 37mm gun turret
708th Amphibian Tank Bn. crew stands by their LVT(A)1 Amtrac, with 37mm gun turret.

The development of the first LVTs, devoted to carrying cargo and troops, is described here: Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) in World War II. The early LVTs were a big advance over landing from boats, but more was needed to support landings against prepared defenses guarding the beach. As a result of the experience at Tarawa in the Gilberts, standardized armor kits were provided for the LVTs employed in contested landings, and the gun-armed "Amtanks" LVT(A)1 and LVT(A)4 were developed to provide fire support. However, they did not completely eliminate the need for tanks. Since the armored LVTs had to remain amphibious, they were not as heavily armored nor as agile on land as a purpose-built tank. When M4 Sherman tanks were available, the greater power, protection and track width of the medium tank made it the vehicle to overcome the terrain inland.

Development and Operational History of the Armored LVT

A turreted version of the LVT had been planned from the earliest discusions in the late 1930s. The idea was for an amphibious tractor that was armored and had a mounted gun like a light tank, providing firepower for the leading waves of the landing force. The armored LVT had the mission of keeping the beach defense pinned down until the invasion force reached the beach. Drawings of such an LVT were prepared as early as January 1940, but no action was taken until after a recommendation by the Commandant of the Marine Corps in June 1941, setting a requirement for a turreted, armored LVT with a 37mm tank gun and three machine guns. The Morse Chain Company Division of Borg-Warner was brought in to assist in redesign of the Roebling LVT(1), but after Pearl Harbor a complete redesign was ordered. The LVT(A)1 was born from this effort, based on the proven LVT(2) chassis developed by Food Machinery Corp. (FMC), with the powerd turret adapted from the M3 Stuart Light Tank housing the gyro-stabilized gun.

The armored LVTs of World War II had five variants:

  • LVT(A)1
  • LVT(A)2
  • LVT(A)3
  • LVT(A)4
  • LVT(A)5

The LVT(A)1 entered production in April 1943. The LVT(A)2, also produced in 1943, was an Army-requested armored variant of the LVT(2) cargo Amtrac that did not have a turret, but could carry 18 troops. The LVT(A)2 had clear plexiglass windows for driving, an armored hatch, driver periscopes, and self-sealing gas tanks. The LVT(A)3 was an armored version of the LVT(4), but was never produced. The LVT(A)4 appeared in 1944, with the turret and gun from the 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8 plus a machine gun on a ring mount. The LVT(A)5 was substantially the same as the LVT(A)4, but with a powered turret, gyro stabilizer for the howitzer. It was produced in 1945, but the war ended before the LVT(A)5 could be employed.

On 31 January 1944, the Marshall Islands were invaded, for the first time using the full range of LVTs including the armored LVT(A)1 with its 37mm tank gun, providing close-in firepower as the cargo LVTs neared the beach. Rapid victory in the Marshall Islands, helped by the LVTs, allowed acceleration of the timetable for the attack on Saipan, in the Marianas. Saipan, on D-Day 15 June 1944, was the most massive use of the LVTs in the Central Pacific, with six battalions of cargo LVI, including the new ramped LVT(4), and two battalions of armored Amtracs, employing the new LVT(A)4.

Landing Vehicle, Tracked LVT(A)4 at Iwo Jima, February 1945.
Landing Vehicle, Tracked LVT(A)4 at Iwo Jima, February 1945.

At Iwo Jima (D-Day 19 February 1945), the landing was spearheaded by sixty-eight LVT(A)4s providing armored Amtrac support to four battalions of cargo Amtracs (about 400 total) for the landing and subsequent logistics support. As the first wave approached the beach, there was an armored Amtrac every fifty yards across the 3,500 yard front. As planned, once ashore, the Amtrac was able to function in the black sand of the Iwo Jima beaches, where wheeled vehicles could not. Iwo Jima was the first use of LVTs on an island that did not have a coral reef.

The armored LVT on Okinawa (D-Day 1 April 1945) was used for the first time in large numbers to deliver artillery fire reinforcing conventional artillery, a use which became a cornerstone of post-war doctrine and one which is totally compatible with the LVT(A)4 75mm howitzer design capabilities. The assault gun role of the LVT(A) was required during a landing until tanks came ashore to assume direct-fire infantry support.

For the history of the LVT following World War II see the linked Olive-Drab.com page.

Characteristics of the Armored LTVs

 LVT(A)1LVT(A)2LVT(A)3LVT(A)4LVT(A)5
Weight32,800 lbs27,000 lbs 39,460 lbs39,460 lbs
Payload1,000 lbs6,950 lbs 9,000 lbs9,000 lbs
Height121 in.97 in. 122.5 in.122.5 in.
Max Speed (Water)6.5 mph7.5 mph 7.5 mph7.5 mph
Max Speed (Land)25 mph20 mph 20 mph20 mph
Fuel Capacity104 gal.110 gal.   
Range (Land)125 mi.150 mi 150 mi.150 mi.
Range (Water)50 mi50 mi 75 mi.75 mi.
Track Width14.25 in.14.25 in.   
Armament37mm + 3x .30 mg2x .30 or .50 mg 75mm + 1x .50 or 2x .30 mg75mm + 1x .50 or 2x .30 mg
Units produced510450Not produced1,890269

All of the armored LVTs shared these common characteristics:

  • Length: 313 inches (28 ft., 1 in.)
  • Width: 128 inches (10 ft., 8 in.)
  • Ground Clearance: 18 in.
  • Turning Radius: 30 ft.
  • Engine: Continental W670-9A 7cly, radial, aircooled, gasoline, 262hp@2400rpm, torque 584lb-ft@1800rpm.
  • Transmission Speeds: 5 forward, 1 reverse.
  • Armor Plate: 1/4 in. to 1/2 in.

Material on this page primarily adapted from "ALLIGATORS, BUFFALOES, AND BUSHMASTERS: THE HISTORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LVT THROUGH WORLD WAR II" by Major Alfred Dunlop Bailey, USMC (Retired), History and Museums Division, HQ USMC, Washington, DC, 1986 (PCN 19000319000)

Recommended Books about Tracked Landing Vehicles (Amtracs)

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