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History of the Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) After World War II

Marines come ashore at Inchon, Korea in LVT(3)C amphibian tractor prepared to plant their flag in Seoul, 14 Sep 1950.
Marines come ashore at Inchon, Korea in LVT(3)C amphibian tractor prepared to plant their flag in Seoul, 14 Sep 1950.

The LVT was invented in the late 1930s and the first standardized model, the LVT(1), was introduced in 1941. World War II represented a period of intense development of the LVT as the models evolved rapidly to meet the needs of combat. At the end of the war, the LVT(3) emerged as the standard cargo LVT of the Marine Corps with the LVT(A)5 as its companion armored assault LVT. The post-war period experienced a much slower pace of development and deployment of new LVT models.

A significant modification was made to the LVT(3) during 1949 when its cargo compartment was covered by folding metal doors. The purpose was to block the entry of breaking waves and shield passengers from enemy fire. A small turret mounting a machine gun was also added centered near the bow. The LVT(3)C (the "C" signifying it was covered) bore the brunt of the fighting in Korea, often functioning more in the role of an armored personnel carrier on land than an amphibious vehicle. In the Korean War, the Marines were used as much for their infantry fighting power as for amphibious capability. Instead of short, sharp fights for islands like WW II, the Corps operated nearly continuously on the Korean Peninsula, requiring the LVT to assist on land more than over water.

In Korea, LVT(3)Cs and LVT(A)Ss were used in the 1950 Inchon landing and subsequent Han River crossing to re-take Seoul.

Along with the LVT(A)5, the LVT(3)C performed its duties with efficiency and greater reliability since more maintenance time was generally available than during the hectic days of the major World War II landings in the Pacific. The LVT(3)C remained standard with the Marine Corps until the introduction of the first major post—war design, the LVT(P)5, in 1953.

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

LVT-5 Family of Vehicles

Vietnam-era USMC Landing Vehicle Personnel Tracked (LVTP-5), Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park, Cordele, GA
Vietnam-era USMC Landing Vehicle Personnel Tracked (LVTP-5), Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park, Cordele, GA.

The introduction of the LVT(P)5 family of LVTs represented the fullest expansion of the role of the LVT. In addition to the basic personnel/cargo version, designated with the "P", other specialized variants were researched and factory-built to conform to requirements for particular missions rather than modified later from the basic cargo vehicle. In addition to the cargo LVT(P)5, the series included:

  • LVT(R)1 Recovery Vehicle, with two winches, a welding rig, a crane, and other maintenance accessories to assist other LVTs needing repair or towing. It had a maximum winch capacity with a single line of 45,000 pounds.

  • LVT(C)5 Command Vehicle, provides communications facilities to the unit commander in the mobile mode, a role first attempted on Saipan and one which became very useful through the years. Comunications operators In the command vehicle could send and receive on seven channels,and monitor four additional channels. By contrast, the cargo version of the LVT(P)5 had radio equipment sufficient to send and receive on one channel and listen on two channels. In addition, the LVT(C)5 had space for chairs, tables, and map boards and has been used not only for command during amphibious landings, but also during mobile operations on land.

  • LVT(E)1 Engineer vehicle, fitted with a bulldozer blade with plow blades extending downwards to detonate mines, with the dual mission of clearinq mines and breaching obstacles. It was also capable of firing a rocket-pulled, 350-foot line charge, resembling connected sausage, which would be detonated on the ground after being stretched to its full length by the rocket. The explosion cleared mines by sympathetic detonation in the area of the line charge and cleared a 350-foot lane for a vehicle to pass.

  • LVT(H)6 Armored LVT mounting a standard 105mm artillery piece (used throughout the Marine Corps and the United States Army), with an effective range of 12,000 yards. The LVT(H)6 featured a fully enclosed turret designed specifically for the vehicle rather than an adaptation of an existing tank turret or self-propelled artillery motor carriage. With its standard artillery piece, the LVT(H)6 was routinely used to provide artillery fires once ashore, an outgrowth of the World War 11 experience with howitzer-equipped armored Amtracs.

The LVT(P)5 family of vehicles were the largest and heaviest yet produced and represented the fullest range of LVT capabilities (command, cargo, armored, retriever), yet this advance in technology did not necessarily represent an overall increase in cargo capacity.

Marines from the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines use LVTP-5 amphibian tractors to cross the Cu De River, Vietnam
Marines from the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines use LVTP-5 amphibian tractors to cross the Cu De River, Vietnam.

The LVT(P)5 family was used in combat in Vietnam in a wide variety of roles from normal assault landing (although rarely against significant opposition) to resupply overland and employment in the swampy riverine environment of Vietnam's rivers and delta regions. Although the vehicle was aging during the Vietnam War, its availability remained high throughout most of the war with eighty percent or more remaining operational at any one time due to the complete maintenance facilities and personnel brought into Vietnam for LVT support. LVT operations in Vietnam were characterized by use of Amtrac crewmen as infantry in addition to their duties with the vehicles and from this came the nickname "AmGrunts". The armored Amtrac, the LVT(H)6, supplied artillery fire for LVT operations and for mobile infantry operations winning high praise from the infantry for its versatility and staying power under sustained operations.

LVT-7 Family of Vehicles

AAV7A1 amphibious vehicles swarm ashore during Marine Corps training.
AAV7A1 amphibious vehicles swarm ashore during Marine Corps training.

During the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps, designated after World War II as the action agency for development of new LVTs, commenced design of a new family of LVTs, the LVT(P)7, which began phase-in during the early 1970s. The LVT-6 designation was skipped, no design was ever developed with that name. The design of the LVT-7 -- called the LVT(P)7 where P designates Personnel -- addressed the shortcomings of the LVT-5:

  • Lack of maneuverability in water: corrected by a sophisticated water jet propulsion and steering system which allowed it to literally pivot on its own axis in the water;

  • Ramp location: Moved to the rear; front placement means infantryman must charge into fire when exiting;

  • Slow water speed: Hull shape optimization gives better water performance; 6 mph in the LVT-5 raised to 8.4 mph in the LVT(P)7;

These changes, however, discarded the cargo-efficient boxy design of the LVT-5 hull in favor of the new shape of the LVT(P)7 with diminished capacity.

The LVT(P)7 family of vehicles does not include the diverse variants of the older LVT(P)5. There are no new armored Amtracs and the engineer vehicle, although developed, was not fielded due to budget constraints. The passenger/cargo version; the command vehicle, LVT(C)7, and the retriever, LVT(R)7, constitute the whole new family of the LVT(P)7.

In 1985 the Marine Corps changed the designation of the LVT(P)7A1 to AAV7A1 (Amphibious Assault Vehicle). The vehicle is now considered an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) like the M113 rather than a reef-crossing landing vehicle. Mass landings like in WW II are far less likely in the 21st century; even though the vehicle has not changed, its potential mission profile has.

Post-Vietnam, some functions of the LVT have been taken over by the heavy lift helicopter. The helicopter requires cooperating weather, a shortcoming that will prevent complete replacement of the LVT. The maintenance of the dual capability of landing on the beach against opposition and attacking inland with helicopters represents a desirable mix that will probably be maintained in the future. The all-weather capability of the LVT is a necessary back-up to the weather-sensitive helicopter, but the slow water speed of the LVT leaves it highly vulnerable to modern weapons.

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

The LVT(P)A1 or AAV7A1 probably represents the last of its kind. A new vehicle for the new century is needed to solve the problem of water speed to reduce the time spent in making long runs to the beach. The USMC Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) was intended to be the replacement for the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV7 or AAV7A1) which was first fielded in 1972. The EFV was originally known as the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV). The name changed in September 2003. The EFV was planned to begin production in 2007, at which point the AAV7A1 was over 35 years old. However, further delays with the EFV program stretched to 2011 with full production still years away. In January 2011 it was announced that EFV was cancelled due to budget pressures.

Variants of the Post-World War II LVTs

Additional photos are available on the linked Olive-Drab.com pages.

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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