Alligators, Buffaloes, and Bushmasters
The History of the Development of the LVT Through World War II

Major Alfred Dunlop Bailey, USMC (Retired)


The History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, has undertaken the publication, for limited distribution, of various non-official studies, theses, compilations, bibliographies, and monographs, as well as proceedings of selected workshops, seminars, symposia, and similar colloquia, which it considers to be of significant value for audiences interested in Marine Corps history. These "Occasional Papers," which are chosen for their intrinsic worth, must reflect structured research, present a contribution to historical knowledge not readily available in published sources, and reflect original content on the part of the author, compiler, or editor. It is the intent of the division that these occasional papers be distributed to selected institutions, such as service schools, official Department of Defense historical agencies, and directly concerned Marine Corps organizations, so that the information contained therein will be available for study and exploitation.

Alligators, Buffaloes, and Bushmasters was a master-of-arts thesis in history at the University of Utah. Its author, Major Alfred D. Bailey, USMC (Ret.), is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who opted for Marine Corps service and served as a tank and amphibian vehicle officer while on active duty. In 1968-69 he commanded a company of the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion in Vietnam. Major Bailey currently is program manager with an aerospace company and resides in El Toro, California.

The thesis is an exact reproduction of the original submitted to the University of Utah. The illustrations, maps and photographs, are not, as a result, as clear as reproductions from originals would be. [NONT: Where convenient, we have substituted similar maps and photographs from other publications to improve the quality of these images. --HyperWar] The History and Museums Division, however, has copies of all official photographs, other photographs taken by Major Bailey, and maps. These are available for further study at the Marine Corps Historical Center.

The opinion and facts presented in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy. In the pursuit of accuracy and objectivity, the History and Museums Division welcomes comments on this thesis from present and former amphibian tractor veterans as well as other interested individuals and activities.

Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
Director of Marine Corps History and Museums


Alfred Dunlop Bailey

A thesis submitted to the faculty of the
University of Utah in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of

Master of Arts

Department of History
University of Utah
March 1976


This thesis is dedicated to my patient wife who served as my editor- In-Chief and general source of needed encouragement during the writing of the thesis.

Special thanks are given to Mrs. Molly Sherbanee, whose attention to detail and conscientious work were vital in the typing of this paper. A great debt is owed to the LVT Test Branch, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California for their complete support of research activity in their extensive archives.

The generous cooperation of Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Tiffany, History and Museums Branch, Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps, Washington D.C. was instrumental in making available original combat reports used In this work.

The support, encouragement, and excellent criticism of Professor F. Alan Coombs was a Key to the writing and refinement of this paper and his assistance in numerous administrative matters, which arose due to the author's non‹residency in Utah was invaluable to the successful completion of this task.

And a last dedication must go to valiant men -- the crews.


Table of Contents

Acknowledgements iv
List of Illustrations vi
List of Maps viii
Abstract ix
I. Background to Development 1
II. Early Development 25
III. Early Lessons 47
IV. Tarawa 78
V. The Marshalls: The Full Range of Use 102
VI. Saipan: Employment in Mass 151
VII. Traction in the Black Sand 188
VIII. Biggest for Last 215
IX. Successors to the Legend 244
Bibliography 268
Vita 273


List of Illustrations

1. Early Beetle Boat undergoing tests 18
2. The Christie Amphibious Tank 18
3. The Life Magazine article leading to discovery of the LVT 35
4. Side view of the Vickers-Armstrong Tank of 1931-32 36
5. Rear view of the Vickers-Armstrong 36
6. LVT(1)s coming ashore at Guadalcanal 54
7. LVT(1)s approaching the beach on a supply run 54
8. The early test version of the LVT(A)(1) coming ashore 58
9. The Borg-Warner Model A 64
10. The Borg-Warner Model A with turret removed 64
11. The LVT(2) in final form 65
12. An overhead view of the cargo compartment of the LVT(2) 65
13. A training manual photograph of the LVT(A)(2) 66
14. The LVT(A)(1) in final form 67
15. The LVT(A)(1) in rear view 67
16. A training manual diagram on relationship of power train 68
17. The LVT(1) at Bougainville 73
18. Maintenance in the field 73
19. The trusty Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 87
20. A view of the beach after D-Day, Tarawa 92
21. Another grim view of the beach at Tarawa 92
22. The Landing Craft, Infantry (LCI) modified as a gunboat 92
23. The Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) 118
24. The long-range B-29 over Japan 152
25. The LVT(4) and LVT(2) in a floating comparison 158
26. A rear view of the first ramped LVT 158
27. Side view of the LVT(4) with a 105mm howitzer loaded 160
28. Inside view of the 105mm howitzer load 160
29. Side view of the LVT(A)(4) 162
30. Overhead view shows open-top construction of the turret 162
31. The first waves of LVT(4)s head for beaches at Iwo Jima 203
32. LVT(4)s churning for the shoreline 203
33. Two LVTs in action during the early phases of the landing 205
34. Early example of terrible beach litter 205
35. The beachhead in the later stages of development 208
36. Hectic logistic activity in the beachhead 208
37. The Borg-Warner Model B 224
38. Ford Sedan mounting loading ramp of the Model B 224
39. Ford Sedan completely loaded inside the Model B 225
40. Driver's controls of the Model B 225
41. Side view of the LVT(3) 228
42. Rear view of the LVT(3) with ramp lowered 228
43. Front view of the LVT(3) 229
44. LVT(A)(4)s crossing the line of departure 233


45. A platoon of LVT(A)(4)s waiting for orders 238
46. The LVT(3)C 259
47. The LVT(3)C rear view 249
48. The LVT(P)(5) front view 250
49. The LVT(P)(5) rear view 250
50. The LVT(R)(1) front view 251
51. The LVT(R)(1) rear view 251
52. The LVT(H)(6) front view 252
53. The LVT(H)(6) rear view 252
54. The lvt(P)(7) front view 257
55. The LVT(C)(7) rear view 257
56. The LVT(R)(7) rear view 258
57. The UH‹1 Iroquois helicopter 258
58. The CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter 261
59. The CH‹53 Sea Stallion helicopter 261


List of Maps

1. Southwest Pacific Area 48
2. Solomon Islands 49
3. Landings, Central and Northern Solomons, June 1943 to February 1944 71
4. The Gilberts and the Marshalls 79
5. Betio Islet with Tarawa Atoll 80
6. Marshall Islands 103
7. Kwajalein Atoll 108
8. D-Day landings prior to Roi-Namur 111
9. Capture of Namur 122
10. Capture of Roi 125
11. Eniwetok Atoll 132
12. Seizure of Eniwetok 140
13. The Marianas 154
14. D-Day at Saipan 169
15. Landing plan, Iwo Jima 196
16. Nansei Shoto 216
17. Japanese Defensive Positions, 1 April 1945 219
18. ICEBERG (Invasion of Okinawa) Scheme of Maneuver 222



This thesis is concerned with the Marine Corps' actions in the discovery and development of the Land Vehicle Tracked (LVT) through World War II, and focuses on Its use in the Solomon Islands and the Central Pacific. A concluding part deals with post-war development and the future of the vehicle.

In Part I, the involvement of the Marine Corps in amphibious operations is briefly traced from its early days through World War I. Between 1918 and 1940, the Marine Corps forecasted the nature of the next war in the Pacific and acted to create an organization dedicated to developing expertise in the tactical methods that eventually defeated Japan a decade later. This organization was the Fleet Marine Force.

The creation of the Fleet Marine Force stimulated landing exercises and development of amphibious doctrine and highlighted the need for an amphibious vehicle to cross shallow waters and reefs and permit attackers to choose their landing points. No satisfactory answer to this requirement had been found when by accident the Roebling Alligator was spotted in a Life magazine article by a Navy admiral. This vehicle, originally Intended for rescue, eventually became the LVT(1) and was intended for cargo use only.

In Part III, the early combat lessons of Guadalcanal and Bougainville showed the weaknesses in the LVT(1) suspension and track, but also Illustrated the great versatility of the LVT design. Development progressed on the LVT(2), with greatly improved performance, and limited


numbers were used In the landmark battle of the Central Pacific, Tarawa (Part IV).

Tarawa taught the Marine Corps bitter lessons and the subsequent changes In amphibious doctrine remained standard practice throughout the remainder of the war. The LVT(2) demonstrated Its worth as a troop carrier and production moved ahead.

Part V discussed the Marshalls campaign which used the full range of the LVT including the LVT(A)(1), an armored amtrac with a 37 mm tank gun, introduced to provide close-in firepower as the cargo LVTs neared the beach. The LVT(2) and the LVT(A)(1), based on the proven LVT(2) chassis, together helped to capture the Marshalls far ahead of schedule, thus allowing acceleration of the timetable for the attack on Saipan.

Saipan, in Part VI, was the most massive use of the LVTs in the Central Pacific with six battalions of cargo LVT, including the new ramped LVT(4), and two battalions of armored amtracs, employing the new LVT(A)(4) with a larger 75 mm howitzer. The loading ramp represented one of the greatest single design improvements in the history of the LVT.

Iwo Jima, discussed in Part VII, was the Corps' toughest battle. The LVT(4) played a crucial role both as the assault vehicle to carry troops and as the chief logistical vehicle in the battle's first days.

Part VIII examined Okinawa as the largest landing In the Central Pacific drive. The new LVT(3), a redesign of internal arrangements, was used successfully through the long campaign. The LVT(3) and the LVT(A)(4) emerged as the post-war LVT for the Marine Corps.

The last part reviews progress since the end of World War II and predicts the possible successor to the LVT, the air cushion vehicle, in light of the many changes in modern warfare.


Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation