July 22, 2015 Edition

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Higgins Boat passes
through Lawrence Co.

John Bland

Jack Allison of the Polar Freeze recognized the sound of a big plane the night The Beatles landed at the Walnut Ridge airport on the Friday night of Sept. 18, 1964. This past week, he also recognized a Higgins Boat, when he saw it parked at the Phillips Motel across the street from the Polar Freeze.

President Eisenhower once said that the Higgins Boat was the boat that won World War II, Jack said. Any time you see a boat landing on a beach in a World War II movie, it is the Higgins Boat, he added.

The boats are probably best known for their use in the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach in Normandy.

David Litwiller of Hopedale, Ill., received the Higgins Boat from a friend and was en route from Port Mansfield, Texas, on South Padre Island, to his home in Hopedale, Ill., when he spent the night at the Phillips Motel in Walnut Ridge.

Litwiller said he hopes to get the boat running so that he can give a boat ride to some of his veteran friends, including the gentleman who gave him the boat. He also said Jack and friends in Walnut Ridge could come up for a ride as well.

Jack said the Higgins Boats would hold approximately 30 soldiers or 10 men and a jeep. Most of the boats used in WWII were wooden, while the boat traveling through Lawrence County last week was made of fiberglass.

The Higgins Boats were made in New Orleans, according to information from the website of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Andrew Jackson Higgins owned the small boat company that expanded dramatically during the war. He was best known for designing and manufacturing thousands of LCVPS (Land Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), the special craft designed to carry infantry platoons and jeeps to shore.

"Higgins boats were used in every major American amphibious operation in the European and Pacific theaters, including D-Day in Normandy. Indeed, they were crucial to the success of those operations," states the museum website.

"The Higgins boats broke the gridlock on the ship-to-shore movement. It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages this craft gave U.S. Amphibious commanders in World War II," said Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret), according to a website by Eric Roberts, a Stanford University professor.


Speaking of World War II, outstanding movies related to the war continue to be produced. Three of them include "Unbroken," "The Imitation Game" and "Woman In Gold." Each of the movies, released in the last 12 months or so, had nominations for Academy Awards. Each of them are true and compelling stories.


For more about World War II, see this week's Feature on page 10B. Two Arkansas State University students from Walnut Ridge took a WWII study abroad trip to Europe earlier this summer and shared their highlights.

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