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The Higgins Boat: The Best Way to Invade Europe Since the Longship

Posted by Mike Bakke | Jun 06, 2024 | 0 Comments

This article is the fifth in our series on the technology and innovations that came about or were first majorly used during World War II. We will cover a number of incredible inventions in future articles. We also invite you to take a look at our previous articles to learn about microwave ovens, M&M's®, the Jeep, and SPAM. And now, we take a look at the landing craft that brought Allied soldiers to the beaches of Normandy.


When someone imagines the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the picture they often form in their mind are these beaches. However, those landings may have never been possible without the boats that brought the soldiers to shore. Known as the Higgins Boat, the vessel was a significant invention vital to the Allied victory in WWII and was invented by Andrew Higgins in a small boatyard in New Orleans.[i]


Andrew Higgins was born in Nebraska in 1886 but moved to the Gulf Coast once he was old enough to work. While working in the lumber industry, Higgins began designing a boat that could navigate shallow water and carry heavy logs through challenging, debris-laden waterways.[ii] Higgins later bought a small boatyard in New Orleans and began building his innovative vessel, naming it the “Eureka,” and obtaining a patent for the boat hull construction.[iii]


Once Higgins had his boat, he began selling it to the U.S. Coast Guard, where the Marine Corps saw the benefits of the boat and attempted to convince the Navy to adopt its use. While the Navy was initially reluctant, Higgins proved his boat was superior to other designs in development, convincing them to buy his boats and expand on the design.[iv] The resulting designs took the “Eureka” and transformed it into the Landing Craft, Personnel (LCP) and Landing Craft, Personnel (Large) (LCP(L)), then later the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) which became known as a “Higgins boat.”[v]


The LCVP landed troops in Normandy, North Africa, Italy, the Pacific, and the German banks of the Rhine River.[vi]


The LCVP could be configured for different loads, such as 36 combat-equipped infantrymen, a Jeep and 12 troops, or 8100 pounds of cargo, all while maintaining the ability to float in as little as three feet of water.[vii] The unique hull design, protected by Higgins' patent, allowed for the boats to land on beaches without getting their propellers stuck in the sand.


The view from a Higgins boat


Over the course of WWII, Higgins improved and expanded his designs to include a retractable bow ramp, initially seen on Japanese landing craft and later patented by Higgins.[viii] He also designed other types of boats ranging from heavy tank landers to patrol boats. By 1943, nine out of ten vessels in the US Navy were designed by Higgins Industries.


“If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”

- General Eisenhower[ix]


By the end of WWII, Higgins' designs had led to the production of over 20,000 LCVPs and thousands of other types of boats, all of which were eventually referred to as Higgins boats, not just the LCVPs, 1500 of which were used on D-Day.[x] He was eventually named on over a dozen patents and was honored by the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps for his work.[xi] While Andrew Higgins died in 1952 and Higgins Industries closed in 1959, the Higgins boat has made its mark on history and will live on in the minds of anyone who has seen a photo of the Normandy landings.


The story of the Higgins boat has a few major takeaways for intellectual property.

  • Inventions do not have to be limited to one possible use. While Higgins created the “Eureka” to better move lumber in the swamps of the Gulf Coast, they ended up being incredibly important for moving troops to the beaches of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Even if an invention is intended to be used for one application, such as moving lumber, a well-written patent can allow for protection in a number of fields and uses.
  • Changes to a patented invention may themselves be patentable. In Higgins' case, he already had a patent for the hull construction of his boats but adding a retractable bow ramp allowed him to get another patent for the new design. As long as a variation or improvement is new and not an obvious change to make, it may also be patentable. This can allow for a patent owner to create a patent portfolio with a group of similar products all receiving their own patents.


How Gallium Law Can Help

Get ready to drop the ramp and storm the beaches of the patent system. We are here to help you, whether you are someone who thinks they might have invented something or someone who has spent years developing your creation and is ready to explore your intellectual property options. To get in touch with us, please fill out this online form or call us at 651-256-9480 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

*The information in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied on. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is meant as a starting point in your search for answers to your legal questions.

About the Author

Mike Bakke

Mike Bakke is a Registered Patent Agent at Gallium Law. Mike previously completed projects for Gallium Law as an independent contractor before being hired onto the team in 2023. While in graduate school, as well as during his time as an independent contractor, he also worked as a contractor at Sh...


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