The Landing Vehicle Tracked
was a class of amphibious
vehicles introduced by the United
World War II
. Originally intended
solely as cargo carriers for ship to shore operations, they rapidly
evolved into assault troop and fire support vehicles as well. The
types were all widely known as amphtrack
etc., a portmanteau
This article focuses on the first generation of designs produced in
the World War II era.
The LVT had its origins in a civilian rescue vehicle called the
. Developed by Donald
in 1935, the Alligator was intended to operate in
swampy areas, inaccessible to both traditional cars and boats. Two
years later, Roebling built a redesigned vehicle with greatly
improved water speed. The United States Marine Corps
had been developing amphibious
doctrine based on the ideas of Lt. Col. Earl
Hancock "Pete" Ellis
and others, became interested in the
machine after learning about it through an article in Life magazine
and convinced Roebling to design
a more seaworthy model for military use. After more improvements to
meet requirements of the Navy, the vehicle was adopted as
Landing Vehicle Tracked
, or LVT
The order to build the first 200 LVTs was awarded to the Food Machinery Corporation
a manufacturer of insecticide
pumps and other farm equipment which built some parts for the
Alligators. Eventually the company became a prominent defense contractor
, United Defense
(now part of BAE Systems Land and
The LVT 1 could carry 18 fully equipped men or 4,500 pounds
(2,041 kg) of cargo. Originally intended to carry
replenishments from ships ashore, they lacked armor protection
and their tracks and
suspension were unreliable when used on hard terrain. However, the
Marines soon recognized the potential of the LVT as an assault
vehicle. Armored versions were introduced as well as fire support
versions, dubbed amtanks
, which were fitted with
turrets from Stuart series light tanks
(LVT(A)-1) and M8 HMCs (LVT(A)-4). Among other upgrades were a new
powerpack, also borrowed from the Stuarts, and a torsilastic
improved performance on land.
Production continued throughout the war, resulting in 18,621 LVTs
delivered. In late 1940s a series of prototypes were built and
tested, but none reached production stage due to lack of funding.
Realizing that acquisition of new vehicles was unlikely, the
Marines modernized some of the LVT-3s and LVT(A)-5s and kept them
in service until late 1950s.
A prototype during testing,
LVT-1 exhibited by manufacturer (FMC)
in 1941 parade, Lakeland, FL.
The LVT-2 Water Buffalo loaded with
Marines bound for the beaches of Tinian Island.
- LVT-1 (1941)
- The first military model. Traveling at a respectable six
knots in the water and twelve mph on land, it could deliver 24 fully-equipped assault
troops to the beach, and supply supporting fire from two .30 cal. machine guns.
vehicle was not armored and its thin steel hull offered virtually
no protection, although prior to the Tarawa landing some
vehicles received 9 mm armor to the cab. Tracks
performed well on sand, but not on tough
surfaces. Proper maintenance of the new machine was often an issue,
as few Marines were trained to work on it, and early models
suffered frequent breakdowns. 1,225 units produced.
- LVT-2 Water Buffalo, British designation
Buffalo II (1942)
- Featured new powertrain (taken from the M3A1 light tank) and
torsilastic suspension. Hard terrain performance was much better
compared to the LVT-1. 2,962 units produced.
- LVT(A)-1 (1942, A stands for armored)
- Based on the LVT-2, this fire support version had an armored (6
to 12 mm) hull. It was fitted with a turret nearly identical
to that of the Light Tank M3, with a
37 mm Gun M6 in an M44 mount, and also
carried two rear-mounted machine guns. 510 units produced.
- LVT(A)-2 Water Buffalo (1943)
- Armored version of the LVT-2. Capacity 18 troops. 450 units
- LVT-4 Water Buffalo, British designation
Buffalo IV (1943)
- The engine was moved forward and a large ramp door was added to
the rear, allowing troops to exit from the rear of the vehicle.
This innovation also greatly facilitated the loading and unloading
of cargo. Some vehicles received armor kits. It was by far the most
numerous version of the LVT, with 8,351 units delivered. Many of
the British LVT versions were armed with a Polsten 20 mm cannon and 2 x .30 cal Browning
- LVT-4(F) Sea Serpent - British version armed
- Armored version of the LVT-4, never approved for
- LVT-3 Bushmaster (1944)
- Developed by the Borg Warner
Corporation, this vehicle had engines moved to sponsons and a
ramp installed in the rear similarly to the LVT-4. Some received
armor kits. First used in Okinawa in April 1945. 2,964 units
- LVT(A)-4 (1944)
- Another fire support version, with 75 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8
turret armed with a 75 mm howitzer, in some cases replaced
with the Canadian Ronson
flamethrower. A single .50 cal machine gun was installed on
the ring mount above the turret rear. In the late production
vehicles the heavy machine gun was replaced with two M1919A4 .30
MGs on pintle mounts and one more in the bow mount. 1,890 units
- LVT(A)-5 (1945)
- LVT(A)-4 with powered turret and a gyrostabilizer for the howitzer. Some were
upgraded in late 1940s by changing armor configuration. 269 units
- LVT-3C (1949)
- Modified LVT-3. Armored roof was fitted and the bow was
extended to improve buoyancy. Armament included .30 MG in a turret
and .30 bow MG in ball mount. 1200 LVT3s were converted.
- Amphibian, tracked, 4-ton GS (1944/45)
- A British vehicle based on the LVT-4 and known as the
Neptune. Only a handful of the 2000 ordered were
- Sealion - recovery version.
- Turtle - workshop version.
This LVT-1 was put out of action by
enemy fire on Beach RED 1, Tarawa.
were mainly used for logistical support at Guadalcanal, up until the development of the LVT-4 version
which allowed for embarkation and disembarkation from a rear ramp,
greatly improving combat utility by allowing the passengers to
dismount from the vehicle much more quickly.
LVT-4 approaches Iwo Jima.
versions had no such means of entry or exit,
usage of the LVT in combat was during the amphibious assault on
125 vehicles used, only 35 remained operational by the end of the
day. Still, a number managed to successfully ferry men across the
coral reef and through the shallows to the beach. Marines who
arrived in LCVP
Higgins boats, on the other
hand, could not cross the reef and had to wade through chest-deep
or higher water while under enemy fire; casualties were horrific
and many who did make it to the beach alive had lost their rifles
and other essential gear. Despite their
apparent utility however, the LVT-4 was too lightly armoured for
combat, and the open crew and passenger compartment resulted in
serious injuries from both machine gun fire and shrapnel. The
operation also revealed the need for close-in fire support, which
the Amtracs lacked.
As a result of Tarawa experience, standardized armor kits were
provided for the LVTs employed in contested landings, and gun-armed
"amtanks" LVT(A)-1 and LVT(A)-4 were developed to provide fire
support. Armed with a 75 mm howitzer, the latter was
especially effective in this role as it was capable of destroying
Japanese fortifications as it came ashore. However the LVT(A)-4 had
an open-topped turret which left the crew vulnerable to artillery
and infantry attack, especially to the latter as it lacked any sort
of machine gun armament. The lack of machine gun armament was
eventually rectified, though the open-topped turret remained.
usually used during landings only, in the Marianas "amtanks"
were employed inland, much like regular tanks.
largest use of the LVTs was in the Leyte landing, with nine amtrac and two amtank battalions deployed.
As there was no
fighting on the beaches, this is also one of the least famous LVTs'
operations. Over 1000 LVTs took part in the Battle of Okinawa
Although usually associated with the Pacific
, toward the end of the war LVTs were employed in Europe
as well. The US, British and Canadian Army used the
Buffalo in the Battle of the Scheldt, during Operation Plunder, along the Po River in Italy,
across the river Elbe and in a number of other river crossing
Some LVT-3Cs and modified LVT(A)-5s saw action in the Korean War
. The French
used the US-supplied LVT-4s and LVT(A)-4s in the Indochina War
and in the Suez Crisis
In 1950s LVTs still in service were replaced by the LVTP-5
family vehicles, which in turn were followed
by the LVT-7
family, eventually redesignated
. Incidentally, the
AAV is manufactured by BAE Systems Land and
, which was the first company to produce the LVT (as
Currently, many of the world's militaries employ more modern
versions of the amphtrack. One of the latest is the United States Marine Corps
, slated to begin
replacing the AAV in 2015.
- The complete guide to tanks and armoured fighting vehicles, pg
314, ISBN 978-1-84681-110-4 ISBN 1-84681-110-4
- Steven Zaloga, Terry Hadler, Michael Badrocke - Amtracs: US
Amphibious Assault Vehicles, 1999, Osprey Publishing (New
Vanguard 30), ISBN 1-85532-850-X.
- Steven Zaloga - Armour of the Pacific War, 1983,
Osprey Publishing (Vanguard 35), ISBN 0-85045-523-5.