Defense Media Activity
This is the third in a series of 10 technologies integral to the United States military since World War I.
This quote from Navy.mil sums up the importance of amphibious forces to the U.S. Military:
“At 7:55 a.m. (Pearl Harbor time) on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, the U.S. Navy was without a single ocean-going ship capable of discharging a cargo of big tanks or other heavy equipment onto a beach without the aid of piers or cranes. The events of that moment would change that situation. Amphibious forces in the Pacific would wrest island by island away from the Japanese and in Europe recover Europe from Hitler’s grip. Since then amphibious forces have played an important role in U.S. Navy operations.”
The result was a network of equipment – tanks, tracked landing craft, and specialized ships – that brought ship-to-shore capabilities to the U.S. military.
This equipment included tank-landing ships (LST) built with doors in the bow, allowing tanks and tracked vehicles to drive straight out of the ship without the need for docks or cranes. Interestingly, the design for this ship was first tested at Fort Knox, KY in a wooden structure called the LST building. The specifications for the LST called for a ship that could carry 20 tanks and 12 2.5-ton trucks. A fascinating history of the development of the LST and the LST building at Fort Knox can be read here (PDF).
Today, ship-to-shore vehicles continue to be important, and amphibious assault capabilities are part of the mission of the U.S. Marine Corps. The tracked vehicles first developed during WWII allow the Marines to operate in salt and fresh water, marshes, estuaries, dry land, and both rural and urban terrain without missing a beat.