FORT SCOTT, Ks - It’s the 75th anniversary of D-Day. June 6th, 1944 was the day when thousands of allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, turning the tide of World War two.
In Fort Scott, they're focusing on an unsung hero whose boat design is credited with D-Day’s successes.
Film from D-Day shows soldiers unloading off what are known as Higgins boats onto the beaches of Normandy.
“For years he worked to convince the navy how valuable they could be."
read Cathy Werling from her book, ‘What if Higgins had given up?’ A children’s story book detailing Andrew Jackson Higgins challenges in life and his persistence.
Told from the perspective of Higgins grandson, Skipper to his own sons, it's the story of the amphibious vessel his grandfather created.
Skipper Higgins said of his grandfather, “He had that kind of an attitude, ‘there's nothing gonna stop me if I have a vision, and we know it can work, I’m going for it.’ ”
They were delivered from deep water APA ships by veterans like 99-year old Hugh Irvin. "Higgins boats could carry 40 men or one vehicle," recalled Irvin.
The LCVP, For landing craft vehicle and personnel vessel was inspired by his Higgins Eureka flat bottom boats used for moving lumber out of New Orleans marshes.
Werling said, “The propellor provided the power but it was recessed so it wouldn’t get caught in the swamp.” The same was true on ocean waters and getting troops closer to the beaches.
While Higgins boats certainly had an impact on D-Day, they were instrumental in the rest of the war as well.
Skipper Higgins said, “So it was Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Leyte and on and on. All these islands one by one had to have Higgins boats taking marines ashore to battle with the Japanese.”
Historian Jerry Meyer, who designed the Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial in Nebraska explained a greater impact. He said, “These are shallow draft, meaning now I can pick and choose what landing area I want to land in. Now you (the enemy) have to defend everything.”
Twenty three thousand Higgins boats were produced during World War two with his plant growing from one to eight with 38 workers blossoming to 25 thousand in New Orleans.
Skipper added, “He was hiring blacks, women and disabled to work alongside of white men and be paid the same amount of money if they did the same job the white man did.” Something he says was unheard of at that time in the south. Skipper said, “And that is thing I’m most proud of.”
Skipper is glad the book shares his grandfather’s contribution to the war with future generations. He beamed, “It’s my life and my heritage and I love it.”
In 19-64, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said to historian Stephen Ambrose" Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us. If Higgins had not designed and built those landing craft, we never would have landed over an open beach."
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- Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.