NEW ORLEANS (March 28, 2007) – In an era when most combat boats and ships were made of steel, wooden combat vessels represented something of a design regression. However, these crafts were built of wood to serve specific and important purposes and would prove invaluable to the Allied victory. The National World War II Museum explores the story behind these engineering anomalies with the special exhibition, Boats of Wood, Men of Steel: Wooden Combat Vessels in WWII. The exhibit, drawing on Museum collections as well as artifacts loaned from select individuals, will be on display April 6, 2007 through May 20, 2007.
Some wooden vessels, like the SC-497 Class wood-hulled 110-foot Submarine Chasers (SC), were built of wood to save steel and to utilize the production capacity of small boat yards while still producing an effective vessel. The Submarine Chaser protected merchant vessels from enemy submarines. Some specially modified Sub Chasers also served as command boats during amphibious landings. Others wood boats like the 136-foot YMS Class mine sweeper were built of wood to avoid setting off magnetically detonated mines. These vessels continued to serve in the American Navy well into the 1970s.
One of the most notable types of wooden crafts was the PT or Motor Torpedo Boat. This small, fast craft would race at the enemy to launch torpedoes before making a hasty retreat. The complex curves of the boat’s hull would have been very difficult to manufacture from steel. The wooden hull was also easier to repair in the makeshift bases where PT boats were stationed. The most famous PT boat was PT-109 which was commanded by future President John F. Kennedy. A PT boat was also used to evacuate General Douglas MacArthur from the Philippines.
The most common and important wood hulled combat craft of WWII was the Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP), better known as the Higgins boat. These wooden vessels, produced in New Orleans, were present at every Allied amphibious landing of WWII. Without them the course of the war would have been radically different. The National World War II Museum houses two Higgins crafts in its permanent exhibits.
The National World War II Museum is designated by Congress as “America’s National World War II Museum.” It interprets the American Experience during World War II years and celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who won World War II and promotes the exploration and expression of these values by future generations.
For more information on programs and exhibits at the National World War II Museum, visit www.nationalww2museum.org or call 504-527-6012. To arrange group visits, please call 504.527.6012, ext. 222.