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LVT2 Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Unarmored (Mark II)

The new LVT, named the Water Buffalo, proved very successful and was judged superior when compared to other vehicles. The Water Buffalo's success led to a multi-million dollar contract from the US Marine Corps. FMC built more than 11,000 amphibious landing vehicles, which contributed significantly to the successful completion of the war in the Pacific. LVT2's cab was placed a small distance from the bow, and the cab had two windows for the crew. LVT2, known as Water Buffalo, had a cargo capacity of 5940lbs (2690kg), and incorporated torsilastic suspension. This suspension involved springing the road wheels on rubber springs. The track of LVT2 was made up of two chains, each with a pitch of 4" (10cm), which were attached to each other by steel crossbars and the large propellor-like grousers. LVT2 also used the engine and transmission of the gasoline-powered light tank M3.

The second generation LVT2 was developed in 1941 and was in production from 1942 to 1945. The LVT-2 was the basic design for a series of vehicles used during WWII. This family of vehicles included the LVTA1, LVTA2, LVT4, LVTA4, and LVTA5. A few of the LVTA5s were modified in 1949 and continued in service until the mid 1950s.

These vehicles were powered with 7-cylinder radial aircraft engines built by Continental Motors. These engines developed 220hp, their service life was very short. Major overhaul was scheduled for 100 hours, however few ever lasted that long. The transmission was a 5 speed, manual shift SPICER that incorporated a manually operated steer differential. This transmission had been developed for the M-3 light tank. As a result, the transmission was too-narrow for the LVT. This problem was overcome by using four final drives. The internal finals were bolted to the transmission/differential gear case and supported by two mounting yokes. The external final drives were bolted to the hull and powered the drive sprockets. This generation of LVTs was used through the Okinawa campaign in 1945.

Quantity procurement of LVT(1) did not halt further development of anlphibian tractors. By October 1941, the prototype of LVT(2) had put in an appearance, but volume production of the new model was delayed by the entry of the United States into the war. The cargo space of 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion's standard LVT(1) Alligator could hold 4,500 pounds, and that of the few newer, larger LVT(2) Buffaloes could contain 6,500 pounds. The LVT(2)s had only power-driven bilge pumps. When the gasoline supply was exhausted, these failed, and the unfortunate vehicle usually foundered.

In 1943, US forces advanced through the Central Pacific, continuing the offensive thrust aimed ultimately at the Japanese home islands. The plan of attack called for them to take the Gilbert Islands, then the Marshalls and finally the Marianas. The Gilberts also offered Japanese-constructed airstrips and a shortened supply route to the south and southwest areas of the Pacific. Tarawa Atoll, specifically Betio Island, was selected as the target of the main assault because it contained an airfield and the bulk of the Japanese defenses. Surrounded by a barrier reef, Betio presented a serious challenge to amphibious landing craft, which would hang up on the reef if there wasn't a sufficient tide depth to allow them to cross.

Experiments proved that amphibian tractors could crawl across a coral reef, but these vehicles were in short supply. The 2d Division had 100 tractors, all of them primitive LVT(1)s which had been designed primarily as cargo carriers and lacked armor protection. Julian Smith's staff obtained sheets of light armor which were fixed to the tractors while the division was in New Zealand. Many of these LVTS, veterans of the Guadalcanal fighting, had outlived their usefulness, but mechanics managed to breathe new life into 75 of them. Each LVT(1) had room for 20 fully equipped men in addition to its crew of 3.

Unless the division commander received more LVTS, he did not have enough vehicles for the first three assault waves for Tarawa. The nearest source of additional tractors was San Diego. Although there was neither time nor shipping to get large numbers of these vehicles to New Zealand, 50 LVT (2)s were shipped to Samoa. Members of the 2d Amphibian Tractor Battalion went to that island to form a new company which would join the division off Tarawa.

The new LVT(2) was an improved version of the tractor already in use by the division. Horsepower had been boosted from 146 to 200, a change which enabled the LVT(2) to move slightly faster while carrying 4 more men or 1,500 more pounds of cargo than its predecessor. Also, the new model could cruise for 75 miles in the water, compared to 50 miles for the LVT(1). Tests were ordered in which the new tractors ran 4,000 yards with a full battle load to determine the time it would take the LVT(2), which proved capable of making at least four miles an hour. Each LVT (2) was equipped with portable armor plate for the front, sides, and cab. These plates could be used during assault landings or removed if there was no danger of enemy fire.

The Marines landed 20 November 1943, on Betio's northwest shore. The precisely arranged waves of amphibian tractors that roared across the line of departure had difficulty in making headway toward the island. At the time, the slowness of the assault waves was blamed upon overloading, wind, sea, and an ebb tide, together with poor mechanical condition of a number of the leading LVTS. Students of the operation, as well as the men who fought at Betio, have since absolved the wind, sea, and tide of some of the responsibility for the tardiness of the assault waves. The time lost earlier in the morning when the transports had first shifted their anchorage could not be made up. Because they had missed the rehearsals, the drivers of the new LVT(2)s were not familiar with signals, speeds, and load limitations, a factor which slowed both the transfer of men from the LCVPs and the forming of assault waves. The waves had to dress on the slowest tractors, and fully loaded LVT(1)s could not keep up with the LVT (2)s. The older vehicles were not in sound enough mechanical condition to maintain even 4 knots during their long journey from assembly area to the assault beaches.

With the Marshall Islands campaign of early 1944, the Marine 4th Division and the Army's 7th Infantry Division moved into Japanese territory for the first time in World War II. The Marine 4th Division's objectives were Roi and Namur islands in northern Kwajalein Atoll. Once on the beach, the troops assigned to Roi (the Marine 23rd Regimental Combat Team) advanced rapidly. The Japanese resisted strongly near the airfield's runways, but by late afternoon on 01 February 1944 equipment was being landed to repair the airfield for American use. Roi was secured the same day. Capturing Namur, the job of the Marine 24th Regimental Combat Team, proved more difficult. Over half of the assigned transport craft could not be located when it was time to launch the assault. As a result, the timing of the assault waves was off, and units went in piecemeal. Next, the leading waves were halted by tracked landing vehicles that had stopped in the water, throwing everything behind them into confusion.

LSTs had arrived in position to disgorge the tractors assigned to the 23d Marines. Like those LVTS used on D-Day, the tractors loaded on the weather decks of the ships had to be lowered by elevators to join the vehicles stored on the tank decks and then be sent churning toward the beaches. Before the convoy sailed, tests had shown that the LVT(2)s were too long for the elevators. As a result, an inclined wooden plane was built on the elevator platform. If the tractor was driven Up this ramp, it was sufficiently tilted to pass down the opening with a few inches to spare. Maneuvering the vehicles into position was a time-consuming job, an impossible task unless clutch and transmission were working perfectly. Yet, this was the only method of getting these LVTs into the water.

The elevator in one LST broke down midway through the launching, leaving nine tractors stranded on the weather deck. The Marines assigned to these vehicles were sent to the tank deck and placed, a few at a time, in the LVTS loading there. On another LST, the ramp was so steep that few vehicles could negotiate it. Drivers pulled as far up the incline as they could, then stopped, while a crew of men with a cutting torch trimmed the splash fenders at the rear of the tractors until clearance was obtained.

At 0825, all fire-support ships had acknowledged Conolly's message confirming 1000 as W-Hour, but within a few minutes General Schmidt was sending Colonel Hart some disquieting news. "We are short 48 LVTs as of 0630," the commanding officer of the 24th Marines had reported. The commanding general now replied: "Every effort being made to get LVTs. Use LCVPs for rear waves and transfer when LVTs are available." A two-hour search for amphibian tractors proved fruitless. Because of the night's confusion, the necessary number of LVTs was not at hand.

Both regiments were falling behind schedule, although sailors and Marines alike were trying desperately to get the assault craft into formation. When Admiral Conolly asked the commander of the transport group if a postponement was necessary, he immediately received the reply: "Relative to your last transmission, affirmative." At 0853, the time of the attack was delayed until 1100.

24th Marines conquered Namur in spite of serious obstacles. The the shortage of tractors, the incompletely formed assault waves, poor communications, and tangled undergrowth conspired against the regiment. Colonel Hart remained convinced that "had LVT (2)s and/or LCVPS been available as originally planned, or had the departure . . . been delayed until 1200," the island would have been taken more quickly and with fewer casualties.

Two types of LVTs, the LVT(2) and the LVT(4), were used at Peleliu. Of the two vehicles, the latter proved to be much more versatile and useful.

Data and Description
Engine Continental Model W670-9A
No. Cylinders 7
Speed (land) 20 mph
Speed (water) 7.5 mph
H.P. 250
Cruising Range (land) 150 miles
Cruising Range (water) 100 miles
Fuel Capacity 140 gal
Transmission Spicer
Gear Configuration 5 fwd - 1 rev
Weight (empty) 24,250 lbs
Weight (loaded) 30,250 lbs
Length 26' 2"
Width 10' 8"
Height 8' 2"
Hull Thickness 14 gauge
Track Shoes 73
Track Adjustment By Idler and sprocket
Bogie Wheels 11
Return Rollers 2
Suspension Torsilastic
Armor Bolt-on
Armament Machine Guns, 30 cal.
Crew 2 - 7
Ramp No
Mfg Food Machinery Corp., San Jose, Ca.
Food Machinery Corp., Lakeland, Fla.
Food Machinery Corp., Riverside, Ca.
Graham-Paige Motor Corp., Detroit, MI.
Ingersoll Steel & Disc Division -
Borg-Warner Corp., Kalamazoo, MI.
St. Louis Car Co., St. Louis, Mo.
Total Mfg 2,963
MAJOR CAMPAIGNS THAT THE LVT-2 "WATER BUFFALO" PARTICIPATED IN:


TARAWA
D-Day 20 November 1943
Unit Involved:
2nd Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (50) LVT-2s

CAPE GLOUCESTER
D-Day 26 December 1943
Unit Involved:
1st Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (21) LVT-2s

ROI-NAMUR Northern Kwajalein Atoll
D-Day 31 January 1944
Units Involved:
4th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (100) LVT-2s
10th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (144) LVT-2s

SAIPAN
D-Day 15 June 1944
Units Involved:
708th Amphibian Tank Bn, U.S. Army, comprised of (3) LVT-2s
2nd Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (85) LVT-2s
10th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (144) LVT-2s
534th Amphibian Tractor Bn, U.S. Army, comprised of (35) LVT-2s
715th Amphibian Tractor Bn, U.S. Army, comprised of (67) LVT-2s
773rd Amphibian Tractor Bn, U.S. Army, comprised of (98) LVT-2s

GUAM
D-Day 21 July 1944
Units Involved:
1st Armored Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (8) LVT-2s
3rd Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (193) LVT-2s
4th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (180) LVT-2s

TINIAN
D-Day 24 July 1944
Units Involved:
2nd Amphibian Tractor Bn (reinforced) comprised of (96) LVT-2s
10th Amphibian Tractor Bn (reinforced) comprised of (104) LVT-2s
534th Amphibian Tractor Bn (reinforced), U.S. Army, comprised of (22) LVT-2s
773rd Amphibian Tractor Bn (reinforced), U.S. Army, comprised of (92) LVT-2s

PELELIU
D-Day 15 September 1944
Units Involved:
1st Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (120) LVT-2s
3rd Armored Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (2) LVT-2s
6th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (80) LVT-2s
8th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (21) LVT-2s

IWO JIMA
D-Day 19 February 1945
Units Involved:
3rd Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (90) LVT-2s
5th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (94) LVT-2s
10th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (94) LVT-2s
11th Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (93) LVT-2s

OKINAWA
D-Day 01 April 1945
Unit Involved:
1st Amphibian Tractor Bn comprised of (11) LVT-2s



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