Investigations in invasion innovation: The archaeological and historical study of a WWII landing vehicle tracked in Saipan

01st June 2011

W. Shawn Arnold

M. Maritime Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, November 2010

The advent of amphibious watercraft such as the amphibious tractor for use during World War II (WWII) is directly responsible for saving numerous lives. The ability to drive invasion forces through the water and over shallow reefs to deliver them on shore prevented considerable causalities as it prevented the invasion force from having to wade hundreds and sometimes thousands of meters across lagoons under heavy enemy fire. Unfortunately, these machines have been nearly forgotten through time and have taken a back seat to technology such as the planes and tanks of the era.

The amphibious tractor, also known as the Amtrac or Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT), was the workhorse of WWII in the Pacific Theatre. Their unique ability of being capable of travelling both in and out of the water provided them an advantage over other vehicles. Amtracs were called upon to perform a wide array of tasks, including delivering assault troops to the beach, evacuating wounded, delivering supplies, and acting as mobile command posts and mobile weapons platforms.

The aim of this study is to further our understanding of the significance of amphibious vehicles used during WWII, particularly in relation to the Battle of Saipan. This thesis explores the necessity of amphibious craft due to the physical and environmental demands of the battlefield. Drawing on both archaeological and historical data, the thesis investigates the ways in which crews made changes to the vehicles during the war in order to protect and prolong the life of not only the vehicle but also the crews themselves. This thesis also looks at how these modifications directly influenced later Amtrac production designs. Using process analysis, the remains of an Amtrac located in Tanapag Lagoon, Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, are examined in order to determine the extent of battle modifications and possible explanations for the site’s present location.

W. Shawn Arnold
Investigations in invasion innovation: The archaeological and historical study of a WWII landing vehicle tracked in Saipan
June 2011
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Thesis Abstracts
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