Ghost Boats

One of the most intriguing collateral effects of the ongoing drought has been the emergence of “ghost boats” on the beds of drying reservoirs. Most, like the one in a previous post, are pleasure craft and it’s easy to imagine how they came to sink beneath the waves of Lake Mead or Powell. But the hulk recently discovered on the dried mud of Lake Shasta in northern California has a more curious provenance. It was a WWII Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) more commonly known as a Higgins Boat for its designer and builder, Andrew Jackson Higgins. Just 36 feet long and 10 feet wide, these little boats could carry three dozen soldiers (or Marines) and its shallow draught and front ramp made it possible to drop them directly on the beach. The design made not just the Normandy D-Day landing but MacArthur’s island-hopping Pacific campaign possible. The numbers on the Lake Shasta wreck identify it as one assigned to the USS Monrovia, which earned battle stars in both the Atlantic and Pacific, so the Lake Shasta boat may well be a veteran of Sicily, Tarawa, Kwajalein and Saipan. Higgins produced nearly 24,000 of his boats but few survived the war. The Lake Shasta boat was probably sold as war surplus and intended for use as a tour boat. Higgins himself died of stomach ulcers in 1952 at age 65.

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