Newsletter Masthead - 34KB

[May 1999]


[July 1999]

Hello all!

NEWSFLASH ! The Louisiana State legislature just put thumbs up on a $3.8 million dollar outlay to fund the construction of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, which is the planned addition to the existing museum structure which will house the Higgins boat.  It has crossed my mind more than once that the boat wouldn't fit inside the existing museum, but it looks like those worries are over.  The Museum already has the architectural and engineering plans completed, and we are literally ready to bid out the job!

Please let Governor Foster and ANY State legislators you can get a hold of know you approve of their decision.  Our State has seized a leadership role in this effort, and the have said "WE'RE GONNA TELL THIS STORY!"  Great work from Dr. Mueller and the D-Day Museum gang, as they worked very hard to see this through.

Bravo Zulu to the entire Museum Board. Now let's get going on that building!

I know that some of our crew are interested in staying together after the Higgins boat is wrapped up, and I know for a fact that the museum will be looking for some volunteer assistance when it opens.  I'm looking forward to spending some time doing this myself.  I've got this great visual of a little boy walking up to Roy Redler saying:

"Hey mister, do you know anything about this boat?"

The "CBS SUNDAY MORNING" piece aired on June 6th, and it was a pleasure to watch. I thought Pam McDonough captured not only the history we seek to record, but she also captured the project and the PEOPLE who made the whole thing possible.  This piece was no small challenge, believe me.  What you saw was not the result of a film crew who flew in, shot the piece and then threw it together.  Izzy Bleckman was behind the camera for all of the filming.  Izzy is a 30+ year veteran at this game.  Danny Gianneschi was the sound engineer for the piece and Pam McDonough produced it.  Pam is the best there is in this business.  It was her job to size up the job, and decide what to shoot, how to shoot it, what questions to ask and who to ask them of.  Then, she had to put the whole thing together for an 8-minute segment. The dynamics of the CBS crew really added to the quality of the piece.  I was happy to see them argue, get mad at each other, discuss how to get the shot, go crazy over noise and camera angle and in general, strive to DO THE JOB RIGHT!

Hey Pam, Danny and Izzy...You got it right.  We know you went the extra mile and we appreciate it!  Many thanks to CBS for everything you have done for the Higgins project.

Now to boat construction stuff...

We are really working on fine details now.  We are at the very bottom of the "list of things to do" now.  All of the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together very nicely.  The boat is getting SMALLER as we continue to install equipment and gear.  The fine detail that we have striven for is really showing to best advantage now.  We are looking good!

We continued to struggle with the bow ramp.  I can't print Mr. Haddock's comments, BUT we almost have it licked.  I can't tell you how much we appreciate the efforts of our ship's welder Cecil Borne.  Cecil is really putting his heart behind his welding rod.

Thanks for the hard work Cecil...BOTH times!

The exhaust system is now at 100% completion.

Jimmy Dubuisson and a crew from U.S. Marine, Inc. led by Bubba Ring began wiring the boat on June 25th.  We had to have at least one "Bubba" on this crew you know...

The guys from U.S. MARINE are the best there are in this game.  Our wire runs and connections will be flawless.  In case you don't remember, we are using modern wiring and materials for this aspect of boat construction.  We are going overboard to attempt to make the electrical and wiring systems look WWII era, but there was NO WAY we were going to use antiquated material and get underway with this boat.  Doing that would have been taking chances with safety.  You will be impressed with the installation when you see it.  And that reminds me...

I was thinking about all of the time Ed Daroca and Al Haydel spent in that fuel tank compartment on the boat and the fact that is was about to be decked over and literally "hidden" forever. That seemed a shame...

So, I asked Bruce Harris and George Benedetto to figure out a system for installing the after deck such that it could be removed and replaced with a sheet of clear plexiglass when the boat goes in the Museum so people can see how really complicated this boat is.  I also spoke with Aubrey Adams about doing the same thing with the engine box.  Our crew likes the idea, and so do I.  We are incorporating "see through" panels into the finishing details right now!  Visitors will be able to view the "guts" of this boat, and it'll be interesting.  We really want people to understand what made the boat tick.  We went to great lengths to design the boat cradle such that the strut / skeg / shaft and rudders are visible to Museum visitors.  If you think that people might not be interested in the minutiae of LCVP design, I disagree.  People who you would NEVER guess would care a whit about a "strut" or a "maneuvering rudder" have pounded me with questions about how all of this WORKED!  Americans are very inquisitive people, and I think they'll be interested in seeing all of this.  History often records the Higgins boat as a "flat bottomed craft etc etc"...well, if the Higgins boat was a skiff, then the A-bomb was a Molotov cocktail.  Just wait, you'll see!

I'll be consulting with my friend Jack Massey of Chermayeff and Geismar, Metaform Inc. and C.J. Roberts about display issues.  Jack is the designer of the Musem display and C.J. is the Executive Director of the National D-Day Museum.  The boat will be displayed to best advantage, I'm quite sure.

Bruce Harris is working on some final "alterations" to the head log of our boat (large timber in the bow upon which the ramp mounts).  When he is done with the log, we will be ready to final fit the ramp to the boat.  I want to take this opportunity to remind all of our volunteers of how dangerous the boat could potentially become once the ramp is fit up.  The ramp weighs 800 lbs, and could kill if dropped inadvertently.

I know we will be taking our safety precautions VERY seriously when we hang the ramp. Take note Harold Buchler Jr.!!!  (Harold is our safety man).  We are striving to maintain our great safety record.

Aubrey Adams is putting the finishing touches on the engine box.  What a piece of work this cover is!  Aubrey has had a crew working with him on the cover for weeks.  Great work Ray Asprion, Jim Weller, and Roy Redler!

This past week, we bought the last pieces of wood we will need from Riverside and Gueydan Lumber companies...The folks at these two companies have been great from the beginning. Many thanks to the Gueydan and Hayden families for their assistance and support.

The deck box is now complete!  This was another Aubrey Adams masterpiece.  With the able assistance of Erston Reisch and Tom Falcon (both USCG), we are filling the box with all of the gear we will need.  We also got a couple of CO2 hand held fire extinguishers from Herbert S. Hiller and Company of New Orleans, La.  Thanks Hiller, for your support!

Ed Daroca reports the steel boat cradle is almost ready.  We should have it out at the work shop by the first week in July!  Thanks Jack Leary and Mike Dunn for designing the cradle, and thanks Hebert Steel of Baton Rouge, La. for assisting us in the fabrication of the cradle. By the way, the fine firm of Precision Steel Detailing in Baton Rouge provided us with the fabrication details for the cradle!  Thanks very much for the able assist Precision Steel Detailing of Baton Rouge!

Mrs. Karen Reisch and the Christening Committee are continuing to work very hard on their planning process.  I would appreciate it very much if volunteers would go the extra mile to work with the Christening Committee when asked to do so.  You have no idea how challenging it is to plan for and carry out an event of this magnitude.  Karen's leadership has been exemplary from the beginning.  Look for lots of information next month from Karen, as she will have the "floor" for the July newsletter to let you know about the progress her committee has made.  Keep moving forward Christening crew!

Boat crewing issues are on my mind now.  Before you know it, we will be ready to launch the boat and put her through all of the paces.  As you can imagine, we are very concerned with the safety of the crew and the boat itself during this period.  I've reported in previous newsletters that we would be using USCG licensed captains aboard while underway.  I'm going to stick with that, but I didn't address the basic crew positions of Coxswain, Motor Mac (engineer), and crewman.  The PA33-21 will have a crew of 4.  One each Coxswain and Motor Mac plus 2 crewmen.  I'll be selecting a "first wave" crewing list very soon, and will be meeting with these folks.

It is our intention to begin our operational period with a core group of boat crew who will be thoroughly trained in every aspect of the safe operation of this vessel.  Once we are satisfied that these personnel are trained and ready, then we will train all of our volunteers to stand watches as they wish.

If you think we were concerned with safety during construction, you haven't seen anything yet. Just as our crew learned and mastered the intricacies of wooden boat construction, so too will we all learn and master the proper operation and maintenance of a WWII Higgins LCVP.  As before, we will have fun doing it too!

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