In the last newsletter, Jimmy posted a list of final construction
details to be completed. The month of August was spent completing those tasks
in anticipation of the upcoming sea trials George Benedettos friend,
Tim DiVincenti painted the numbering scheme (PA 33-21) on the side
of the vessel. He skillfully committed his brush to surface and the paint
crew took a welcomed break.
Jimmy was able to locate a registry plaque that had originally
been attached to a Higgins boat. The plaque lists the type of vessel, registry
number, and specifications and proudly states it was built by Higgins. An
Internet search, at the suggestion of his father, turned up a plaque to which
the owner, Richard Marksbury, Dean of University College at Tulane, decided
to donate the plaque to the UNO Foundation. His generous act helped provide
a final stamp of authenticity to the boat. We greatly appreciate this generous
gift and welcome the Marksbury Family to our Higgins boat building family.
An additional plaque was also installed listing the volunteers who
committed themselves to build the boat. This builders plaque
will remain in the boat forever.
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff deputies and Earl Fredricks went to
Baton Rouge to pick up the completed cradle from Hebert Steel. It was then
transported to New Orleans. and off loaded at the Orleans Levee Board Facility.
The following Saturday we reported to work and undertook the following tasks:
The jacking points were attached to the cradle. The cradle was then jacked
up high enough to allow us to put the casters on it. Next it was rolled in
its completed position, wheeled into the boat workshop, and set on
the left (port side) of the boat. B & G Crane Service then came out and
lifted the boat off of the temporary cradle. We then removed the temporary
cradle with Bruce Harris truck and then rolled the steel cradle underneath
PA 33-21. Once the boat was gently dropped onto the new
cradle, we made sure that the boat fit it properly; which it did!
Rolling the boat on the new steel cradle through the gate of the work
shop we positioned it on the back side of the warehouse. The boat was then
jacked up to a height of about forty inches using the oak blocks provided
to us by Gueydan Lumber. Then, with the boat jacked up at four corners and
on wooden blocks, a low boy trailer, which was provided by the Orleans Parish
Criminal Sheriffs Department, was backed under the cradle and the boat
was lowered onto the trailer and chained down. Plenty of chains were used
so it wouldnt shift. Everything was then locked down. We were now prepared
to move the boat on the following day, September the 5th.
Everyone met on Sunday morning at the Orleans Levee Board Warehouse.
There, over two years earlier we had gathered to re-open the factory
as LT Duckworth has said and turn out one more Higgins LCVP. With that now
accomplished, a swell of pride overtook many who looked upon the boat. With
the boat now outside the warehouse, we lined up our cars and prepared to
exit the warehouse yard. The big day had arrived!
To the cheers of everyone there, the procession of at least fifty
cars was escorted out of the yard by police officers on Harley-Davidson
Motorcycles. With their lights flashing, the mile long procession slowly
made its way to France Road passing the former Higgins Plant on the Industrial
Canal.. We continued onto Poland Avenue and headed to the Coast Guard Base
on Urquhart St. There we were met by the press and Coast Guard personnel.
WDSU-TV interviewed Don Summers and Spencer McIlvaine for the five oclock
news. Warrant Officer Ken Mitchell used the travel lift to off load the boat.
Additional Coast Guard personnel assisted. It was then placed on the ground
and positioned for future launchings.
Several of the volunteers boarded the vessel when her ramp was placed
in the downward position. and onto the oak blocks that were brought over
from the warehouse. Marine Corps veteran B.J. Roberts was one of them. He
had been in the procession that brought the boat there and upon arrival told
Jim Weller he wanted to get in. B.J., with oxygen in hand and some assistance
from Jim Weller and Jimmy Duckworth Sr., made it in. He had made six assaults
in the Pacific and was determined to board a Higgins LCVP again. After a
few moments, they helped him down. Harold Buchler Jr. carried his oxygen.
Shortly thereafter, he left. The next day B.J. passed away. We only wish
his effort to climb aboard couldve been to go on the first sea trial
with the rest of us. We were all saddened by his loss. But I think we can
all say that he was glad to have been able to go aboard an LCVP one more
time. B.J. Roberts will be missed.
September the 12th. The following Saturday we put her in the water
and checked for any problems. Our inspection found two to three minor hull
leaks through some screw holes where we had forgotten to put some screws
in. There was a problem in the charging system. The generator wasnt
working properly and would need to be seen to by Stewart and Stevenson. Still,
these were minor problems though it meant postponing the sea trials for another
week Everything else worked great. The engine ran flawlessly. The sea suction
was drawing water and there was lots of overboard discharge so the cooling
system worked as expected. Jimmy said hes never seen such few problems
in a newly constructed vessel!
September the 18th. With last weeks repairs made, the sea trials
could begin. This week Janine Bowman operated the travel lift and put the
vessel in the water. A last minute inspection had Ed, jokingly said Bruce,
looking for fault with Georges plumbing. Happily none was found. After
lunch, the crew of Bruce Harris, George Benedetto, Joey Madere, Earl Fredricks,
Ray Asprion and Jimmy Dubuisson, under Capt. Don Summers, took her out for
the inaugural voyage. Next to the pure pleasure of taking her out for the
first time, they had an additional purpose of learning to operate the boat
and become a CREW ! After that, the rest of us got underway. Just before
the turn around point up the canal, our coxswain turned the wheel over to
David Bowman. Then it was wife Janine Bowmans turn. Husband and wife
were all smiles taking their respective turns at the helm. Janine said it
was like driving a big box and better than a carnival ride.
All the veterans who went out on the boat reported that it was a great
experience. Don Summers had been waiting a long time to take a Higgins boat
out again. He admitted to experiencing deja vu. Spencer Mac McIlvaine
and Fernand Voss were glad they didnt have to ride in one during the
war. And Mac had the vantage point of riding in the gun tub wishing he had
a machine gun (Mac was a Gunners Mate during the war).
Bruce Harris reported that the post days inspection left some areas
to be worked on. First, there needs to be a realignment of the engine and
the shaft. Now that the boat is in the water, a small adjustment had to be
made. Secondly, the generator needed to be rechecked. Both tasks involve
a full days work.. The good news to report is that the boat ran well and
made 12 knots. At 2:33 PM the last run was made in order to check our work.
On Saturday October 1, Stewart and Stevenson completed the necessary
repairs to the generator during the morning hours.. After lunch the crew
undertook further sea trials up and down the Industrial Canal. Nearly everyone
involved with this project has had a chance to ride in the boat and even
drive it. Sometime during those sea trials we all had time to think about
what the veterans went through storming those many beaches. Some like Roy
Redler, who have gone ashore at Iwo Jima, know first hand.
Upon returning, we were met by State Representative Jacquelyn Clarkson
who presented three certificates of appreciation to the crew. One was on
behalf of Governor Foster and the other on behalf of the State Legislature,
and yet another from the Lieutenant Governor! We all appreciated the kind
words she spoke and the time she took out of her busy schedule to pay us
a visit. Mrs Clarkson was INSTRUMENTAL in getting State funding for the addition
to the Museum which will house the Higgins Boat!
The next day, everyone met for a boat trip across Lake Pontchartrain.
After clearing the Seabrook Bridge we gunned it across the open water to
West End where we picked up James Woodward and his daughter at the Coast
Guard Station. We docked at Mayers Yacht boat slip and from there walked
over to Sid-Mars Restaurant.. Karen & Erston Reisch met us there
and we all had lunch.
Our journey across the lake and through the West End Marina drew the
attention of the nearby boaters who didnt know what to make of our
vessel. One gentleman shouted to us that he hadnt seen an LCVP since
he rode one in the invasion of Sicily back in 1943. We were proud to know
that NO one else had a boat like ours! We had a glorious time that day.
As we near completion of this project, I know that everyone would
like to thank someone who has made this all possible. He has been our point
man with the outside world; the one who has made all arrangements for materials,
equipment, support services, as well as bringing everyone together. Hes
our Lieutenant Can Do in the words of Jim Weller. It wouldnt
have happened without him. Thanks Jimmy Duckworth!
The Christening is less than a month away and theres still work
to be done. We are really looking forward to giving our great boat a wonderful
Our thanks go to Cub Scout troop 230 of Saint Catherine of Siena for
coming to the work site and cleaning the boat and workshop area. Thanks Scouts,
and Cub Master Conrad Buchler!
My personal thanks go to James Woodward and Jim Weller for bringing
me up to speed regarding the who, what, and where involved in this project.
Thank you friends.
PS: Thanks very much Kirt, for volunteering to undertake the writing
of this newsletter. This humble publication has become a chronicle of the
entire project, complete with the highs and the lows.
The next newsletter will be published just after the christening and
commissioning of our boat, and it will be the last one.