D-Day landing craft designer to be commemorated in Normandy

A petition has been launched for a permanent memorial for a World War Two boat designer to be built on Utah Beach in Normandy, France where the D-Day landings took place.

Currently a marker has been placed in between the sand dunes on Utah Beach to mark the exact spot where the first Allied troops landed and began their attack on the occupying Nazis.

Now there are calls for a permanent memorial to be built in the spot to specifically commemorate the man who designed the landing craft which delivered the thousands of troops required to complete the assault.

Andrew Higgins from Columbus, Nebraska, and originally from Ireland, was a naval architect.

Now a Nebraskan congressman, a military historian from Britain and the Columbus locals are all calling for a memorial to Andrew to be made a permanent feature on Utah Beach.

The landing craft used on D-Day were small and fast, an easy to steer around obstacles once they hit the beaches. The landing craft could arrive on the beach and open the front of the boat so that troops could exit en masse. This meant that thousands of troops could land on the beaches at once and then continuously be delivered boat load by boat load.

General Eisenhower who was in charge of US operations at the time of the D-Day landings praised Higgins and even said he was the reason the Allies won the war. From the German perspective, Hitler referred to Higgins as a modern day ‘Noah’.

Nebraska congressman Jeff Fortenberry attended the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations in Normandy last year. It was at the memorial service that he met British military historian and retired army major, Timothy Kilvert-Jones.

After the two struck up a friendship Kilvert-Jones visited Nebraska and toured the Higgins memorial in Columbus. It was during the tour that he suggested a similar memorial should be built on Utah Beach, the Omaha.com reports.

Fortenberry and the local residents of Columbus took on the idea and since then have been trying to raise as much money as possible to make the memorial a reality.

The memorial is being created as an exact replica of Higgins’ landing craft, alongside four bronze statues which will include, Higgins himself, and three D-Day soldiers.

The plan has been to create the memorial in time for VE-Day or the June 2015 anniversary of D-Day. The project is costing a total of US$200,000 and just over half of the funds needed have been raised so far.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE