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Landing Vehicle, Tracked ~ LVT (1) Alligator

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Visited 2-11-11

LVT-1 Alligator at Camp Pendleton LVT Museum

LVT-1 Alligator viewed from top, rear.

LVT (1) Alligator, viewed from topside, rear, looking forward.

Search for an Amphibious Assault Vehicle

After WWI, the U.S.M.C. searched for a vehicle that could be used in amphibious assaults. A vehicle designed by engineer/inventor Donald Roebling came to the attention of the military by way of an article in Life Magazine. Roebling's amphibious tracked vehicle, the Alligator had been developed to rescue hurricane victims from the Florida Everglade swamps.

After various inspections of Roebling's rescue vehicle, Admiral Edward C. Kalbfus, and later Brigadier General Moses agreed that with modifications, the Alligator had great potential for military use.

Alligator First LVT

As the war in Europe worsened, Mr. Roebling was contracted by the Navy to build a military version of the Alligator, which after testing, resulted in a contract for 100 Landing Vehicles Tracked. In July 1941, the first LVT came off the assembly line.1

Sources vary, but is appears several engines were tried in the Alligator including a ninety-five-horsepower Mercury engine, steered by two vertical levers between the driver's knees. Initially, the military ordered three Alligators to test, which were powered by a 120 horsepower Lincoln-Zephyr engine, and at the opening of World War II, the only available LVT was powered by a 150 horsepower Hercules engine.2

LVT-1 (Landing Vehicle Tracked) Statictics2

Construction Hull: arc-welded steel, 14 gauge to 3/16 inch thick.
Three compartments: cab, cargo and engine (in rear).
Suspension Rigid with rollers built into track riding on steel channels
which acted as guides around the sponson (side). Each
track weighted 650 pounds.
Maneuverability With one track moving forward, it could reverse the other
track to turn when having very limited space.
Weight empty 17,500 pounds
Maximum gross weight 22,000 pounds (includes fuel, cargo, & full crew).
Cargo capacity 4,500 pounds
Length 21 feet
Width 9 feet 10 inches
Height 7 feet 8 inches
Ground Clearance 19 inches
Speed on Land 12 mph
Speed on Water 6 to 7 mph

WWII Campaigns for LVT(1)


LVT (1)s participated in 5 major campaigns during World War II, including: Roi-Namur Northern Kwajalein Atoll, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, and Peleliu.3

According to Museum information the Alligator was, however, never completely satisfactory due to its suspension and track.

The tracks ran in guides; on the bottom a molybdenum steel channel and on top a rubber mat. Tracks were easily thrown and the roller bearings corroded in salt-water. The LVT (1) also had no ramp and gave way to the LVT 2 (Water Buffalo).

1Clifford, Kenneth J. Progress and Purpose: A Developmental History of the United States Marine Corps 1900-1979. Washington: History and Museum Division, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps. pp. 56-67.

2 Major Alfred Dunlop Bailey, USMC (Retired). Alligators, Buffaloes, and Bushmasters, The History of the Development of the LVT Through World War II. Washington, D.C.: History and Museums; U.S. Marine Corps, 1986, p39, 43.

3 WWII Korean Museum information.

Photos were taken by WW2HQ staff, with permission of the World War II Korea LVT Museum at Camp Del Mar Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California.