Search our Website

Armored Warfare Logistics, Amphibious Assault

« Previous | Index | Next »

Transporting Large Numbers of Men and Tanks

LSTs being loaded with tanks

LSTs being loaded with Sherman tanks modified with wading trunks before the invasion of Sicily, July 1943. US Army photo.

After the Fall of France it became apparent to the Allies just how crucial it was to have heavy weapons available for the army, (tanks in particular), in order to deal with enemy tanks and heavy weapons. So the Allies needed a way to get large number of tanks onto the beach very quickly.

Now, a typical division might have anywhere from 200 to 500 tanks, and a regiment probably would have 80 or 90 tanks in it. So you would need 15 to 20 Landing Craft Tanks (each carrying a maximum of 4 or 6 tanks), just to get one regiment ashore. So it was very important to have a way to get those tanks closer to shore and get them up on the beach as quickly as possible. The Landing Ship was designed with this in mind. Built with a slanted flat bottom which allowed it to land on a beach with an incline of about 1:50, an LST could unload tanks and large numbers of vehicles on or very near the beach.

Defense Strategy for Beach Landings

British and American LSTs on Omaha Beach

British and American LSTs on Omaha Beach, with supplies for the Normandy assault. US Navy photo.

At 328 feet long, and a top speed of 12 - 13 mph, a Landing Ship Tank was big and slow (one of the most common nick-names for LSTs was Large, Slow, Target).

Fire from the defending forces on the beach became such a concern on the part of the Navy, that a strategy evolved to quickly secure the beachhead prior to landing the LSTs. First, LCVPs were used to transport infantry to shore. Next, the Landing Craft Tanks would deliver small numbers of tanks, in an effort to push the beachhead far enough inland that enemy artillery no longer had direct line of sight targeting on the LSTs. Once the beachhead was established a quarter to half a mile deep, the LSTs could begin landing on the beach, unloading twenty tanks per trip, prior to the arrival of enemy reinforcements.