I have been on a kick about landing craft recently for some reason, and have been building hell out of Skywave's 1/700 kits of LCTs, LCT(R)s, LCIs, LCMs and most recently a pair of LSTs to go with my collection of more traditional naval ships in the divine scale. They give me a chance to explore some camouflage schemes and ship types I had not had the chance to learn about previously. It still feels weird to be camouflaging ships in shades of green, but that's absolutely what they did with many landing craft in the Pacific theater.
I also bought a 1/72 Airfix LCVP "Higgins boat" a couple of weeks ago because the kit was nice enough to give me the precise paint colors for the British (and American-operated, it turns out) LCT and LCT(R)s, and Saturday I decided to knock it out with a quick build that I finished in time for the Super Bowl Sunday evening.
It never surprises me how much I learn about a subject when I try to model it, and even though the 1/72 LCVP was an out of the box build, I was still surprised at what I learned. I had just attached one side to the bottom when I realized that the hull form was not remotely the flat-bottomed boat I'd expected.
References describe the boats as "flat-bottomed" or as having a "spoon-shaped" or "spoonbill" bow. None is correct. As this photo shows, it is the underside of the hull and not the bow, strictly speaking, that is decidedly "spoon" shaped. In fact the hull looks like nothing so much as a giant Frito dip chip. Or to use a more colloquial term, the boat looks like a pregnant jon boat (a boat used for fishing in these parts) with an 80's hairstyle.
Neither in person nor in photos is this bulge apparent. In part, this is because the hull shape is hard to see both in person and in photos because the skeg (not attached the model in the above photo, but shown in the cutaway drawing at left) that gradually descends from the hull masks its change in shape from convex to concave as it runs aft, creating the "tunnel" for the propellor. But in part it is also because the basically flat deck inside the boat tricks you into assuming that the underside is the same smooth shape that you'd expect a boat to have. (For me, it may also have something to do with the fact that Revell's attack transport model came with dozens of flat-bottomed LCVPs, and that's the mental image I've always had of these boats). The computer rendering of the LCVP at right makes clear just how far above the keel the deck was forward.
I am no marine architect, but I can understand the benefit of having this enormous amount of buoyancy forward – it would boost a shallow bow over obstacles, especially if the bow was reinforced, as Higgins' bayou craft were. My references tell me that the LCVPs were much weaker in the bow than the original Higgins boats, but then they did not need to be – they were expected to run up on a gradual sand beach, not ride over half-submerged logs
I've always said that modeling is a great way to understand a piece of equipment, but this has been the biggest surprise I've had. I have a completely different understanding of what a Higgins boat is now.