Engines in Warfare: The Amphibious Vehicle

John Miller

What was the purpose of the world's first amphibious vehicles?

Many modern amphibious vehicles are meant for military attacks. But the first incarnations were meant for commerical enterprises, in logging operations, pushing masses of lumber through water and over land.

In what war did amphibious vehicles first make a big splash?

In the First World War, amphibious vehicles weren't a major factor. But in WWII these vehicles weren't just important -- they may have altered the course of human history. For the better, we might add.

What's the purpose of an AAV?

AAVs are amphibious assault vehicles. Their number one job is to whisk troops and gear ashore so that they can begin the mission.

Modern AAVs originated with which force?

U.S. Marines don't mess around when it comes to innovation. Modern AAVs have their roots in the vehicles first imagined by the Marines 100 years ago.

During World War I, British commanders considered using an amphibious attack with tanks. Why did they abandon their plans?

British leaders wanted to liberate Belgian islands using a WWI amphibious attack. But the equipment was still in rough stages, too simplistic to handle the demands of landing heavy tanks under fire.

Which country first successfully floated a tank across a serious water channel?

Near the end of the Great War, British engineers were finally making progress with amphibious tanks. Using caissons attached to the vehicle, they managed to float a Mark V tank across the Thames.

Why did the U.S. Marines begin planning amphibious assault vehicles in the 1930s?

Even in the 1930s, U.S. military types knew there might be a war with Japan … and in the many islands of the Pacific, they also knew they'd need new types of attack vehicles.

The DUKW was a type of amphibious truck that had a major impact during which conflict?

The DUKW, or duck boat, was an incredible tool for the Allies during WWII. This amphibious truck moved men and materiel onshore in many war zones around the world.

How big were WWII-era DUKW boats?

Duck boats were no children's bathtub toys. These WWII stars were 31 feet long and featured six wheels, two in the front and four in the back.

In WWII, LVTs became iconic. What does LVT stand for?

The Allies used LVTs (Landing Vehicle Tracked) for missions like D-Day, the biggest amphibious assault in the history of the world. Without LVTs, the battle may have gone very differently.

The Gama Goat was an amphibious American vehicle made for which war?

Starting in the 1970s during Vietnam, U.S. troops rode Gama Goats gallantly into battle. These six-wheel-drive monsters weighed more than 7,000 pounds.

Late in WWI, British engineers waterproofed a Medium D tank and sent it across the water. What happened?

As WWI reached its climax, British engineers attempted to float a 15-ton Medium D tank. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tank sprung a leak … and sank to the bottom.

What was very notable about the first LVTs of WWII?

The first LVTs didn't have armor. But it did not take long for the Allies to incorporate armor onto these vehicles, which would make vital beach landings in June 1941.

What sort of reputation did Gama Goats acquire during the Vietnam War?

Gama Goats look rather unwieldy -- like topless Jeeps dragging trailers. But they were extremely capable at tackling hard terrain in Southeast Asia.

What did the "D" in DUKW boats stand for?

In the boring military nomenclature of the day, the "D" stood for "Designed in 1942." Some duck boats that survived the war are still used as tourist rides, sometimes with tragic results.

In WWII, how many armed troops could squeeze into an LVT-1?

The LVT-1 was a staple of the Marines in WWI. It could carry as many as 18 troops and their associated gear and weapons.

The M520 Goer was a U.S. Army earth mover that also had amphibious capabilities. How did this huge vehicle move through the water?

Yes, you really can make a huge earth mover float. The M520 Goer used its massive tire tread for forward motion.

What sort of armor did DUKW (duck boats) have in WWII?

Duck boats were never meant for the throes of real combat. They were meant to get troops moving in watery areas. They had almost no armor, in large part to maximize buoyancy.

In WWII, the Germans developed the Landwasserschlepper, which was essentially what?

The Landwasserschlepper was a massive amphibious tank, originally meant to help the Third Reich invade Britain. It was obviously never used for that task, but it was deployed successfully in other theaters of the war.

The British were the first to successfully float a tank across a difficult water obstacle. How much did that tank weigh?

In 1918, British engineers waterproofed a Mark V tank -- a 30-ton monster -- and successfully crossed an English river. The race to develop effective amphibious assault vehicles was on.

LVTs were incredibly important in which theater of WWII?

LVTs were literaly indispensable for the Allies in WWII. They breached the beaches of Normandy and helped American Marines slog through the lagoons of the Pacific.

In WWII, German commanders wanted to put snorkels on which type of vehicle in order to invade Britain?

German leaders once envisioned putting snorkels on tanks. The idea was to drop tanks in shallow water near Britain and then -- like armored sharks -- emerge from the waters and start blasting. It never happened.

What was special about the LVT(U)X2 Goliath, which the U.S. built in the late 1950s?

The LVT(U)X2 Goliath was the biggest LVT ever used by the American Navy. It was so big, in fact, it could carry a tank weighing 60 tons.

A man named Ben Carlin is the only person ever to drive around the world (land and sea) in an amphibious vehicle. What country was he from?

In 1958, Australian Ben Carlin finally completed a decade-long quest to drive around the world in an amphibious vehicle. His struggles undoubtedly sparked ideas in the minds of military engineers.

U.S Marines used duck boats to cross coral reefs in the Pacific Theater. How did that play out?

Coral reefs are known for their sharp edges. But equipped with tough tires, the duck boats were able to roll right over them and into ferocious battle with the Japanese.

True or false, after WWII, were LVTs decommissioned from the U.S. military?

LVTs helped to win WWII. Then, they were vital components of the Korean War, too. They were especially critical during 1950s Inchon landing.

How many duck boats did the Allies use during WWII?

DUKW boats were exceptionally capable at attacking and traversing beaches in WWII. The Allies built and used more than 20,000 of these marvels to beat the Axis.

How did duck boats move through the water?

Duck boats had just a single propeller to push the craft through water. Once ashore, the trucks zoomed away on tires, complete with a boat around its waist.

What was one notable trait of Gama Goat vehicles?

Gama Goats have an ungainly appearance, in part because they use an articulated suspension. It's a hardcore system that can traverse deep mud or boulders with ease.

The Alligator was a civilian forerunner of which incredible amphibious vehicle?

In the 1930s, the Alligator was a civilian vehicle meant to tackle swamps. It was adapted by the Allies as the LVT … and Hitler's minions felt its wrath.

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About This Quiz

By comparison, desert sands and steep mountains look almost bearable. The oceans and lakes of the world stand as one of the biggest challenges for militaries looking to accomplish tough objectives while trying to survive bullets and bombs. To that end, many nations build and maintain amphibious assault vehicles of all kinds, all in the hopes of defending their interests. Can you withstand the rough waves of this amphibious war vehicle quiz?

Vehicles like tanks and Humvees have proven their worth through years of tough combat. And although they can splash through puddles, even small ponds can stop them in their tracks. Amphibious combat vehicles, on the other hand, can tear across both beaches and water while keeping troops safe. Do you know the wartime histories of these famous craft?

They feature big in action movies, too. Any fan of Jackie Chan movies will remember his epic fight scene that took place on a hovercraft careening through city streets. Heroes from GI Joe to the Street Fighter crew have used amphibious vehicles to great effect.

From the beaches of Normandy to the horrors of Guadalcanal, amphibious military vehicles don’t just go in with the tide … they change the tide of war. Splash through this epic war vehicle quiz now!

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