The Man Who Won The War For Us

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No less an authority than General Eisenhower agreed. Higgins is “the man who won the war for us,” he said. Ike’s personal assistant Harry Butcher recalled his boss’s saying in March 1943 that when he was buried, his “coffin should be in the shape of a landing craft, as they are practically killing [me] with worry.” But a year later, because of Higgins Industries, there were enough LCVPs (or Higgins Boats, as soldiers called them) for Ike to plan the D-Day invasion with one less worry. “Let us thank God for Higgins Industries’ management and labor which has given us the landing boats with which to conduct our campaign,” he told the nation that year in his Thanksgiving Day address. So crucial was Higgins’s amphibious warfare craft that a disgruntled Adolf Hitler called him the “new Noah.”

Andrew Jackson Higgins may have been short on social graces, but he was a production genius when his nation most needed him. His motto was “The Hell I Can’t,” and he always far exceeded expectations. The profane, nononsense Higgins uncomplainingly worked sixteen-hour days throughout the war. If he bitched about Washington bureaucrats, grasping union leaders, foolish admirals, and New England shipbuilders, he never let a U.S. soldier or sailor down. There was no polish to his talk or elegance to his gait. He was a boatbuilder with a vision and the ability to turn that vision into reality. Higgins died in New Orleans in 1952, and Higgins Industries no longer exists, but there are many local old-timers who remember their enormous contributions to the Allied victory.

Andy Higgins’s genius is now receiving wider recognition, as predicted long ago by one contemporary who relied on him. “When the history of this war is finally written,” Capt. R. R. M. Emmett, who commanded landing forces in North Africa, wrote during the war, “by historians far enough removed from its present turmoil and clamor to be cool and impartial, I predict that they will place Mr. Higgins very high on the list of those who deserve the commendation and gratitude of all citizens.” It took more than a half-century, but now, thanks to new exhibits at the National D-Day Museum, a great American boatbuilder and the workers he employed will never again be forgotten. Andrew Jackson Higgins is permanently enshrined as one of the most effective armorers in America’s “arsenal of democracy.”