Marines scrambling down cargo nets into landing craft

Looks awfully dangerous

Did they really do this or is it just Hollywood?

Wikipedia says yes…and Google Images shows photos… Looks like they really did this.

Dangerous, yeah… But, y’know, swarming up an enemy-occupied beach into machine-gun fire… War is like that…


Yep, they did it and it is incredibly dangerous. You are climbing down a net which isn’t a very sturdy foot hold, from a significant height 20ft or more, all the while trying to get into a boat that is moving up and down. Not to mention that if you fall you are carrying a huge amount of equipment that is going to add to the force of an impact. To top it off if you successfully get into the landing craft you have other heavily laden men trying to get on the boat behind you and if they fall you just might end up being what breaks the fall.

Of course, you then get to storm a beach full of flying lead and exploding sand.

See, this is why I wasn’t at Normandy… I would’ve been the guy falling down the net and landing on his ass in the Landing Craft, with the rest of my battalion laughing at me.

Sure they did it, and yes, they got hurt. In The Longest Day, Cornelius Ryan relates that the soldiers invading Normany boarded their landing craft during moderately heavy seas. Some were hurt when they jumped as the craft dropped down a wave and they misjudged the fall. A few got their ankles caught between the craft and their troop ship.

Hands on the vertical!

I was in the Marines, 1966-70. In 1967 I made a six month cruise to the Mediterranian (sp?). During that time we did several mock landings that had us going down those nets. It was a bit scary given the amount of weight we were carrying, the movement of the ship, and the movement of the landing craft we were climbing into.

As a Sailor who has cruised on several Amphibious Assault Ships, I can say, yes, that is how it was done, but we don’t do it that way anymore. Now we carry the landing craft inside the the big ships. The big ship takes on ballast, and then opens the giant stern gate, and the LCU (Landing Craft, Utility) or LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushioned) motors out the back and on to the beach. That and about 30 troop transport helicopters (CH-46E’s and CH-53E’s) can move about 2000 Marines ashore from a 3 Ship Amphibious Ready Group or Expeditionary Strike Group.

It’s hard to believe someone came up with this idea let alone agree to make it standard practice.

I know storming the beaches under fire is dangerous but how many guys were put out of action while trying to get into the landing craft before they even got to the beach.

It must have taken some length of time to load up all the landing craft and then (according to movies) they would circle till all the craft were ready to hit the beaches at the same time.

What prime targets for the shore guns, makes you wonder any guys got to the beach at all.


Sure but what is your better plan? Getting off large ships into small ones alongside is dangerous. Outside of the very specialised vessels tonyfop describes which would have been outside the bounds of old naval technology, there aren’t many good options.

Worth noting, the reason they went through all this trouble was that the landing craft themselves were not terribly seaworthy, being small lightweight craft. The big door in the front probably did them no favors in this regard. So you’d sail most of the way in the big ship designed for ocean passages, then clamber into the tiny Higgens boats to get to shore (which, obviously, were much safer for trying to sail onto a beach than the big transport ship would be…)

As for how they avoided the shore batteries, I’m guessing they did the unloading beyond the range of the guns, and also had friendly warships and aircraft doing their best to make the shore gunners wish they had volunteered for U-Boat duty (how well this worked varied widely depending on various factors, of course, such as the quality of the defenses and the quality (or lack thereof) of the gunnery of the attackers). Battleships, incidentally, were pretty ideal for this, as they could dish out quite a bit of damage (from very far away) and could take far more than most shore batteries were able to dish out themselves.

Otherwise, you were probably depending on massed numbers reducing your odds of catching an artillery shell, or ideally, finding a lightly defended spot to come ashore (a big reason the Allies landed at Normandy instead of the much closer, and thus much more heavily defended, Pas-de-Calais.)

Oh, and you would also consider utilizing airborne troops to drop in behind the defenders and outflank them, much as you would do today (though today you’d probably use helicopters rather than pushing guys out of airplanes like they used to do quite often…:D)

Oh neat, I just found out that some of the big transport ships could sail right up the beach, though they would presumably be even bigger targets than the Higgens boats.

Landing Ship, Tank

It’s good to know they now use a safer way of doing this.

I’m sure there must have been good reasons for using such a unique way of getting the guys into the landing craft but ocean liners at the time filled their boats with people before lowering them into the water so there was an alternative.

The boats could have been loaded and swung out ready for lowering before getting into gun range, then a quick lowering of all boats and the mother ship is away in quick time.

And what about the steps/ladders that pilots use to get on and off a moving ship. Seems a more stable platform for the guys in full gear to walk down.

Don’t you mean “Large Slow Targets” ?

A slow and dangerous process. Lowering lifeboats is notorious for accidents. People are killed during lifeboat drills every year. Also, lifeboats are far smaller than landing craft.

I’ve done this any number of times. They are somewhat stable but pretty hairy, nonetheless, and they are slow. It takes a good ten minutes to get four or five people up or down a pilot ladder, one at a time. If you have hundreds of marines it would take hours. A cargo net is not much different to a very broad pilot ladder.

If guys fell and were injured, how did they get back aboard ship?

As the invasion proceeded, landing craft would bring wounded back from the beach. How did they get back aboard ship?

How were the landing craft transported across the ocean to the invasion site? Were they carried on transport ships? Or maybe towed behind ships?

Coast Guard rescue cutters. Realistically, if you fell off the boat you were in a hell of a lot of trouble. The water was cold, and the soldiers were wearing a lot of gear along with heavy boots and clothes. IIRC Saving Private Ryan had a scene about this. Some clown fell over the side, and his buddies were laughing at him. They gradually stopped laughing as the realized the LC wasn’t going back to save him, and no one else was going to stop and rescue him.

Are you sure the landing crafts brought back wounded? My understanding is that they landed their troops, and went back for the next bunch. I assume wounded were evacuated later in the day when a make shift pier was set up.

They had their own engines, and steamed there. Some were already loaded with tanks and other vehicles.

For Normandy specifically, the English Channel is pretty narrow. Couldn’t they have loaded up at the English coast, and made the entire crossing in the landing crafts?

If you think that’s crazy Chickenwrangler, you should check out the DD tank. :slight_smile:

Oh yes, I really want to drive a 35 ton tank ashore from 3 miles out (which is the distance they were launched from at Omaha), in waves twices as high as they were designed to handle, with my entire bouyancy provided by a sturdy canvas screen. :eek:

To be fair, they worked pretty well on the other beaches and most of the crews of the two dozen that sank at Omaha Beach were rescued.