Officially designated as a Landing Craft, Vehicles and Personnel, this small craft was more commonly known by the name of its inventor, New Orleans businessman Andrew Jackson Higgins. A modification of Higgins' Eureka workboat, the LCVP was highly maneuverable and ideal for landing troops on beaches. Over 20,000 LCVPs were built by Higgins Industries, as well as those companies licensed to reproduce the design. Higgins Industries also built LCP, LCPL and LCM designs.
These designs were important not only to the landings in Normandy on D-Day, but also to Pacific Theatre operations on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The LCVP even saw limited service in the Korean War as minesweepers.
For Operation Overlord the LCVPs (numbering approximately 800-1100) were carried aboard larger transport ships and lowered into the choppy English Channel at the appropriate time. Soldiers had the tricky task of boarding the bobbing LCVPs via nets thrown over the sides of the transport ships. After cargo and supplies were put aboard, the LCVPs made their way to staging areas in order to prepare for their run to the beach.
Although the LCVP design was capable of landing its cargo directly on the shoreline, for numerous reasons many Higgins Boats never made it in that far, and heavily-laden soldiers were forced to wade through many yards of water. Some men died before they hit the beach, not the victims of the German gun fire, but of deep, invisible shell holes under the water.
The ten LCVPs used in Saving Private Ryan were found stored in the desert at Palm Springs, California and were then transported to St. Austell, Cornwall, England were they were overhauled by Robin Davies of Square Sail. In order to give the appearance of more landing craft, each LCVP had different hull numbers painted on each side.
Fact vs. Fiction
In reality, the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions did not use LCVPs, but instead went to shore in British LCAs (Landing Craft, Assault). In the film itself two modified LCMs (Landing Craft, Mechanized) were used for the Charlie Company Rangers, with the ten LCVPs being used in the background.