by John Welsh
If you have been to a parade during the past few years, celebrating patriotic events, you may have noticed the presence of the Marine Corps League—the same folks who run Toys for Kids with Channel 5 at Christmas time.
They have a half-scale model of an LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel). This craft carries Marines and Navy corpsmen who no longer march in parades but want to honor the thousands who landed on hostile shores in harm’s way in defense of their country.
The LCVP gets much attention at the parades. Folks standing and clapping honor those who are riding. The .30 caliber machine gun (made of wood by Dave Welsh) looks real enough so that even from five feet away, it is hard to recognize that it won’t shoot you.
Getting into and LCVP is a memory you may want to forget—ask any FMF (Fleet Marine Force) Marine. Riding on the Navy’s ships, sailors tell Marines that they take them where they want to go, but I’ve been on 16 ships and only once did they take me where I wanted to go.
To you boaters out there, let me explain how you embark on an LCVP. First you go on a long ride with the Navy, usually ours, and it may last for weeks. Sometimes they run out of shower water, and with hundreds of Marines sleeping two feet apart, they wonder why I take two or three showers per day!
When you arrive where the “powers that be” think you should be, someone contacts the sea gods who then cause very rough seas. Then they drop large climbing rope nets over the side of the ship into the LCVPs. The rough water causes the ship and the LCVP to bounce 20 feet or more (not in the same direction). The nets are usually rough and muddy and you sometimes cut your hands. This all happens in full combat gear, with weapons and ammo—lots of ammo. I always figured those nets were made by some admiral’s brother-in-law who owned a barbed wire factory. But what do I know? My job was to climb those beeping nets, and don’t forget the Marine above you who had a smaller weapon than you and stepped on your hands. Once the LCVP was filled, you headed for the beach. No sun tan lotion needed.
Marines and LCVPs have a Vermont and local connection—Shelburne and Lake Champlain:
In 1775 an American vessel entered Lake Champlain with Marines assigned to it.
Many of the wooden LCVPs were made in Shelburne at the shipyard by the Aske family and tested in Shelburne Bay. They were used in combat on the beach and even though some had metal protection, they were shot up and had to be replaced. The Shelburne Shipyard was turning out one boat per day. All plans and information were donated to the Maritime Museum. There may be a few left, no one seems to know.
The location of the Echo Center was once the navy and Marine Corps Reserve training center. Marines were the 11th Rifle Company. Some of the training included landing LCVPs on North Beach in Burlington. The unit was activated to Korea—some of the Marines went to Viet Nam or on active duty.
When the new Echo Center was given to the city of Burlington, the Marines were sent to a unit in New Hampshire and the Navy went to White River Junction, Vermont.
If you look behind the Echo Center, you will see a statue of a lone sailor looking out at the lake. Some of us Marines think the sailor is looking for his ride, taken by the missing marine not at that spot.
Maybe someday there will be a Marine there with the sailor. Fair is fair. So, at the next parade you attend, give those who ride the LCVP the honor they deserve.
And if you are a former Marine or Navy corpsman assigned to the Corps, we need you to call John Welsh at 878-0354 or any Marine Corps League member.