Tag Archives: History

History (Before WWI)


Recorded amphibious warfare predates the 18th century by a couple of millennia: the Sea Peoples that menaced the Egyptians from the reign of Akhenaten as captured on the reliefs at Medinet Habu and Karnak; the Hellenic city states who routinely resorted to opposed assaults upon each other’s shores, which they reflected upon in their plays and other expressions of art; the landing at Marathon by the ancient Persians on 9 September 490 BC, which history records as the largest amphibious operation for 2,400 years until eclipsed by Gallipoli.

More current amphibious landings have been conducted by small commando forces of various states and non-state actors. There exists debate over mainland China (PRC)’s potential to conduct amphibious operations against Taiwan (ROC). With the bulk of the world’s population concentrated near the sea, chances are high that future conflict may entail the use of amphibious assets.
16th century

In 1565, the island of Malta was invaded by the Turks during the Siege of Malta. A strategic choke point in the Mediterranean Sea, the loss was so menacing for the Western Europe kingdoms that forces were urgently raised in order to recover the island. But it took four months to train, arm, and move a 5,500 man amphibious force to retake the island.

Then, Philip II, King of Spain, decided to train and assign amphibious-assault skilled units to the Royal Armada. These units were trained specifically for the fighting on ships and from ships. The Spanish Marines were born. The idea was to set up a permanent assignation of land troops to the Royal Spanish Navy, available for the Crown.

Thus, countries adopted the idea and subsequently raised their early marine corps too.

The first “professional” Marine units were already task-trained amphibious troops, but instead of being disbanded, were kept for the Crown’s needs. First actions took place all along the Mediterranean Sea where the Turks and pirate settlements were a risk for the commerce and navigation: Algiers, Malta, Gelves.

Landings at the “Terceras Landing” in the Azores Islands 25 May 1583, was a military feat as the planners decided to make a fake landing to distract the defending forces (5,000 Portuguese, English and French soldiers); also special seagoing barges were arranged in order to unload cavalry horses and 700 artillery pieces on the beach; special rowing boats were equipped with small cannons to support the landing boats; special supplies were readied to be unloaded and support the 11,000 men landing force strength. The total strength of the amphibious force, was 15,000 men, including an armada of 90 ships.

After an initial reconnaissance action where the most suitable beaches for the landing assets were chosen, a 4,000–man first assault wave was unloaded while two “Galeras” made a distractive fake landing away from the main beach. The main defensive body ran to defend against the feinted action, but the first wave had set up a firm defensive perimeter, and the second wave was already landing with the heavy artillery.

In this operation we can find documented reports about the detailed planning, the previous reconnaissance of the beaches, the special equipment and training, ship-to-shore movement, naval fire support. This would be one of the first examples of a complex amphibious assault that would characterize modern amphibious warfare.
17th century

This was a century of “expansion”. European countries were expanding and creating colonies. Amphibious operations were mostly oriented to settle colonies and strong points along the navigational routes. Fights among countries to keep or destroy opposing power’s capabilities were continuous.

Amphibious forces were fully organized and devoted to this mission, although the troops not only fought ashore, but on board ships.
18th century

Amphibious landings were performed by Spanish Marines allowing them to conquer Sardinia (1717) and Sicily (1732).

By their nature amphibious assaults are highly complex operations involving the coordination of disparate elements and are therefore prone to disastrous results if not properly planned. One of the most spectacular instances of such a failure occurred in 1741 at the Battle of Cartagena de Indias, when a large British empire amphibious assault force with a compromised command was defeated by a much smaller but well organised and led Spanish empire defence.

In 1759, during the siege of Quebec, the British troops attempted on a number of occasions to cross the Saint Lawrence River in force. An attempt to land some 4,000 troops in the face of resistance failed. Ultimately a landing was managed at a relatively undefended site, and British troops gained a foothold allowing 5,000 to take part in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham which led to the surrender of the city.

In 1762 Royal Navy troops & marines succeed in taking the capitals of the Spanish West & East Indies Havana in Cuba & Manila by sea respectively.

In 1776, Samuel Nicholas and the Continental Marines, the “progenitor” of the United States Marine Corps, made a first successful landing in the Battle of Nassau.

In 1781, the Spanish field marshal Bernardo de Gálvez, successfully captured British controlled Fort George by amphibious assault in the Battle of Pensacola. In 1782, he captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas. In 1782, a long Franco-Spanish attempt to seize Gibraltar by water borne forces was abandoned. In 1783, a Franco-Spanish force invaded the island of Minorca.

In 1793, Minorca experienced yet another of its many changes of sovereignty, when captured by a British landing.
19th century

During the American Civil War, the United States made several amphibious assaults all along the Confederate states coastline. Hatteras Inlet and Port Royal, South Carolina were the first of many attacks. Along with others on Roanoke Island, NC, Galveston, TX, Morris Island and James Island, SC, Fort Sumter, SC and several others. The largest was at Fort Fisher, which was the largest and most powerful fort in the world at the time, protecting the entrance of Wilmington, North Carolina. The assaulting force of over 15,000 men and 70 warships with over 600 guns, was the most powerful amphibious assault in world history (and was not surpassed until the large-scale landings of World War Two).

An early form of amphibious warfare was employed during the War of the Pacific in 1879, and saw coordination of army, navy and specialized units.

The first amphibious assault of this war took place as 2,100 Chilean troops successfully took Pisagua from 1,200 Peruvian and Bolivian defenders on 2 November 1879. Chilean Navy ships bombarded beach defenses for several hours at dawn, followed by open, oared boats landing Army infantry and sapper units into waist-deep water, under enemy fire. An outnumbered first landing wave fought at the beach; the second and third waves in the following hours were able to overcome resistance and move inland. By the end of the day, an expeditionary army of 10,000 had disembarked at the captured port.

In 1881 Chilean ships transported approximately 30,000 men, along with their mounts and equipment, 500 miles (800 km) in order to attack Lima.    Chilean commanders were using purpose-built, flat-bottomed landing craft that would deliver troops in shallow water closer to the beach, possibly the first purpose-built amphibious landing craft in history:    “These [36 shallow draft, flat-bottomed] boats would be able to land three thousand men and twelve guns in a single wave”.

Landing tactics and operations were closely observed by neutral parties during the war: two Royal Navy ships monitored the Battle of Pisagua; United States Navy observer Lt. Theodorus B.M. Mason included an account on his report The War on the Pacific Coast of South America. The USS Wachusett with Alfred Thayer Mahan in command, was stationed at Callao, Peru, protecting American interests during the final stages of the War of the Pacific. He formulated his concept of sea power while reading a history book in an English gentleman’s club in Lima, Peru. This concept became the foundation for his celebrated The Influence of Sea Power upon History.


World War II

3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion was originally activated 16 September 1942 at San Diego, California, as 3rd Amphibian Tractor (Amtrac) Battalion and assigned to the 3rd Marine Division. During December 1942 the battalion relocated from San Diego a short distance up the coast to Camp Pendleton. After training for a few months the battalion then deployed in February–March 1943 to Auckland, New Zealand in preparation for combat in the Pacific theater.

During World War II, the battalion was primarily armed with Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT), specifically the LVT-2 also known as “WATER BUFFALOS”.

The battalion fought in the following combat actions:

– Bougainville with 124 LVT-1s

– Guam with 193 LVT-2s and LVT-4s

– Iwo Jima with 90 LVT-2s

For its actions in World War II, 3rd Amphibian Tractor Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation Streamer, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal Streamer With Four Bronze Stars, and the World War II Victory Medal Streamer.

At the conclusion of World War II the battalion redeployed in March 1945 to Maui, territory of Hawaii and then relocated during February 1946 back to Camp Pendleton, California. It was deactivated several months later on 1 May 1946.
1952 – 1966

3rd Amphibian Tractor Battalion was reactivated 1 April 1952 at Camp Pendleton, California, and assigned to Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. It was subsequently reassigned during October 1955 to the 1st Marine Division. Elements participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, October–December 1962

During this period the battalion was still armed with LVTs – transitioning primarily to the LVT-5 in the late 1950s.
Vietnam War and 1970s

3rd Amphibian Tractor Battalion deployed during February 1966 to Camp Schwab, Okinawa and redeployed again in March 1966 to the Republic of Vietnam. There the battalion fought in the Vietnam War from March 1966 – January 1970. During this conflict the battalion distinguished itself at:

Chu Lai
Da Nang
An Hoa
Hoi An

Throughout Vietnam the battalion was armed with variants of the LVT-5.

For its actions in Vietnam, 3rd Amtrac Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation Streamer, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer, National Defense Service Medal Streamer, Vietnam Service Medal Streamer With Two Silver Stars, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Streamer, and the Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation Streamer.

The battalion relocated during February 1970 to Camp Pendleton, California, and was reassigned to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. It was again reassigned in August 1970 to the 5th Marine Amphibious Brigade. Subsequently in April 1971 the battalion was reassigned to the 1st Marine Division with whom it remains to this day.

In the early 1970s the battalion transitioned from the LVT-5 to its replacement the LVT-7.

On 30 December 1976 the battalion was re-designated from 3rd Amphibian Tractor Battalion to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion (written as 3rd AABn). The battalion participated in numerous training exercises throughout the remainder of the 1970s.

Throughout the 1980s, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion deployed companies on its regular schedule of six month deployments to the forward units in Hawaii and Okinawa, including units aboard amphibious troop ships for fast-reaction forces in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and into the Persian Gulf. It shared personnel and vehicles with the 1st Armored Assault Battalion as part of the Unit Deployment Program.

In the early 1980s the battalion’s LVT-7s underwent a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), which converted the LVT-7 vehicles to the improved Amphibious Assault Vehicle-7A1 (AAV-7A1) by adding an improved engine, transmission, and weapons system and improving the overall maintainability of the vehicle. Upon realizing the need to mechanize units participating in the Combined Arms Exercises (CAX), two platoons of AAVs were transferred to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms (MCAGCC) in July 1979. The two platoons were formed from Camp Pendleton one went to Company A, 3d Tank Battalion, and the other platoon went to Company B, 3d Tank Battalion.

The two platoons later merged and became Company D, 3rd Tank Battalion in September 1980. Two additional platoons from 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion in Hawaii arrived on board the MCAGCC in December 1981. A redesignation ceremony was held on 18 January 1982 in which the colors of Company D, 3rd Tank Battalion were formally retired and replaced with the new colors of Company D (Rein), 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion. The company was instrumental in training Marines in desert warfare as they rotated in and out of the live-fire desert training area, a key to the Marine Corp’s success in the 1991 Gulf War.

For its superior performance from 1983–1985, the battalion was awarded a Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.
Desert Shield/Storm

In August 1990, 3rd AABn received orders to prepare for an overseas deployment to Southwest Asia as a response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In the following month the unit deployed to Saudi Arabia and received shipments of its Amphibious Assault Vehicles from Maritime Prepositioning ships to augment its current vehicle ranks.

During this time the battalion began upgrading its AAVP-7A1s to carry the UGWS (UpGunned Weapons Station), which mounts a .50 cal (12.7 mm) M2HB machine gun and a Mk-19 40 mm grenade launcher.

In preparation for the assault into Kuwait, the battalion divided into two main mechanized infantry task forces, along with 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions, to form Task Force Ripper and Task Force Papa Bear respectively. The units trained and patrolled the Saudi frontier with Kuwait until the start of the ground war in February 1991.

After five days of combat the two task forces, along with other Marine task forces, British and Pan-Arab units, captured Kuwait International Airport and a cease-fire was announced. During the march to Kuwait City, the mechanized infantry task forces were responsible for the defeat of numerous Iraqi regiments, the capture of tens of thousands of Iraqi prisoners, and the capture or destruction of thousands of enemy armored vehicles. 3rd AABn returned to Camp Pendleton in March 1991.

For its actions during the Gulf War, the battalion was awarded a { Presedential Unit Citation } Streamer.Navy Unit Commendation Streamer, National Defense Service Medal Streamer, and the Southwest Asia Service Medal Streamer With Two Bronze Stars.

Restore Hope

On 9 December 1992, elements of 3rd AABn attached to the 15th MEU landed on the beach just outside the Mogadishu International Airport in Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope. These initial forces were soon followed by Bravo, Delta, and H&S Companies of 3rd AABn. These units’ operations stretched from Mogadishu to Bardera, Baidoa, and Kismayo. The battalion served as a blocking force for the International Airport’s reception of airlifted humanitarian supplies, then extended its services as road guards for supply convoys and foot patrols in and around Mogadishu.

Elements of 3rd AABn served in Somalia or off the coast aboard MEUs from 1992 until approximately 1995. For its actions during Operation Restore Hope, the battalion was awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award Streamer and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Streamer.
Global War on Terror

In 2003, 3rd AABn participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the 1st Marine Division. They first deployed in February 2003 to Kuwait and crossed the border into Iraq in March, attacking all the way to Baghdad. The battalion served as the primary mechanized assault support for the infantry and proved to be an invaluable asset in crossing the vast distances and urban areas of Iraq. Companies from 3rd AABn continue to deploy to Iraq on a regular basis in support of Multi-National Forces West (MNF-W). In the Al Anbar province they conduct all manner of operations ranging from traditional infantry mechanized assault support to acting independently as motorized forces patrolling vast urban and desert areas.

To date, the battalion’s actions in support of the Global War on Terror have earned it a Presidential Unit Citation Streamer, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer, National Defense Service Medal Streamer, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal Streamer, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Streamer.



A request for information (RFI) was issued to industry on 17 February 2011. The document outlined expected requirements and asked industry for informal design proposals and program methodology feedback. Responses were due by 22 April 2011. An industry day was held on 6 April 2011.

In August 2012, General Dynamics was awarded an ACV Hull Survivability Demonstrator contract for the design, fabrication, and test support of a full-scale hull to demonstrate crew-protection technologies. In November 2012, they conducted simulated mine-blast tests on their ACV ballistic hull design, successfully meeting mine-blast survivability requirements. Work will conclude by May 2013 and will be used to refine requirements for effective protection against under-vehicle threats.

In April 2013, DARPA awarded a $1 million prize to a team in the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) contest. The team beat out 1,000 other competitors to submit their design for a drivetrain for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle. The FANG initiative is to demonstrate a way to procure working systems better than the current defense aquisition process, which frequently leads to delays and cost overruns. The Marines are in charge of the ACV program, so there is no guarantee that the Darpa-crowdsourced mobility drivetrain will result in a vehicle bought by the Corps.

The three basic variants include the Squad Maneuver/Fighting Vehicle, the Command and Control Vehicle, and the Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle.


World War II

In the Pacific theater of World War II, escort carriers would often escort the landing ships and troop carriers during the island-hopping campaign. In this role, they would provide air cover for the troopships as well as fly the first wave of attacks on the beach fortifications in amphibious landing operations. On occasion they would even escort the large carriers, serving as emergency airstrips and providing fighter cover for their larger sisters while these were busy readying or refueling their own planes. In addition to this, they would also transport aircraft and spare parts from the US to the remote island airstrips.
Post-World War II

Despite all the progress that was seen during World War II, there were still fundamental limitations in the types of coastline that were suitable for assault. Beaches had to be relatively free of obstacles, and have the right tidal conditions and the correct slope. However, the development of the helicopter fundamentally changed the equation. The first use of helicopters in an amphibious assault came during the invasion of Egypt during the Suez War in 1956. In this engagement two British light fleet carriers, Ocean and Theseus, were converted to perform a battalion-size airborne assault with helicopters.
HMS Ocean a conversion of a light aircraft carrier.

The techniques were developed further by American forces during the Vietnam War and refined during training exercises. The modern amphibious assault can take place at virtually any point of the coast, making defending against them extremely difficult.

Most early amphibious assault ships were converted from small aircraft carriers. As well as the two Colossus class light aircraft carriers converted for use in the Suez War, the British Royal Navy converted the Centaur class carriers Albion and Bulwark into “commando carriers” during the 1950s.    Sister ship HMS Hermes was also converted to a commando carrier in the early 1970s, but was restored to aircraft carrier operations before the end of the 1970s. The United States Navy used three Essex class aircraft carriers; Boxer, Princeton, and Valley Forge, and the Casablanca class escort carrier USS Thetis Bay as the basis of their amphibious assault fleet, before constructing the five Iwo Jima class ships specifically for the Landing Platform Helicopter role.

Later amphibious assault craft were constructed for the role. The United States Navy constructed the Tarawa class of five Landing Helicopter Assault ships, which began to enter service from the late 1970s, and the Wasp class of eight Landing Helicopter Dock ships, the first of which was commissioned in 1989. The United States Navy is also designing a new class of assault ships: the first America class ship is predicted to enter service in 2013.

The first British ship to be constructed specifically for the amphibious assault role was HMS Ocean, which was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1998. Other nations have built amphibious assault ships; the French Mistral class, Italy’s San Giorgio class, South Korea’s ROKS Dokdo, and Spain’s Juan Carlos I (L61) are all currently active, while Australia is building two Canberra class ships based on the Spanish design.



In the 1980s the Marine corps developed an “over the horizon” strategy for ocean based assaults. The intention was to protect naval ships from enemy mines and shore defenses. It included the MV-22 Osprey, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), and the EFV.

Development for the AAAV began in August 1974 with Landing Vehicle Assault (LVA) prototypes that continued in the early 1980s at the command at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The AAAV’s predecessor, the LVTP7, had its life expectancy extended in 1983–84 by use of a service life extension program, which modified and upgraded many of the key systems, creating the LVTP7A1 and re-designated it the AAVP7A1. At the time these vehicles were released, the USMC had anticipated and communicated delivery of the AAAV by 1993. As a result of delays, the AAVP7A1 has received another service life extension-type upgrade in the mid 1990s while the USMC still awaits final development and delivery of the AAAV, 14 years behind original projected time frames.

In 1988, defense officials authorized the concept exploration and definition phase. In 1995, the program entered into the definition and risk reduction phase, where it won two DOD awards for successful cost and technology management. In June 1996, a contract was awarded to General Dynamics Land Systems to begin full-scale engineering development of their design. Based on the aforementioned early success of the program, the Marine Corps awarded a cost-plus contract to General Dynamics in July 2001 for the systems development and demonstration phase of the program, expected to be completed by October 2003. The AAAV was renamed to EFV in September 2003. The Government Accountability Office would later state that the development phase of three years was insufficient, causing delays and prototype failures, particularly in reliability. After the 2006 Operational Assessment was plagued by reliability issues and maintenance burdens, the Corps began a redesign of the EFV, requiring a new contract for an additional US$143.5 million in February 2007. That June, a reset of the development phase delayed completion an additional four years. Instead of initiating production as planned, the Corps asked for seven new prototypes, to address the current deficiencies, which have caused an average of one failure for every four and a half hours of operation.

On 7 April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the EFV program will “continue as-is”, pending an amphibious review in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. The vehicle has recently been called “exquisite”, which Gates has usually reserved for programs he intends to cancel. He later questioned the EFV as the proper ship-to-shore platform on 3 May 2010, the day before the initial prototype was rolled out at a ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The USMC has reduced the number to be purchased from 1,013 to 573 AAAVs by 2015 due to escalation in unit cost estimated at $22.3 million dollars in 2007. The EFV might be a baseline vehicle for the Army’s BCT Ground Combat Vehicle Program, however it is more likely that the Army will start a new program.

Low rate initial production (LRIP) was projected to begin in January 2012. Projected total program development cost of the type until first quarter of 2010 has been estimated at 15.9 billion dollars.