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LVT Graveyard - Guam 1946

Posted by Thomas Webert on

Guam, 1946

These masses of Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) vehicles are piled high in a ravine. 

This picture was taken on the Island of Guam, at the site of present day Ordot Dump, in 1946. All of these LVT vehicles would have taken part in the invasion of the island two years earlier, in 1944. It’s an incredible sight to see as this tower of machines made up a significant portion of the invasion force.

The inventor of the LVT, Donald Roebling, was born into a family of accomplished engineers. Donald’s grandparents as well as great-grandfather were responsible for the design and construction of the famous Brooklyn Bridge which was finished in 1883 and still stands today.

Throughout the late 1920’s and early 30’s severe hurricanes ravaged Florida, killing thousands. Donalds father, John Roebling, determined if a vehicle existed that could operate in the aftermath of hurricanes, in areas inaccessible to cars and boats, many victims could have been saved. John, being wealthy, put his son Donald in charge of this project and bankrolled the entire operation. 

The first prototype was completed in 1935, featuring an aluminum body for buoyancy and tracks with extended fin-like treads. The treads gave the vehicle traction on land and the ability to swim in water. After many redesigns, the vehicle was featured in LIFE magazine, where it caught the eye of the United States Marine Corps (USMC), who needed an amphibious vehicle given the prospect of a war with Japan. 

Suddenly a vehicle designed to save lives was pressed into a role meant to end them, or protect them depending on the way you look at it. Roebling went back and fourth with the Marine Corp refining his “alligator” as it was then called, into a vehicle ready for combat. 

In November 1940 the USMC approved the design and ordered 100 vehicles. Roebling contacted the Food Machinery Corporation in Florida to produce this order. With the war raging in Europe, the first militarized “alligator” was delivered to the Marines in 1941, and designated LVT-1.

During the war, the LVT gained the nickname "Water Buffalo", because apparently its namesake enjoys bathing in water and is quite aggressive. The Japanese would have certainly thought the same of the LVT.

Bristling with machine guns and loaded with 16 – 30 Marines, the LVT swam at a maddening 7.5 mph towards heavily defended beachheads throughout the Pacific. These machines were used to bring marines ashore in famous battles, such as Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

The LVT or "Water Buffalo" was also used in the European Theatre, moving troops and supplies across the Rhine River in Germany, as well as North Africa. 

Battle of Guam LVT footage

Like me, you may have wondered what happened to all the military hardware that was used in these massive battles. In the case of Guam, it all stayed.

On September 25, 2023, the US government agreed to pay Guam $50 million to cover the costs of cleaning up the Ordot Dump: the king of all dumps. Used from WWII to 1983, the United States Navy filled it with all types of goodies including unexploded ordnance, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and all the LVT "Buffalo" vehicles seen in the photo above. Throughout three major conflicts, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the Ordot Dump was the only trash can used by the US Military on Guam.

Piled into a ravine, as seen in our photo above, the Ordot Dump is leaking military waste into the nearby Pacific Ocean. Maintenance and cleaning up this site will take lots of money over the coming years and is a direct example of how past events and decisions affect our present.

Somewhere piled deep within this dump, exist around 80 of the LVT "Buffalos" with WWII battle experience, a literal goldmine of military history. If this didn't itch your desire for an obscure history fact, tune in for next week. :)

I hope you have a fantastic week,


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