MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Andrew J. Higgins built a boat in 1926 for trappers and oil drillers who worked the bayous of Louisiana and later offered it to the Navy Bureau of Ships.
The boat could operate in very shallow water and run up on riverbanks and then retracted again. Not until the Marine Corps Equipment Board took an interest in the design did anyone see the usefulness of such a vessel.
The Higgins' design would eventually be developed into the landing craft used by the Marine Corps throughout the Pacific campaign in World War II.
Marine Corps Systems Command is trying to reward this type of creative thinking that has led to many improvements in equipment used by our operating forces.
As part of this effort, Systems Command has established three awards for professional excellence or innovation in pursuit of an acquisition, fielding and support of systems and equipment to the operating forces.
The awards will be presented June 4 at Acquisition and Logistics Excellence day hosted by Systems Command.
One award will be presented to a Marine Corps officer, one to a Staff Non-commissioned officer, and one to a civilian acquisition professional, and each will be named after an innovative thinker who contributed new equipment to aid Marine Corps readiness, as did Higgins.
"It is especially appropriate that an award in the field of acquisition be named after Higgins, because he had to fight the system the whole time to have his boats considered," said David Stefferud, wife of Higgins daughter Andree. "He was good friends with General Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith, who stuck by him when the Navy's Bureau of Ships didn't want to listen to his ideas. He was proud the ships he designed were used to land and rescue troops all over the world."
The other two awards will be named after Eugene M. Stoner and Donald Roebling.
Stoner was a rifle designer who developed a way to use a common receiver from which could be configured six different weapons systems. One of Stoner's weapons systems was the first to be chambered to use the NATO 5.56mm cartridge and the Marine Corps used one of his variants, the belt-fed light machine gun during the Vietnam War.
"His children and I were grateful for this recognition and tribute to him," said Barbara Stoner, his second wife who survives him and lives in Florida and Michigan.
Roebling developed a tracked amphibious vehicle, not for a military purpose, but to aid in the aftermath of the Great Florida Hurricane of 1935. When his vehicle was highlighted in a 1937 issue of Life, Marine Corps officers had the foresight to see a possible capability to land troops during amphibious assault operations.
Eventually the Marine Corps' Equipment Board pushed to have a model built with "military characteristics" which Roebling did-and for less than the allocated $20,000.
The first vehicle came off the line in July 1941 and 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion was formed as part of the 1st Marine Division in 1942.