The "Buffalo Graveyard"
Background photo - Buffalo LVT's on a dockside awaiting embarkation...
The Buffalo LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked) began it's life as a civilian rescue vehicle called the Alligator. The United States Marine Corps became interested in the vehicle and specified an improved design which performed better at sea in order to create a fully amphibious landing craft.
The problem with conventional landing craft is that the bow doors which allow the troops to disembark also serve to funnel enemy small arms fire right into the troops. Furthermore, the fact that landing craft can only get as far as the water line causes dangerous delays as the troops flounder in the water whilst all the while being gunned down. By providing a full amphibious capability together with a rear exit door the Buffalo could bring the troops right up onto the beach and allow them to deploy whilst affording some degree of protection however a short video clip (link to the right) shows that more often than not the troops deployed over the sides of the Buffalo's hull.
The first Buffalos could carry 24 men or 4,500 pounds of cargo. Originally intended to carry replenishments from ships to shore, they lacked armour protection however, the Marine Corps soon recognized the potential of the Buffalo as an assault vehicle. Armoured versions were introduced as well as fire support versions which were fitted with turrets from light tanks and as can be seen from the later pictures, small calibre field guns to provide heavier suppressing fire when actually on the beach. We suspect that had the field gun been fired whilst at sea the Buffalo might sink by the stern with the recoil! All in all 18,621 Buffalos were built and they remained in service until the 1950s. Whilst undoubtedly a very effective and highly interesting vehicle it's hard not to view them as a sort of semi-aquatic skip!
Beneath the cliffs at "Shark's Pit" the massive heap of discarded war equipment beggars belief and seems to spread for ever in every direction. It is reported that there are even some Japanese tanks down at 60 metres however we did not have tri-mix or the necessary support available to us to get down to that depth in order to see for ourselves. Suffice it to say that even in the depths we chose we were not spoilt for sights - in addition to at least ten Buffalos we found the remains of a locomotive, a bulldozer, a large flat bed trailer and even a couple of wafer thin silver tea trays which sadly were concreted irrevocably to the surrounding metalwork.
Photos from the Buffalo Graveyard (Shark's Pit)...
Click on any image below to bring up a larger version...
NB: All 4 x 3 photo images below courtesy (and copyright) of Mark Sykes.
All remaining photo images below copyright Martin Frankcom.