Buffalo 47 was built in October 1944 and is thought to have been used in the Rhine Crossing the following year. It was only three years old when it floated away at the breach before spending the next seventy years underground.
The Buffalo, full name LVT-4 (Landing Vehicle Tracked) Water Buffalo* is an amphibious vehicle, not a tank as it’s often mistakenly referred as. They played an important role during World War Two in Europe and the Pacific where they were used for transporting men and equipment to areas that were often inaccessible to ordinary tracked and wheeled vehicles and boats.
LVTs took a primary role in a dramatic scene of the 2010 mini series The Pacific.
The LVT-4 Water Buffalo traces it’s origins back to a civilian vehicle called the Alligator which was built for civilian rescue operations in swampy areas such as Florida. The United States Marine Corps became interested in the design of the Alligator and convinced Donald Roebling, the designer of the Alligator to design a more seaworthy model for military use
The first prototype was completed in 1940. Following successful development the US Bureau of Ships placed a contract for production of 100 units and the first of the amphibious vehicles were delivered in July 1941. It became known as the Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT-1 Alligator) and was followed by the LVT-2 Water Buffalo, the LVT(A)-1, LVT-3 Bushmaster, and the LVT-4 Water Buffalo. You can see a data sheet for the LVT-4 here.
Of the 8,348 built, 500 were given to the British Army and were designated the Buffalo IV. Able to transport up to 30 troops, most British versions were armed with a 20mm Polsten cannon and two .30 in (7.62mm) Browning machine guns.
Buffalo 47 was built by the Food Manufacturing Corporation (FMC) at their Lakeland Plant in Florida, USA. After war broke out in Europe in 1939, the US military wanted a seaworthy vehicle that the Marines could use, what was developed was the Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT). Although FMC made 18,000 LVTs in their Florida, Missouri, and California factories very few remain in full working condition.
In October 1944 in the assault on Antwerp all the way through to the end of April 1945 where they last saw large scale action in the crossing of the Elbe. (We’ve not been able to pin an exact regiment to it yet due to the conflicting Arms of Service numbers on the front and rear. There is however a picture of ‘Buffalo 46’ in a BBC archive, Article A2617797. It is very likely that Buffalo is there as well out of shot. This places it in Middlekirk, Ostend sometime in 1944) Sometime after the war they were brought back to the UK. According to reports (to be confirmed) they were stored in the Cambridge area prior to the 1947 floods.
While little is known about the Crowland LVTs use during the war, it is believed to have taken part in Operation Plunder, which saw Allied forces crossing the Rhine on March 23, 1945, near the city of Wesel in Germany. British engineers were faced with several challenges in getting men and equipment across the river but had practiced on the River Ouse in the UK.
The Rhine crossing was the largest amphibious and airborne operation since D-Day and the Buffaloes played a key role as thousands of tons of equipment men were moved, proving their worth.
The modern-day descendent in the US would probably be the Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) manufactured by U.S. Combat Systems (previously by United Defense, a former division of FMC Corporation who built the LVTs). It maybe the last of tracked amphibious personnel carriers for the US as the next generation is the 4×4 wheeled SuperAV as they’re faster, quieter and easier to move. The UK uses the amphibious Viking Armoured Vehicles which consists of two tracked vehicle units linked by a steering mechanism although at around one million pounds each they are unlikely to be used to help block a breach at anytime in the future.
* The name ‘Water Buffalo’ comes from world’s largest bovines. In the wild, water buffalo spend much of their day cooling off in the muddy waters of Asia’s tropical forest. It is because of their adaptability to land and water that they are so named.
© Crowland Buffalo LVT Association