The following was written by Mike Kendall of AFV INTERIORS WEB MAGAZINE for Vol 1, No. 7, 1999. AFV INTERIORS is a Kit Hobbiest orgranization and he has very graciously given permission to the "AMTRAC PLATOON" to display it on this website, all items in this article are to be used by permission only. Webmaster
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US Landing Vehicle
Tracked,Personnel, Model 5,
"LVTP-5", Part 1

Picture 1:
Plans for the series of vehicles called Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) date back to at least 1940, perhaps earlier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps approved most of the ambitious Borg Warner Corporation LVT design in the late 1940's and manufacturing began in the early 1950's. The LVT vehicles entered service with the US Marines in 1955-56 and replaced a number of Amtrac types that had been used extensively from WWII into Korea. These new Amtracs were roomier than their predecessors and were completely enclosed in light armor. The LVTP (P for "Personnel") was fully amphibious without preparation, other than closing all lower ports and hatches. Early models of the LVTP included both an unarmed cargo version as well as a personnel transport with a MG cupola for ground support located at the front of the roof. The typical crew load included a Driver in the bow on the port (left) side, a Commander (Crew Chief) at the starboard bow, and a third member, sometimes called the Assistant Driver and sometimes the Gunner depending on the manual you read and the mission of the Amtrac. The vehicle could hold between 25 and 34 fully equipped Marines, seated in four rows of folding bench seats--one bench along both sides of the cargo compartment and two back to back down the center. On the other hand, as many as 45 passengers could be transported standing up with the middle seats removed and the side benches folded up against the wall cabinets. The last batch of -5s were upgraded with a few minor changes to the final version of the Amtrac, the LVTP-5A1.

The -5A1 in this USMC photo is having its engine and transmission pulled by a recovery vehicle version of the LVTP-5, called LVTR1A1. Since we are looking at the rear of the left LVTP-5A1, we are also looking at the rear of the powerpack, the white transmission. Notice the engine roof access panel has been removed and is setting on the barrels to the right, complete with the later style exhaust/intake modified structure bolted to the center of the panel.

Picture 2:
Amtrac crews in Vietnam operated with the seats removed most of the time except when the LVTP-5s provided ship to shore duty over extended distances. When operating in the cargo role, the LVTP-5 could haul 12,000lbs through the water and 18,000lbs on land, loading and unloading through the cable lowered ramp at the bow when on land or through large hinged doors on the roof when at sea. The engine powering all the different variants of the LVTP was a Continental V-12, liquid-cooled, gasoline motor, which remained constant throughout the years with only few refinements in exhaust and air intake ducting in a modified roof vent system in the latest versions. By 1957 the last LVTP-5 rolled off the assembly line, to be replaced shortly by an even more refined water taxi.

This image and others from the LVTP-5 Marine Corps Maintenance Manual (ORD-MM-7000A, October, 1957) were provided to us by Museums Branch, History and Museums Division, Headquarters Marine Corps. The picture illustrates the layout of the front and right sides of an early LVTP-5. Hydraulic motors and winch cables lower the large ramp, and with the ramp in the lowered position you can see the driver's position up on the left sponson near the bow. Thomas Williams, who crewed an Amtrac in Vietnam, reports they sometimes connected a cable to the end of the ramp and the top of the opening so when the ramp was lowered it stopped when it was level (instead of lying down at an angle). It could then be used as a table for cleaning equipment or sorting supplies. The hose rising at an angle (below and next to the driver's seat) is one of the bilge discharge hoses. The driver's domed over-head hatch is seen in the open position.

On this near side of the Amtrac sat the vehicle commander, usually a Crew Chief, and he had the same over-head cupola and hatch as the driver. The interior paint color of these hatches was the same as the primary exterior color, USMC green, but most of the surface was covered with a thick, black, leather head bump pad. The large cargo doors on the roof are shown in the open position, the hatches hinged on their outside edges and folding in the middle to fully expose the interior of the compartment below. The inside color of these long hatches was also generally the exterior color, USMC green. Down inside, the long passenger seats were padded and covered with flat black leatherette on the surfaces and all had USMC green painted support legs. Also visible here is one of the rear engine access hatches, opened, as well as the radiator air exhaust port on the side of the hull.

This is the first of a two part series on the LVTP-5. This part will cover the general development of the vehicle and the commander's station on the right side while Part 2 will explore the driver's area and the engine/transmission compartment at the rear.

Picture 3:
From the same maintenance manual we have this top and rear view of the basic LVTP-5. The engine is located in its own compartment at the rear of the hull and a large engine access panel on the roof can be unbolted to allow access to the engine and removal of its major components. From inside the vehicle there is also access to the engine through a large panel on the back fire wall of the cargo compartment. On top of the roof engine access panel you can see the early exhaust grating and deflector that will be changed later with the LVTP-5A1 version of the Amtrac. To either side of this panel are two engine access hatches used by the crew for engine access for minor maintenance. There are two domed air blower covers on the roof, the one closest to us at the left is for the scavenger blower in the engine compartment and a similar blower is located on the forward left corner of the hull, behind the driver's hatch. These blowers exhausted stale air from inside the LVTP and fresh air then entered from open hatches or three smaller ports also located on the roof. Even with this system, the air inside a closed up and operational LVTP-5 was normally pretty thick.

Forward of the two engine access hatches are two radiator intake grills covering the location of the twin engine radiators and fans below. While on land, the engine driven fans drew cooling air into the ducts and through the radiators inside, then exhausted the air through the hull side grates. When in the water, the driver turned off the fans and the sealed radiator compartments were allowed to partially flood to cool the radiators. That is why you often see water pouring from the side grates when Amtracs come ashore. Forward of these grills are two entrance hatches into the cargo compartment with radio antenna bases outboard and two of the inboard fresh air ports I mentioned earlier. Taking up most of the roof (forward of the two hatches) are the large opened cargo hatches, in this case showing how they are articulated in the middle to fold back on themselves. Ladders were stowed to the outside surface of the cargo hatches and were used at the back edge when the hatches were open to get from the cargo compartment floor to the roof and then outside. The driver's cupola and surrounding vision blocks are at the front left of the roof and the commander's are to the right. In this case, the MG turret is not mounted and a round cover plate is bolted on the roof in its place.

Picture 4:
This is the commander's closed over-head cupola and hatch with its four surrounding M17 periscopes that allowed clear views forward and to the side. Another periscope, an M17C, is aimed across the raised roof section for a diagonal view of the opposite front corner of the Amtrac. The hatch is opened with the assistance of a set of torsion springs inside the hollow hinge bar you see here. A spring-loaded hook holds the cover latched in the open position and the hook can be released from inside the hull by pulling down on a hook shaped eye located at the base of the cupola. A locking handle on the under side of the hatch locks it closed and provides a grip for opening and closing the hatch. A watertight seal keeps sprayed water out and there are rubber seals around all the periscopes for the same reason. Just outside the cupola you can see a number of items on the roof including another of the fresh air intake ports next to the antenna base (at the lower right of the picture). Also seen here is one of the large lifting eyes--another is located next to the driver's cupola on the right and two more on the aft roof. Forward of the hatch you can see the armored cover for the blackout bow marker light and the unprotected light next to it is a detachable driving light. At the far right end of the hatch hinge you can see the hold open hook that we mentioned earlier welded on the domed cover.

Picture 5:
If we open the commander's hatch and lower ourselves down, we will stand first on his seat, and then step down from the sponson onto the floor. The commander's seat and surrounding gear would look like this image from the Manual. We are looking across at the seat, which is mounted on a support post that is bolted on top of the sponson and also onto the hull wall. The seat is composed of a metal formed bottom seat pan (normally black, but shown here white) that slides up and down the support post in a similar way to driver's seats mounted in many US tanks. This allows the occupant to ride either under armor or with his head out of the hatch. The spring for raising the seat when the height adjustment lever is pulled and your weight is lifted off is hidden inside the post. The seat adjustment levers can just be seen behind and above the padded lever control box next to the seat. The control handles stick up above the padding and includes the forward lever for vertical seat adjustments, and the rear handle for horizontal adjustment (B). The wide OD green seat belt is shown rolled up on either side of the seat bottom. The height of the seat back is adjustable via a wing nut (C) and the back can be reclined by the control lever at the base (D). Directly behind the seat is the one portable CO2 fire extinguisher carried in the vehicle although there are three others fixed in the engine compartment for fires back there. The commander's green radio control box is mounted at his right shoulder and is where he plugs in his headset and microphone for communication in and out side the vehicle. The padding on the seats is typically covered by flat black or gray colored plastic imitation leather, but USMC green canvas covered seats are also seen and are probably a repair of the original.

Picture 6:
A clamp on the bulkhead directly behind the commander could hold a small AN/PRC radio, shown in its up and stowed position in this handbook illustration. The radio could be either an 8, 9, or 10 unit, depending on the mission of the Amtrac, and it is connected to the forward starboard antenna by the black cable you see to the upper right. The set is powered by an internal battery and may be operated inside the vehicle, from a semi-permanent ground installation outside, or while being carried by the operator. The AN/PRC is matched with a handset H-33/PT that plugs into the AUDIO jack on the panel. Because there is a high noise level in the vehicle, a headset microphone H-63/U and chest set group are proved for the commander as you see here; the driver has a similar radio set up. The commander's seat back is directly below and his over-head cupola is above. The vision blocks were easily replaced by unlatching the side handles on the mounts and then lowering the glass block into the vehicle. A replacement could then be inserted and the holders latched secure again. At the upper right corner of the picture is the control handle for the fresh air intake port at this position. Armor on the LVTP-5 was thin and ranged from 1/4 to 5/8in thick. It was butt-welded and reinforced with structural members inside providing a very robust, if uninspired, hull configuration.

Picture 7:
Here is the commander's position and opened ramp from inside a preserved LVTP-5A in an outside display. This and other photos in this series of articles were taken by Kelly Jo Williams and loaned to INTERIORS by Thomas Williams. Although a bulkhead hides most of the commander's seat in this picture, you can still see the front edge of the contoured base pan with the seat in the elevated position. Attached to the wall to the right of the seat is a storage box for viewing blocks and forward of the position is a bracket for a first aid kit and box type flashlight. To the left is the cable and pulley for raising the ramp along the edge of the opening and just to the right is what's left of a bracket on the front wall for four cans of .30cal ammo. Notice the anti-slip covering on the floor plates and the dark color of the floor here as well as on top of the sponson.

Most of the electrical cables on the ceiling forward of the commander's hatch are attached to the infrared blackout lights and headlights we saw earlier on the exterior of the vehicle. Behind the seat is a wall full of storage boxes and cabinets for tools and other gear; the wall cabinets extend clear back to the right side exit hatch. The interior walls and ceiling of the vehicle are painted white, originally gloss finish but fading with wear and time to dull white. The floor was usually painted flat black or USMC forest green, but you will find it repainted white in photos taken during Vietnam. Most of the webbing belts inside, such as the seat belts, are OD green.

Picture 8:
Another image from the same vehicle, although a bit darker than the previous, shows the same position but from the opened ramp. The seat is clearly seen here, although the back is missing. Notice the bracket holder for the AN/PRC radio on the bulkhead behind the seat. The bracket hooks on the hull wall forward of the seat controls were to hold the vehicle log book and was also handy for hanging the commander's headset and microphone. A bracket for a first aid kit and another for a box shaped flashlight are further forward and can't be seen here. The diagonal white support on the left is the right ramp opening support brace, and the cable running up its top side is the ramp control cable. The hose running up the sponson next to the seat and ending at the roof is the right bow bilge pipe, leading up from the pumps under the floor to a discharge exit on the hull roof.

Picture 9:
A small one-man MG turret was often mounted in the roof between the commander and driver's hatches in those vehicles designated as personnel carriers. The turret mounted the familiar .30cal 1919A1 Browning machine gun in a cradle that was manually elevated and depressed on two trunion pins with an elevation handle. Elevation was from +60 to -15 degrees and on top of the domed turret is the gunner's periscopic sight assembly. The gunner could use any of five vision blocks around the turret cupola, combining to provide a complete 360 degree view around the vehicle roof. There were two additional vision blocks on the front surface of the elevated turret base attached to the roof and one of these blocks can also be seen in this illustration. Inside the vehicle, there were locations for reportedly stowing 2,000 rounds of .30cal ammo stored in cans (250/can), but in action in Vietnam additional ammo was stowed inside, stashed anyplace an ammo can would fit. Below the turret could be set a short platform for the gunner to stand on in order to better use the vision blocks and reach the gun equipment. It was not necessary for gunners over 6ft tall.

Picture 10:
This image of the inside of the turret illustrates many of the control details. The MG gun mount at the right is complete with a green canvas spent shell bag hanging down from the exit chute of the receiver. The MG firing trigger is visible here (G) as well as the elevation handle (L), although the gun could be elevated by use of the MG handle alone. To the far left is the hand crank for rotating the turret, which is attached to a geared drive mechanism surrounding the turret. The .30cal ammo box support, which would hold a typical 250 round .30cal ammo can, is directly in front of us and a green painted cylindrical battery box (M33 Instrument Light) for the light bulb inside the periscopic sight is attached to the box support. The M111B periscopic sight has a large rubber eye/face pad and the sight tube is articulated in elevation to follow the gun. Above, on the ceiling of the turret dome and off set to the rear, is a small circular head pad glued to the armor where the gunner's head would most likely bump when he used the gun. Only a part of the pad is seen at the top of the image. Notice the two viewing blocks in the turret support structure, seen here at the bottom of the image.

Picture 11:
The LVTP designers located the ramp at the bow in order to make amphibious assaults more practical than earlier Amtracs. The bow ramp placement also allowed for a more balanced load/engine ratio when landing, since the power pack was at the rear. Looking directly back into the hull you can get a feel for the expansive area available for carrying cargo or troops when the seats were removed. The lower deck flooring was steel, covered with non-slip skid plate, and was 15ft long from the base of the ramp to the engine bulkhead and over 7ft wide. Five companies built LVTPs, including Ingersoll, St. Louis Car Company, Food Machinery Company (FMC), Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton, and Pacific Car and Foundry. Around 1,000 were completed and handed over to the Marines.

Under the floor is the bilge space and a number of individual fuel containers to store the total of 456gal of 80 octane gasoline for the thirsty Continental engine. The vehicle's travel range was around 250 miles on land and 65 in calm water. At the back of the compartment you can see the central engine access hatch flanked by cargo pad tie down eyes. Down on the bottom of the back firewall are access panels for the four vehicle batteries (H), two secured in each cabinet. Between the battery compartments is a typical USMC bracket box containing a set of pioneer tools. Over-head you can see the closed cargo hatches and the handles for releasing the hatches are visible at this end of the opening (A). At the right side of the photo is the driver's area and directly behind him are open racks to stow equipment, including a number of possible radio sets. The long bench seats along the sides and center of the compartment have been removed completely from this LVTP-5. Normally, the side benches would be folded up along the walls where you see the vertical roof supports. When folded, the unique zigzag pattern of the bottom seat cushion supports would be visible on both sides of the space. The roof support beams add strength to the structure and there are additional beams welded around the vehicle hatches and especially the cargo doors on the roof. As I mentioned in Part 1, the primary interior color in the LVTP is generally gloss white, with a flat black or USMC forest green floor. But, repainted white floors are as common in period photos as the darker original factory paint.

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