Penguin Assault Amphibian Craft, WW2 USN craft for Chinese Mud Flats

Mil-tech Bard

I really should change my personal text
Jul 22, 2011
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I ran across the following reference and I cannot find a photo of this vehicle anywhere: ???


This is from pages 223 - 225

In the spring of 1945 when landings on the China coast were being
planned it was evident that still another amphibian would be needed.
We had nothing that could move in quickly across the broad tidal
flats of a huge delta and land troops, ammunition, and supplies. There
the problem would be water only a few inches deep, or slick mud and
silt that could not support the heavy DUKW's and Buffaloes and
Weasels, could not even take our shallow-draft swamp gliders. There
would be no underwater obstacles like jetted rails sticking up in the
soggy silt to stop our shoreward progress; but these muddy areas were
broad and the assault waves would have to cross them swiftly, or they
would be mowed lown by enemy fire.

The Navy's effort to solve this problem was centered at Port Hueneme
on the California coast where such conditions could be found
along the shore line. COMINCH asked for help from someone who
would know the "soils" of deltas, and OFS sent Dr. Arthur B. Cleaves,
one of the country's foremost engineering geologists, chief consultant
on the Harrisburg Turnpike, who had later studied drainage on jungle
airstrips and foundation problems in Mexico. He had just gone down
to Fort Pierce, Florida, as a special advisor to the Joint Army-Navy
Experimental and Testing Board (JANET) on various aspects of amphibious
operations; but this mud-bottom problem was right up his
alley and JANET would likewise be keenly interested in its solution.

At the Acorn Assembly and Naval Training Detachment at Hueneme
Cleaves helped in the design and testing of an amphibian named the
PENGUIN. It was a shallow, lightweight sled, equipped with auxiliary
treads and powered by an aircraft engine
. It weighed less than a ton
and could skim over water at the speed of an auto and go across mud
flats, through sloughs and tule grass with ease, carrying men and supplies
and towing extra loads. Fortunately we never needed to use this
"vessel," but it would have traversed terrain impassable to all the types
of amphibious vehicles we had yet devised.

This was only one of the many accomplishments of Arthur Cleaves
during his two years with OFS, which are detailed in other portions
of this book. Energetic, affable, alert, and persistent, he was one of the
1ost successful of the OFS men in working with the military. For his
contribution to the development of the PENGUIN, Navy Secretary Forrestal
wrote: -

"Applying your comprehensive technical knowledge with resourceful
initiative, you worked tirelessly in connection with the mud tests
conducted by the Acorn Assembly and Training Detachment and
were largely responsible for the solution of difflcult incidental problems.

"By your keen enthusiasm, tactful cooperation and brilliant professional
abilities you have contributed essentially to the development of
urgently needed cquipment, vital to the success of the war effort. Your
diligent efforts are deeply appreciated."

DUKW's, Weasels, Water Buffaloes, and PENGUINS - as different
from a sailor's idea of what a ship should be as was a Spanish galleon
from the modern battlewagon. Yet the men who manned them -
bluejacket, Marine, and dogface- learned to respect these sturdy, amphibian
craft, and often they owed their lives to the combat scientists
who designed, worked with, and fought for the trucks that went to

Does anyone have a lead?

It sound like some sort of tracked airboat (See link, but I can't find it anywhere.


ACCESS: Top Secret
Jul 15, 2009
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I suppose an alternative would have been those whatsits with 'corkscrew pontoon floats'...

FWIW, after trying other options for work 'Beyond Mud-Board Range', our coastguard / F&R use a small hovercraft equipped with water-jetting gear to extricate mired estuarine walkers & riders. Even minimal jetting breaks mud / silt / quick-sand's 'suction', allows prompt retrieval. Essential given NW UK's scary tidal range...

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