On the morning of 10 July 1943, American and British troops stormed ashore on the beaches of Sicily in the initial stages of Operation Husky, the first major amphibious operation to employ landing ships and craft. Army troops were landed in LCVPs (landing craft, vehicle, personnel), while their heavy equipment, including jeeps and tanks, were transported in the much larger LSTs (landing ship, tank).
Most of the Sicilian beaches were fronted by “false beaches”—sand bars positioned dozens of yards offshore that were covered by a few feet of water. These sand bars were high enough to prevent the LSTs from passing over them on their way into the beach. Between these false beaches and the shore were “runnels”—lagoons deep enough to drown vehicles attempting to wade ashore from the sand bars.
Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly—who commanded the landing of the American troops at Licata and was also responsible for organizing the landing ships and craft being assembled for Husky and training their crews—puzzled over how this problem could be solved. While on a quick trip back to the U.S. East Coast, he visited the Navy facility at Quonset, Rhode Island, where he had the opportunity to see pontoons being tested. After talking about the issue with the officer in charge and mulling things over, Admiral Conolly determined that if pontoons somehow could be joined together and attached to the LSTs, they could be employed as makeshift causeways over which heavy equipment could be driven safely to the beach from the ships that had grounded on the sand bars.
Testing revealed that the pontoons could be hinged to the sides of the landing ships, and that once the LSTs had grounded offshore, they could be lowered, hooked together, and attached to the ships’ bows. This innovation worked so successfully during Operation Husky that it was quickly adopted for use in all subsequent amphibious operations where the LSTs were unable to beach themselves completely.