G eneral Eisenhower said Andrew Jackson Higgins was “The man who won the war for us.” A feisty Irishman from New Orleans, Higgins had many disagreements with the Army, Navy and Marines, until they learned to leave him alone and let him build his boats.
Higgins designed and built all types of landing craft, used in every theatre of war, that were known world-wide as “Higgins boats.” However, few know or recall that he also built motor torpedo boats (popularly known as “PT boats”).
During WWII, Higgins Industries operated two plants in New Orleans, one on City Park Avenue and another on the Industrial Canal in the Gentilly section. During the war, the Industrial Canal near the Higgins plant was often impassible because of the row upon row of PT boats choking it.
The PT boats that were made at the City Park plant were taken by railroad to the Industrial Canal plant where most of the landing craft were made. Here they were floated and workers fitted out the boats.
The Industrial Canal connects the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain. Higgins’ boats could be put into the lake for sea trials, then run through the canal to the river to be loaded aboard merchant ships to be shipped to wherever in the world they were needed. Other boats allotted to closer destinations, were sent down the river to the Gulf of Mexico and on to their assigned stations.
Higgins designed a pin back badge, in the profile of the port side of one of his PT boats. He contracted with GEMSCO to produce the pin in plated silver metal. Higgins presented the pins to the Navy crews who took possession of the boats at the Industrial Canal plant. These pins were 2-5/8″ long by 5/16″ high and depicted the side view of a PT boat throwing a bow wave. The bow of the PT boat pin is marked “PT 450” which is said to be the number of the first boat built by Higgins. On the side of the cabin is the logo of Higgins Industries–the letter “H.” The back of the pin is marked “GEMSCO NY.”
These PT boat badges, though unofficial, were prized by their owners and would make a rare and welcome addition to any collection of PT boat memorabilia. Unfortunately, like the men who wore them, they were “expendable” and are not easily found today.