On June 6, 2011 — five years ago today — Delgado Community College commemorated the role of Andrew Higgins and the students and teachers at Delgado who built the famous "Higgins Boats" that landed American soldiers and sailors on the beaches of Normandy, June 6, 1944: D-Day.
The following news story about the 2011 event was written by Tony Cook, Delgado Public Relations and Marketing:
On June 6, 1944, soldiers, sailors and marines from the Allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy, France — a landmark event in history that is universally recognized as D-Day. The deadly struggle on those sands between the seaborne Allied troops and the German occupation forces on the shore has been depicted in many famous books, articles, photographs, documentaries and Hollywood movies, including The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan.
The flotillas of small boats from which those men entered the water along the French coastline — and entered history — were made up largely of “Higgins boats” designed and built in New Orleans by legendary industrial magnate Andrew J. Higgins. Called “the man who won the war” by Dwight Eisenhower and “the new Noah” by Adolf Hitler, this unconventional, visionary shipbuilder created assembly lines in New Orleans to build more than 29,000 vessels for the military by the end of the war in 1945.
One of those facilities was located on the present-day City Park Campus of Delgado Community College, on precisely the same location as the 1982-vintage O’Keefe Administration Building. Students and faculty from what was then called the Delgado Trades School were among the thousands of New Orleanians employed by Higgins Industries at the City Park assembly plant, which opened in 1941. Their commitment to building a variety of versatile boats — landing craft, torpedo-armed patrol boats (the famous PT boats), and others — that enabled the Allies to win World War II has for more than 60 years been a treasured, yet neglected, aspect of Delgado’s history and the multifaceted history of the City of New Orleans.
Today, on the 67th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) joined with Delgado officials and more than 100 invited guests to unveil a new monument on the former site of the Higgins plant on City Park Ave. Under the shade of a moss-draped oak tree that, along with a railroad line crossing the avenue nearby, are perhaps the only remnants of the Higgins facility still extant on the site, the celebrants listened to Andrew Higgins biographer Jerry E. Strahan and other notable speakers talk about the wartime contributions of Higgins Industries and Delgado. The Navy Band New Orleans played patriotic music, and the Riverdale High School Color Guard presented the American flag.
When it was over, the new monument gleamed in the sunshine in its permanent spot beside busy City Park Ave., not far from the Cemeteries stop on the famous Canal St. streetcar line. Visitors, residents, and Delgado students now can visit the monument and reflect on the significance of the site where World War II was won, in part, by the “Delgado men” and other hard-working New Orleanians. The City of New Orleans provided a $5,000 grant to the New Orleans Chapter of the D.A.R. to fund the monument.
Those speaking at today’s event included Strahan, author of Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats that Won World War II (LSU Press, 1994); Kathleen Collins, D.A.R. historian for Louisiana; Sheila Curry, regent of the New Orleans D.A.R. chapter; Deborah R. Lea, acting chancellor of Delgado Community College; and Arnel Cosey, executive dean of the Delgado City Park campus and Delgado’s assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. Mrs. Dawn Higgins Murphy and other members of the Higgins family were recognized as honored guests during the event.
LCVPs, the famous “Higgins boats,” and PT boats on the assembly line at the Higgins City Park plant. When completed, they were taken by rail to Bayou St. John in New Orleans for sea testing on Lake Pontchartrain. (photo courtesy Graham Haddock and Jerry Strahan)
Dawn Higgins Murphy, left, daughter of New Orleans boatbuilder Andrew Higgins, and Carruth John Best Cointment, the great-great-grandson of Higgins, attend the dedication of a monument Monday, June 6, 2011, at Delgado Community College on the site of the Higgins Industries City Park assembly plant. Higgins landing craft and PT boats are famous because they played a vital role in winning World War II.