In a follow-up to Michael Chiasson’s letter to the editor suggesting that the Greatest Generation be honored in Lee Circle, I put up for consideration a person who, in light of his accomplishments, his connection to New Orleans, the monument’s location and even his name, is worthy of such honor: Andrew Jackson Higgins.
Higgins was instrumental to the Allied victory over the Axis power. As Jerry Strahan recounts in his book, “Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats That Won World War II,” Higgins was a Horatio Alger success story, leaving school in the 11th grade, and yet shattered production records in the maritime industry with landing craft and freight supply vessels. By D-Day, his reputation rivaled that of any national hero.
Higgins Industries Inc., of New Orleans, alone produced 20,094 naval vessels. At its height, Higgins had eight shipyards and employed over 20,000 people and produced the famous Higgins landing craft, PT boats, rocket-firing landing support crafts, 56-foot tank landing craft, the 170-foot freight supply ships, lifeboats, gun turrets, smoke generators and even a part for the first atomic bomb.
Higgins was an outspoken, rough-cut, hot-tempered, hard-charging visionary who gave equal opportunity and equal pay to African-Americans, women, the elderly and the handicapped. Strahan goes on to say that Dwight Eisenhower, following his retirement as president, described Higgins as “the man who won the war for us.” Even Adolf Hitler recognized Higgins’ heroic war efforts in ship production and bitterly called him the “New Noah.”
Sadly, following the war, Higgins faded into virtual obscurity and, until recently, was not even recognized in his hometown.
The National WWII Museum began as the D-Day Museum in part to recognize the work of Higgins and commemorate all landed invasions of WWII. It would, indeed, be appropriate to mark to entrance to the Andrew Higgins Way and the path to the National WWII Museum with his statue and, more importantly, his story. Without him, at least according to Eisenhower, there is a good chance things could have turned out differently.
certified public accountant