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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today about the impact Nebraska native Andrew Higgins had on turning the tide of World War II with the design of the Eureka Boat. She encouraged Americans this Thanksgiving to show gratitude to service members and veterans for their sacrifices and service to this nation.
The following remarks are as prepared:
Mr. President, next Thursday is Thanksgiving, and we are here today because even during a tough year like this one, we have so many things to be thankful for.
In that spirit, I’d like to tell a short story about a Nebraskan whose contribution to the history of our country is pretty extraordinary.
In 1886, Andrew Jackson Higgins was born in the small town of Columbus, Nebraska.
He spent most of his childhood in Omaha, and he served in the Nebraska Army National Guard after the turn of the 20th century before moving to Alabama at age 20 to work in the lumber industry.
He worked a wide variety of jobs, hoping to learn enough to eventually start his own business.
He succeeded in his dream in 1922, when he founded Higgins Lumber and Export Co., which quickly grew to become one of the largest lumber companies in North America.
Four years later, his company designed the “Eureka boat,” a 36-foot-long boat that was able to sail in just a few feet of water.
At the time, lumber could only be loaded onto ships at port, but a craft that could operate in such shallow water could run on and off of riverbanks, enabling Higgins Lumber and Export Co. to load and unload its lumber just about anywhere.
In short, Andrew Higgins built the Eureka boat simply to make his employees’ lives easier.
And that was an honorable goal.
But throughout the next decade, as it became clear that Hitler desired to plunge the world back into war, the U.S. military began to search for a way to land soldiers directly onto beaches.
They turned to the Eureka boat, which beat the Navy’s design in a head-to-head test in 1939.
There was just one problem: The only way to get on or off the boat was by jumping over the sides, and this would leave soldiers exposed to enemy fire in combat.
To get around this, the Navy asked Higgins to add a ramp door to the boat’s bow.
He returned with the final design just a month later, and the Higgins boat was born.
Andrew Higgins’ company went on to produce over 23,000 of these boats, and his design worked so well that the Allies trusted them to carry our soldiers across the English Channel on D-Day.
Mr. President, without the Higgins boat, we may not have turned the tide of World War II at Normandy.
We may never have liberated Europe from Hitler’s grasp.
In fact, President Dwight Eisenhower, who was the supreme allied commander in Europe on D-Day, went as far as to say that Andrew Higgins was “the man who won the war for us.”
It was an honor to attend the 75th anniversary of D-Day last year at Omaha Beach – to see firsthand the beach where the Greatest Generation jumped out of the boats that Andrew Higgins built to save the world from Nazism.
I am thankful for them, and I am thankful for the sacrifices that all of our veterans and active-duty service members make each and every day.
Mr. President, we all know that Thanksgiving is going to be a little different this year.
As important as it is to spend time with our extended family, many of whom we may only see once a year, it is just as important to do what we can to protect those we love from this virus.
I won’t pretend that it’s easy to spend Thanksgiving apart from these large gatherings of loved ones.
But I hope the far greater sacrifices our soldiers and veterans have made will help to keep this hardship in perspective.
This Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for our military.
Let’s give thanks for Andrew Higgins and the Higgins boat, which saved the lives of so many of our soldiers on D-Day.
And let’s give thanks for our veterans and those currently serving this country in the armed forces.
Without the sacrifices they’ve made and continue to make every day, our country wouldn’t be as great as it is today.
Their service makes Thanksgiving possible, this year and every year.
Thank you. I yield the floor.