In the 1930s, Andrew Higgins was just a local boat-builder in New Orleans.

He built unusual, flat-bottom craft for the Mississippi Delta.

These boats had a very shallow draft, they needed about two feet of water, which was perfect for people wanting to travel at speed through the Mississippi swamplands.

Higgins designed them with a hollow shape at the rear for the propeller, so it wouldn’t drag on the bottom, and a wedge shape under the bow, so it could run right up onto land.

Then, when the cargo was taken off, the boat was lighter and could simply be reversed back out into the water.

The boats were perfect for rum-runners bringing illegal booze ashore at night, they were also used by the coastguards chasing the rum-runners.

After Pearl Harbour, it became obvious that at some future point the US Marines would need to land in enemy territory, to attack the German and Japanese forces.

The traditional way of landing soldiers in enemy territory had always meant capturing a portso that vessels could pull alongside a dock and unload troops over the side onto the pier.

The coastguard suggested to the Marines that they look at the boats Higgins was building.

The draft was so shallow they didn’t need to capture a port, they could run the boats right up onto a beach, any beach.

They asked Higgins if he could build the boat so the front came down like a ramp.

So that’s what Higgins built, the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle or Personnel).

It was 36 feet long and 11 feet wide, it had a top speed of 12 knots and could carry a platoonof 36 soldiers.

It could run right up the beach, drop them all off and go back to get another load, all in 3 to 4 minutes.

The best part was the enemy wouldn’t know where the landing would come.

For instance, the Germans had built a 2,000-mile defensive wall from artic Norway to Spain, the parts they had mainly fortified were harbours like Cherbourg, Brest, and Antwerp, and they had to stretch 300,000 troops along the length of it.

They built 15,000 concrete bunkers, used 1.2 million tons of steel, 17 million cubic metres of concrete, costing $206 billion in today’s money.

In the event, D Day took place on an 80 mile stretch of Normandy coast and caught them totally by surprise.

Because of the LCVPs (Higgins Boats) the allies landed 160,000 troops on the first day.

A Marine Corps historian said, “The Higgins Boat broke the gridlock on ship-to-shoremovement. It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages this craft gave U.S.amphibious commanders.”

Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower said, “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us. If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”

In 1938, Higgins had a single boat yard with 75 employees; by 1943 he had 7 massive boatyards with 25,000 workers, by the end of the war he’d built 23,358 boats.

Apparently, Hitler demanded to know how so many allied soldiers got ashore in a single day.

His Generals told him about the huge number of Higgins boats.

Hitler yelled, “Who is he, fucking Noah?”

For me the real creativity comes from seeing how something built for rum-runners in the Mississippi swamps could revolutionise modern warfare.

It didn’t come from thinking, “Let’s design a boat that doesn’t need a port”.

It came from thinking “This guy builds boats that can land anywhere, let’s use them”.

Creativity isn’t thinking in limbo and having an idea out-of-the-blue.

Creativity is putting things together in a way no one else would think of.