Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial
Andrew Jackson Higgins was born in Columbus, Nebraska. Andrew’s father John came to Columbus in 1870 to spend a couple days interviewing famous Indian scout Major Frank North. John was so taken by the town that he convinced his wife Annie to give up their dream of California and settle in Columbus, where Andrew was born in 1886.
Higgins’ experience with the shallow rivers in the Columbus area gave him a vision for a shallow-draft boat that changed the course of history.
Founder and President of Higgins Industries in New Orleans, Higgins rose to international prominence during World War II for his design and mass production of “Higgins Boats.”
These craft gave the military the ability to transport men and equipment safely to beaches during amphibious landings in the war. General Dwight Eisenhower called Higgins “the man who won the war for us…if Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.” Higgins Industries produced 20,094 boats during WWII.
The Higgins Memorial in Columbus began as a class research project for the Columbus High School classes taught by Jerry Meyer. He and his students became so taken with the story of Higgins and the opportunity to honor a native son that a research project became a community memorial. Through numerous partnerships with volunteers and businesses a stunning memorial has been created, honoring Higgins and all veterans.
The memorial includes a full-size replica of the famous Higgins Boat. Running from the boat are sculptures by internationally renowned artist Fred Hoppe, depicting a soldier from each of the three wars in which Higgins Boats served (World War II, the Korean, and Vietnam War). Around the boat are sand samples from landing beaches across the globe where Higgins Boats carried soldiers ashore. Brass stars hold these sand samples from D-Day beaches and are embedded in the concrete surrounding the “Higgins Boat”. This memorial is the only known location in the world to allow visitors to walk on sand from D-Day landings of WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
The memorial also features five flags, the tallest honors U.S. POWs/MIAs. Flags of both Nebraska and Louisiana are displayed, representing the states where Mr. Higgins lived. Surrounding the Memorial are flags of the other 48 states and 7 U.S. territories. The American Legion, VFW, and six service flags representing the Army, Navy, Marines, Merchant Marines, Coast Guard, and the Air Force are also displayed.
The Memorial Wall, which measures 8 by 94 feet, is made of Wisconsin stone. It surrounds 1,000 donor bricks and along the platform are 10 benches honoring veterans, families, businesses, and other donors. Two additional octagonal structures housing 960 bricks were added in 2002. Still to be added is another curved wall featuring an additional 1000 engraved bricks. The historical marker to the right of the Memorial displays a biography of Andrew Jackson Higgins. A bronze statue of Mr. Higgins was unveiled on August 16th by Dawn Higgins Murphy, daughter of Mr. Higgins.
After 9/11, the Memorial was expanded to honor those who lost their lives on that fateful day and those who continue the fight against terrorism. Perched on a 30-foot steel beam, a 400 pound bronze eagle symbolizing freedom, spreads his 7-foot wings as he circles the memorial. The eagle was sculpted by Fred Hoppe and is made from steel taken from the fallen World Trade Center towers. The steel, assembled along side the eagle, never touching the eagle’s 30 foot beam, symbolizes that terrorism will never touch our Freedom.
The Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial stands as a tribute to a Columbus native son who changed history…to veterans of all eras who have served and sacrificed…to the ongoing fight against the evil of terrorism…and also to the power of engaged young people to impact their community.