FORT SCOTT, Kan. — In observation of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes will host a free event from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday dedicated to Andrew Jackson Higgins.

Cited as instrumental to victory in World War II, Higgins devised and mass-produced amphibious boats for the U.S. Navy fleet that brought troops ashore at Normandy in France.

Higgins was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1886 and formed the Higgins Lumber and Export Co. in 1922. As World War II was beginning, he developed the amphibious boat commonly known as the Higgins boat, 23,000 of which were produced during the war, according to the Lowell Milken Center.

By the war's end, the Higgins boat represented 96% of the U.S. naval fleet, enabling armies to unload on open beaches instead of ports. This tactic was used during the Allies' invasion of Nazi-occupied France on what would become known as D-Day, and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower would claim that Higgins had "won the war for us," according to the center.

Thursday's event will include a book signing at 10 a.m. by Cathy Werling, author of "What If Higgins Had Given Up?" It's the fourth in a series of children's books featuring unsung heroes.

"In the story of unsung hero Andrew Jackson Higgins, children see the powerful results that were possible in the life of someone who persevered through difficulties," Werling said in a statement. "Higgins' story can be a motivation for them not to give up when things seem hard, for in giving up, they also lose the chance to see their dreams realized."

Skipper Higgins, the oldest living grandson of Higgins, will hold a question-and-answer session beginning at 3 p.m. with Jerry Meyer, founder of the Higgins Memorial in Columbus, Nebraska.

Any current or former member of the armed services will receive a free gift.

About the center

The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes is located at 1 S. Main St. in Fort Scott. It was established in 2007 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) to encourage student-driven projects that discover unsung heroes from history.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.