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DUKW Amphibious 2 1/2 Ton 6x6 Truck

The concept the DUKW Amphibious 2 1/2 Ton 6x6 Truck -- a cargo truck-sized vehicle to unload ships across unprepared beaches without loss of momentum at the surf line -- was first recognized in mid-April 1942. Under the urgency of World War II, using the management of the National Defense Research Commmittee, the first DUKW was swimmiing by early June 1942. First productions models were delivered in November 1942, and DUKWs were first used in quantity in the July 1943 landing in Sicily. By December 1943, production of the DUKW had reached 1,500 per month.

A DUKW belonging to the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment lies alongside a cargo ship in the harbor at Inch'on, Korea while a cargo net is used to transfer supplies to the DUKW for transport to the beach, 12 June 1951
A DUKW belonging to the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment lies alongside a cargo ship in the harbor at Inch'on, Korea while a cargo net is used to transfer supplies to the DUKW for transport to the beach, 12 June 1951.

Today in WW II: 30 Sep 1938 Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier sign the Munich Agreement, abandoning Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland to German occupation.   

Truck, Amphibious, 2 1/2 ton, 6x6 DUKW

The DUKW was developed quickly during World War II to meet the need for amphibious cargo transfer from ship to shore. The nomenclature DUKW was assigned by the manufacturer, General Motors Corporation, from:

D= First year of manufacture, 1942
U = Utility vehicle (amphibious)
K = All wheel drive
W = Rear tandem axle

Someone quickly noticed that DUKW could be pronounced "duck" and the "Army Duck" was born.

The DUKW was based on the GMC "deuce and a half" 2 1/2-ton 6x6 CCKW, fitted with a watertight hull and propeller. Following the war, many of the versitile DUKWs were transferred for Coast Guard duty, river patrols or later Civil Defense work. They continue in service today with popular "Duck Tours".

The DUKW was considered an extraordinary success not only for its general technical quality, but also for these reasons:

  • Timeliness -- DUKW was both available and needed
  • Training -- Considerable effort went into operational training, an effort that was still growing in mid-1945
  • Continuing development -- Improvements suggested by field experience were rapidly made, both in the field and on current production models

DUKW production did not keep up with the demand. There were never enough available to meet much more than the basic over-the-beach landing requirements. Few of the secondary uses proposed -- pontoon bridges, mobile ferries, etc. -- were ever widely tried in the field.

Despite its overall success, the DUKW was criticized from the beginning as too small for reasonable cargo volume, difficult to unload, too slow in the water, too prone to bogging in muddy conditions, and helpless in exiting from the water except over rersonably good sand beaches, These deficiencies led to post-War developments, including the XM147 Super DUKW and the LARC-V (Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo, 5 ton capacity).

DUKW Specifications

Length31 feet
Width8.25 feet
Height8.8 feet (w/top up)
Weight7.5 tons
Engine270 cu in GMC Straight 6
Water speed6.4 mph
Road speed50 mph
Number mfg by August 194521,000 (with 6,000 more on order)
Capacity: Troops25 or 12 on litters
Capacity: Cargo5 tons

The DUKW was the first vehicle with a central tire pressure control, allowing the operator to adjust the tires for hard surface roads (high pressure) or sand (low pressure) from the driver's seat. This is now a feature of the HMMWV and other modern vehicles.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the DUKW Truck, Amphibious, 2 1/2 ton, 6x6 at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

Scrapbook page of DUKW training photos, US Coast Guard, 1946-47.  In the Moriches Bay area off Long Island, NY.
US Coast Guard LARC, used primarily for shallow-water flood-relief rescue and as a platform for underwater searches. The amphibian was constructed of aluminum  with four low-pressure tires that permitted it to travel over soft surfaces. It could ascend and descend grades of up to 60 degrees. Due to the extremely high maintenance cost associated with these amphibians, LARCs were used by the CG only when the task could not be accomplished by another type of craft. The vehicles, which were stationed along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina , were eventually disposed of between 1968 and 1979.
Troops wade ashore from a LCVP landing craft, during the Normandy invasion, off Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944. Note DUKWs and half-tracks at the water line, lines of men headed inland, and M1903 and M1 rifles carried by some of the troops leaving the landing craft.
DUKW Amphibious 2 1/2 Ton 6x6 Truck.  This vehicle was Lot 1019 of The Jacques M. Littlefield Collection, Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, Portola Valley, CA, auctioned 11-12 July 2014 by Auctions America. Courtesy:   Auctions America by RM.
Quartermaster DUKW amphibious trucks landing cargo from offshore ships, Napoleon Beach, Cherbourg, France, circa September 1944.
View showing placement of six standard stretchers on floor of DUKW amphibious truck, 2 1/2-ton 6x6. Two forward stretchers, placed athwartship, must be the first two placed because of the close fit of stretcher within width of craft. On left: CPT N. T. Crane, Executive Officer, MC; and LL J. L. Crager, Assistant Plans and Training Officer.  Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, Newport News, VA, 2 January 1943.

GMC DUKW Amphibious 2 1/2-ton 6x6 Photo Gallery

DUKW

DUKW landing in the Philipines
DUKW landing in the Philipines.

DUKW Landing

DUKW rear view, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, VA, 3 February 1943
DUKW rear view, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, VA, 3 February 1943.

DUKW

DUKW at the Texas Military Forces Museum, Camp Mabry, TX
DUKW at the Texas Military Forces Museum, Camp Mabry, TX, 3 February 2006. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Pettit.

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