DUKW file photo

DUKW

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerGeneral Motors Corporation
Primary RoleTransport

Contributor: David Stubblebine

The DUKW (popularly pronounced "duck") is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck that was designed by General Motors Corporation during World War II for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks.

The DUKW was initially rejected by the armed services. When a United States Coast Guard patrol craft ran aground on a sandbar near Provincetown, Massachusetts, an experimental DUKW happened to be in the area for a demonstration. Winds up to 60 knots, rain, and heavy surf prevented conventional craft from rescuing the seven stranded Coast Guardsmen, but the DUKW had no trouble, and the military opposition melted. The DUKW would later prove its seaworthiness by crossing the English Channel.

GMC already had a successful all-wheel drive 2˝-ton truck they called the CCKW. This model went on to fame of its own as the rugged "deuce-and-a-half." The DUKW prototype was built around the cab over engine version of the GMC CCKW, with the addition of a watertight hull and a propeller. The final production design was based on the CCKW front engine variant powered by a GMC 270 cubic inch straight-6 engine. The DUKW weighed 7.5 tons and operated at 6.4 mph on water and 50-55 miles per hour on land. It was 31 feet long, 8.25 feet wide, and 8.8 feet high with the folding-canvas top up. 21,137 were manufactured in all. It was not an armored vehicle, being plated with sheet steel between 1/16" and 1/8" thick to minimize weight. A high capacity bilge pump system kept the DUKW afloat if the thin hull was breached by holes up to 2" in diameter.

The DUKW name comes from the naming terminology used by GMC: D for a 1942 design; U meant "utility (amphibious)"; K for all-wheel drive; and W indicated two powered rear axles. Another popular nickname was "magoo," probably due to the odd shape of the vehicle.

The DUKW was the first vehicle to allow the driver to vary the tire pressure from inside the cab. The tires could be fully inflated for hard surfaces such as roads and less inflated for softer surfaces—especially beach sand. This added to the DUKW's great versatility as an amphibious vehicle. This feature became standard on many post-war military vehicles.

Service history

The DUKW was supplied to the US Army, US Marine Corps and Allied forces. 2,000 were supplied to Britain under the Lend-Lease program and 535 were acquired by Australian forces. 586 were supplied to the Soviet Union, becoming the basis for the Zavod Imeni Likhacheva BAV 485 of the 1950's.

The DUKW was used in landings in the Mediterranean, Pacific, on the D-Day beaches of Normandy, Operation Husky, and during Operation Plunder.

After World War II, reduced numbers of DUKW's were kept in service by the United States, Britain, France and Australia with many more stored pending disposal. Australia transferred many to Citizens Military Force units.

In the late 1940's and throughout the 1950's the Army's Amphibious Warfare Program worked on "bigger and better" amphibious vehicles such as the "Super Duck," the "Drake" and the mammoth BARC (Barge, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo).

The US Army reactivated and deployed several hundred DUKW's at the outbreak of the Korean War with the 1st Transportation Replacement Training Group providing crew training. DUKW's were used extensively to bring supplies ashore during the Battle of Pusan Perimeter and in the amphibious landings at Inchon.

Ex-US Army DUKW's were transferred to the French military after World War II and were used by the Troupes de marine and naval commandos. Many were used for general utility duties in overseas territories. France deployed DUKW's to French Indochina during the First Indochina War. Some French DUKW's were given new hulls in the 1970s with the last being retired in 1982.

Britain deployed DUKW's to Malaya during the Malayan Emergency of 1948-60. Many were redeployed to Borneo during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation of 1962-66. The Royal Marines still use a small number of these vehicles for training purposes in Scotland.

The Australian Army loaned two DUKW's and crew to Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions in 1948 for an expedition to Macquarie Island. Australian DUKW's were used on Antarctic supply voyages until 1970. From 1945 to 1965, the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service supply ship Cape York carried ex-Army DUKW's for supplying lighthouses on remote islands.

Whenever a natural disaster or an emergency situation occurs, DUKW's are well equipped for the land and water rescue efforts. Australian Army Reserve DUKW's were used extensively for rescue and transport during the 1955 Hunter Valley floods.

One of the last DUKW's manufactured in 1945 was loaned to a fire department during the Great Flood of 1993 and in 2005, Duck Riders of Grapevine, TX deployed the vehicle to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The DUKW was well equipped to maneuver its way through flood waters, transporting victims stranded on their rooftops to helicopter pads set up throughout New Orleans.

DUKW's are still in use primarily as tourist transport in US harbor and river cities, including but not limited to: Seattle; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Chattanooga; Nashville; Boston; Lahaina, Hawaii; Branson, Missouri; Grapevine, Texas; Saugatuck, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta, Georgia; and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. DUKW's can also be seen in London; Liverpool; Dublin, Ireland; Rotorua, New Zealand; The Netherlands; and Singapore.

Source: Wikipedia.

SPECIFICATIONS

DUKW
MachineryOne GMC 6-cylinder 269 cu in engine rated at 91.5hp
SuspensionWheel, 6x6
ArmamentProvision for one machine gun
Crew3
Length9.40 m
Width2.50 m
Height2.60 m
Weight6.5 t
Speed80 km/h
Range350 km

Photographs

Diagram of the early DUKW from the US Army Service ManualEarly DUKW engaged in training, United States, 1940-1944Cutaway view of the four power trains of the DUKW: front drive wheels, rear drive wheels, propeller, rear winchDUKW and Jeep vehicles of US Army 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment, date unknown
See all 65 photographs of DUKW Transport



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Alan Chanter says:
    16 Jun 2009 02:34:42 AM

    Although the DUKW had been standardised by the US Army in 1942 it would not enter into US Marine Corps usage until late in 1944, seeing its first operational use by the Marines at Eniwetok. About one in four Marine Corps DUKW’s were fitted with an HB-M2 machine-gun ring mount
  2. Alan Chanter says:
    16 Jun 2009 02:46:23 AM

    The DUKW1 2˝-ton amphibious truck was developed by the US National Defense Research and was based on many of the mechanical components of the standard American 2˝-ton 6x6 truck fitted into the watertight hull. Built by the Yellow Truck and Coach Mfg Co. of Pontiac Michigan, the DUKW was powered by a 4,417cc GMC 270 6-cylinder petrol engine which allowed it to travel at 45mph on land or 6.3mph in the water. On land it utilized the usual six wheel drive of a standard truck and for water operation it was propelled by propeller and steered by a combination of both the front wheels and a rear rudder. Despite a rather limited load-carrying capability and temperamental performance in rough seas the DUKW proved a sturdy and reliable vehicle. The driver’s cab was separate from the main cargo compartment, which could carry 25 men or up to 2˝ tons of cargo. Hatches in the deck gave access to storage compartments, to the engine, and to the rear mounted winch. Two mechanical pumps and one hand pump were provided to clear water from the hull should it become necessary.
  3. d.smith says:
    23 Aug 2009 08:36:18 PM

    i would like to buy a DUKW for a tour operation in perth , australia.do you have any information on where i could purchase 1 or similar
  4. Anonymous says:
    23 Aug 2009 10:58:09 PM

    anyone know if the 476th Amphibious Truck Comapny had a WW2 era unit emblem? If not what if any emblem would have been worn by this all black unit in the IWO JIMA landing/Invasion? Please contact me if you can help!!! Thank you !!!!
    WeBeEmblems@aol.com
  5. Bill says:
    22 Nov 2009 03:37:22 PM

    "KEEP ON TRUCKIN"

    The DUKW was another variant of the G.M.C.
    2 1/2 Ton truck call it what you want the
    "Jimmy or the Deuce and a Half" it was the
    workhorse of the U.S. Army and its Allies.
    G.M.C. built 562,750 of the 800,000 vehicles
    built,the rest were built by Studebaker, Reo and International.
    War production, built one 2 1/2 Truck every four (4)minutes!.

    After World War II many countries continued
    to use the 2 1/2 truck, including the USSR
    for years afterward.
    The French Army retired the last 5,000 of
    their trucks in 1985!.
    When I was stationed in Fort Sill,OK in the 1960's, you could still see WWII 2 1/2 ton
    trucks parked in area motorpools, while others were used for targets.
  6. Anonymous says:
    17 Jul 2012 06:18:36 PM

    Hi, Can anyone help, I was wondering can power steering be fitted to the DUKW, what are the advantages/disadvantages. Thanks
  7. Anonymous says:
    6 Dec 2012 10:43:58 PM

    Is there anyone in Australia who sells these?
    Thanks

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Diagram of the early DUKW from the US Army Service Manual
See all 65 photographs of DUKW Transport



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