|Manufacturer||General Motors Corporation|
Contributor: David Stubblebine
ww2dbase"Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics."
- Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) noted in 1980
ww2dbaseIn the study of the US Army logistics in Europe during WWII, the role of the two-and-a-half ton, 6-wheel drive transport truck cannot be understated. Called the "Deuce-and-a-Half" or just "Deuce," the overwhelming majority were GMC’s Model CCKW, known as the "Jimmy" by many. Trucks within the same set of US Army specifications were also manufactured by International Harvester, Studebaker, and REO, but twice as many CCKW’s were built as all of these others combined and hardly any of these others served with the US Army (some of the IH trucks served with the US Navy or USMC but most went along with the majority of the Studebaker’s & REO’s to the USSR via Lend-Lease).
ww2dbaseCCKW development began in 1939 when the US Army Quartermaster Corps issued specifications for a gasoline powered, all-wheel-drive truck with a two-and-a-half ton hauling capacity. The Army specified this size because they felt this was as big as they could go and still have the truck fit on Navy ships and also be well suited for mass production. GMC’s Yellow Coach and Truck Division submitted a design based largely on their pre-war truck models and this bid won the contract. After several preliminary variants, the CCKW in its final forms went into serious production in February 1941.
ww2dbaseThe designation CCKW comes from standard GMC terminology: C for a 1941 model year; C for a conventional cab configuration; K for selective front-wheel drive; and W for two powered rear axles.
ww2dbaseMass production began in 1940 with 8,000 made but in early 1941 production ramped up quickly, with over 500,000 CCKW’s produced by the time production wound down in mid-1945 (some authors place this number closer to 800,000 but this is not supported by GMC’s production figures). Between 1942 and 1943, CCKW production shifted from the all-metal closed cab of the civilian pre-war designs to the open top/canvas roof configuration. Several other more subtle adjustments were also made throughout production. While the canvas covered cargo bed was far and away the most common configuration, the CCKW also appeared as generator trucks, gasoline haulers, water tankers, dump trucks, and every other use imaginable on a truck. The basic chassis was also at the heart of several other successful designs, such as the AFKWX (cab-over design) and the DUKW (amphibian). About 10% of the CCKW’s were built with a short wheel base (19-inches shorter) and they were principally meant to tow artillery pieces.
ww2dbaseAssigned primarily to US Army supply units, these trucks were operated largely by African-American soldiers who distinguished themselves time and time again in this very unsung but vital function.
ww2dbaseBy mid-1944, the CCKW had already proven its worth to all the logisticians, but it was about to achieve legend status with the "Red Ball Express" (The term "Red Ball" was a railroad term meaning express shipping). Pre-invasion air raids had all but destroyed the railroads in Normandy, so after the D-Day landings only supplies by truck could feed the rapidly advancing armies. When allied forces broke out of Normandy in August 1944, they had yet to secure forward port facilities and supply lines became unbearably stretched. As the trucks were running farther and farther inland, congestion on the narrow French roads threatened to gridlock the convoys. Colonel Loren Albert Ayers drew on the experience of many US cities that improved traffic flow by using one-way streets. He reserved two routes between Cherbourg on the coast and the forward supply base in Chartres, France, over 200 miles inland. He designated the northern route strictly for eastbound convoys full of supplies and the southern route for westbound returning traffic. The system worked remarkably well. At its peak, the Red Ball Express operated nearly 6,000 vehicles and carried about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. With the taking of the port facilities in Antwerp, Belgium in November 1944, the long lines of supply trucks were no longer needed. The Red Ball Express ran for three months, moved about a million tons of supplies, and wore out 50,000 truck tires.
ww2dbaseWith so many CCKW’s in circulation by the end of the war, the truck remained in service in the US Army and its European allies for decades after its peak had passed. The vehicle remained a stellar logistics performer throughout the Cold War, even into the Korean Conflict, with some armies still using them well into the 1990’s. With many GMC CCKW’s in private hands still running today, the dependable truck was withdrawn from US Army service in 1956. CCKW’s legacy can still be seen, however, in every Chevrolet/GMC truck built since the war.
ww2dbaseSources: Bryce J. Sunderlin, Wikipedia, www.CCKW.org, Olive-Drab, Vehicles of Victory, Military Factory, wwiivehicles, Engines of the Red Army
Last Major Revision: Nov 2010
|Machinery||One GMC 6-cylinder 269 cubic inch engine rated at 91.5hp|
|Armament||Optional provision for machine gun mount|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945