Amphibious armored truck (1941-1945) United States of America - about 21,147 built

The GMC DUKW ("D" - year 1942, "U" - utility, "K" - all-wheel drive, "W" - twin rear axles) was soon colloquially known as the "duck" to both US Army and Marine infantrymen. This strange vehicle was massively produced and soldiered all around the globe, from the Mediterranean to Europe, Russia, the Pacific and the Far East. This was the only wheeled amphibious vehicle serving in such numbers on the Allied side. They are still used to this day, either for training or in civilian uses.

Initial design (1941)

The first lines of the DUWK were drawn by Rod Stephens Jr., a yacht designer from Sparkman & Stephens, Inc., a British deep water sailor resident in the U.S., Dennis Puleston, and a Reserve Officer detached from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Frank W. Speir. At that time there wasn\'t any immediate need for such a vehicle, as the USA still uninvolved in the war. The project was developed by the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development. GMC was then charged with building the vehicle, using any available components.

GMC prototype design (1942)

General Motors Corporation (GMC) sought the most appropriate vehicle to meet the requirements laid down. The GMC ACKWX, a cab-over-engine (COE) special version of the CCKW six-wheel-drive military truck, also later popularly known as 2-ton utility "Deuce", was chosen. This allowed commonality with an already produced vehicle, using the power plant, transmission, transfer case, drive shafts, axles and brake system, with easy maintenance prospects. A steel sheet watertight hull was welded around the chassis, strengthened with reinforcements beams. The hull was rectangular, with a curved bow, sloped ends and a flat bottom. The bow and stern shapes were determined by the angles of approach and departure.

Around 1/3 of the vehicle was occupied by the engine, a 270 cu in (4,425 cc) GMC straight-six engine giving 64 hp (47.74 kW) and a lot of torque. Transmission used a 10-forward speed, two reverse gearbox. Behind the engine was the open-top driver compartment. The last two-thirds of the hull were occupied by a large utility cargo area. Usual payload was 2 1/2 tons over land or water. The versatile cargo compartment could be covered by a tarpaulin cover. The driver compartment, made of plywood, was protected by a windglass designed by Henry Gassaway, working for Libbey Glass (Ford), to withstand excessive vibrations. At his left, a space could be used for a ring mount, holding a heavy machine-gun (0.5 cal/12.7 mm). The hull was light and unarmored (3.2 mm/0.12 in at the thickest).

The cooling system was somewhat unusual in that air was drawn from behind the driver, pushed through the radiator and exhausted on each side. Nearly 50 different combinations of radiators, fans and ducts were tried before finding the optimal solution. There was also a complex and powerful heating system, to avoid water freezing in the bilge or in the bilge pumps. By using well-placed shutters on the engine outlets, warmed exhaust air was recirculated into the hull sides, decks, cargo compartments and even below the floor to warm the bilge.

This vehicle was fast on road, with a maximum speed of 80 km/h (50 mph), but could still cruise at 5.5 knots (6.33 mph/10.2 km/h), the speed of most barges, for long cruises, up to 50 nautical miles (58 miles/93 km). This was later proven to be enough to cross the English channel without difficulty, also demonstrating its seaworthiness. There was a duplex drive system, with a long transmission shaft acting a screw propeller housed in a tunnel at the rear end of the hull, and steered by removable rudders.

There were two other innovations specific to the model. One was the fitting of a high capacity bilge pump system (total capacity of approximately 300 gallons/1135 liters per minute) if the hull was breached or submerged by rough seas. The second was Speir's device, an internal system allowing to vary the tire pressure from the dashboard, which was useful when trying to deal with soft or hard ground (in the first case, pressure was decreased to provide a larger tire surface in contact -and lessen ground pressure). This was extremely helpful when it was required to land on sandy beaches.

Development and production

Yellow Truck and Coach at Pontiac was charged with building the prototype, and refined the construction details. The prototype built by GMC was eventually demonstrated to a military commission. The initial proposal was immediately rejected by the Army, but the team later choose a particularly difficult spot because of high winds and heavy surf, at Provincetown, Massachusetts, rescuing the entire crew of a Coast Guard Cutter in distress and safely carrying them to the beach.

The DUKW performed admirably, whereas any conventional solution would have failed. Some officers changed their mind, and authorized the production for internal needs (mostly the US Marine Corps now involved in the Pacific), and the Allies through Lend-Lease. Eventually 21,137 were produced by GMC and its subcontractors, the bulk being absorbed by the US forces, and around 4,000 sent to the Allies. Production started at the end of 1942 and lasted until the end of the hostilities. Unit cost was $10,750.00 dollars apiece.

The DUKW in action

The DUKW first arrived to units -both in the Pacific and Europe- in early 1943. Its first action came with Operation Husky (invasion of Sicily, November 1943). It was also seen during D-Day, where 2000 were committed in action, carrying personnel and 3,040,000 tons of supplies ashore during 90 days of uninterrupted service, Operation Anvil-Dragoon. Other notable operations include the landings in the south of France, the Battle of the Scheldt - the capture of Antwerp, Operation Veritable - the battle of the Reichswald, north-western Holland, and Operation Plunder - the crossing of the Rhine.

The Canadians were largely involved in these operations, having received approximately 800 of these. The British forces received around 2000 of these and the Australians fighting in New Guinea, 535. The Soviet Union also received 589 of them, for river fording operations and in the marshy Pripet area. The Free French also operated many DUKWs during operation Anvil Dragoon (landings in Provence) and later on. The DUKWs were found vital in most submerged or (voluntary) inundated areas, in Holland and western Germany.

In the Pacific, the first commitment came with the USMC reinforcements at Guadalcanal. Although tracked amphibious vehicles were often preferred, DUKWs were massively employed during nearly all island assaults conducted until the end of the war, and the whole Philippines campaign. Usually they were cargo-borne, like any landing craft, but with the enormous advantage of being able to properly land. Only their lack of protection prevented their use in the first waves, as they were often relegated to ferry supplies instead of assault troops, including heavy ones, like 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzers. Some were used as ad hoc SPGs, delivering fire support in various operations, despite the fact that the recoil largely stressed the thin hull and chassis. Some versions mounted 100+ 4.5" rockets. Other were used as naval ambulances, ferrying wounded soldiers to the hospital ships nearby. In all cases, the DUKW demonstrated a remarkable reliability and versatility in all situations.

Tactically the British deployed their DUKWs in RASC companies comprising 470 men on 132 vehicles. Australian DUKW companies comprised 173 men and officers for 50 vehicles. Ideal crew strength was found to be four men.

The DUKW's postwar influence can\'t be underestimated. Some "super DUKWs" were conceived in the fifties, the Drake and the BARC (later known as LARC-LX), and the LARCs, sometimes mislabeled as "DUKWs". The Soviets made their own version, the BAV 485, produced in large numbers until 1962. Existing stocks were spread among Allied nations, and some are still in service today. The French largely used it in Indochina. Some saw action in Korea and Vietnam. Surplus vehicles were also sold to private owners for collection or transportation. Some serve to this day as "Duck Tours", carrying amazed tourists in London, Dublin and elsewhere.

Links about the DUKW

GMC DUKW specifications

Dimensions 9.4x2.5x2x17 m (31x8.2x7.11 ft)
Total weight 5.9 tons empty
Crew 1 (driver)
Propulsion GMC 6-cylinder 269 cid, 94 hp (70 kW), 14 hp/ton
Speed 80 km/h (50 mph) road, 5.5 nautical miles (6.3 mph/10.2 km/h) water
Suspension 6x6 wheels
Payload capacity 2.3 tons or 12 troops
Range 600 km (400 mi) at cruise speed 56 km/h (35 mph) road
50 nautical miles (93 km or 58 miles) on water
Armament None, had ring mount for a cal.50 (12.7 mm) Browning M1920 heavy machine gun
Armor From 1.6 to 3.2 mm (0.06 to 0.12 in)

DUKW Illustration profiles

operation Anvil Dragoon, French Riviera, August 1944
DUKW during operation Anvil Dragoon, French Riviera, August 1944. Notice the low roadwheel covers. The vehicle had its wave deflector unfolded.
DUKW with tarpaulin over both the driver's compartment and the cargo bay.
DUKW with tarpaulin over both the driver's compartment and the cargo bay.

A DUKW carrying a M3 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, Normandy 1944.

A DUKW carrying a 75 mm (2.95 in) M1 pack howitzer, with the standard 0.5 cal (12.7 mm) M1920 heavy machine gun ring mount.
Unknown Allied unit, Sicily, fall 1943
Unknown Allied unit, Sicily, fall 1943.
 2nd Belorussian Front
A Soviet Lend-Lease DUKW in Eastern Prussia, with Konstantin Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front, January 1945.

USMC DUKW Company at Iwo Jima, "Joan Molley", February 1945.

DUKW photo gallery

WW1 Vehicles

British ww2 WWI trucks
FR: Berliet CBA, Berliet Type M, Châtillon-Panhard, Latil TAR, Panhard-Genty 24 HP, Renault EG

allied ww2 Allied ww2 Vehicles

British ww2 British Vehicles
-AEC Armoured Command Vehicle (415)
-AEC Matador
-Albion CX22S
-Albion FT15N
-Albion WD.CX24
-Austin K2/Y Ambulance
-Austin K3
-Austin K4
-Austin K4 Dropside
-Austin K5
-Austin K6 GS
-Austin K6 Gantry
-Bedford MW
-Bedford OXA Armoured
-Bedford OXC Semi-trailer
-Bedford OXD GS
-Bedford OYC Tanker
-Bedford OYD GS
-Bedford QL series (QLD, QLR/QLC QLT TC)
-CMP Truck
-Commer Q2
-Crossley Q-Type
-Diamond T tank transporter
-Guy Quad-Ant FAT
-Guy Lizard ACV
-Humber FWD
-Karrier KT4
-Karrier K6
-Leyland Hippo Mk I/II
-Leyland Lynx
-Leyland Retriever
-Mack EXBX
-Morris 15cwt
-Morris CDSW
-Morris ML Ambulance
-Morris C8 GS/FAT
-Morris Commercial CD series
-Morris Commercial CS8
-Morris C9
-Morris GS Terrapin
-Morris PU
-Scammell Pioneer SV1S/SV2S
-Thornycroft Hathi (1924)
-Thornycroft Nubian
-Thornycroft Tartar
French ww2 French Vehicles
-Berliet DGRA
-Berliet GDC
-Berliet GDM
-Berliet VDCA
-Berliet 30
-Bernard fuel carrier
-Citroën Kégresse P14 .
-Citroën Kégresse P17
-Citroën Kégresse P19
-Citroën Type 23
-Citroën 32U
-Citroën T45
-Fiat France 38R
-Ford France
-Hotchkiss PKW Type 680
-Hotchkiss 686
-Hotchkiss 686 PNA
-Isobloc W843M medical bus
-Laffly S15R
-Laffly S15T
-Laffly V15T
-Laffly V15R
-Laffly W15T/R
-Laffly 20TL
-Latil TAR H2
-Latil M2Tl6
-Matford F917
-Panhard K113
-Panhard K113
-Peugeot 202
-Peugeot 402
-Peugeot DMA
-Peugeot DK
-Peugeot DK5
-Renault AHS
-Renault AHN
-Renault AHR
-Renault AGC
-Renault ADK
-Renault ADH
-Renault AHSs
-Saurer type 3CT
-Simca 5 staff car
-Simca 8 staff car
-Somua MCL
-Somua MCG
-Talbot staff car
-Unic TU1
-Unic P107
-Trippel SG6
-Willeme DU10
Soviet ww2 Soviet Trucks
-GAZ AA M1927 M1932 M1941
-GAZ AAA M1937
-GAZ AAA M1940
-Ford Marmon HH6 Katiusha
-SU C-6
-Yag-10 SPG
-ZIS-33 HT
-ZIS 41 HT
-FN-Kégresse T3

Soviet staff cars
-GAZ M1 "Emka"
-GAZ 11-73
-GAZ 61-73
-GAZ 67 Amphibious armoured cars
US ww2 US Trucks
-Ford B3000 S
-Ford V3000S
-Ford V3000A,
-Ford BB
-Ford V8-51
-Ford m1931
-Ford V8 M1937
-T1E1(M1) half-track
-T5 half-track
-T7 half-track
-T9 half-track
-G8T 2-1/2 ton 4x2 Truck
-International B2
-International model 1937
-Chevrolet m1931
-Chevrolet m1936
-Chevrolet G-506 ​1 1⁄2-ton 4x4
-Chevrolet G-7107 4-1/2 ton 4x4
-Chevrolet 3116 1-1/2 ton 4x2
-Studebaker US6x4 U7
-Studebaker US6x4 U-6
-Studebaker US6x6 U-5 6x4
-Studebaker US6 U4 bz35S 2-1/2 ton 6x6 truck
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Ambulance
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Carry-all
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton (Radio) Command Reconnaissance
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Truck, Closed Cab
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Truck, Open Cab
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton (Radio) Panel Van
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Telephone Service (K50)
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Truck, Emergency Repair
-Dodge WC-51/52 (3⁄4-ton Trucks, Weapons Carrier)
-Dodge WC-53 (3⁄4-ton Carryall)
-Dodge WC-54/64 (3⁄4-ton Ambulance)
-Dodge WC-55 (3⁄4-ton Truck, M6 Gun Motor Carriage)
-Dodge WC-56/57/58 (3⁄4-ton (Radio) Command Reconnaissance)
-Dodge WC-62/43 (G-507, 11⁄2-ton, 6x6 truck)
-Dodge M6 GMC
-GMC CCKW Cargo Truck
-GMC CCKW 353 2-1/2 Ton Truck
-GMC 1939 ACKWX 353 3 ton 6x6 truck
-GMC AFWX-353 3 ton 6x4 truck
-GMC DUKW 353 2-1/2 ton 6x6 truck
-Diamond T Model 980/981 12-ton 6x4 trucks (G159)
-Diamond T Model 968 4-ton 6x6 truck (G509)
-Diamond T Model 967
-Diamond T Model 970
-Diamond T Model 972
-Diamond M26 Dragon Wagon
-Diamond M19 Tank Transporter
-Diamond T Model 980
-Diamond T 4-ton 6x6 truck
-Autocar U8144T 5/6-ton 4x4 truck
-Brockway/LaFrance 6-ton 6x6 truck, G512, 514, 547, 569
-White/Corbitt 6 ton 6x6 Prime Mover
-Ward LaFrance
-Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD) SU-COE 5-6 ton 4x4
-White Motor Company
-Inl KR-11 5 ton 4x2 dump truck
-Inl M5-6 318 2-1/2 ton 6x6 swb
-Mack NR15 10-ton 6x4
-Reo 28 XS 10-ton 6x4

US ww2 Small truck/car & Misc.
Bantam Reconnaissance Car
Ford GTB
6x6 Willys 'MT-TUG' ("Super-Jeep")
-Willys MB light truck
-Ford GPA ("Seep")
Buick Century Series 60
1941 Plymouth P11 Staff Car
Ford Fordor 1942 Staff Car
Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycle

Axis ww2 Axis Trucks

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Sd.Kfz 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were half-tracks designed just before the war as prime movers, to carry supplies, ammunition, personal, and tow artillery. Many were also converted during the war as armored versions carrying AA FLAK guns (Flakvierling, 37 mm, or the legendary 88 mm Rheinmetall als used as tank hunters), or were converted as nebelwerfer (rocket launching armored vehicles). They were built by Hanomag, Steyr, Mercedes-Benz, Bussing and many other manufacturers until 1945, over 20,000 half-tracks.

German ww2 German Military trucks
-Opel Blitz
-Opel Maultier
-Mercedes-Benz L3000
-Magirus A3000
-Krupp Protze Kfz.19
-Krupp Protze Kfz.21
-Krupp Protze Kfz.68
-Krupp Protze Kfz.69
-Krupp Protze Kfz.70
-Krupp Protze Kfz.81
-Krupp Protze Kfz.21
-Krupp Protze Kfz.83
-Borgward B 3000
-Skoda Rad Schlepper
-Ost RSO Porsche 175
-Steyr Type 2000A
-Einheits Lkw Kfz.62
-Krupp LKW L3
-Bussing-Nag 4500
-Opel Blitz Omnibus
-Bussing-Nag L
-Mercedes-Benz L1500
-Beute Studebaker
-Krupp L3H
-Hanomag SS-100
-Beute Ford B3000 S, V3000S, V3000A
-Beute Ford model BB
-Beute Ford model V8-51
-Beute Tatra 111

German ww2 German Staff Cars

-Horch 81
-Horch 108
-VW 182 Kübelwagen
-VW Schwimmwagen
-Sd.Kfz.2 Kettenkrad
italy ww2 Italian Military trucks
L. Trucks (Autocarro Leggere)
-ОМ-32 Autocarretta da Montagna
-Camioneta SPA TL.37
-Camioneta AS.43
-Fiat 618

Med. Trucks (Autocarro Medio)
-Alfa Romeo 430RE
-Alfa Romeo 800RE
-Breda Dovunque-41
-Bianchi Miles
-FIAT-626 NM
-Isotta Fraschini D65
-Isotta Fraschini D80
-SPA Dovunque-35
-SPA Dovunque-41
-SPA AS.37
-Autocarro Dovunque SPA 41/42

H. Trucks (Autocarro Gigante)
-Fiat 661
-Lancia Ro
-Lancia 3Ro
-Lancia EsaRo
-ОМ Taurus
-ОМ Titano
-Autocarreta Mod.35
-Autocarri Unificati Ursus

italy ww2 Artillery tractors
-Breda 51
-Breda 52
-Breda 61 (licenced SdKfz-7)
-Fiat-SPA T.L.37
-Pavesi Р4.31 (L140)
-Fiat 727 - half-track artillery tractor
-SPA TM40 - wheeled artillery tractor

italy ww2 Staff Cars -Alfa Romeo 6С2500 Coloniale
-Fiat 508M/CM Ballila
-Fiat 1100 (1937) (Balilla-1100 Coloniale)
-Lancia Aprilia Coloniale
-Bianchi VM 6C
-Fiat 2800 CMC

italy ww2 Motorcycles
-Benelli 500 M36/VLM
-Bianchi Supermil 500
-Gilera 500 LTE
-Moto Guzzi Alce/Trialce
-Volugrafo Aermoto 125
Japan ww2 IJA/IJN ww2 vehicles
-Toyota 4x4 Su-Ki (Amphibious truck)
-Isuzu Type 94 truck
-Type 94 6-Wheeled Truck
-Type 95 Mini-truck
-Type 97 4-Wheeled Truck
-Type 1 6-Wheeled Truck
-Type 2 Heavy Truck
-Toyota KB/KC Truck
-Nissan 80 Truck
-Nissan 180 Truck
-Amphibious Truck "Su-Ki"

Japan ww2 Tractors
-Type 92 5 t Prime Mover "I-Ke"
-Type 98 6 t Prime Mover "Ro-Ke"
-Type 92 8 t Prime Mover "Ni-Ku"
-Type 95 13 t Prime Mover "Ho-Fu"
-Type 94 4 t Prime Mover "Yo-Ke"
-Type 98 4 t Prime Mover "Shi-Ke"
-Type 96 AA Gun Prime Mover
-Type 98 20 mm AA Machine Cannon Carrier
-Type 98 Half-tracked Prime Mover "Ko-Hi"
-Type 98 20 mm AA Half-Track Vehicle
-Experimental Heavy Gun Tractor Chi-Ke
-Experimental Crawler Truck
-T G Experimental Crawler Truck
-Fordson Prime Mover
-Pavessi Gun Tractor
-50 hp Gun Tractor
-Komatsu 3 ton Tractor
-Light Prime Mover
-Clarton Prime Mover
-Holt 30

Japan ww2 Staff cars
-Toyota AA/AB/AC
-Type 93 6/4-Wheeled Passenger Car
-Type 95 Passenger Car "Kurogane"
-Type 98 Passenger Car
-Model 97 Nissan Staff Car, Nissan 70

Japan ww2 Motorcycles
-Rikuo Motorcycle
-Rikuo Type 97 Motorcycle
-Rikuo Type 93 side car

Japan ww2 Misc.
-Type 94 Ambulance
-Type 94 Repair Vehicle

Cold War