The DUKW (GMC type nomenclature, colloquially known as Duck) is a six-wheel-drive amphibious modification of the 2+12-ton CCKW trucks used by the U.S. military during World War II and the Korean War.

A DUKW in use by American troops in France
TypeAmphibious transport
Place of originUnited States
Production history
ManufacturerGMC Truck and Coach
No. built21,147[1][2]
Specifications (Yellow, 1942[4])
Mass13,600 lb (6,200 kg) empty
Length31 ft (9.45 m)
Width8 ft (2.44 m)
Height8 ft 10 in (2.69 m) with top up
7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) minimum

Ring mount for .50in (12.7mm) M2 Browning machine gun fitted to one out of four DUKWs
EngineGMC Model 270
91 hp (68 kW)[3]
Payload capacity5,000 lb (2,300 kg) or 24 troops
SuspensionLive axles on leaf springs
400 mi (640 km) on road
Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h) on road,
6.4 mph (6 kn; 10 km/h) in water [citation needed]

Designed by a partnership under military auspices of Sparkman & Stephens and General Motors Corporation (GMC), the DUKW was used for the transportation of goods and troops over land and water. Excelling at approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious warfare attacks, it was intended only to last long enough to meet the demands of combat. Surviving DUKWs have since found popularity as tourist craft in marine environments.[5]



The name DUKW comes from General Motors Corporation model nomenclature:[6]

  • D, 1942 production series
  • U, Utility
  • K, all wheel drive
  • W, tandem rear axles, both driven

Decades later, the designation was explained erroneously by writers such as Donald Clarke, who wrote in 1978 that it was an initialism for "Duplex Universal Karrier, Wheeled".[7][8]

The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps alternative designation of LVW (Landing Vehicle, Wheeled) was seldom used.[9]



The DUKW was designed by Rod Stephens Jr. of Sparkman & Stephens, Inc. yacht designers, Dennis Puleston, a British deep-water sailor resident in the U.S., and Frank W. Speir from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[10] Developed by the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development to solve the problem of resupply to units which had just performed an amphibious landing, it was initially rejected by the armed services. When a United States Coast Guard patrol craft ran aground on a sand bar near Provincetown, Massachusetts, an experimental DUKW happened to be in the area for a demonstration. Winds up to 60 knots (110 km/h; 69 mph), rain, and heavy surf prevented conventional craft from rescuing the seven stranded Coast Guardsmen, but the DUKW had no trouble,[11] and military opposition to the DUKW melted. The DUKW later proved its seaworthiness by crossing the English Channel.

The final production design was perfected by a few engineers at Yellow Truck & Coach in Pontiac, Michigan. The vehicle was built by Yellow Truck and Coach Co. (GMC Truck and Coach Div. after 1943) at their Pontiac West Assembly Plant and Chevrolet Div. of General Motors Corp. at their St. Louis Truck Assembly Plant; 21,147 were manufactured before production ended in 1945.[11]


DUKW at the Eden Camp museum, England

The DUKW was built around the GMC AFKWX, a cab-over-engine (COE) version of the GMC CCKW six-wheel-drive military truck, with the addition of a watertight hull and a propeller. It was powered by a 269.5 cu in (4,416 cc) GMC Model 270 straight-six engine. A five-speed overdrive transmission drove a transfer case to drive the axles, then a two-speed transfer case for the propeller. The propeller and front axle were selectable from their respective transfer cases. A power take-off on the transmission drove an air-compressor and winch.[12] It weighed 13,000 lb (5,900 kg) empty and operated at 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) on road and 5.5 knots (6.3 mph; 10.2 km/h) on water.[13] It was 31 feet (9.45 m) long, 8 feet 3 inches (2.51 m) wide, 7 feet 2 inches (2.18 m) high with the folding-canvas top down[13] and 8 feet 9 inches (2.67 m) high with the top up.[1]

Rear view of a DUKW preserved at the Fort Lewis Military Museum, Washington. The propeller tunnel, propeller, and rudder can be seen (2009).

It was not an armored vehicle, being plated with sheet steel between 116 and 18 inch (1.6 and 3.2 mm) thick to minimize weight. A high-capacity bilge pump system kept it afloat if the thin hull was breached by holes up to 2 inches (51 mm) in diameter. One in four DUKWs mounted a .50-caliber Browning heavy machine gun on a ring mount.[14]

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.[15] This added to its versatility as an amphibious vehicle. This feature is now standard on many military vehicles.[16]

Service history


World War II

A British DUKW carries American airborne troops and supplies across the River Waal at Nijmegen, 30 September 1944.

The DUKW was supplied to the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and Allied forces, and 2,000 were supplied to Britain under the Lend-Lease program;[17] 535 were acquired by Australian forces,[18] and 586 were supplied to the Soviet Union, which built its own version, the BAV 485, after the war. DUKWs were initially sent to Guadalcanal in the Pacific theater, but were used by an invasion force for the first time in the European theater, during the Sicilian invasion, Operation Husky, in the Mediterranean.

They were used on the D-Day beaches of Normandy and in the Battle of the Scheldt, Operation Veritable, and Operation Plunder.

In the Pacific, USMC DUKWs were used to cross the coral reefs of islands such as Saipan and Guam and the tires were not affected by the coral.[19]

Some DUKWs used in WWII were reported to have capsized while landing at Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion.[20][21]

DUKWs were also used in Lake Garda in Italy by the 10th Mountain Division in the final days of the war. One sank while crossing from Torbole sul Garda to Riva del Garda on the evening of 30 April 1945, drowning 25 out of the 26 onboard. A documentary about the event, The Lost Mountaineers, premiered in 2023. Two other DUKWs used in operation sank without casualties.[22][23][24]

After the war


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

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

Ex-U.S. Army DUKWs 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 DUKWs to French Indochina during the First Indochina War. Some French DUKWs were given new hulls in the 1970s, with the last being retired in 1982.

Britain deployed DUKWs to Malaya during the Malayan Emergency of 1948–60. Many were redeployed to Borneo during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation of 1962–66.

Later military use


The Royal Marines used five of these vehicles for training at 11 (Amphibious Trials and Training) Squadron, 1 Assault Group Royal Marines at Instow, North Devon. Four were manufactured between 1943 and 1945. The fifth is a DUKW hull copy manufactured in 1993 with unused World War II-vintage running gear parts.[25] In 1999, a refurbishment programme began to extend their service life to 2014.[25] DUKWs were removed from service in 2012.

The DUKWs were used for safety, allowing all ranks to undertake training drills for boat work for the landing craft ranks, and drivers undertaking wading drills from the Landing Craft Utility.

Principal military users

  •   United States
  •   Australia – 535[18]
  •   Argentina
  •   Brazil
  •   Canada – about 800
  •   Dominican Republic
  •   France
  •   Philippines
  •   Iraq
  •   Soviet Union – 586
  •   United Kingdom – about 2,000


Superduck prototype

In the latter 1940s and throughout the 1950s, while Speir, now project engineer for 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), many DUKWs were made surplus and used as rescue vehicles by fire departments and Coast Guard stations.

In 1952, the Soviet Union produced a derivative, the BAV 485, adding a rear loading ramp. The Zavod imeni Stalina factory built it on the structure of its ZiS-151 truck, and production continued until 1962, with over 2,000 units delivered.

Civilian use

The "Moby Duck" at a parade in Seattle (2006)

Many were used after WWII by civilian organizations such as the police, fire departments, and rescue units. DUKWs were used for oceanographic research in Northern California, as related by participant Willard Bascom. Drivers learned that DUKWS were capable of surfing large winter Pacific waves, with care (and luck).[26]

The Australian Army lent two DUKWs and crew to Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions for a 1948 expedition to Macquarie Island. Australian DUKWs were used on Antarctic supply voyages until 1970.[18] From 1945 to 1965, the Australian Commonwealth Lighthouse Service supply ship Cape York carried ex-Army DUKWs for supplying lighthouses on remote islands.[27]

One DUKW is in use by the Technisches Hilfswerk (THW) of Germersheim in Germany, a civil protection organisation.[28]

Tourist attractions


DUKWs are still in use as tourist transport in harbor and river cities across the globe. The first "duck tour" company was started in 1946[29] by Mel Flath in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. The company is still in operation under the name Original Wisconsin Ducks.[29]

See also



  1. ^ a b "DUKW". US Army Transportation Museum. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008.
  2. ^ Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of WWII. Sterling Publishing Company. p. 67. ISBN 1-58663-762-2. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  3. ^ Doyle, David (2003). Standard catalog of U.S. Military Vehicles. Krause Publications. p. 121. ISBN 0-87349-508-X.
  4. ^ TM 9-802 2 1⁄2 ton Amphibian Truck, 6x6, GMC DUKW-353. US War Dept. 1942. pp. 8–9. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  5. ^ Allen, Thomas B. (August 2002). "Odd DUKW: On land and in the water, World War II's amphibian workhorse showed the skeptics a thing or two — now it shows tourists the sights". Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  6. ^ Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record. Vol. 73. Manufacturer Publishing Co. 1944. p. 104.
  7. ^ Clarke, Donald (1978). How It Works: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Vol. 1. Marshall Cavendish. p. 96.
  8. ^ Skaarup, Harold A. (2011). Ironsides: Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicle Museums and Monuments. iUniverse. p. 109. ISBN 978-1462034642.
  9. ^ Friedman, Norman (2002). U.S. amphibious ships and craft: an illustrated design history. Illustrated Design Histories. Naval Institute Press. p. 101. ISBN 1-55750-250-1. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  10. ^ "Miami Shipbuilding Corporation". Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  11. ^ a b Doyle (2003), pp. 119.
  12. ^ TM 9-802 (1942), pp. 3, 8.
  13. ^ a b Friedman, Norman (2002). U.S. amphibious ships and craft: an illustrated design history. Illustrated Design Histories. Naval Institute Press. p. 218. ISBN 1-55750-250-1. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  14. ^ Fitzsimons, Bernard, general editor. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare (London: Phoebus, 1978), Vol. 8, p.802, "DUKW".
  15. ^ TM 9-802 (1942), pp. 8, 24, 35.
  16. ^ Ware, Pat (2014). The Illustrated Guide to Military Vehicles. Hermes House. pp. 105, 114, 179, 244. ISBN 978-1-78214-192-1.
  17. ^ "Battle Stations II: The 'Duck'". Channel 4.
  18. ^ a b c "Remember when ... we sent amphibious trucks to the Antarctic?". Defence Materiel Organisation. November 2006. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  19. ^ p. 26 The Marines in the Pacific War The Marine Corps Gazette, Volume 31 Marine Corps Association, 1947
  20. ^ Williamson Murray; Allan Reed Millett (30 June 2009). A War To Be Won: fighting the Second World War. Harvard University Press. pp. 422–. ISBN 978-0-674-04130-1.
  21. ^ Richard Collier (1 November 2002). D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Normandy Landings. Orion Books Limited. ISBN 978-0-297-84346-7.
  22. ^ Costello, Joyce. "Italian volunteers find U.S. Army DUKW 67 years later". U.S. Army. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  23. ^ Appleby, Ben. "Mini submarine to survey WWII site at Lake Garda". Italian Insider.
  24. ^ "Lake Garda, Italy October 2018". Promare. 2 October 2018.
  25. ^ a b "UK DUKWS Refurbished for Royal Marines, Upgrade Update". Jane's International Defence Review. Jane's Information Group. 30 July 1999. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
  26. ^ Willard Bascom, The Crest of the Wave: Adventures in Oceanography (1988), ISBN 0-385-26633-2. Book includes photo of a DUKW surfing.
  27. ^ Johnson, Erika (2006), Cape Rochon – An Island Light, vol. 9, Lighthouses of Australia Bulletin
  28. ^ "Ortsverband Gemersheim". Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  29. ^ a b "Timeline". Original Wisconsin Ducks. Retrieved 15 January 2014.

Technical manuals