Amphibious 2-1/2 ton
Delivering cargo directly to/from the
The DUKW was an
amphibious version of the 2-1/2 ton General
Motors cargo truck. It was developed by the
U. S. Army during World War II as a means to
deliver cargo from ships at sea, directly to
In early 1942, ships
sat waiting to discharge cargo at foreign
ports, sometimes for months, due to lack of
port facilities. Ships waited for barges,
barges waited for trucks, and trucks waited
Smaller landing craft were being built by
the hundreds as quickly as possible to
accomplish this mission. Planners soon
found the need to deliver high priority
cargo, such as ammunition and water,
directly to troops fighting inland off the
Above, a Seep with trailer in calm
significant waves, the Seep capsized
Developing a new
assigned the task of developing this new
type of landing craft to the National
Defense Research Committee (NDRC).
Composed of engineers, designers,
technicians and entrepreneurs, the first
mission of this group was to develop an
amphibious version of the 1/4-ton Jeep.
The first amphibious
vehicle was the "Seep," built to the design
of the 1/4-ton Ford GPA. It was intended to
ferry soldiers to and from ships off-shore.
But they were too small, difficult to
maneuver and in any significant waves, the
The 1/4-ton Seep
was shipped in small quantities to Europe
and the islands of the South Pacific,
working well in shallow waters and along
narrow roads. It was not capable, however,
of its assigned mission - ship to shore
supply of cargo.
The National Defense
Research Committee (NDRC) was headed by
Palmer C. Putnam, who was in charge of a
team with an impossible mission – design an
amphibious vehicle large than the Seep that
could move supplies directly from the ship
The vehicle was
required to perform as well on land as other
vehicles of its size and type. It was to
have sufficient sea-going capabilities:
handle rough sea swells, high surf and have
the ability to drive over reefs and
me a truck that can swim!”
Putnam’s ideal solution was to simply
convert the standard truck – the GMC 353
series 2-1.2 ton. These GMCs were already
in production, so design drawings were
prepared in record times and four prototypes
In June 1942, tests
were performed in the Chesapeake Bay and
Atlantic Ocean and off-road tests at Fort
Belvoir, VA and loading capability tests at
By July 1942, a
well-attended demonstration at Fort Story,
VA ensured the final acceptance of the DUKW.
An order was placed for 2,000 of the
D = built in 1942
U = amphibious 2-1/2
K = front wheel drive
W = rear wheel drive
Length: . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 31 ft
Width: . . . . . . . .
. . . . . .8 ft 2 in
Height: . . . . . . .
. . . . . . .8 ft 10 in
Weight, net: . . . . .
. . . . . 14,880 lbs
Payload: . . . . . . .
. . . . . .5,175 lbs
Gross: . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 20,055 lbs
for M36 truck mount
antiaircraft machine guns
The US Navy,
responsible for the operation of all boats
and ships, simply did not have enough men to
train and operate all the various landing
craft rolling off assembly lines.
In early 1942, the
Navy requested that the Army train and man
some landing craft and all of the DUKWs.
Initially, this mission was assigned to the
Corps of Engineers. The First Engineer
Amphibian Command was established early in
the summer of 1942.
training took place at an Aquatic Park near
the San Francisco Port of Embarkation in
California. This photo shows joint training
with Army stevedores. 10 March 1944.
There was not a
training model to follow and little time.
The Engineer Amphibian Command was required
to recruit, procure equipment, and develop a
training program almost simultaneously.
A Boat Training
Center was established at Camp Edwards, MA.
Local civilian boat and yacht companies
taught boat maintenance courses.
Above, an enlisted instructor
demonstrates the power train of the
DUKW to a group of Reserve Officers.
Above, soldiers in a maintenance
course for the DUKW.
The initial course of
instruction was 3 weeks, but the need for
lengthening the course was evident. Even
after two months of training, soldiers were
still not prepared to operate this complex
new vehicle under wartime conditions.
maintenance officers were sent to General
Motors Corporation's War Products School in
the fall of 1943. Various civilian
companies taught 1,065 instructors about
marine diesel engines, harbor operations,
and offloading procedures.
training in the Pacific and Europe, as
depicted in Life Magazine, November 1942.
Above, lashing instructions for shipment
of a DUKW.
Above, instructions for the DUKW
on the approach to a ship, and the
position of booms over the DUKW cargo
Above, before a sufficient number
of landing ships were in service, it was
necessary to use booms to transport
vessels for setting the DUKWs into the
water. This procedure was lengthy and
Above, at the Charleston, South
Carolina Port of Embarkation, mariners
work on the Knot Obstacle Course. They
had to demonstrate working knowledge of
all mariner's knots and procedures.
On the left, a training exercise
practicing the approach to a ship.
DUKWs IN EARLY
The 2nd Brigade, 87th
Engineer Battalion was trained and issued
DUKWs and other equipment. At the request
of General Douglas MacArthur, they embarked
for the Pacific in mid-January 1943.
The first training
exercise for the DUKW came in March 1943
when the 2nd Brigade landed troops on Noumea,
New Caledonia. The land was small and
involved only a few DUKWs and other landing
craft, but it was successful.
engineers and the DUKW had proven their
Eventually, the number
of DUKW companies grew and the
Transportation Corps established 15
Amphibious Truck Battalions and Headquarters
Detachments, in order to assemble DUKW
companies all under one command.
In just a few short months, the Army had
come a long way in perfecting amphibious
landing techniques and what was needed to
put troops ashore.
The DUKW proved
invaluable during the invasion of Salerno,
Between 9 September
and 1 October 1943, 90 landing craft and 150
DUKWs moved 190,000 troops, 30,000 vehicles
and 12,000 tons of supplies across the
invasion beaches to Salerno.
Above, a motor park
and assembly area in North Africa.
Above, DUKWs assembled and ready
North Africa. Left, A DUKW full of
a beach landing, Italy.
Above, a DUKW with
.50 caliber ring mount passing a German
Tiger tank on a beach road, Italy.
Operation Blue Jay
used DUKWs for beaching operations in
Early lessons by the
Engineer Special Brigades were integrated
into DUKW use during the Normandy Invasion
Nineteen companies were allocated to the
invasion: 12 assigned to Omaha Beach, and 7
to Utah Beach. All were loaded with
ammunition and other cargo, which would be
crucial during the early stages of the
The 453rd, 458th and
459th Transportation Corps Amphibious Truck
Companies were assigned to the initial
assault. Their mission was to deliver their
cargo, then shuttle between the beach and
the ships, offloading supplies and
establishing supply and ammunition dumps.
The DUKWs embarked on
LSTs in Weymouth, England on 5 June 1944,
and moved across the channel for the
invasion. LSTs off-loaded DUKWs 14 miles
offshore shortly before the attack began.
The DUKWs formed two columns and headed for
Visiting the Normandy beachhead
are General Marshall, General
Eisenhower, and Admiral King (all
holding the rail in the DUKW), 12 June
Net cargo transfer from DUKWs to
Le Verdon, France.
ENGLAND – The Assault Exercises for D-Day
In the fall of 1943,
an area on the southwest coast of England at
Slapton Sands was ordered evacuated of all
civilians. About 3,000 people, livestock,
equipment and personal belongings were to be
totally evacuated by 20 December 1943. They
were sworn to secrecy as to the reason for
Slapton Sands covered
about 30,000 acres. The area along the
beach had similar characteristics of beach
and tide as Utah Beach - the proposed
invasion and landing area in Normandy,
Slapton Sands was used
for numerous training and assault
exercises. It accustomed the assault troops
to the kind of terrain they would be
encountering, tested and prepared the
equipment with waterproofing, and procedures
in demolition of obstacles.
Landing craft were
assigned from various bases along the south
Devon coast, including several DUKW
companies, to carry troops and equipment on
a sea journey of the same length and time as
it would take to cross the English Channel
to Normandy, France. Soldiers practiced
landing on the beach and loading and
These rehearsals for
the most part were very successful, and
lessons in coordination were learned, which
were applied to the actual invasion.
Above, modern day Slapton Sands,
looking much like it did in 1943.
Note the similarity in the beach to
that of Normandy beaches.
Training at Slapton Sands,
loading of gas cans.
6-7, 1944, the three companies lost 41 DUKWs
while delivering supplies from ships to
supply dumps established just behind the
Omaha Beach -
Typical Cross Section (not to scale)
The ability to move vital supplies directly
to the front lines, and the courage
of the crews under enemy fire made the DUKW
a vital, integral part of the Normandy
After D-Day, the DUKW became
indispensable in unloading vessels.
facilities could be rebuilt, they
were crucial for moving supplies.
June 6 1944 and May 8 1945, DUKWs moved
5,050,000 tons of the 15,750,000 tons
unloaded by the allies in Europe during the
DUKWs refueling on
a farm in France. The source of their fuel
is a captured German tank. 1945
were used for one last amphibious operation
in Europe -- the famous Rhine River
crossing in Germany, at the end of March
this operation, 370 DUKWs were used to move
men and supplies.
early hours of the morning of 26 March 1945,
under cloudy skies and protected by clouds
of artificial fog, troops of the US 7th Army
under General Patch crossed the Rhine River
A DUKW of the 7th
US Army is being loaded with gasoline
for a quick transfer across the Rhine in
Above, a DUKW leaves the steep west
bank of the Rhine River
carrying an M2 105mm howitzer.
DUKWs in the PACIFIC THEATER
the DUKWs were busy in Europe, their numbers
were increased and their duties expanded in
the Pacific Theater.
full companies were in the invasion of the
Tacloban (the capital city of Leyte) in
April 1945, 20 DUKWs from the 813th
Amphibian Truck Company moved 1,847 tons of
supplies in a 24-hour period. This required
a 9-1/2 mile round trip from the ships, to a
supply dump, and back again with each
vehicle averaging over 92-tons of cargo.
end of World War II, a total of 21, 147
DUKWs had been built. The Army had
organized 70 Amphibious Truck Companies and
assigned over 12,829 soldiers to operate and
were invaluable during the capture of
Manila. Although the Japanese had filled
the harbor with sunken wreckage, the Army
captured the city and supplied the troops
using the DUKW.
final battle on Okinawa, the DUKW was
indispensable in moving artillery pieces and
ammunition directly to the troops fighting
against the Shuri Line, near Naha.
loaded on DUKWs for evacuations
General view of
docking and incoming ships at Base X port
area, Manila, September 1945.
The shoreline of
Leyte Island at the invasion point, seen
from an incoming LCVP, 20 October 1944. The
smoke is from the naval bombardment.
Above, the landing
on Guam, 23 July 1944.
developing the beachhead had, by Landing
plus 3, made substantial progress.
Supply ships were run in to the reef's
edge, where they unloaded into trucks or
TRAINING AT FORT STORY, VIRGINIA
Fort Story, VA, just
north of Virginia Beach, was the location
for some of the earliest training on
amphibious vehicles. As early as June 1942,
load capability tests were performed there.
training with a Port Company to
unload break bulk cargo in nets.
training with a Port Company,
loading a 105mm howitzer onto a DUKW.
bringing the howitzer onto the
Training Replacement Training Group
(TRTG) was activated for training at
Fort Story for training for the
Based on World War
II experience, the TRTG established
for DUKW personnel and equipment (above).
in KOREA, 1950-1954
After World War II,
the United States, Britain, France and
Australia kept a reduced number of DUKWs in
service. When the conflict in Korea began,
the U.S. reactivated and deployed DUKW
The 1st Transportation
Replacement Training Group at Fort Story,
VA, provided necessary training for DUKW
crewman, and insured that DUKW units at the
front were adequately staffed.
Above, Army DUKWs from the 3rd Amphibious
2nd Logistical Command, are unloaded after
from merchant ships docked in Pusan Harbor,
Korea. 15 June 1951.
Above, the 558th
Amphibious Truck Company performs
maintenance at Inchon, Korea, 1952.
instrumental in getting cargo to shore at
Pusan, Korea, and later at Inchon, Korea.
from the 558th Amphibious Truck Company
guide a load being lowered into a DUKW from
Above, cargo from
ships anchored out in the Korean harbor
is loaded directly onto railroad cars from
the DUKW that
brought it to shore. 5 November 1951
stevedores loading cargo onto a DUKW, 1951.
pulling maintenance on shore
before beginning their daily missions.
Above, DUKW No. 19 named "Sue" by PFC
with a note to his sweetheart back home.