"She's not very fast but she's better in
water than any truck, and she'll beat any
boat on a highway!"
- Roderic Stephens Jr., a naval architect of
Sparkman & Stephens Inc.
History of the DUKW
The DUKW (or as we like to call them
'Ducks') was an amphibious landing craft
developed by the United States Army during
World War II. It was designed to deliver
cargo from ships at sea directly to the
shore. The DUKW (D-built in 1942,
U-amphibious 2€ ton truck, K-front wheel
drive, W-rear wheel drive) was equipped with
a hull pump that could move 260 gallons of
water a minute! It also came with a hand
pump that could move 50 gallons a minute. It
could climb a 60% grade and broach an
18-inch high obstacle. It had a range of 220
miles on land and 50 miles in water. It
could carry a cargo load of 5,350 lbs., and
hold 25 fully equipped troops.
It was shortly after the German blitzkrieg
of Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries,
France and the air attack on Britain that the
United States realized it would have to make an
amphibious invasion of Europe from England.
America realized it would need thousands of
landing crafts and hundreds of cargo and transport
DUKWs were designed to maneuver with great
agility. They could fight their way through choppy
oceans, huge breakers, and exit the water onto
soft sand without losing traction. They had
specially designed 'windshield surf boards' to
avoid taking on too much water and flooding out
DUKWs first battle was the assault on Sicily
during WWII. The DUKWs performed yeoman services
such as deliverying emergency supplies to the
troops, as well as evacuating wounded soldiers. At
the end of the DUKWs first battle, many naval
officers expressed their belief that the assault
may have failed had it not been for the DUKWs.
The DUKWs were used again during the invasion of
Salerno on September 9, 1943. It was estimated
that over 400 DUKWs would be needed to make the
invasion a success. Between September 9 and
October 1, an average of 90 landing craft and 150
DUKWs moved 190,000 troops, 30,000 vehicles, and
120,000 tons of supplies across the invasion
beaches of Salerno. Just three weeks after the
invasion, the Allies captured the port of Naples.
A fleet of 600 DUKWs assembled in the port of
Naples. This enabled the Allies to unload 3,500
tons of supplies each day! In fact, between June
6, 1944 and May 8, 1945, the DUKWs moved 3,050,000
tons of the 15,750,000 tons unloaded by the Allies
in Europe during the war!
The last amphibious operation of the DUKWs during
WWII was the famous Rhine River crossing at the
end of March, 1945. 370 DUKWs were used to move
men and supplies across.
In addition to the European allies use of the
DUKWs, they were also put to good use in the
southwestern Pacific. DUKWs were used in New
Guinea and Bougainville in 1943. They played a
prominent role in the invasion of the Phillipines.
They were also invaluable in the capture of
Manila. They supported the landing on Iwo Jima, as
well as participating in the final battle on
After their success in WWII, the DUKWs were
deactivated, only to be re-activated and sent to
Korea as soon as the war there began. In 1956, the
DUKW evolved into a more developed version that
was bigger and better. It was named the DRAKE.
However, due to their high cost of production,
they were never authorized for production. The
DUKWs continued serving the United States Army
until the mid-1960s.
Although DUKWs were used predominantly for the
military, many were used by civilians: Police
departments, fire stations and rescue units, just
to name a few. Not to mention our wonderful
Emerald City attraction:
Ride the Ducks of Seattle!
Join the fun for a corporate event or private party!
Check out our
group page for charter ideas and restaurant packages!
Looking for a fun
and unique gift? Ride the Ducks gift certificates are available! Call 206-441-DUCK to order today and get FREE SHIPPING!