Friday, February 17, 2012

This is the DUKW

A couple of days ago James at hellinahandbasket talked about always wanting an amphibious vehicle. He had photos of several military and civilian examples, including some from comics and movies. I was surprised to see he had left out my all time favorite, the DUKW.

This is not an example of my lousy spelling. In military nomenclature of World War Two the letters stand for;

D - 1942, the first year of manufacture

U - Amphibious

K - Drive to all wheels

W- Dual rear axles

Today, the picture above is the DUKW most folks know. A number of companies around the country operate "Duck Rides" for tourist. A 31 foot, street legal party barge!

This is the DUKW of World War Two, a versatile workhorse that made a lasting impression on everyone who encountered it.

The DUKW had its roots in the much more common GMC CCKW, the "duce and a half" that saw service all over the world.

The CCKW drive train was fitted with a water tight hull and an extra drive shaft for a propeller. So, you might ask, what was the point of a truck that could run on water?

The DUKW had a generous cargo bay that allowed for twenty armed troops or a couple of tons of whatever the military might think to load on board. Dangerous ground that.

Folks who have taken "Duck Rides" might think they were used a landing craft. Indeed they were used to ferry troops to shore, but usually after a beach head had been established. The DUKW had other jobs.

The beastie was able to pull up next to a ship and have cargo nets of goods dropped directly into her cargo bay. Once loaded she could head to shore.

Unlike a boat DUKW's didn't need a dock, but could drive out of the water and take it cargo strait to where it was needed. This eliminated two steps of the cargo process, unloading at the dock and transfering to a truck for transport. Unloading the ducks by hand slowed things down, but when there was a crane on shore to unload the nets, turn around was pretty quick.
The drivers compartment of the DUKW was familur to anyone who had ever driven a truck.
There were some additional bells and whistles, but once the driver learned their functions the beast became much more versatile.
One feature well known to military personal today is the ability to control the airpressure of the tires from the drivers compartment. This way the pressure could be reduced for operating in sand and incressed for roads. The crew didn't have to leave the vehicle and expose themselves to hostile fire to do so.

The read deck of the DUKW held a 10,000 or 12,000 pound winch depending on what was available that day. In addition to towing the DUKW off sand bars, and assisting other vehicles it acted as a light duty crane.

It can be argued that the DUKW was neither truck or boat, half doing two jobs. I am already on record as liking the beast, but there is some truth to that. For one, it had only one propeller which limited it's maneuverability on water. As my boating experience is with canoe's I can't really address that.
One problem the DUKWs had was the narrow streets in European towns and villages. They would take up the whole thing; there was no two way traffic.

DUKWs had to be loaded and unloaded over the side rather than with a tailgate. With light weight items its not a problem. Something that took a crane to get it there was going to need a crane to get it off.

Take this one this one transporting a field piece. I have seen a number of photos showing DUKWs carrying field pieces like this. I have no knowledge of anyone firing a field piece while mounted on a DUKW. Then again, it would only take one fresh new lieutenant no knowledge of artillery and visions of glory to try it. It's the sort of thing that leads to never ending, sometimes posthumous, fame.
I know this looks like the sort of project a couple of drunks would undertake on a bet, but the platform between the DUKWs was worked out by a couple of engineers. It allows the DUKWs to ferry heavier loads to shore than one could handle.

This last photo combines two of my favorite things, DUKWs and a P-38 lighting. I can't help but think, if they had mounted it pointed the other way, they could have gotten to shore much faster.

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