Ask most people about ducks, and they think of the birds that you'd feed in a park or what they would go hunting out with some buddies in the spring or fall. Others may think of it as the middle bird in a turducken. But World War II veterans will think of a very different thing – a truck that was a very crucial piece to victory in that conflict.
Well, the truck wasn't officially called a duck. It wasn't even officially called the DUKW. That name came about from General Motors, which had an in-house designation system (many companies that build fighters do the same thing). According to Olive-Drab.com, D stood for a vehicle that first began production in 1942. The U stood for a utility vehicle. The K meant that it was an all-wheel drive vehicle, and the W signified a dual-rear axle arrangement.
It was a modified two and a half ton truck, intended to be able to operate on water as well as on the land. The amphibious capability came from adding a boat hull and a propeller to the standard truck then in service.
The DUKW was used to haul troops and cargo through water, to the beach, and then inland.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
The DUKW first rolled off the assembly line in June, 1942, just as the United States Navy won the Battle of Midway. Production was well underway by later that year, which meant this vehicle missed Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.
The DUKW could haul troops or cargo over most terrain. Here, one is being loaded with cans of fuel.
(Photo by U.S. Army)
But when it came time to storm Sicily, the DUKW was ready, and proved to be very valuable. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the DUKW had a top speed of 50 miles per hour, could go 398 miles on a tank of gas, and had a crew of two. Over 21,000 ducks were built, and some of them continued in military service until 2012 – seventy years after the first one was made!
Many DUKWs that are still operating in the civilian world carry out "Duck tours" in cities across the world.
(Photo by Arnold Reinhold)
Today, most "ducks" still in service are with civilians owners and operators, some of which appear in "duck tours," one of which was featured on the TV series Undercover Boss. Learn more about this troop and cargo-hauling duck in the video below.