WEAPONS OF WAR
The DUKW defied the sceptics, became a substantial contributor to Allied victory in World War Two and remained in service for more than 50 years. Michael E Haskew profiles a mighty amphibian
In his post-World War Two memoir Crusade In Europe, General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, identified several pieces of equipment “that most senior officers came to regard as among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe”.
‘Ike’ lauded the jeep, 2½-ton truck, bulldozer and C-47 Skytrain/Dakota and noted: “Curiously enough, none of these is designed for combat.” The future president also identified another piece of equipment born of necessity during the lengthy campaigns in Europe and in the Pacific.
The United States had a major strategic problem, one that influenced the design of its vehicles and equipment including even its Sherman tanks: wherever its land forces fought, they needed to deploy overseas. Swift embarkation, transit, and deployment was vital. The DUKW was developed to eliminate the problem of transferring troops and essential cargoes from ship to shore. Nicknamed ‘Duck’, it became, in Eisenhower’s words, “an amphibious vehicle that proved to be one of the most valuable pieces of equipment produced by the United States during the war”.