During the early days of World War ll, the allies were faced with a tough tactical problem: how could they unload cargo and men from their ships in places where the dock facilities had been destroyed or simply did not exist? The answer was to unload cargo directly over the beach. But how?
The demands of war, along with technical know-how and old fashioned Yankee ingenuity combined to create the perfect solution: a vehicle that was half boat and half truck that could run on land and water. Code-named DUKW (see where we get the name?), the first "DUCK" was actually a GMC truck enclosed in a water-tight shell.
It wasn’t long before DUKWs were playing a crucial role in the allied invasions in Sicily, the Pacific, and the biggest invasion of all, D-Day. In fact, more than 40% of all over-beach supplies in Normandy were transported by DUKWs during the first four months. So today, we can thank those who were part of the DUKW project for helping to change the course of history.
Duck Timeline: From concept through creation
A Need for Amphibious Vehicles
The U.S. Army recognizes a need for an amphibious vehicle that could carry heavy equipment. The National Defense Research Committee is asked to begin a study.
GM is chosen
General Motors is approached and asked if they would be interested in building an amphibious vehicle for the armed forces. General Motors agrees.
The DUKW is named
The National Defense Research Committee officially approves the program to design and construct a prototype. The vehicle will be designated DUKW.
Prototype is Land Tested
The first prototype is completed at a General Motors facility in Pontiac, Michigan. Tests on land are conducted.
Prototype is Water Tested
The DUKW is tested in Crystal Lake near Pontiac, Michigan. Minor changes in the design are recommended.
The DUKW is demonstrated at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Tests of the vehicle’s capabilities continue until June 20.
Testing in the ocean off Virginia beaches begins. This results in further recommendations to improve the DUKW’s performance.
2,000 DUKWs ordered
The U.S. Army places an initial order for 2,000 DUKWs. General Motors goes to work building assembly lines to mass-produce DUKWs. In the meantime, four more prototypes are built.
The U.S. Army begins training DUKW crews on Cape Cod with the first DUKWs off the assembly lines.
DUKWs began operations in the South Pacific at New Caledonia.
DUKWs in Europe
DUKWs were first used in Europe during the invasion of Sicily.
2,000 DUKWs were a crucial component during the D-Day Invasion. The DUKWs brought troops and supplies from ships to shore.
Boston Duck Tours’ Fleet of DUKWs
Boston Duck Tours has replaced our original DUKWs with WWII style amphibious vehicles that are easier to maintain and operate. Boston Duck Tours fleet now consists 28 authentic replica DUKWS (which locals affectionately refer to as Duck Boats) that hold 35 guests and are completely enclosed. We also have 1 original WWII DUKW left that we use for parades and special events only. Please see the chart below to see what each of our DUCKs looks like.