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What is a "Duck?"
The DUKW, or "Duck" as we call it, is amphibious landing craft developed by the U.S. Army during World War II to deliver cargo from ships at sea directly to shore.
The DUKWs then contained a hull pump that could pump 260 gallons of water per minute plus a hand pump that could also move 50 gallons per minute. The DUKW can climb up a 60% grade and also broach 18-inch high obstacles. Its range is approximately 220 miles on land and 50 miles in water and its cargo capacity is 5,350 lbs. It was designed to transport up to 25 fully equipped troops on land or water.
During World War II, the United States realized that an amphibious invasion of France from England was necessary to overcome the German occupation. Thousands of landing crafts and hundreds of cargo and transport ships would be needed to launch a successful invasion. DUKWs were engineered with maneuverability and great agility to help meet the challenge. They fought their way through choppy oceans, huge breakers, and exited the water onto soft sand without losing traction to bring troops and supplies safely on shore. Specially designed windshield "surf boards" were added to avoid taking on too much water and to prevent flooding.
The DUKWs first battle was the assault on Sicily during WWII. The DUKWs delivered emergency supplies to troops, and evacuated wounded soldiers. Naval officers believed that the assault that day might have failed had it not been for the DUKWs capabilities.
The DUKWs were used next during the invasion of Salerno, Italy, on September 9, 1943. 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. The Allies captured the port of Naples just three weeks after the successful invasion. A fleet of 600 DUKWs was sent to the port of Naples. This enabled the Allies to unload 3,500 tons of supplies per day. Between June 6, 1944, and May 8, 1945, the DUKWs moved over 3,050,000 tons of the 15,750,000 tons unloaded by the Allies in Europe during World War II.
The last recorded amphibious operation of the DUKWs during WWII was the Rhine River crossing near the end of March, 1945. Three-hundred seventy DUKWs moved men and supplies across the river.
DUKWs also were put to good use in the Pacific Theater war efforts. DUKWs were used in both New Guinea and Bougainville in 1943 and played an important role in the invasion of the Philippines. They were invaluable in the capture of Manila. The DUKWs helped support the landing on Iwo Jima, and participated in the final battle on Okinawa.
After WWII, the DUKWs were deactivated, but were re-activated and sent to Korea as soon as the war there began. In the Korean War, designers designed a new, more developed version that was bigger and better than the original DUKW, and was named the DRAKE. However, due to the high cost of production, the DRAKEs were never authorized for production. The faithful DUKWs continued serving the U.S. Army until the mid-1960s.
Although DUKWs were used predominantly for the military, many have been used by civilians, Police departments, fire and rescue units, and other amphibious operations.
Today, you can take a scenic ride on this marvelous vehicle called the DUKW (Duck) on the "Hot Springs Duck Ride" operated by National Park Duck Tours in Hot Springs, Arkansas. See you there!
What does DUKW stand for?
D = First year of production code "D" is for 1942
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