Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 4th June 2018

Unusual Vehicles is a segment that examines the history of a weird car to see how it was used in everyday life. There have been a number of unconventional military vehicles and one of the most striking is the DUKW 6×6, colloquially known as a Duck. The machine combined land and amphibious technology, making it suitable for road and water use.

Designed by Sparkman & Stephens and General Motors, the DUKW name was a GM nomenclature that represented the company’s manufacturing code:

  • D – Designed in 1942
  • U – Utility
  • K – All-wheel drive
  • W – Dual-tandem rear axles


The DUKW was developed by various people, including Rod Stephens Jr and a British yacht designer called Dennis Puleston. It was commissioned by the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development to help resupply units that had performed an amphibious landing. Although the design was initially rejected by the armed services, an experimental DUKW helped a US Coast Guard patrol craft that got stuck in a sand bar near Provincetown, Massachusetts.

After this incident, the DUKW was approved by the military. On a journey across the English Channel, the vehicle proved its seaworthiness. The machine was built around the GMC AFKWX, a cab-over-engine version of the GMC CCKW six-wheel-drive military truck. It also came with a watertight hull and a propeller. Powered by a 269.5 GMC Model 270 straight-six engine, the DUKW took to land and water.

Military use and beyond

During WW2, the Allied forces, US Army and US Marine Corps were supplied with DUKWs, with a further 2000 being supplied to Britain. The vehicles played a role in Operation Husky, D-Day and Operation Veritable.

After the war, DUKWs were put into storage until they were needed. A large number were deployed by the US at the outbreak of the Korean War. Eventually, ex-US Army DUKWs were transferred to the French military to be used by the Troupes de marine.

The vehicle also saw a lot of civilian use, being employed by the police and fire department. They are also used in ‘Duck’ tours, transporting people in harbour and river cities. The first tour happened in 1946 by the Original Wisconsin Ducks. As a versatile machines, the DUKW is certainly one of the most striking military vehicles to be designed.

By AlfvanBeem [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

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