Vessels of Liberation

The DUKW and the LVT

A DUKW on the beach to make troops familiar with this vehicle


One of the weapons that won the Second World War was, according to Eisenhower, the amphibious vehicle D.U.K.W. Because of its floating ability it was nicknamed 'DUCK'.

A CCKW Deuce-and-a-half 353 which was the basis for the DUKW

Roger W. Hofheins brought its design for an amphibious vehicle at the end of the thirty's of the last century to the American government. But the United States were at that moment not at war and were not interested in this project. But an year later there were some funds created for the production of a floating/driving vehicle. Under the supervision of Palmer C. Putman, from the Office of Scientific Research and Development and designer Roderic Stephens, a General Motors Corporation CCKW 2.5ton 6x6 Deuce-and-a-half, the standard truck of the American Army, was used totally refurbished to a floating vehicle.

The screw of the DUKW gave it a speed of around 10 km/h.

Propulsion in the water came from a screw. Its power came from an 109 hp strong engine. Speed in water was around 10 km/h and 80 km/h on land. As a floating vessel it could transport 25 men, or more than 5000 pounds in cargo.

A neat feature on the DUKW was the capability to controle the pressure of the tires for different soils and roads. This could be done from the inside of the cabin.

Detail of the dashboard, with on the right the tire pressure gauge.

But the appearance of the DUKW raised some eyebrow. But the scepticism would soon disappear. When a DUKW was waiting for her test-drive, a ship of the coastguard run into trouble near the coast of Massachusetts. It was impossible to reach the helpless crew and the coastguard asked for the assistance of the DUKW. Within six minutes the DUKW arrived at the wreck and took the stricken crew from board. It became prompt a very popular vehicle, the 'duck', and the Americans took it with pride into their inventory.

Testing was not only done in water, also on concrete 'waves'

The name DUKW stands for: 'D' = 1942, 'U' = Utility / amphibious, 'K' = Front Wheel Drive, 'W' = Twin Rear Driving Axles. In 1942 the first DUKW came of the production lines at General Motor Corporation. $ 10.800 was the price at the time to built an DUKW. Between 1942 and 1945, more than 21.000 were produced.

A restored DUKW in Ouisterham (Museé Le Grand Bunker)

During D-Day the Allies used 2583 of these vehicles. Harbours around Normandy were for a long period inaccessible for big ships because of the total destruction by the Germans of these harbours. Cargo was unloaded near the coast into smaller vessels, like the DUKW. These DUKW's would haul more then three million tons (of the 16 million) between June 6, 1944 and the 8th of May, 1945 to the mainland of Normandy.

Inventive minds built two DUKW's into one, to transport a P-38 Lightning

Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT)

US Marine Corps LVT-1's near Guadalcanal.
The troopship USS President Hayes (AP-39)
lies on the horizon (7-9 augustus 1942)

After the hurricanes that hit Florida in 1926, 1928 and 1932, Donald Roebling, encouraged by his father John, starts with a design for an amphibious vehicle for commercial use in rescue work. The first 'Alligator' is finished in 1935. The first test-drives were not impressive. As vehicle on land it reached a speed of 40 km/h, but in water the vessel only moved at an speed of 4 km/h. The engines were improved and the speed in water was increased till 14 km/h in 1939. By that time the US Marine Corps became interested in the project. In 1938 was a proposal to the navy declined because of lack of funds at the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair. So Roebling took $ 18.000 out of his own pocket and builds another model. Because of the threat of an imminent war in 1940, Roebling got $ 20.000 for further development of the Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT).

The prototype of the 'Alligator'

In the same year a contract was signed for a first badge of 200 steel build LVT-1's. Together with the Food Machine Corporation (FMC) and the Chemical Corp the LVT-1 was produced from July 1941. The LVT-1 could carry 24 fully dressed soldiers or 6000 pounds of cargo.

De LVT-1 during testing

The LVT-1 was in production from 1941 till 1943. The first, almost 8 meter long LVT, was propelled by an 146 hp strong Hercules engine, which gave the vehicle a speed of approximate 30 km/h on shore and around 12 km/h in water. The propulsion in water was through scoops on the tracks. Because these scoops stood a few inches on the tracks, it was not really suitable for driving on hard ground or on the road.

The propulsion scoops,...

The first LVT-1 was deployed on August 7, 1942 during the military operation when they brought troops and cargo to the shores of Guadalcanal. The LVT-(A) 1 had an M3 light tank turret atop its hull. At the rear it had two .30 machineguns in 'manholes'. The US Marines replaced the 37mm canon with a E7 flamethrower.

De LVT(A) 1 met 37mm kanon.

In 1941 de development of an improvement version, the LVT-2 was started. This was to become the basis for a whole series of variants, running from the LVT-(A)2, LVT4, LVT-(A)4 and the LVT-(A)5. These versions were produced with the Continental W670 radial until 1945. The LVT-2 saw its first action at Tarawa in November 1943 as haulier of cargo. The LVT-(A)2 'Water Buffalo' comes of the lines in 1942. This type was armoured with and could hold 18 men. A total of 450 were built by Roebling and Ford.

A British LVT 'Buffalo' comes out of the water

De LVT-4 had a loading ramp. There was room for 30 men or a light vehicle. Great Britain received 500. The LVT-(A)4 had an open gun turret of an M8 Motor Carriage. The Canadians produced a type with a flamethrower instead of the gun turret. The US Marines tested vehicles with rocket launchers on the sides of the LVT-(A)4. There were some more modifications on the later vehicles.

New LVT-4's of the 718th Amphibious Tractor Battalion
made ready at Okinawa for the attack on Japan

Some LVT-(A)5's were updated during 1949 and stayed in service far into the fifty's.

Last of the two wrecks at the Utah Beach Museum.

De gerestaureerde LVT in 2011 in het Utah Beach Museum

Near the Utah Beach Museum were two wrecks of LVT's (see the picture above). The most coroded wreck has been removed in 2004, and there is only one left (which is being restored in 2007 and not on site). According to a text nearby they were testvehicles and they were used for a shuttleservice between ships and shore and for operating in the flooded aera behind Utah Beach.

The 'Buffalo' near Kotem

If you live in Holland or Belgium, you don’t have to travel all the way to Normandy to look for a LVT. On the border of Belgium/Holland near Maas-Mechelen at a place called Kotem stands a good preserved ‘Buffalo’. To locate this LVT take exit 33 on the A2-E314. Drive into Maas-Mechelen, after 500 yards go right and head for Kotem. Near the highway overpass a British LVT-4 ‘Buffalo’ can be found.

From the overpass a good view can be made on the LVT

In 1945 the LVT sunk into the river Maas during a training exercise. Two man would lost there lives, the driver Phil Harding co-driver Stanley Clark. Harding was found some time later, from Clark nothing was ever found. In June 1977 the LVT was located by the diving club Jaws. The vehicle was drifted to the Dutch side of the river, but was secretly towed to Belgium. It was restored and presented as a memorial in September 1977. In 2007 the LVT was ones again restored and looks extremely good.