Giants once walked the earth. And swam it, too. Those thoughts come to mind when viewing a rare surviving example of the Barge, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo (BARC), an amphibious cargo carrier developed and fielded by the U.S. Army during the early 1950s. On display at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia is BARC 3-X, the third of four prototypes and the oldest survivor.
The BARC was one of a series of amphibious cargo vehicles developed by the U.S. Army during the Korean War to replace the DUKWs left over from the Second World War. The DUKW had given yeoman service in both wars, but the Army saw that larger and more modern vehicles would be able to better perform the DUKW’s tasks in the Cold War. It therefore developed a range of new designs during the 1950s, each with far greater cargo capacity than the 2.5 ton DUKW: the 5 ton LARC V (Lighter, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo, 5 ton), the 15 ton LARC XV, and the 60 ton BARC.
The BARC, developed by the Army and offshore oil rig manufacturer LeTourneau Incorporated, was the first to be ready for service, with four prototypes delivered and the design finalized by the end of 1953. Measuring 63 feet long and 27 feet wide, with an empty weight of 195,000 pounds, it was large enough for the LARC V, itself 35 feet long and 10 feet wide, to drive into it easily. Powered by four Detroit Diesel 6-71 two stroke diesels, better known as common bus engines, it had a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour on land and 6.5 knots on the water. Rated for 60 tons of cargo, it was large enough to carry an entire 125 man infantry company.
BARCs #49 and #50 at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. Note the conning towers added to each craft and the motto “Not much for speed, but hell for stout” stenciled onto the stern of #50. Photo from http://www.amphibiousvehicle.net/
The BARC would serve in small numbers for almost half a century. Total production was 55 hulls in addition to the four prototypes. They gave valuable service in the Vietnam War, and the Army Transportation Corps used them in numerous operations until the conflicts of this century, retiring the last BARC on October 15, 2001.
BARC 3-X became the training craft for BARC crews from 1953 to 1963, then made it into preservation at Fort Eustis. The U.S. Army Transportation Museum restored it and placed it in a display of amphibious vehicles that is open to the public. Towering over the viewer with tires nine feet high and gunwales more than twelve feet above the ground, BARC 3-X is one of the last survivors of a unique vehicle created for a now long-ago conflict. Today the U.S. Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft performs the same function of transporting cargo from ship to shore and does it at much higher speed, so the world is unlikely to see the likes of the BARC again.