The DUKW amphibious truck, nicknamed the “Duck,” was one of the mechanical marvels of the Second World War. And some of them are still hard at work. Based on a 2.5 ton 6×6 GMC military truck chassis, it used a watertight hull and propeller to achieve the ability to cross rivers and drive/sail to and from invasion beaches. To improve its ability to power through sand, it introduced the first central tire inflation system, now a standard feature on most military wheeled vehicles. GMC produced 21,137 from 1942 to 1945 for the U.S. military and for allied countries under Lend-Lease, making it the most prolific amphibious vehicle of all time. (The Volkwagen-based Schwimmwagen, the most successful amphibious car, totaled 14,265.)
The DUKW made its debut at Guadalcanal and proved invaluable in the Pacific campaign, the invasion of Sicily and Italy, the D-Day landings in Normandy, and the crossing of the Rhine. Several DUKWs produced during the war remain in service with the UK’s Royal Marines, and as amphibious “duck tour” buses, they are a common sight in Washington, DC, Boston, Seattle, and numerous other cities. This DUKW was sighted at Trafalgar Square in London in June. Quite possibly a veteran of D-Day, it now gives tours of London landmarks and the Thames, a seventy year old classic still working for a living.