That is of course the 6X6, 2 1/2 ton payload (cross country) cargo truck used by US forces from WW2 on.
Now here's the unit everyone visualizes when they think "vintage" deuce-and-a-half, the GMC CCKW. It was the one that was produced the most and carried all the goods for the US Army in all theaters.
But, what if I told you that the first ones looked like this:
Briefly on the subject of these cumbersome acronyms, they're not "Army-ese" as you might imagine. They stem from GMC's own designation system where the first letter denotes the year of the design - in this case A = 1939.
For homework, extrapolate the year that the CCKW was adopted.
The second letter, C means that a standard cab is used. Third letter; K = driven front axle. Fourth letter; W = tandem, driven rear axle. The X only shows up if it uses a non-standard wheelbase. To be accurate, the ACKWX pictured is actually the cabover model which I think looks cooler.
The 1939 cabover model provided the running gear for the only deuce-and-a-half of the war that could cross the English Channel.
Here's one now, posing with its heroic crew.
"Seeking to rescue a Marine who was drowning in the surf at Iwo Jima, this sextet of Negro soldiers narrowly missed death themselves when their amphibian truck was swamped by heavy seas. From left to right, back row, they are T/5 L. C. Carter, Jr., Private John Bonner, Jr., Staff Sergeant Charles R. Johnson. Standing, from left to right, are T/5 A. B. Randle, T/5 Homer H. Gaines, and Private Willie Tellie." March 11, 1945. S/Sgt. W. H. Feen. 127-N-114329"
Okay, I just gave the game away. The mystery vehicle is of course the ocean-going, deepwater rig, the DUKW.
"Finally" you say, an acronym that makes sense!
Nope. Just a lucky coincidence. The famous Army "Duck" was developed in 1942... therefore the letter "D" was used. Non-standard cab = U and so on.
More about the seagoing truck another time. Lotta ground to cover.
The deuce had its genesis around 1930 when the Army Quartermaster Corps became frustrated that the manufacturers, whose products had performed so admirably in the First War, had no interest in producing anything to replace all their aging Mack AC's and FWD's.
The Liberty Truck had been a joint product of the QMC and the Society of Automotive Engineers and had worked out well but had been somewhat of a bureaucratic nightmare.
"Between 1928 and 1932 The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps began building several different models of trucks in their Ft Holabird, Maryland shops. These trucks were known as the QMC Standard Fleet, and trucks ranging from 1-1/4 to 12 ton were built, including 4x4 and 6x6 models."
The truck pictured above is a Group IV, 6 to 7 ton, 4x4 QMC model used as an artillery prime-mover.
Alas the QMC fleet, which had been built entirely by the Army using off-the-shelf parts, suffered the same fate as many other "non-essential" programs in the Great Depression.
The good news was that QMC exercise scared the hell out of truck manufacturers. The idea that the military could build their own damned trucks if it came to it, made them more amenable to discussions of tactical vehicles when the the pre-war build-up started.
Three main manufacturers produced the deuce, GMC, Studebaker/Reo and International Harvester.
That's not all the six-by's that were used either. We're just not going to discuss the Dodge, 1 1/2 ton, WC-63, for instance. Nor the Mack NO, 7 yard, 2 ton nor the Diamond T, 4 ton.
The three models of trucks, built by the four manufacturers (Reo built some of the Studebakers), were built to the same specifications but differred in salient details.
Despite appearances these were nothing but commercial trucks with front drive and tactical sheet metal. The standardized M-series trucks were still ten years away.
Obviously providing support for vehicles from four different companies would be a logistical headache which was minimized thus: The GMC's went to the Army, the Studebaker's to lend lease and the Internationals to the Navy and Marines.
As a result, while the GMC's churned through the European mud, on the other side of Germany the Russian Army ran on the Studebaker US6.
The Russians loved the Studebaker, referring to it as "The Studer". They started manufacturing them in '42.
Pictured above carrying Stalin's organ.
The ambassador at the time reported that a toast often offered by Soviet soldiers was: "To Stalin. To Roosevelt, To Studebaker!"
After the war, Smiling Joe Stalin even went to the trouble of writing to the president of the company to gush over these trucks:
“Just imagine how we would have advanced from Stalingrad to Berlin without them! Our losses would have been colossal because we would have had no maneuverability.”
Uh, Joe... your losses were colossal but that's not the point.
The Soviet mobility did kick ass on that of the Reich.
In an amazing display of misplaced priorities along with atypical, Teutonic blockheadery, Germany had built the hell out of tanks for the Russian campaign while most of their transport was still horse-drawn. What trucks they had were were just militarized, commercial trucks with little off-road capability especially on Russia's, unpaved roads during the Rasputitsa.
Alas, The firm which of all sorts of wagons from 1852 on; then on through cars, trucks and the famous and versatile M-29 Weasel - didn't survive past 1967 even though it was the first car purchased by Lt. jg. George H. W. Bush when he left the canoe club.
Studebaker should of done an ad campaign with Stalin.
Last but far from least, we find out how the International Harvester version compared even though it's so obscure that it doesn't even have a Wiki entry.
Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is this: A builder of tractors may view the problem of cargo-truck mobility differently.
While a few IH's went to lend-lease most went to the Navy and the Marine Corps and they were all something else entirely compared to the other deuces.
What IH came up with to meet the identical specs as the others had a larger engine and a Hendrickson, walking-beam rear suspension, the off-road advantages of which can be seen in the articulation of those adorable Scammels and in the photo below of an off-the-rack Cornbinder in 1953.
It was also about 20-30% more expensive than the others as a result.
in closing, you can see from the above photo that lots of all of these rigs are still around. In fact, both in Europe and the Soviet Union, the lend-lease trucks were converted for civilian use and there are probably a bunch of them still at it.