Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Duck!




Buy one here!  With a trailer! Adorable.
This was a wonder of WW2 engineering that I completely glossed-over in my hit-and-miss diatribe on the Deuce-and-a-half earlier. Sorry.
To make up, this is about every one's dream party-boat, the DUKW.
It'd be nice to imagine that this handy acronym meant something - and, since it also sounded kind of like "Duck" - and that some poor Nobody at the acronym dept. had to come up with a tac/term (tactical terminology. I just made that up) to designate a seagoing truck.
No, this was corporate America's terminology and we'll fall victim to the incredible nomenclature system used by GMC later on.
GMC sent this particular truck on its way designated as follows:
  • "D", designed in 1942
  • "U", "utility"
  • "K", all-wheel drive
  • "W", dual rear axles
That's almost an acronym for "duck". Close enough.
Besides, "duck" rhymes with "truck".
Fuck! It writes itself.
In its simplest terms, it was just a standard, Army 6X6, a GMC, CCKW.  Follow that link to further unravel the GMC code (Hint: It's alphabetical).
The duck was just one of those but with a boat built around it.
And not one of those "Hey look at me, amphibious-convertions that would swamp in a heavy dew - like those D-day "floating Shermans" which were hampered, not only by their weight - 30 ton-ish - but also by the fact they were a tank (Sort of) first and a boat (A poor one) second.
its dubious ability to navigate water was a sorry-ass band-aid.

The duck was the real deal.
Ripped from the pages of Wiki:

"The DUKW was designed by Rod Stephens, Jr. of Sparkman & Stephens, Inc. yacht designers, Dennis Puleston, a British deep-water sailor resident in the U.S., and Frank W. Speir, a Reserve Officers' Training Corps Lieutenant from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[8] Developed by the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development to solve the problem of resupply to units which had just performed an amphibious landing,"

I was just going to say that.
You may recall from the earlier deuce-and-a-half discussion, that the prototype ducks were built on the chassis of the ugly/adorable AFKWX

  Embrace the koan of the GMC acronym system. Therein lies peace.
Regarding the first ducks, it seems no-one in the military was much interested in them. The big-brain thinking was more along the lines of landing craft and all the other related getting-the-stuff-to-the-beach-in-a-big-hurry hardware.
Thing was, the issue that the duck addressed - and that no one else seemed to pay any attention to - was this:  Here was a vehicle that could be loaded directly off a ship - anchored several miles offshore - and could be loaded to the the tune of 5000 pounds-worth ("GMC, We are professional grade"). 
It could then could take said cargo and motor it into shore, over any reefs, seawalls... whatever. Then, without a pause - hereby bypassing the place where guys customarily were blown up transferring shit from ship to shore - continue into the back country as far as you'd want to go because... it's a truck. 
It's a deuce-and-a-half.
The  question of seaworthiness was the big one but it was proved out early in the game and the incident concerned pretty much settled the issue.
A USCG patrol craft had found itself grounded on a sandbar near Provincetown, Massachusetts. 
60 knot winds and heavy surf kept any conventional craft away and rescuing the grounded crew was proving to be a head-scratcher. 
Now, this was a vessel of the saltiest of America's services. Nobody deals with the big ocean in little boats like the Coasties do and they would most certainly have gotten their lads back on land...   It just turned out, they didn't have to.
Apparently this fella, Rod Stephens (mentioned earlier) knew which was the pointy end when he'd undertaken to built a boat/Halloween-costume for the butt-ugly AFKWX.
I seems that one of these early Ducks happened to be tooling around in the same area as our hapless Coasties and... saved the day. 
From then on, the Duck was a go project.
They exist in the here and now. Someone, please buy them and save from the tourists.

Lest any think that the saltiness factor spoken of in the above story may have been an anomaly, go here:
The Ducks, they got around...
Dong their thing, ship to shore.
And sometimes hot-shit personages would avail themselves of the Duck's wonderful versatility.

Visiting the Normandy beachhead are General Marshall, General Eisenhower, and Admiral King (all holding the rail in the DUKW), 12 June 1944.  
Here's a Brit DUKW transporting American troops across a French river a few months past D-Day.
The last big operation in Europe where the Ducks were instrumental was the crossing of the Rhine into Germany at the end of March 1945.
370 DUKWs were used in this operation moving men and supplies.
How about the other side of the world.
Like Burma, here with the Brits again.
We'll close with an action shot - and the question: Why can't we make anything simple, reliable and functional anymore?
Somewhere in the Pacific. A Duck coming in with both fore and aft splash-guards up.
 They call them "surf boards" in this video, which is some Army PR schtick but some good tips if you've got twenty minutes to kill.

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