DUKWs at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day

The DUKW (commonly known as the “Duck”) was a six-wheel-drive amphibious version of the 2 1/2 ton CCKW truck used by US and Allied forces during WWII and the Korean War.    The name DUKW comes from the General Motors Corporation (GMC) model nomenclature.

D – Designed in 1942
U – Utility
K – All-wheel drive
W – Dual-tandem rear axles

The DUKW could transport cargo from anchored supply ships offshore directly to the beach and drive up and over the beach to forward supply dumps then return to the ships for another load. Some items that the DUKW transported were a light observation plane (wings disconnected), a 105mm howitzer (non-firing), 55 gallon fuel drums or ammunition crates.    The DUKW was the first US vehicle to allowed the driver to change the tire pressure from inside the cab.    The tires could be fully inflated for hard surfaces such as roads and less inflated for softer surfaces such as beach sand.    One out of every four DUKWs mounted a .50-caliber Browning heavy machine gun on a ring mount mainly for anti-aircraft protection.

DUKWs were initially used at Guadalcanal in the Pacific, but were used by an invasion force for the first time in the ETO during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.    In 1944, they were used on the D-Day beaches and later during the Battle of the Scheldt.    Their use in 1945 was during Operation Veritable and Operation Plunder.  At the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, several hundred DUKWs were reactivated and deployed to bring supplies ashore at the Pusan Perimeter and during the amphibious landing at the port of Inchon.


Pointe du Hoc





Pointe du Hoc is a promontory with a 100 foot (30 meter) cliff located about midway between Utah and Omaha Beaches.    The Germans fortified the cliff top location as part of the Atlantic Wall fortifications.    The battery was initially built in 1943 with six captured WWI vintage GPF 155mm K418(f) guns positioned in open concrete gun pits.    The battery was manned by the 2nd Battery, Army Coastal Artillery Regiment 1260 (2/HKAA.1260) and the promontory was defended by elements of the 352 Infantrie-Division.    In the spring of 1944, the Germans began to improve the battery by building mounts for 20mm Flak 30 anti-aircraft guns and added six enclosed concrete casemates (two were unfinished D-Day).    In April 1944, the allies bombed the location after which the Germans removed the 155mm guns and relocated them further inland.    During the Operation Overlord preparations, the allies determined that Pointe du Hoc needed to be neutralized by ground forces to prevent the Germans from using the position against the invasion forces.




The assault on Pointe du Hoc was to be made by the US 2nd Ranger Battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder (a 34 year old rancher from Brady, Texas).    The plan called for the use of a force consisting of three separate elements in the form of Force A, B, and C.    Force A consisted of Ranger Companies D, E, and F which would land just below Pointe du Hoc.    Companies E and F would land on the eastern side of Pointe du Hoc while Company D would land on the west side.    The assault force was carried in ten Landing Craft, Assault (LCA) with another two LCAs carrying supplies.    Also accompanying Force A were four special DUKWs which had 100 foot (30 meter) extension ladders installed. The extension ladders were requisitioned from the London Fire Brigade.

Before the main landings, the Rangers would assault the beaches at the foot of the cliffs, scale the cliffs using ropes, ladders, and grapples while under fire and then neutralize the positions at the top of the cliff.    Afterwards they would hold and defend the positions against any German counter attack until relieved.    The Rangers trained for the cliff assault on the Isle of Wight under the supervision of British Commandos.


During training, this DUKW is disembarking from a Landing Craft, Tank (LCT).



One of the DUKWs on the training beach.



Two guns were mounted at the top of the ladder to provide fire support.



The guns were M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR) with either
a 20 or 40 round detachable box magazines holding .30-caliber rounds.



The DUKW ladders were raised and extended during training.



After studying the photos and comparing to a number of British Fire Ladder trucks during the 1930s and 40s, the Dennis Merryweather Turntable Ladder truck appear to be the closest match.    The ladders could have came from fire trucks of any make which were probably out of service.



Video:  Dennis Merryweather Ladder Operation






At 0530 hours, a naval bombardment pounded the invasion beach and German positions on top of the cliff from US battleships Texas and Arkanas while US destroyers Satterlee and Talybont covered the assault craft.    As dawn arrived, the Ranger’s LCAs advanced towards the beaches around Pointe Du Hoc.    The Channel waters was highand rough while Allied fighter-bombers roared overhead and strike the German positions on the cliff.    One of the LCAs sunk with only one survivor and another was swamped.   One supply craft sank and another became waterlogged requiring all unnecessary equipment to be thrown overboard to stay afloat.    When the assault craft were about 300 yards from shore, the German guns opened up with machine gun, mortar and cannon fire.    One DUKW was hit by 20mm cannon fire (Flak 30 AA guns) and was sunk.   The LCAs reached the beach, dropped their ramps and under fire the Rangers crossed the beach to the cliff base.    The grapnel throwing mortars were fired and grappling hooks soared towards the top of the cliff unwinding lengths of scaling ropes and the Rangers began the long climb.

The three remaining DUKWs were stalled along the shoreline either stuck on a sandbar or could not cross the shell cratered beach and were not able to erect their ladders up against the cliff. Colonel Rudder ordered the DUKW crews to raise and extend their ladders where they were and Rangers climbed the ladders while exposed to German fire.    While perched on the top rungs, brave Rangers sprayed the top of the cliff with automatic rifle fire.    While providing fire support from the top of one of the DUKW ladders, Private Malcolm Arnold observed waves of Rangers climbing up the cliff under fire from above and with grenades exploding around them.    A number of Rangers fell when the Germans cut their ropes.

After the successful cliff assault, the Rangers neutralized the position and later repelled several counter-attacks from the German 914 Grenadier-regiment.    During the night the Germans forced the Rangers into a smaller enclave along the cliff and some were taken prisoner.    On the morning of June 8, the Rangers were finally relieved by the 2nd and 5th Rangers plus the 1st Battalion of the 116th Infantry supported by tanks from the 743rd Tank Battalion arriving from Omaha beach.



Film:   Coastal Gun Batteries [Pointe du Hoc] Normandy, 1944

Starting at time segment 1:25 in the film, barely visible is the camera panning along the length of an extension ladder.    In the foreground, appears to be one of the LCAs which is blocking the view of the DUKW beneath the extension ladder parked beside the LCA.


Film:   Longues-sur-Mer and Pointe-du-Hoc


Movie CLIP:   The Longest Day (1962) – The assault on Pointe du Hoc





(This conversion would be expensive.)
GASO.LINE   GAS50214K 1/48 Amphibian GMC 353 DUKW   (Resin)

Website:   GASO.LINE


Fire Brigade Models   FBM97

1/48 Dennis Merryweather Turntable Ladder – London Fire Brigade
(Resin & White Metal – appears the ladder cannot be assembled raised and extended)

Website:    Fire Brigade Models


Tamiya 32513 1/48 U.S. Army Infantry GI Set
(Contains two M1918A2 BARs)




This post commemorates D-Day’s 75th anniversary. 




8 thoughts on “DUKWs at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day

  1. I needed to thank you for this wonderful read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post…


  2. I read your account about where the ladders existed from. I was lucky enough to meet Ted Goulding one of the actual engineers from Merryweather’s London in the late 1970’s who built and mounted the ladders onto the DUKW. The ladders were built specially for the assault. They were hand operated (rather than hydraulically as on a fire engine) and the pawl boxes that held the ladders in position when extended were packed with thick grease to reduce the noise when in operation.


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  6. Mr Mike, Ken Robinson here in Virginia USA. You have one GREAT site. Thanks for your research bug.
    Question and comment. Information please. In the book” Normandy , Omaha Beach, V Corps Battle for the
    Normandy Beachhead ” author Tim Kilvert-Jones on page 99 it reads” On one DUKW Ranger Sgt Stivison extended his British
    Merryweather ladder 90 feet into the air and manned his twin Lewis guns as planned. ect ect.

    Were there DUKW`s with Lewis Guns and BAR`s. or is there some misinformation here?
    From my readings about Lewis guns , they were used by the allies in every theater of war.

    My cousin was on the USS Hobson destroyer at Utah Beach giving (very) close in fire support to the guys on the beach.
    Thanks for any light you can shine on the gun question?

    Respectfully submitted, Ken Robinson reunion committee USS York County LST 1175 USN 1961-5


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