Morgan Pritchett
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A Brief History of the GMC DUKW “Duck” Military Vehicle

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Historic 1943 GMC DUKW 353 Duck U.S. Military Vehicle in a field
Photo: Alf van Beem via CC

GMC has provided support and vehicle discounts to active-duty military personnel and veterans for many years. However, there may be no better way to symbolize the brand’s history with the U.S. military than the DUKW 353 — or simply “Duck” for short.

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Why was the Duck made?

GMC built 21,147 of the amphibious Ducks during World War II as part of its U.S. War Department contracts. The 2.5-ton vehicles were first produced on a repurposed bus assembly line in 1943. The last Ducks were produced in 1945 and the remaining vehicles were used for military training and attractions for the tourism industry. GMC earned the Army Navy “E” Award for Excellence in 1944 for its war effort and the Duck was considered the most outstanding of new ordnance weapons.

1942 GMC DUKW 353 painted yellow and blue, being used as a tourist vehicle in Dublin, Ireland
A GMC Duck being used for tourism in Dublin, Ireland
Photo: Mic via CC

What makes the Duck unique?

A distinctive feature of the Duck was its specialized central tire inflation system that gave the driver the ability to change tire pressure, depending on the terrain, from their seat. For example, on soft terrain like sand, the driver would reduce pressure to create more traction for the tires. For a harder surface like concrete, the driver could increase pressure to amplify speed. Because of its ability to do this, the Duck was able to cross the coral reefs of islands in the Pacific Ocean with no damage to the tires.

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GMC’s current military contributions

While GMC is no longer producing the Duck, the brand’s support of the military is still strong. In 2016, the brand partnered with actor Josh Duhamel to provide smart homes to injured service members through its #EnlistMe campaign. Today, GMC is still working to provide these custom homes to veterans as well as offering vehicle savings through the GM Military Discount program.