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A Coast Guard Career

BMC-L Ira Lewis's Scrapbook, Third Section:

Ducks [DUKW] Operations


The Coast Guard acquired 38-foot DUKWs beginning in 1944 from the U.S. Army.  Nicknamed "Ducks" by their Army operators as a twist of their actual designation "DUKW," which was actually their manufacturer's code designation.  "DUKW" was not a direct acronym: the "D" stood for 1942 (the year the contract was awarded), "U" stood for utility vehicle, "K" for front-wheel drive, and "W" for two rear-drive axles.  They were powered by a 90 horsepower 6-cylinder gasoline engine and a single propeller and single in-line rudder  for operations on water.  They displaced 16,380 pounds (fully loaded).  They were capable of a top speed of 55 miles-per-hour on land, 12 miles-per-hour across a sandy beach and up to 6 miles-per-hour in the water.

The DUKWs acquired from the Army were constructed of sheet steel.  The Coast Guard modified them by installing:

  • an aluminum alloy cover over the driver's area and extending back over the forward part of the cargo space;

  • a self-bailing cockpit in the after part of the cargo space; 

  • a walkway along each side of the cover; 

  • towing bitts and tow rail; 

  • and navigational lights. 

In 1948 the Coast Guard constructed additional DUKWs at the Coast Guard Yard.  These had aluminum bodies and incorporated the experience learned from using the Army model.  DUKWs were especially useful in flood relief but all suffered from high maintenance costs, rapid deterioration due to salt water, and a lack of watertight subdivisions.  Most were retired from service in the 1970s but at least one remained in service at Station Sandy Hook as late as the mid-1980s.


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck, 1950s -- at Floyd Bennett Field, New York.  

Ira Lewis, driver (only one individual in each district was designated to operate the Duck; Lewis was the designated driver for his district).


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck, 1950s -- at Floyd Bennett Field, New York.

Ira Lewis, driver.

Jamaica Bay in background.


A Coast Guard DUKW

The amphibious Duck at Moriches Lifeboat Station (Long Island, NY), 1947-48.

Ira Lewis, driver, doing routine maintenance.  (Boat on left in the photo is the [38-foot] "picket boat" which was used for patrolling, tow jobs, etc.)


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck training, 1946-47.  In the Moriches Bay area (Long Island, NY).

Officers on board for demonstration.


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck training, 1946-47.  In the Moriches Bay area (Long Island, NY).

Officers on board for demonstration.


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck training, early 1950-51, Rockaway Point (NY).

This one was white, whereas in the two previous photos -- the vessel is dark in color.


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck training, early 1950-51, Rockaway Point (NY).


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck training, early 1950-51, Rockaway Point (NY).


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck training, early 1950-51, Rockaway Point (NY).


A Coast Guard DUKW

Rockaway Point Station, training school for "small boats," 1952.


A Coast Guard DUKW

Amphibious Duck at Smiths Point, NY, 1945.

Manus Austin -- at left, standing and pointing ahead.


A Coast Guard DUKW

Personnel boarding amphibious Duck for training exercises, 1950s.


A Coast Guard DUKW

Cargo ship had run ashore on beach (Long Island area). A seaman on bow of the amphibious Duck (which was used to go to the ship).


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Last Modified 11/17/2014