The GMC That Won The War
Lee Chatfield, Flikr Creative Commons

If you have ever seen ANY movie about World War Two from the propaganda “buy more bonds” flicks of the actual war years all the way to Brad Pitt’s movie “Fury”, you have seen at least one GMC CCKW truck. The original famous “Deuce-And-A-Half” (2 1/2 ton) workhorse truck of the US Army.

As the first truly mobile modern war, the Second World War armies were absolutely dependent on movement and supply. With the frontlines never very static for too long, the troops and gear had to be moved from place to place with a modicum of speed. Believe it or not, the German Army was still largely horsedrawn, and the Italians loaded gear on the backs of donkeys, but the US Army’s donkeys were largely built by GMC.

By war’s end GMC had produced over half a million of the Deuce-And-A-Half in a number of variants, from specialized radio vehicles to fire engines, flatbeds, anti-aircraft vehicles, and even as mobile dental vans. The weird designation “CCKW” can be decoded as: C = designed in 1941, C = conventional cab, K = all wheel drive, and W = dual rear axle. They were powered by the GMC 270, which was a 91hp straight six which drove all six wheels up to a whopping 45mph which when you’re fighting in Europe is a better sounding 72km/h!

The legendary GMC truck served in both WWII and Korea, and played a huge role in the victory of the Allies in Europe. After the invasion of Normandy, these trucks formed what was called the “Red Ball Express” and kept the troops supplied with whatever materials were dumped on the beaches. Without a vehicle as hardy, as easily modifiable as the GMC CCKW, we would have had a very hard time in dislodging the Nazis from Europe.

These days you still see a fair number of these venerable old trucks in pastures or parked behind rural fire depts, some are still in use as water tenders and logging trucks, while others (pictured above) are being lovingly restored to their former glory.