Plastic DUKW

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Plastic DUKW

Italeri 1/35th scale General Motors DUKW built and painted by Everard Cunion in March 2019

The General Motors DUKW (Duck) was an amphibious vehicle used by the allies in World War 2. It was designed by a team led by an American racing sailboat designer, and they based it on the standard 2.5 ton truck.

Finished model

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW

Right side

The net- and tarpaulin-covered collections of cargo are ‘resin’ (hard plastic) mouldings I bought separately via eBay. The driver is from the Miniart set of World War 2 vehicle drivers (sold separately). He is the only British driver in the set. (I have seen US Marine Corps Duck crewmen in this scale, but they are standing.) The space in the cab is tight, which is why the steering wheel is positioned too high. It is not connected to anything except the driver’s hands. (I omitted the steering shaft.) And British Army Duck crews seemed to usually wear leather gherkins (whatever they are called) which he does not have.

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW

Right side at ground level

On the freighters cranes slung full-loaded trucks and laden two-and-a-half-ton ‘ducks,’ which are perhaps America’s real secret weapon of this war. The ‘ducks,’ big trucks which lumber down the beaches and enter the water and become boats, or the boats which, coming loaded to the beach, climb out, and drive as trucks along the dusty roads.

–John Steinbeck, Rehearsal, September 1943, in the collection Once There Was a War, 1959

The other details including ammunition boxes, spare wheels, and Jerry cans all come with the Italeri kit. However, I added some extra items to the cargo later, as described farther on.

The kit is good, although fiddly. Its main drawback is the random allocation of part numbers on the runners (‘sprues’) which makes finding some small parts time-consuming.

I used acrylic paints and I used transfers from a sheet by Bison Decals that I bought separately. It covers several amphibious vehicles used by the British Army in Holland in 1945.

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW

Additional cargo from Tamiya 1/35th scale British soldiers

Additional cargo left over after building the Tamiya 1/35th scale British soldiers

After building the Tamiya 1/35th scale British soldiers (see farther on) I had some items left over. Some are on the ammo box at top right of the accompanying photo:

  • Pick axe
  • Document case
  • Ammo pouch
  • Water canteen
  • Pistol holster

And lying on the tarpaulin:

  • Sten gun
  • Fully folded entrenching tool
  • Satchel
  • Steel helmet

There is also a Bren gun leaning in the corner at bottom right and, barely discernible, a rifle poking up out of the darkness to the left of the ammo box at upper right. I am sure carrying weapons loose like that breaks half a dozen regs!

Little women

I used two sets of figures to augment the DUKW in addition to the driver: Master Box 1/35th scale World War 2 era women and Tamiya 1/35th scale World War 2 British soldiers.

The skirts are made of two panels — in one case three panels — and I needed to use a small amount of filler where there was a gap in some of them.

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW with Tamiya British soldiers and Master Box WW2 women

“Parlez vous Francais?”

The figures are two inches (five centimetres) tall.

I used acrylic paints except for the dark red skirt and the flesh tones, both dark and light, which are Humbrol enamel.

Although they are sold as generic World War 2 era women, they are specifically French. At least the one wearing wedge shoes is. (She is also wearing the red pillbox hat and retouching her lipstick.) Wedge shoes were invented during the isolated development of high fashion in Paris during the German occupation, the market for that expensive hand-made clothing being the wives and girl friends of high ranking German officers.

The British soldiers have more parts than the women, so they take longer to build, but I encountered no problems other than breaking the stock of the Sten gun while removing the gun from the runner. The kit comes with a spare, but I broke that in the same way. I glued both back together, but naturally the join is not perfect.

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW with Tamiya British soldiers and Master Box WW2 women

Passing a British patrol

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW with Tamiya British soldiers and Master Box WW2 women

Kitchen patrol

DUKW in World War 2

Some called it a lame duck. Others said it would be a sitting duck. And a few predicted it would quickly become a dead duck.

— from the narrative of the documentary Duck Landing

However, the conservative leadership of the US military was soon won over by the new machine’s extraordinary capabilities.

DUKW in World War 2

DUKW in action in World War 2

“To me it was a marvellous vehicle… A fantastic invention. I’ve got to hand it to the Americans for that. It was a privilege to drive it and work it.”

— John Geldart, British Army DUKW driver in World War 2 (from Duck Landing, DUKW documentary)

Dune climbing DUKW in World War 2

Dune climbing DUKW in World War 2

Internal link

Duck à l’orange, my Airfix 1/76th (OO) scale DUKW with scratch built hang gliders