GMC Trucks Helped Win World War II

Compiled by Donald E. Meyer, GMC Truck Historian
(First published in American Truck Historical Society, Motor City Chapter News Letter, 8/07)


ca.1942 CCKW 353 6x6

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During World War II General Motors was a primary supplier of military vehicles to U.S. and Allied governments, contributing much support to the war effort. The most outstanding of those vehicles were the GMC model CCKW350 series, 2 ½-ton 6x6 trucks (called the “Deuce-and-a-half” by GIs). From 1940 through 1945 GMC built over 528,000 6x6 military trucks, most of which were CCKW350s.

Those 6x6s were powered by 92 hp GMC 270 cid inline 6-cylinder engines with 5-speed transmissions and dual-range transfer cases. The three driving axles were supplied by either Timken or Chevrolet Gear and Axle. Brakes were hydraulic with vacuum assist. Most of them ran on 7.50 x 20 military tread front and dual rear tires. Two lengths were available: CCKW352s had 143 in. wheelbases and CCKW353s, 164 in. Front mounted winches were available. Payload ratings were 10,000 lbs. on-road and 5,000 lbs. off-road.

Modified closed commercial cabs were used in early production. After July, 1943, military type open top cabs with canvas tops and side curtains were supplied. A variety of bodies were used, the most common being the cargo/troop carrier type. Others included water and gasoline tanks, vans, air compressors, and dump bodies. Some were tractors for semi-trailers.

Some of the first GMC 6x6s were deployed in North Africa against Rommel’s German desert army. They were used en mass in the Normandy invasion and 6,000 of them played a major role in the "Red Ball Express", carrying critical supplies from the Normandy beachheads to the US forces advancing to Germany. In 81 days the Red Ball Express moved more than 400,000 tons of materiel, including gasoline that kept U.S. tanks advancing while the German tanks ran out of fuel. Other major transport operations included: Lions Express (18,000 tons), White Ball Express (LeHarve to Paris, 143,000 tons) and Green Diamond (Cherbourg to Dol, France, 16,000 tons.)

Many GMCs were deployed in the Pacific theater as well, providing transport on many of the islands that US troops occupied.

After WW II, many GMC military trucks remained in Europe to aid in reconstruction and provide emergency and security services. In the U.S., in addition to continued use by U.S. armed forces, they were used in construction, logging, fire-fighting and many other applications requiring all-wheel mobility. Early in the Korean War most of the U.S. Army and Marines 6x6 trucks used were CCKW350s.

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