The DUKW was designed from a directive issued by the Commanding General, Services of Supply. The D represented the model year, 1942, the U represented that it was amphibious, K that it was all wheel drive and W that there were two rear axles.
The DUKW was based on the 2 1/2 Ton, 6x6, Deuce and a Half truck. A hull was added to the chassis that would allow it to float.
One out of four DUKW's have a M36 truck mount for an antiaircraft machine gun.
The engine can power all the axles or just the rear two.
The winch for the DUKW is mounted in the rear.
The DUKW's cargo area can carry 25 men or 5,350 lbs of payload. The cargo area also had storage areas accessible through hatches in the floor. There are also hatches that allow access to the engine. This was roomy enough to carry small artillery guns. It was possible to fire the artillery from the water but this ability was rarely used.
The driver's compartment is open and at the front of the rear cargo area. It has a canvas that goes over the top and rear. There are side curtains that can be removed. The windshield can be folded forward or tilted up and out.
The DUKW had the ability to regulate its tire pressure while traveling over very soft ground.
For water operations there is a propeller and it is steered by the front wheels and a rudder. Additional steering could be done by steering the front wheels. There is an anchor with shackles. There is a ring life preserver and three life preserver jackets. There are two pumps (bilge) for removing water out of the hull, one a 60 gallon/minute rotary pump and a 260 gallon/minute centrifugal pump. In emergencies a 50 gallon/minute hand pump is provided.