The American Automobile Industry in World War Two
An American Auto Industry Heritage Tribute
By David D Jackson


Overview      The U.S. Auto Industry at the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944    The U.S. Auto Industry and the B-29 Bomber   U.S. Auto Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   The Complete listing of All Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   Sherman Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry    M26 Pershing Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by the American Auto Industry

    Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Checker   Chrysler   Crosley   Ford   General Motors   Graham-Paige   Hudson
   Nash-Kelvinator   Packard      Studebaker    Willys-Overland

General Motors Divisions
(Undergoing development) Aeroproducts   Brown-Lipe-Chapin   Buick   Cadillac   Chevrolet   Cleveland Diesel   Delco Appliance   Delco Products   Delco Radio   Delco-Remy   Detroit Diesel   Detroit Transmission   Electro-Motive   Fisher Body   Frigidaire   GM Proving Grounds   GM of Canada   GMC   GMI   Guide Lamp   Harrison Radiator   Hyatt Bearings   Inland   Moraine Products   New Departure   Oldsmobile   Packard Electric   Pontiac   Saginaw Malleable Iron   Saginaw Steering Gear   Southern California Division   Rochester Products   United Motors Service

Truck and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Automotive Tire
Manufacturers:
   B.F. Goodrich    Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  
Links

 

 General Motors Truck and Coach Division of General Motors Corporation in World War Two
Pontiac, MI
1911-Present

This page added 12-6-2017.

At the beginning of World War Two, what later became the GMC Truck and Bus Division of General Motors, was part of the Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company.  Yellow Truck had originally formed in 1923 as a subsidiary of Yellow Cab and was originally named the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company.  GM and Yellow Truck merged on July 8, 1925 with General Motors owning 60% by using the assets of GMC in the new holding company.  The new company was known as Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company.  GM made the purchase in order to become involved with the manufacture of buses.  A purchase of 160 acres near Pontiac, MI led to the construction of the world's largest truck making plant which had 26 acres under roof.  Production began at the new plant in January 1928. 

The General Motors truck operation that was contributed to the new holding company in 1925 had its roots in two independent Detroit truck manufacturers that were purchased by WC Durant for his auto empire.  Reliance Motor Company was purchased in 1908 and Rapid Motor Vehicle Company in 1909, resulting in the General Motors Truck Company (GMC) in 1911.

In September 1943 General Motors purchased all of the assets of the Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company and created the General Motors Truck and Bus Division which has evolved into the GMC of today.  Today its product line is upscale SUVS and pickup trucks, as it shed the heavy duty truck and bus business in the late 20th century.

The trucks that Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company early in the war were officially identified by the military as being built by that company even though they were known by to the public as GMC, or to the GIs as "Jimmies."  After 1943 they were identified as GMC products by the military.  In this webpage the name GMC will be used for all of the vehicles built at the Pontiac truck plant by the future GMC division.

Many persons refer to the not only the 2-1/2 ton 6x6 truck built by GMC, but International Harvester and Studebaker during WWII as "deuce and a halves."  In my research I have yet to find a WWII document that describes the trucks in this manner.  It is my contention that this is a post WWII term, most likely originating in the Vietnam War era.

The GMC Division of General Motors won the Army-Navy "E" for Excellence Award two times. 

GMC World War Two Production Statistics:
There were 528,829 2-1/2 ton 6x6 trucks produced with the GMC nameplate on it.  GMC built 377,254, or 70% of these at its Pontiac, MI plant.  Chevrolet built the other 151,575 at two of its assembly plants. 

There were 21,147 DUKW 2-1/2 ton 6x6 amphibious trucks produced with the GMC nameplate on it.  GMC built 14,399, or 68% of these at its Pontiac, MI plant.  Chevrolet built the other 6,748 at its St. Louis assembly plant.

GMC built 24,910  2-1/2 ton 6x4 trucks at its Pontiac, MI plant. total of (281,570) Chevrolet name plated trucks consisting of:

Total GMC Division WWII production at Pontiac was 416,563 2-1/2 ton trucks of different types.

377,254  2-1/2 ton 6x6 trucks
14,399 DUKW 2-1/2 ton 6x6 amphibious trucks
24,910  2-1/2 ton 6x4 trucks

30 T18E2 Boarhound armored cars

A note on Chevrolet CCKW and DUKW production:  Some authors state that GMC took over management of Chevrolet plants.  This is not true.  Chevrolet maintained control of both the Baltimore and St. Louis assembly plants that built GMC products.  Because Chevrolet was a subcontractor to GMC the trucks had GMC data plates in them. 

At the end of the war all CCKW production had shifted to St. Louis and in 1944 and 1945 the daily run rate for CCKWs was larger at St. Louis than at the GMC plant in Pontiac, MI.  Therefore, while all of the nameplates on the CCKWs are GMC, if the truck was built in 1944 or 1945, there is a greater than 50% chance that it is the Chevy built version.  All CCKWs built in St. Louis, with the exception of the last (1,000) units, had Chevrolet axles on them.
 

WWII for the US was the first completely mechanized war.  There were tanks, jeeps, tanks, armored cars, tank destroyers, halftracks, and trucks that were used by the US military.  They can in all sizes from the 1/4 ton 4x4 Jeep to the 10 ton wreckers.  But there is one truck that comes to a person's mind when thinking or thinking of a trucks from WWII, and it is the GMC 2-1/2 ton 6X6.  It is the definitive truck of WWII!

A quote from "The Great Crusade" by General Dwight D. Eisenhower:  "Incidentally, four other  pieces of equipment that most senior officers came to regard as among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2-1/2 - ton truck and the C-47 airplane."

For the United States Army in Africa and Europe, the 2-1/2-ton truck General Eisenhower refers to is the GMC CCKW.  The CCKW was exclusively used by the Army as the Studebaker version went to Great Britain and Russia, and the International Harvester version were also sent overseas on Lend-Lease, or were used by the US Marines.  


This is what comes to mind when one thinks of the WWII truck.  The GMC 2-1/2 ton CCKW 6x6 truck noted by General Eisenhower in his book.  Author's photo.


  A GMC 2-1/2 ton 6x6, or "Jimmy", as they were known to the troops during WWII, running the Red Ball Express and keeping the front line troops supplied with beans, bullets and bandages!

But the story is more complicated than at first glance.  GMC built not only the 6x6 but also a 6x4.  It built a cab over with a very long bed for bulky loads.  And it not to be forgotten is the amphibious truck, the DUKW.  GMC had help building its vehicles.  Chevrolet built many of the GMC CCKWs and DUKWs in its plants.  Below is the full story.

The CCW:  The CCW was the same at the CCKW but was a 6x4, as the K in the CCKW designation denotes all wheel drive.  23,501 were built in 1941 and 1942.


This GMC 1941-1942 CCW 6x4 was photographed at the AAF Tank Museum minus its outer back wheels. This particular example has a 210 CFM Roi Air Compressor mounted on the bed.  Author's photo.


The Museum has the CCW misidentified as a 1944 CCKW.  Starting in August 1942 through spring of 1943 the hardtops were been replaced by soft top cabs. Also, GMC only ran the 6x4 CCW from late 1941 to late summer of 1942.  During this period 23,501 were built and shipped overseas under Lend-Lease.   Author's photo. 


The GMC has a straight axle with no differential making it 6x4 identifying it as a CCW.  The GMC version of the 6x4 went to China and the Studebaker 6x4 went to Russia.  Author's photo.

The CCKW:  The CCKW was built as either the CCKW-352 short bed and the CCKW-353 long bed with a multitude of bed types.


 This can be identified as a CCKW-353 as the fuel tank is underneath the bed.  Also of note is that the rear view mirrors are attached to the door hinge.  After mid 1941 GMC started mounting the rear view mirror to the cowl.  Therefore this truck was built previous to the middle of 1941.  In this photo the axle to the front wheel drive is visible.  This is the oldest GMC the author has found.  Author's photo.


Author's photo.


Author's photo.


Note that the rear view mirrors are now attached to the cowling.  This is a post mid 1941 GMC.  Author's photo.


This is a highly modified GMC-252 short bed with the gas tank now mounted on the bed.  This not OEM.  See the photo below for the proper location of the gas tank on a GMC-352.  The rear differential is of the split type which was built by Timken and used plain spiral bevel gears.  Author's photo.


A pre mid 1941 CCKW-352 short bed.  There is no bracket on the cowling for a mirror and the spare tires and fuel tanks have been moved directly behind the cab.  Compare to the CCKW-353 long bed below.  Author's photo.


This is a post mid 1941 CCKW-353 long bed GMC truck.  It can be identified by the spare tire and fuel tank (opposite side) that are under the cargo bed.  One can note from the photo above that the bed is definitely longer.  Because the mirror is mounted to the cowling this is post mid 1941.  With the hardtop cab this CCKW was built before early 1943.  Author's photo.


This is a post mid 1943 CCKW-353 long bed GMC truck as it has the soft top cab with a front winch. Author's photo.


Author's photo.


Author's photo.


A post mid 1943 CCKW-352 with a winch. Author's photo.


Author's photo.


Another post mid 1943 CCKW-352 with a winch. Author's photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

Modified or non standard cargo beds:


The following photos are of a CCKW-353 in a diorama at the US Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, PA.  This particular vehicle was configured as a mechanic's workshop truck.  Author's photo


A crane has been mounted to the front of the vehicle to pull engines that need to be replaced or rebuilt.  Author's photo.


The bed of the truck has a built in workshop.  Author's photo.


 Author's photo.


Many GMC chassis were built without the cargo bed and then sent to a third party for addition of something other than the standard cargo bed.  This particular post mid 1941 but pre 1942 was modified as Genera George S. Patton's living quarters truck.  Author's photo.


This GMC is on display at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, KY.  Author's photo.


Author's photo.


In the modification the spare tire has been moved to the rear.  Author's photo.

Tankers:


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


CCKW-353 tanker at WWII Weekend 2016. 1944.  Author's photo.


This GMC, with the name GMC still on the grill, was modified as a tanker.  Note the bracket for the mirror on the cowling making this a post mid 1941 CCKWAuthor's photo.  Author's Photo.



GMC Bomb Trucks:


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

GMC Cargo-Dump:  A total of 37,803 cargo-dump trucks were built at both GMC Pontiac and Chevrolet St. Louis, with some of the last of CCKW trucks built at St. Louis being this style.  All but 1,300 had winches.  When production started in April 1943 the conversion from hard cab to soft cab was also taking place.  The third open cab truck to come down the Pontiac line was the prototype cargo-dump.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


This particular truck has Chevrolet axles.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

GMC Airborne Cargo-Dump:  The Airborne CCKW-353 Cargo-Dump below was one of 1,210 built by GMC at its Pontiac plant.  It is distinguishable as being built in Pontiac because all of the airborne trucks had Timken axles and a winch.  The truck was separated into four pieces which were air transportable by C-47 to the battlefield where they could then be assembled by the maintenance crews.   Author's Photo.


This pristine GMC CCKW-353 cargo-dump is on display at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, IN.  All airborne cargo-dumps were equipped with front winches and Timken axles.  Author's photo. 


The airborne cargo-dump was only transportable by aircraft.  It could not be air dropped or delivered to the battlefield in a glider.  Author's photo.


The Timken split differential.  Author's photo.


Author's photo.


The frame was separated behind the cab with flanges for bolting the two sections together.  A special valve and coupling were provided to keep from introducing air into the brake lines upon re-assembly.  The two drive shafts were disconnected at the transfer case.   Author's photo.


The cargo bed also came in two pieces and bolted together.  In theory a team of five experienced mechanics could assemble the truck two hours after it was unloaded from the two C-47s needed to transport it.  The front section with the cab came on one C-47 and had the front half of the bed, running board, fenders, bows, tarpaulin windshield and tools were loaded in the front cab.  The front section came with a dolly attached to the rear for ease of movement before being assembled.  The second C-47 would arrive with the rear half of the chassis. The rear half of the bed, spare tires, fuel tank, muffler, body racks and frame splicing were loaded in the aircraft behind the rear frame.  It took less than an hour to unload both sections from their aircraft.  Author's photo.

The AFKWX:  GMC built 6,621 of the AFKWX which was a cab over engine design for a longer cargo bed for transporting bulky loads.


Author's Photo.


Note the extended bed.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

GMC Switch Engines:


England switch engine used in warehouse to avoid fire hazard April 1943.


 Switch engine Ashchurch, England June 1943

DUKW:


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


 


 


 


This GMC DUKW is on display at the USS Edson in Bay City, MI.  One in four DUKWs were built with the crane to facilitate the unloading other DUKWs during WWII. Assuming this vehicle was built in Pontiac, it is only 95 miles from where it was assembled.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


DUKWs under construction at the GMC Pontiac plant.


The GMC DUKW was versatile.  Here two of them joined together move a Lockheed P-38 across a body of water. 


Not only was the DUKW used from ship to shore on ocean beaches, but it moved inland in Europe to bring supplies and troops across the many rivers that need be crossed. 


Shown in this period factory photo are GMC 6 cylinder 125 hp engines that went into all of the GMC 2-1/2 ton trucks.  The engine was also used in the Chevrolet built T17E1 Staghound armored car and the GMC built T18E2 Boarhound armored car.


Both the Staghound and Boarhound used two of the GMC engines to power the armored cars.


GMC built 30 T18E2 Boarhound armored cars for the British.  The original order was for 2,500 but that did not transpire. 


Eight GMC built Boarhounds ended up in combat with the British in North Africa.  Today only one Boarhound still exists at the Tank Museum in Bovington, UK.
 

The GMC Rear Wheel Drive System:


This derelict CCKW-353 at the Fort Economy Museum in Hallsville, OH allows one to look at the drive train for GMC trucks built during WWII.  With the mirror mounted to the door this vehicle was built before mid 1941.  Author's Photo.


It can be identified as a CCKW-353 long bed version because the fuel tank mounting bracket is on the side of the frame.  Author's Photo.


There are two drive shafts coming off the transfer case.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


One drive shaft drives the first axle while the other one continues to the rear axle.  Author's Photo.


The axles and differentials were produced by Chevrolet for the truck.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

The Chevrolet-GMC Connection:  Chevrolet was a significant supplier to GMC during World War Two along with building a considerable amount of CCKW and DUKWs at its St. Louis Plant.

Chevrolet supplied all of the closed cabs for the GMC until the changeover to the soft tops in 1942-43.  If one looks at a Chevrolet or GMC truck with a closed cab from the front it can be difficult to determine which manufacturer made the vehicle.


This GMC can be identified as a GMC because of the rear dual axles.  Chevrolet only had one rear axle on its 1-1/2 ton trucks.  On the GMC there are more side vents than the Chevy below.  Looking head-on it it difficult if not impossible to distinguish between the two.  Author's Photo.


A Chevrolet 1-1/2 ton.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

Derelicts:   Unfortunately there are more than a few GMC trucks that have been left outside to suffer the ravages of the weather.

 

A CCKW-353 at the Halls, TN Veterans' Museum.  The Museum has some very nice restored vehicles on the inside of museum.  Hopefully this is next on its restoration project list.  Photo courtesy of David Jackson, Jr..


This photo was taken by the author at a later date than the previous phote during the 2015 Halls' Airshow to show the size difference between the WWII CCKW truck and the current M1078 Light Medium Tactical Truck.  Both are rated at 2-1/2 tons.


 This CCKW-353 is on display outside the 100th Bomb Group Restaurant just north of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.  This truck has Timken differentials and axles.  Author's Photo.


 Author's Photo.


This CCKW tanker truck is at the Fort Economy Museum in Hallsville, OH.   Author's Photo.


 Author's Photo.


Note the separate mirror bracket making this a post mid 1941 CCKW.  Author's Photo.

Post WWII:


After WWII GMC introduced M135 as its follow on vehicle to provide a more up to date vehicle with the newest technology for the US military.  They were produced from 1951 through 1955 before being replaced by the REO designed M35 series.  This somewhat dilapidated M135 is on display at Camp Atterbury, IN. The truck was originally supplied with a winch as the data plate shown below indicates.  Author's Photo.


 The M135 have several innovations over the previous CCKW series which included a Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, 24 volt electrical system, single large tires and a sealed waterproof ignition.  There were other GMC trucks in the series with other designations.  Only the M135 had the single large tires.   Author's Photo.


 The M135 was delivered in July 1952 and has serial number 9758.  The first M135 came off the assembly line on September 13, 1951.  A total of 62,380 M135s were built by GMC.  Author's Photo.

 

 

 

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