Rhino Pontoons and the Incredible DUKW

DUKW

Mulberry and Pluto are often unfairly characterised as a British only invention but US forces also bought a couple of their own important innovations to D Day logistics.

The Rhino ferry consisted of a number of steel pontoons connected with steel straps and angle sections that could be formed into pontoon or causeway. The complete assembly was powered by two 60 horsepower engines, as can be imagined, they were woefully underpowered. Top speed when loaded was 3 knots and in the poor weather, they were unmanageable.

However, 36 Rhino ferries were used on Utah and Omaha beaches, towed across by LST. They were joined by 12 causeway tugs, 12 warping tugs, 2 floating dry docks and a couple of repair barges.

They were also used on the British and Canadian beaches to good effect. To reduce the need for the LST’s to beach, vehicles drive off the LST and on to a Rhino ferry before the ferry preceded to the beach. This protected the valuable LST’s from the threat of mines in the surf zone until completely cleared and from direct fire during initial landings.

Despite their susceptibility to poor weather, they provided sterling service throughout the period as both ferries and causeways.

Rhino Ferry at Omaha Beach D Day 03

The second major US innovation was the DUKW.

The DUKW became indispensable because not only could they ferry stores to the beach they could take them directly inland to the numerous dumps.

This factor alone meant the DUKW should be considered as a war-winning vehicle.

DUKW

Whilst Mulberry was being built, LST’s and DUKW’s also did sterling work but the DUCK’s could not unload large stores, bridging equipment for example, and the LST’s, once beached, had to wait for the tide to re-float.

LST’s also had problems with heavy vehicles and artillery because of the sand being unable to bear its weight without significant and time-consuming reinforcing.

DUKW

LST

LST (2)

Discharging at a Mulberry LST pier took on average, 64 minutes, compared with several hours when discharging onto the beach. It is fair to say, the DUKW was the unexpected superstar of D Day because they could take their loads directly inland to stores dumps without creating a disorganised collection of boxes and jerry cans on the beach.

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