Photograph of truck at Okinawa, stuck in the mud
U.S. Navy. Via

Trucks are the primary means of moving heavy equipment and supplies by road during combat operations. They may also be used to move troops and their personal equipment, though few armies even in 1945 could afford enough trucks to move more than a small fraction of their troops. Even the United States, which had the most thoroughly mechanized of all the armies of the Second World War, provided its army with only enough trucks to carry about a third of its combat forces. However, this was more than adequate for ordinary operations.

Trucks saw extensive use wherever there was any kind of road network, and sometimes where there was not. However, they had little ability to operate on unprepared ground. Where road networks were lacking, U.S. engineers laid down Marston mat, ideally on top of crushed coral or other aggregate, to provide a stable road bed.

The United States manufactured 2,382,311 military trucks of all types between 1939 and 1945, while the British produced 480,943. The great bulk of these went to Europe, with its extensive road network. The Japanese produced just 165,945 trucks during the same period.

Photograph of 2-1/2 ton truck

U.S. Army. Via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. trucks. The principal U.S. truck was the "deuce and a half" or 2-1/2 ton truck, so called because that was its design cargo capacity. It cost about $3000 to manufacture in 1941. An important variant on the 2-1/2 ton truck was the DUKW, which was capable of operating as a landing craft or as a truck as circumstances required. However, the DUKW was not available in any quantity until late 1942.

Photograph of WC 51 trucks preparing to embark Fair use may apply.

The 2-1/2 ton truck was supplemented by the WC51 3/4 ton weapons carrier, a light truck with folding seats in back for infantry that was more commonly used to move men and supplies than heavy weapons. It had a speed of up to 54 mph (87 km/h) and a range of 240 miles (390 km). There were numerous variants, including field ambulances.

Photograph of Jeep

U.S. Marine Corps. Via

The ubiquitous Jeep was classified by the Army as Truck, 1/4 Ton, Command Reconnaissance, which spells out its limited carrying capacity: about four men or a driver and a quarter ton of cargo. However, both the Jeep and the Deuce and a Half were routinely loaded far beyond their design capacity, occasionally with dire results.

Adoption of the Jeep was recommended in early 1940 by "Beetle" Smith, Eisenhower's future Chief of Staff, then a major with the War Department. Smith had been visited by a salesman for the vehicle's manufacturer, who had been unable to penetrate the Army's bureaucratic barriers. Convinced of the value of a small, compact vehicle capable of being manhandled out of mud, Smith went directly to Marshall, who approved purchase on the spot. Some 634,000 were delivered to the Army by the end of 1945, and another 20,000 were provided to the Allies as Lend-Lease. A Jeep cost about $1100 in 1941.

Photograph of Weasel cargo carrierability

U.S. Army. Via

The M29 Weasel was a tracked vehicle, just under 16' (4.8m) in length, originally designed for the Special Service Force for use in snow.  It had only nominal amphibious capability, but proved ideal for carrying small quantities of supplies (500 pounds or 230 kg) across the volcanic ash on Iwo Jima.

Photograph of Marine rocket jeeps on Iwo Jima

Naval History and Heritage Command #NH 104274

An innovation that first saw service at Saipan were 1-ton trucks carrying racks of 36 4.5" rockets. These created a tremendous racket as a large number of the weapons were fired and hit the target simultaneously, which helped Allied morale considerably.

Photograph of Type 97 truck

Type 97 truck

Taki (2012). Fair use may apply

Photograph of Type 94 truck

Type 94 truck

U.S. Army. Via

Japanese trucks. The standard Japanese military truck was the Type 97, which was capable of carrying a ton and a half of cargo. It was not an especially efficient design, weighing twice its cargo capacity. Early models, many of which were still in use during the war, had too light a front axle design and required constant maintenance. The Japanese Army likely also used large numbers of the Model 94, which shared the type 97's poor power-to-weight ratio but had been thoroughly debugged and was considered highly reliable.

Photograph of Type 95 scout car

U.S. Army. Via

The Japanese equivalent of the Jeep was the Type 95 scout car. It used an air-cooled engine ideal for operations in the cold climate of Manchuria and could be equipped with unusually heavy tires for use in rough terrain.


Chapin (1994; accessed 2011-5-25)

COMINCH P-0012 (1945; accessed 2011-3-30)

Ellis (1995)

"Handbook on Japanese Military Forces" (1944-9; accessed 2012-2-6)

Larrabee (1987)

Morison (1959) (accessed 2012-9-1)

Taki (2012)

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