After a string of accidents that left 40 people dead, Ride the Ducks has gone out of business. Now, 19 of the famous tourist amphibious vehicles are currently up for sale on auction until July 8th in Seattle.
The amphibious vehicles were used in World War II and had a major role in the D-Day landings. Nicknamed “ducks” for their ability to maneuver both at sea and on land, they were used to move equipment from ships onto the beaches at Normandy.
After the war, a veteran purchased surplus ducks and started a tour company in Branson, Missouri, which grew to include operations in other cities and states. Franchisees licensed the name and operated independent “Ride the Ducks” tours in various other cities.
But the amphibious vehicles were notorious even during the war for having a tendency to capsize in rough waters.
The last major tragic incident during a Ride the Ducks tour occurred in 2018 when 17 people died after their vehicle capsized during a sudden storm.
In 2015, independently operated Ride the Ducks Seattle had a vehicle suddenly swerve in to traffic which caused an accident that killed five people and injured over 60 more.
The company was found to be negligent in failing to properly maintain the vehicle. A mechanical failure led to the fatal crash.
The financial fallout from that accident combined with the recent pandemic was too much for the Seattle company to recover from. They declared bankruptcy this year. The Branson-based Ride the Ducks company closed its doors in 2019.
The auction will feature vehicles from Jeep, Kaiser, Studebaker, American General and GMC. All were originally military vehicles and some are old enough to possibly have been used in the war, though the auctioneer does not provide any evidence as to whether or not any actually saw combat during WWII.
Many of the Ducks are still painted with the tour company’s logo and other branding. Some have GPS units and cameras. There are both vehicles with gasoline and diesel engines. All vehicles come with Allison automatic transmissions.
The online auction began at 11:00 am on July 1st and ends at 11:00 am on July 8th. There is a preview of the vehicles from 8 am to 4 pm on Tuesday, July 7th. Also included in the auction are various tools and equipment and new and used parts.
Information on the auction is available at https://murphyauction.com/Auction/Details/8254.
Ducks were officially named DUKW boats based on General Motors’ manufacturing code. “D” represented the 1942 model, “U” indicated that it was an amphibious vehicle, “K” signified the all-wheel drive, and “W” denoted the dual rear wheels.
The first appearance of a duck in 1943 at the invasion of Sicily. They were vital to amphibious invasion efforts due to their unique ability to transition from the sea to land.
Ducks could be pre-loaded and then placed on a transport ship then driven onto the beach once they reached their destination.
But while the ducks were extremely successful overall, their experience at Omaha Beach displayed their Achilles heel and foretold of the problems Ride the Duck would experience. Three to five foot waves on the day of the invasion capsized many of them.
After the Korean War, the military no longer needed the DUKWs and sold them as surplus. The boats run by the tour operators were either these military surplus vehicles or replicas.
Unfortunately, the ducks’ troubles with rough waters followed them into civilian duty with tragic consequences.