Great for Crossing Rivers With No Bridges
|A restored Schwimmwagen amphibious jeep.|
One successful result of this ability was the amphibious Schwimmwagen military jeep.
|This is a reenactment. Aside from everything else, German generals typically sat down while being driven and didn't smile a whole lot for the hoi polloi.|
|Some modern-day wargamers playing around with their Schwimmwagen.|
The objective was to create a staff command car that could cross rivers without the aid of bridges. This was not a late-war desperation project, as with so many other advanced German designs. In fact, the Schwimmwagen was well thought out and placed in mass production by 1941. Schwimmwagens began reaching the field in large numbers in mid- to late 1942. Since the Allies destroyed a huge number of important bridges during their bombing offensive, the Scwhimmwagen became especially important in near the front where getting a few men across a river quickly could make a big difference.
The first major design problem to solve was the chassis, which was converted into a bathtub. A standard Volkswagen chassis was adapted, and it worked well, though Schwimmwagens had a bad tendency to leak. The Schwimmwagen also was a four-wheel-drive jeep, a rarity in World War II, though only in 1st gear and sometimes reverse. That alone would have made it a useful jeep for off-road use. The 1943 training film, below, emphasizes this aspect of the Schwimmwagen.
|A Schwimmwagen Typ 166/5 in 1944, fitted with Snow-Rollers with “deep-treaded” drum-type wheel-extensions. An early snowmobile!|
|Officers of 3rd SS ''Totenkopf'' and a technician of Volkswagen company test out a new Schwimmwagen, November 25, 1942.|
|The propeller was normally up and only bolted down in place for water crossings. There is a large flotation tank in the back, as well as underneath the car.|
|A Schwimmwagen with a Tiger Tank. (Schack, Spring 1944, Federal Archive).|
|Joachim Peiper led his Battlegroup Peiper in a Schwimmwagen during the December 1944 Ardennes Offensive. That Peiper would choose a Schwimmwagen to lead this absolutely critical and dangerous mission is the best endorsement you will ever get for the jeep's capabilities and reliability.|
|General Montgomery riding the Allied version of the Schwimmwagen, known as the DUKW, during the Sicily invasion. Which would you rather have when cruising down to the local bar in style, this... or the Schwimmwagen?|
The Schwimmwagen was no novelty, though it seemed to make its occupants very self-conscious when in the water. It was used operationally on all fronts and came in quite handy in certain situations.
|Schwimmwagens on parade in August 1942. (Micheljack, Federal Archive).|
The Schwimmwagen was not a war-winning weapon, but, like German helicopters, they were handy to have in certain situations. Perhaps needless to say, it remains one of the coolest and rarest of military jeeps, a true collector's item prized by military buffs. In fact, for certain folks, the coolness factor of these amphibious jeeps is pretty much off the charts. Many remain in private hands, though of course museums own their share, such as the Muzeum Dopravy Bratislava, RAF Duxford, and the Army Museum Dresden. Many have been modified extensively to make them easier to use compliant with modern vehicular laws.