WWII Veteran and "D-Day" DUKW Driver Visits Ride The Ducks in Branson
For more information, contact:
Sarah Hammons, Sales Manager
Ride The Ducks
2320 W. Hwy 76 – Branson, Mo 65616
BRANSON, MO (July 31, 2012) -- Summertime … and it’s all about the Splashdown! What better way to beat the heat than to climb aboard one of Branson’s famous land and water adventures! For over 40 years, Ride The Ducks in Branson has been entertaining guests from around the world.
This month, Ride The Ducks welcomed a very special guest – 92-year-old Wilbur Spangler came to ride with his son, Wayne. While they took the Table Rock Lake Adventure with Captain Korn (Joe Purma of Taneyville, MO) on Monday (see photo), this wasn’t Wilbur’s first ride on a DUKW. In fact, his first trip was more than 70 years ago. A native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Wilbur enlisted in the US Army during World War II at the age of 22. Wilbur was assigned to the 453rd Amphibian Truck Company with the 5th Special Engineers, and began his brief training on the military DUKW in England before the biggest mission of his life.
Early in the morning of June 6, 1944 – not knowing that he would forever be a part of history – his Company (aboard DUKWs) slid off their LST and into the waters ten miles off the coast of Normandy, France. They were loaded down with cargo and men, and headed for shore. Wilbur shook his head and smiled quietly as he told the story, “The Captain told us to turn right when we hit the water. We obeyed the order, but didn’t realize at the time that there would be no question of where we should go. To the left, there was just darkness. To the right, it was lit up like the 4th of July, except it wasn’t fireworks. Bombs were screaming through the air, exploding everywhere – and I had never seen that many vehicles in the water in my entire life.”
Wilbur and his son, Wayne, have traveled to France for both the 50th and 60th Anniversaries of D-Day, where he received a special commemorative medal (see photo). Wilbur will celebrate his 93rd birthday in just over a month – on September 11th and has every intention of returning to the 70th Anniversary Celebration of the Invasion of Normandy in 2014. One thing is certain, the team at Ride The Ducks in Branson will not soon forget Wilbur Spangler or the time he spent with them this week.
More about the History of DUKWs:
The DUKW (also known as a Duck) is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck that was designed by a partnership of Sparkman & Stephens and General Motors Corporation (GMC) during World War II for transporting goods and troops over land and water. Designed to last only long enough to meet the demands of combat, just 22,000 of the DUKW were ever made. Approximately 2,000 were used in the Invasion of Normandy alone, though their presence was invaluable at many beachfront battles in both World War II and the Korean War. As for the name, the "D" indicated a vehicle designed in 1942, "U" meant "utility”, "K" indicated driven front wheels, and "W" indicated two powered rear axles.
Ride The Ducks has been in business since 1971, and currently operates 19 Ducks in their Branson fleet. Tours depart daily from their location at 2320 W. Hwy 76. Ride through the scenic Ozarks and learn about its past and present aboard a Duck, crafted from the WWII DUKW. Splash down into the lake for a fun cruise. Take the wheel and drive the Duck (if you want). Quack along with the captain and the music aboard this 70-minute adventure. What a great way to mix fun, music and history into an interactive experience right in your own backyard!
Before the summer slips away, take advantage of our special Local Discount if you live or work in the following counties in Missouri: Christian, Greene, Stone & Taney or Boone County (AR). If you haven’t taken a ride since you were a kid…or your kids have never been – it’s time you came back to share the fun with the whole family! Local Discount Rate: $13 adult (ages 12 and up), $7 child (4-11), and children 3 and under are free (riding on your lap). Prices are subject to tax upon purchase; must present proof of residency or employment at the box office at time of purchase.
Call 877-887-8225 to book now. Additional information at www.bransonducks.com.