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Ward LaFrance / Kenworth
Heavy Wrecker

The Ward LaFrance / Kenworth Heavy Wrecker was a 6-ton, 6x6 towing and recovery vehicle used by the US Army in World War II. It was initially designed by Ward La France in 1940 but Kenworth was later given a contract to produce a wrecker with identical essential serviceable parts. The early Ward LaFrance Model M1 had a civilian metal cab and was distinguishable by its curved fenders. The Model M1A1 had a canvas soft top, military flat fenders and other changes. The open cab model was sometimes fitted with a .50 caliber machine gun in a ring mount. A total of 4,925 were produced during the war by both Ward LaFrance and Kenworth. The recovery equipment was built by Gar Wood Industries and featured a crane with a 180 degree traverse. In addition to the crane and winches, the trucks were fitted with outriggers and carried welding equipment and a variety of recovery tools. By 1943 all Ward LaFrance M1A1 and Model 573 Kenworth parts were completely interchangeable. The M1A1 wrecker was very effective in its role and was praised by the troops who used it. The main complaint involved the dual rear wheels which tended to collect debris and were difficult to service or change. Known variously in their careers as 6-ton or 10-ton wreckers, these sturdy and reliable trucks were the Army's standard heavy wrecker well into the 1950s. During World War II the men of the 347th Ordnance Depot depended on wreckers like the M1A1 (pictured here) to recover or transport a variety of vehicles and also to move heavy ordnance parts like artillery gun barrels.

Sources: Doyle, David. U.S. Military Vehicles Field Guide. Iola, WI: KP Books, 2005. "Ward LaFrance / Kenworth Wrecker M1 And M1A1." May 22, 2008. Oct. 2, 2010.