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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Harley's at war

In 1901 two very meek looking friends developed a vehicle they dubbed the Harley Davidson motorcycle. Built in the small shed of their Wisconsin home, the first bike looked like a bicycle with a motor attached.

The bikes had already been used by the military in the Pancho Villa expedition, so when the country went to war in 1917, Harley Davidson met the demand. This was the first time they were considered for combat use. 15,000 bikes roared off the assembly line and into battle.

In WW2 the bikes were enlisted into service once more. Military bikes were referred to as WLA, they differed from civilian bikes in only a few ways. The finish was generally a drab olive green or black. Chrome parts were blued or painted white.
Two sets of blackout lights were used to prevent night visibility. Fenders were used to reduce mud clogging the engine. A leather machine gun scabbard attached to the front of the bike, along with leg shields and a durable windshield were added accessories. Looking at these, I was reminded of the armor worn by knights of old. It made me wonder if this is where the nickname "the iron horse" came from.

The bikes weren't used in combat as much as for courier, scouting
and transport work. Allied motorcycles were rarely equipped with sidecars, unlike the Germans who used them frequently. The WLA was called "the liberator" as it was seen ridden by soldiers who were liberating occupied Europe.


Amy DeTrempe said...

I had no idea the Harley Davidson had such a history.

catslady said...

I was thinking the same thing or that they are that old!

Jen Childers said...

HI there,

Harley came out with the first bike in 1903. It's funny as the creators were very nerdy, clean cut guys,not anything like the image of a biker we think of.
I'm mad at myself because I don't know how to put up pictures of the bikes.