US Army WLAs in Wartime Photos and Publications 

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If you wish to use these photos for noncommercial purposes I consent to such use as long as the source of the photos is clearly acknowledged.

 

Featured Picture
January 1st, 2017

 

     
Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Check Tire Pressure Daily!...'

Two Sgts from a 9th US Army Air Force Support Unit check the tire pressure of their WLAs, somewhere in Europe during WW2.

The issue tire pressure gage usually made by Schrader used here is the standard long type issued with most WW2 vehicles. Late WLA toolbags came with a short model gage.
The bike on the left still has the Ammo Box while both Scabbard Bracket and Ammo Box have been removed on the WLA on the right. The latter seems to have a replacement Headlight Lens as it looks too flat compared to the standard Guide model.
Windshields on both motorcycles are still fitted with a rubber rim, a feature which was eliminated on later models. Note how the plexi upper part on one windshield has been perforated.

Both NCOs are wearing standard uniforms of the period, od Field Jacket on the left and a British Made ETO Jacket on the right. These British Made jackets were not uncommon within the 9th AAF field troops in the ETO.
Headgear consists of helmet liners only...

 

 

 

'Presidential Escort'


Photo: Joe Bennett via www.olive-drab.com

Private Joseph L. Bennett astride a Type I 41WLA at Fort Lewis, WA, late in 1942.
On September 22nd , 1942, he was selected to be a special motorcycle escort to President F. D. Roosevelt when the President visited Fort Lewis. He later became a Second Lieutenant and was awarded a Bronze Star.
He wears the standard M1941 Field Jacket with wool Breeches and Cavalry Riding Boots.

The longer forks and the extensions between the front mudguard and forks on the 41WLA are clearly visible, as well as the early pattern luggage rack, unique to the 41WLA.
The bike is equipped with a buddy seat and the large 1941 windshield.

 

      
Private image from Ken Bonacorso

'Stateside Manoeuvres' 1941-42....

Sylvester Bonacorso rides his Type II 41WLA as a US Army Messenger during Army Manoeuvres early in WW2.
This image offers a good view of the 41WLA and its features.Of special interest are the long front forks, high mounted headlight, louvre style early Black Out fender light, early rear luggage carrier and wide handlebars....

Pvt Bonacorso wears the complete wool Service Uniform with Service Shoes and Leggins. Goggles are the Polaroid All Purpose Type, worn with an unidentified piece of headgear.
Armament consists of a .45Cal M1911A1 Pistol worn attached to the M1936 Pistol Belt.

In the background is a GMC 2 1/2 Ton Truck.

 

'Early War MPs'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two Military Policemen straddle their shiny motorcycles early in WW2.
Both bikes are Type I 42WLA models with the high mounted headlight and early horn cover with embossed Harley-Davidson logo clearly visible. Different pursuit lights have been added to both bikes. Markings are restricted to white MP letters stencilled on a black square on the front fender, the latter having a white tip.

Both riders are wearing the Summer cotton uniform with M1 helmet liners and MP armbands.
They are both armed with M1911A1 pistols and whistles are attached to the shirt pocket buttons.

In the background are a Dodge 1/2Ton Series WC23 Command Car and 1 1/2 Ton Chevrolet truck marked MILITARY POLICE on the side, typical vehicles of the era.

 

'A New Ride'

A GI poses on an early 42WLA motorcycle somewhere in the USA.

The bike seems new and is a Type I 42WLA. The headlight is mounted high and the picture clearly shows the early round Air Cleaner with large top and instruction decal.
Two different round Air Cleaners were used on the Type I 42WLA. The first pattern had a smaller top.
Both Air Cleaners used on the Type I are different from the one used on the 41WLA as the filter body is shorter.

The soldier is wearing the standard wool uniform of the era...

The wooden barracks in the background are typical US Army lodging of the period.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Over the Bridge'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Un unidentified GI rides his motorcycle over a floating bridge during training. Engineers are in the water holding the bridge.

The motorcycle appears to be a Type I 42WLA with high mounted headlight. The horn has the early cover with Harley-Davidson logo. A Black-Out Driving light has been retrofitted as the Type I 42WLA was not factory equipped with one.
A plaque with a tactical sign or Bridge Class number is attached to the front fender behind the Black Out marker light.
The front fender has markings of an Army Engineer unit.

 

'Born to Ride'...


US Army Signal Corps Photo / Webmaster's Collection

Converted from horses to speedy steel, GIs of the 107th Cavalry Regiment, now on mechanised mounts, ride in a mass column of 4s towards a new position.
The photo was taken at Fort Ord, California on 1st May 1942.

The bikes on the first two rows are Type I 42WLAs, while the third row holds at least two Indian Motorcycles.
The Jeeps following the bikes are early WILLYS MB Slatgrill models and those are followed by Scout Cars.

The uniforms are typical of the early war period, especially the 'Doughnut' Tanker Helmets....

Later in the war this picture was used for publicity purposes as shown at the bottom of this page and just maybe it was the inspiration for the 1991 movie 'Born to Ride'.....

 

'Army 'Aero' Parachute Troops' ...'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

The original caption of this picture dated 22nd April 1942 says:
"Motorcyclists drive down the ramp of a 'mock-up' fuselage used for training airborne infantry."

 The motorcycle is clearly a Type II in new condition. The tan saddlebags seem empty and although the rifle scabbard is the M1904 model designed to hold the M1903 Springfield rifle, it seems the M1 Garand rifle is carried. Note the folded up footboards.

At this stage of the war the men are still wearing early WW2 equipment including the M1917A1 'Kelly' helmet.

 

'Take Cover!...'


US Army Signal Corps Photo / Webmaster's Collection

During training motorcycle riders were taught how to dismount rapidly by sliding the bike on its side so they could take up a firing position behind it when falling under enemy fire.
The above picture shows several GIs sliding off their Type II 42WLAs.
This kind of riding was tough, even on these rugged machines...

The equipment and M1917A1 'Kelly' helmets worn by the riders show this picture was taken somewhere in the USA around mid 1942.

Note the C47 transport planes in the background.

 

'Training in the USA'

This superb color image shows a GI taking aim with his Thompson M1928A1 SMG behind his WLA during an exercise in 1942.

He wears the HBT uniform with Hawley Fiber M1 helmet liner. An M1 Dust Respirator is barely visible on his left cheek. The goggles are the M1938 Resistal type.
The Submachinegun has the 50-Rd magazine fitted and the Lyman rear sight is flipped upwards.

The motorcycle is a Type II 42WLA identified by the bicycle type starter pedal and low headlight. Note the chafed side of the saddle, despite the three rivets. The paint on the handlebar grip has nearly completely worn off from extensive use.
Of interest are the cadmium plated nuts on the horn electrical connection screws.
Also note the total absence of markings.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Early War Training in the USA'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A young Officer poses on a WLA Motorcycle during training at the Armored Force School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, early in the war.

The wear of rank insignia on the shirt's epaulettes shows this photo was taken somewhere before Mid-1942. After that Officers wore their rank isignia on the shirt's collar.
 The uniform consists of the Summer tan shirt and trousers with low-quarter shoes.

The bike is a Type II 42WLA, equipped with the round Air Filter. The star on the gas tank seems to be painted in an off-white color, or maybe even yellow. The marking of the Armored Force School (AFS) is painted in black inside the star, common to the vehicles of the AFS at that period. The gas tank also bears the marking 'MONEY'.
The license plate is attached to the rear fender bracket.
 This photo gives a clear view of the Cadmium plated finish on some parts, bolts and nuts of the Type II bike.
Today the Armor Force School is still located at Fort Knox.
Note the unusual trailer in the background!

 

'Ride Out!'

Two GI's on their rides, somewhere in the US.

Bikes are either Type II or III 42WLA. No markings at all are visible.

Note the rather casual Summer tan uniforms worn by both men: rolled up sleeves and a variety of headgear, rank insignia and shoes. The Corporal on the left wears a leather 'kidney' belt for additional support.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Early War Maneuvers!'

A Type II 42WLA is used as a photo prop during US Army maneuvers early in WW2. Another bike can be seen in the background; both motorcycles seem brandnew.

Of special interest is the rectangular oil bath air cleaner first used on the Type II 42WLA. An instruction decal is applied to the filter body. Later instructions would be embossed on a separate plate which was spotwelded to the air cleaner and the last model would have the instructions embossed directly into the filter box.

The GI astride the bike wears the standard cotton khaki uniform designed for Summer wear with smooth leather Service Shoes and Leggins.

An early 2 1/2 Ton GMC Truck fitted with chevron pattern tires is parked in the background.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Jump Around...'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A GI does some acrobatics during a field exercise in the United States early in WW2.
A soldier jumps over two parked WLAs on which all kinds of equipment can be seen. An M1938 Dispatch Case has been attached to the left Saddle Bag of both bikes with a Cartridge Belt and Suspenders on the handlebars of the motorcycle on the left.

Both bikes seem to be Type II or III 42WLAs and of special interest is the Number Plate which bears a 'W' prefixed U.S.A. Registration Number on the WLA on the right confirming the type.
The WLA on the left does not have a number plate.

An M1917A1 'Kelly' Helmet can be seen in the foreground with some other uniform garments. This type of helmet was still used by troops in training early in WW2 and was replaced by the M1 Helmet as war progressed.

 

'Motorcycle Patrol'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Military Policemen on Type II 42WLAs patrol a US Army Camp during WW2.
Both bikes are equipped with Legshields and leatherette Windshield Aprons.
Note the Good-Year Motorcycle Sport Special tires fitted to both motorcycles.

Both GI's are wearing the wool Service Uniform, with an MP Brassard barely visible on the rider on the left, and carry a M1928A1 Thompson Submachinegun on the right shoulder. The SMG Brackets do not hold the leather scabbards for the guns.

 

'A Day out on our Bikes' (US)'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Three Military Policemen have parked their motorcycles somewhere along the road to pose and get themselves photographed on their rides....
All bikes seem to be Type II 42WLAs with leatherette windshields and all have legshields attached. Note the chrome (civilian stock?) horn cover on the middle bike and the tan handlebar grips on the right one. Two bikes have a plaque attached to the front fender with the letters 'MP' painted on it. Only one bike has unit markings stencilled on both windshield and front fender. Markings are '3*833 (or maybe 855?)GS over I' which indicates the vehicles are from the 833 General Supply Company attached to the 3rd Army Air Force. Why these MP bikes are not marked to an MP unit remains a mystery.

 


Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

The above images show the MP's posing with the bikes. Two of them wear breeches with high laced riding boots and all have the leather Military Police equipment under their jackets, M1941 Field Jacket in the middle with the other two wearing Mackinaw coats. Note the gloves on the GI in the middle.
Of special interest are the variety of handguns and holsters, as the different headgear worn by these riders.
The bicyle-type kickstarter pedals, clearly visible on the bikes, indicate Type II 42WLAs........
All above indicates the images were taken 1942.......

 

'MP Motorhead!'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A Military Policeman has parked his Harley to pose next to a 1932 Ford Roadster somewhere in the USA.
The WLA seems to be Type III with the USA numberplate clearly visible attached to the rear light bracket on the fender.

 The uniform worn by the MP is composed of the Summer Cotton Breeches with shirt and Riding Boots.
The leather Military Police equipment with attached holster complete the outfit.

 

'Basic Training'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

An unidentified GI poses on a WLA during Basic Training at Camp Bowie, Texas in December 1942.
Although unclear the motorcycle seems to be marked for a Tank-Destroyer unit (TD) over an Armored triangle mark.

 The WLA is equipped with legshields and a WW1 vintage M1917 Rifle is carried in the leather scabbard. Along with the M1903 'Springfield' Rifle, the M1917 was the main infantry weapon of the Great War and was still used for training in WW2. Most likely this soldier came across a parked motorcycle and put the rifle in the submachinegun scabbard while straddling the bike for the picture. It would have been extremely awkward to ride a WLA carrying the long M1917 rifle this way...

The soldier wears the standard wool 'M1941' uniform of the era with an M1 helmet liner.

Visible in the back ground are a Half-Track and GMC Truck fitted with a Number-7 Wrecker Set.

 

'Somewhere in the 'Zone of the Interior' (US)'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

An MP proudly poses between several WLA bikes at a US Army Camp during WW2.

The bikes all seem to be either Type II or III which could indicate the photo was taken in 1943. All motorcycles are equipped with red pursuit lights and legshields. Note the bicycle type starter pedal on the 2nd bike from the left (Type II) and the white painted oil pump on the 3rd bike from the left. Only one bike is marked and allows us to identify the unit.
The marking III-X   203P-1 is applied on both windshield and front fender and indicates the 1st vehicle of the 203rd Military Police Company attached to 3rd Corps HQ.

The 203rd MP Co was formed in California in 1942 and was attached to III Corps and stationed at Fort McPherson, Georgia and then Camp Forrest, Tennessee before being attached to V Corps in September of 1943. In January of 1944 the 203rd was attached to First Army, after arriving in England through Glasgow, Scotland. Although not part of the assault force, the 203rd would land at Omaha beach in July of 1944 to serve with the 12th Army Group, where its primary missions included VIP protection and traffic management.

The Military Policeman wears the standard Wool Service Uniform with leather belt and shoulder strap supporting the .45Cal Pistol holster. Other MP equipment consists of an MP brassard, brass whistle and the rather rare Military Police Patrolman badge...!

 

'Stateside MP'

A Military Policeman rides a Type II WLA somewhere in the Continental US during WW2.

The bike lacks saddlebags and rifle scabbard but is fitted with legshields; no luxury in the winter weather.
A 'Military Police' sign has been attached to the gun bracket.

The rider, wearing the standard uniform of the period, is armed with a .45Cal M1911A1 pistol carried in the M1916 Holster.
Oddly he is wearing a Service Hat aka Campaign Hat which was being phased out during WW2.

Other motorcycles are parked in the background.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'At the Motorpool'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

This GI clad in HBT Coveralls sits on a 42WLA amidst other icons of WW2 US Army transport.
Behind him from left to right are a Diamond T Wrecker, a 1/4 Ton Truck, aka Jeep and a 'Deuce and a Half' GMC Truck. Trailers and more trucks are visible behind the fuel pump in the background.

 The motorcycle seems to be a Type II or early Type III with Bicycle type kicker pedal and no BO-Driving Light.
Note the License Plate under the rear lights.

 

'African-American Rider'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

An African-American GI wearing the Summer cotton uniform poses on a WLA somewhere in the US during WW2.

The motorcycle is a standard Type III 42WLA. A M1903 Springfield Rifle is carried in a M1938 Leather Scabbard.
The markings on the front fender remain unclear.
The blue drab radio Suppression '
S' marking on the side of the dash cover is just barely visible.

Dodge and Chevrolet trucks can be seen in the background.

 

'Maison Blanche MP'

Although the quality of the picture is rather poor, it does show some interesting details.

The picture was taken near Algeria's Maison Blanche (White house) airport and shows a Military Policeman from the 1251st MP Company attached to the 12th US Army Air Forces.
The Maison Blanche airport was a primary objective of the Allied Forces during Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa in November 1942. Once in Allied hands the airport was used by the US Army as a major transshipment hub for cargo, transiting aircraft and personnel.

The bike is a Type II or early Type III without BO Driving Light but a rather large pursuit light has been fitted next to the headlight.
Military Police markings on the fender and windshield are clearly visible.

The rider wears the Summer cotton uniform with a very early British Dispatch Rider's Crash Helmet and goggles.

This picture was taken by a GI from the 34th Division.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

  
Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Somewhere in North-Africa.....'

Pfc Carson Jones poses for the camera astride a WLA in North Africa,
probably in early 1943.

 He wears the standard M1941 wool uniform and wear of the helmet liner only suggests this photo was taken in a rest area. Note the brand new M10 Tank Destroyers on the left.

The motorcycle is a Type II 42WLA, evidenced by the bicycle type kick starter pedal.
The three re-inforcing rivets on the saddle are plainly visible and a name has been painted on the oil tank (xxxxx-Centralie), the meaning of which remains a mystery.…

 

'Old Ironsides'

A T4 of the 1st Armored Division 'Old Ironsides' poses on his ride, nicknamed 'Rosalie II'.
The US Army Registration Number 627327 tells us this is a Type III 42WLA, made near the end of 1942. So this picture was probably taken in North Africa where the 1AD saw action in the first half of 1943.

The WLA is marked as the 5th vehicle of the 1st Armored Regiment's Reconnaissance Squadron of the 1st Armored Division (1/\1/\R5). At this point the 1AD was still a 'Heavy' Amored Division and would only change to a 'Light' AD on September 15th, 1943.

The rider has attached a metal box to the rear fender and the rear lights have been lowered and rotated 90° in doing so. The US Army License Plate showing the USA number without a 'W' is clearly visible. The bicycle style kick starter pedal and parkerised circuit breaker cover are typical for an early to  mid-production Type III.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Pacific Outpost'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

GIs line up their rides for a group picture on Fiji during WW2.
When Japan launched its surprise attack on the United States' Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, New Zealand’s Fiji island became a stepping stone on the reinforcement line from the United States to Australia and the Philippines. In July 1942, American forces assumed responsibility for the defence of the island.

The WLAs seem to be a mix of Types I, II and III; the fender markings remain a mystery.
Uniforms and equipment are down to a strict minimum with only side-arms being carried.
At the beginning of the war the tan cotton service uniform was worn as a field uniform in the Pacific Theater, but was later replaced by the Herringbone Twill (HBT) fatigues.

 

'French Morocco'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Wearing the Summer Cotton Uniform, a Corporal poses on a WLA in French Morocco during WW2.
Following Operation Torch in November 1942, the US Army used Northern Africa as a training and supply base for the subsequent campaigns.

The bike is a Type III 42WLA which seems pretty new but nevertheless the headlight and Black-Out Driving Light shroud are already missing.
The purpose of the sign on the handlebars barely visible above the horn remains a mystery.
There are no visble markings on the motorcycle

 

'Sloppy Riding...'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A GI is caught on camera as he akwardly drops a motorcycle on its side at Fort Knox, KY, early in 1943.
The Bicycle Style Kickstarter, Rectangular Air Cleaner and lack of Black Out Driving Light make this WLA an early Type III production. The picure gives a clear view of the Speedometer and electrical connections on the Taillights.

The bike is marked for the Armored Forces Replacement Training Center (AFRTC) which trained soldiers in specific areas such as armor tactics, tank gunnery, communications, and maintenance.

The GI is wearing the standard wool uniform in combination with the M1 Helmet Liner.

 

'Tactical Demonstration'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

The original caption of this often published picture taken in England in late February 1943 says 'An American dispatch rider with his motorcycle stuck in mud, firing his tommy gun while still in the saddle, during a tactical demonstration'.

The USA number (USA 620340) painted on the tank clearly shows the bike to be a Type III. It is not yet equipped with a Black out driving light which was introduced with USA W-624964.
The standard Guide Cycleray headlight has been replaced by a British shrouded light.

 The rider wears the full Winter Combat Uniform with rubber Overshoes. The large bag on his left hip contains the early WW2 Service Gas Mask. The weapon is the M1928A1 Thompson Submachine Gun.

 

'Over There...........'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Pfc John W Gilbert, ASN17128615, poses on a WLA motorcycle in England ca 1943.....

Gilbert wears the wool Service Uniform. The jacket is the early type with bi-swing back and belt hooks. He has the Army Service Forces insignia on the left shoulder and the Pfc stripe is just visible above the felt MP brassard. The leather Garrison Belt is worn with the Military Police shoulder strap and no doubt supports a .45Cal Pistol holster. Shoes are the Type II Service Shoe.

The motorcycle is a Type III 42WLA in what looks like brandnew condition. The leatherette windshield is mounted very high and the headlight is blacked out.
The Firestone Sportsman Tires are clearly visible.
The markings on the front fender are partially visible and are ???783P    ????HQ12 which show the bike belongs to the 783rd Military Police Battalion.
C Company of the 783rd landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, with the remainder of the Battalion arriving in France on June 10th, 1944.
Later in 1944, the 783rd MP Bn controlled traffic on the famous 'Red Ball Express' supply route....
The above image was developed by Alfred Bonheur, a British photographer, who had his shop in Bedminster, Bristol; the area where the 783rd was stationed in 1943-1944....

 

'Maintenance'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

GIs of a US Army Ordnance Battalion overhaul WLAs of the 9th US Air Force in England in March 1944.
A variety of markings can be observed as well as both standard and makeshift legshields.

Most mechanics wear HBT coveralls and matching headgear.
A sign above their heads reminds them not to take their work lightly....

 

'Preparing Overlord......'


US Army Signal Corps Photo/National Archives

May 1944, at dawn GI's from the 101st Airborne Division's Divisional Headquarters mount WLA motorcycles they have just unloaded from a British made Horsa Glider during a pre-Normandy Invasion exercise in England.

Troopers all wear M1941 uniforms with Parachute Jump Boots. The rider in the foreground still retains his B4 Life Preserver.

Motorcycles are either Type III, IV or early Type V 42WLAs. The NCO on the left carries his M1A1 Folding Stock Carbine in its canvas scabbard in the motorcycle's bracket.
Note the absence of both legshields and windshield on all bikes.....

 

'Army Air Forces Military Police'...


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A Military Policeman from the US Army Air Forces patrols his post somewhere in England during WW2.
The WLA is most likely an early Type III with small white painted stars on tank and windshield. The tip of the front fender has been painted white and the headlight lens painted out to comply with British Black-Out conditions.
Shipping dimensions have been applied to the Ammo Box (Length, Width, Height & Weight).
Other motorcycles and a 3/4 Ton Series Dodge WC Command Car are visible in the background.

The rider wears the standard wool Service Uniform of the era.
Note the brass whistle and leather M1937 Garrison Belt, both typical accouterments of the US Army MP.

 

'Rough Riders'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Invasion Training continues with Military Policemen riding on difficult terrain in England on May 6th 1944.
Many parts of the bikes have been highlighted in white for better visibility in Black-Out conditions.
Note the tire pump on top of the rear safety bars on the bike on the right.

The markings on the bikes' front fenders have been censored on the original photograph, but the MP brassards worn by the riders identify them as such. Uniforms worn consist of wool riding breeches with high top Cavalry style boots, shirts and ties(!) and M1941 Field Jackets. The leather caps appear to be RAF Flying Helmets worn with American Optical Goggles. Side-arms are carried in leather holsters attached to the leather Garrison Belt and Shoulder Strap. Note the pistol lanyard worn by the rider in the center.

A short movie was shot the same day, visible here: CLICK

 

'Going My Way'

S/Sgt Walsack takes a ride on an early Type III 42WLA, somewhere in the Continental USA during WW2.

The bike is very basic without any accessories and devoid of markings. It is factory fitted with Firestone Sportsman tires.

Sgt Walsack is wearing the Khaki Cotton Uniform issued for wear in warm climates. These were referred to as CKC (Cotton Khaki Clothing) in WW2 US Army slang.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Determined Rider'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

This picture shows us a determined rider on what appears to be a Type IV 42WLA.

The angle of the photograph gives a clear view on the tires and skid plate.

It is not clear where or when the picture was taken and the markings are not clear either....

 

'Crossing the Channel'


US Army Signal Corps Photo via Dave Thomas

Men and vehicles from the 3rd Armored Division are ferried across the English Channel to Normandy, late June 1944.
The deck of the transport ship is packed with vehicles and at least 4 WLA motorcycles are visible in the photo. The bikes belong to Divisional Headquarters as indicated by the markings on the front fenders (3/\-X  HQ48). Also visible are the three-color and five-digit invasion codes painted above the unit markings.
Weapons have been wrapped in canvas cases to protect them from the salty splash at sea. What looks like a M1935 Waterproof Bedding Roll is strapped to the luggage rack of the Type III WLA in the middle; with a lightweight gas mask bag slung from the windshield.

 

'SHAEF Messengers'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Lt Clawson, in charge of the SHAEF dispatch riders, gives them their final orders before sending them off to the coast to pick up the latest news from the boats coming back from the Normandy beaches in order to relay it to Headquarters following the June 6th 1944 landings.

All but one are American GI's wearing the wool Service Uniform and riding WLA motorcycles.
The second rider is a British soldier of the Royal Corps of Signals and rides an Indian Model 741B, delivered to Britain thru Lend-Lease. All wear British DR Helmets and British DR style blue and white armbands.

All headlights have been removed and replaced by Black-Out Lights. No arms are carried.

 

'ADSEC MPs'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

The picture shows two Military Policemen about to ride out on their Harleys. It is not clear exactly when and where the photo was taken, but details on the picture suggest either England or France in 1944.

Bikes are marked 'MILITARY POLICE' on the aprons and the front fender marking is 'ASCZ' over '984P' which stands for 'Advanced Section Communications Zone ' and '984th MP Company'.
Note the extinguisher or decontaminator mounted on the rear safety guard of the bike on the left.

Both riders wear British motorcycle rider helmets and British made wool US Army 'ETO' jackets.

 

'Information Point'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

This picture taken by a British War Correspondent shows an Information Point from the British XXXth Corps at the Railway Station of Bayeux, Normandy in early July 1944.
MP's of the 113th Provost Company are giving directions to a Lieutenant of the British 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats), while a US Army messenger awaits his turn, leaning casually on his Harley's handlebars.

The bike is a Type III 42WLA with its front fender marked  3/\36-I over 2HQ-34. This indicates the 34th vehicle of HQ 2nd Battalion, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division.
Binoculars are attached to the headlight bracket and an M1 Carbine is carried in the leather scabbard.
Some kind of metal box has been attached under the saddle, just above the battery box.

The GI wears the typical wool uniform of the period, with Polaroid All-Purpose goggles around the neck.
His waist is protected by a leather kidney belt and the pommel of an M3 Trench Knife is just visible on his right hip. Footwear consists of Paratrooper Jump boots.

 

'Damn It, Use Signals!!'


US Army Signal Corps Photo / Webmaster's Collection

Private Roy Zimmerman of Wood River, Illinois, supervises US Army military traffic near St Lo, Normandy, France on July 27th, 1944. Zimmerman was a Military Policeman in the 507th Military Police Battalion, and wears the typical uniform of the period. Note the leather gloves, American Optical sunglasses and Tanker's Helmet with MP markings.
He carries an M1 Carbine in the submachinegun scabbard on the front forks.....
The motorcycle is a typical example of a Type III 42WLA, identified by the Black-Out driving light, the rectangular air filter, 'high' ammo box and unpainted motor and cylinder heads.
Note the position of the star behind the shifter gate on the gas tank. A M1928 Meat Can pouch is attached to the rear fender.
The first pattern tire pump is secured atop the rear fork. Interestingly the holes in the legshield bracket are plugged with parkerized mounting bolts.
The headlight has been subdued or painted over to avoid sunlight glare...
The tread on the Firestone Sportsman 400-18 tires is clearly visible on the front wheel..........

 In the background is a Jeep with a .50 Cal Machinegun, next to a Dodge WC-54 Ambulance. The 'DAMN IT USE SIGNALS' sign seems to be made out of carton and is hung up by a piece of string. A US Army censor has prepared the photo for censoring with a red pen.......

 

'Maintenance'


US Army Signal Corps Photo via Dave Thomas

Liberator-Riders of the 2nd Armored Division perform basic maintenance on their bikes in a French field in the Summer of 1944. These GI's sport a variety of uniforms and equipment: HBT one-piece suit on the left, winter combat jackets (aka Tanker Jackets) on the guys in the middle and wool od shirt on the right. Note the variety of headgear and goggles: Polaroid All Purpose, American Optical and Resistal M1938 types..... The trooper working on the left bike carries a M1918 Trench Knife in a leather scabbard.
The bike on the left has a .30 Cal Ammo can attached to the rear fender underneath the saddle and has the US Army registration number painted in white 1" letters under the rear lights. A large mudflap is attached to the rear fender and the name 'TUB' is painted on the oil tank.
The center motorcycle carries what looks like a M1917 Mounted Canteen Cover on the Submachinegun scabbard bracket, while the WLA on the right has the short rear view mirror bracket without the extension used with the windshield. Both have had the headlight subdued.
The high position of the Ammo Boxes on these two bikes would indicate these to be Type III 42WLAs.
In the background is a radio-equipped Jeep next to a 'pup' tent and some laundry drying on the left.

 

'Preparing for Evening Colors'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

In Oran, Algeria, American Troops march through the streets in preparation for Evening Colors.
An Army band plays on the sidewalk and the Troops are escorted by Pfc Gates on a WLA.

The date of the picture is not clear and the M1944 Goggles worn by the rider suggest the picture was taken late in WW2, unless the Goggles are the USAAF B8 style which were issued earlier.
The crash helmet is the British Dispatch Rider Model.

The high Ammo Box and lack of BO Drive light could indicate a Type II bike or early Type III.
A rear view mirror from a Jeep has been mounted on he handlebars and a small shroud added to the headlight.
Tires fitted to the bike are the Good Year Motorcycle Sport Special type.
Parts of the bike have been highlighted with white paint and the motorcycle is marked on both front fender and windshield apron as follows: MBS 6685P  X21
This indicates the 21st vehicle of the 6685th Military Police Traffic Platoon (Provisional) attached to the Mediterranean Base Section.

 

 
Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Services of Supply'

A Captain of the US Army's Services of Supply (SoS) rides a WLA on an English country road in the spring of 1944.

Looking at the front fender and low Ammo Box, the bike is either a Type IV or early Type V and it is equipped with both Windshield and Legshields.

Markings are rather limited with the US Army 5-pointed star on the front fender and the unit stencilled on the leatherette windshield apron. SOS stands for Services of Supply and sadly the details of the subunit cannot be read because of the reflection.
The SoS was composed of a variety of service and logistical units which did not fit into the Army Ground Forces or Air Forces.

The Officer's clothing is the standard US Army wool set of the period, commonly known as the M1941 uniform.
Rank insignia are worn on the wool Garrison Cap and on the jacket's shoulder straps.
The left sleeve bears the insignia of the Army Service Forces.

The Services of Supply was renamed Army Service Forces in 1943.

 


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Me and my WLA........'

An unidentified Sgt poses next to a WLA from a Military Police unit.

The bike is a another Type IV or early Type V, identified by the low Ammo Box and first pattern front fender. A red light has been mounted on the front fork next to the horn. The legshield bracket is barely visible between the Ammo Box and the front crashbar. The windshield seems to be leatherette, which indicates the bike is 42WLA42000 or lower.....

Markings consist of the MP marking on the windshield and stars on front fender and tanks. The other marking on the fender is illisible, as is the marking on the windshield above 'Military police'.....
Note the star on the fender is painted in a colored circle

The painted headlight and the right-hand side mounted rear view mirror suggest this photo was taken in Great-Britain in 1944.......

 

'Special Service Engineers'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

GIs take a break somewhere in France in 1944. There are two WLAs visible in the picture.

The Type IV 42WLA in the center, fitted with dual Black-Out Driving Lights and 'Cavalry' style saddlebags slung over the front fender, is marked ASCZ 333E E-14 on both leatherette windshield apron and front fender. The markings indicate vehicle 14 of Company E, 333rd Engineer Special Service Regiment attached to the Advance Section Communications Zone (ASCZ). The 333rd Engineer S.S. Regiment's mission was to construct and improve overseas installations such as docks and port facilities, railroads, roads, plants, etc.
While attached to the ASCZ the Regiment worked in the Cherbourg harbor in the Summer of 1944.

The men around the Harley wear a mixture of wool and Herringbone Twill (HBT) uniforms.
To learn more about the 333rd Engineer Special Service Regiment, click here

 

'Summer Patrol'

A Military Policeman patrols Fort Riley, Kansas in 1944.

The bike looks fairly new and is a Type I 42WLA with high headlight and bicycle style kickstarter. The Solo Windshield is mounted in its highest position on the handlebars with the leatherette apron strap fastened between the front forks and horn bracket. The US Army Number Plate is clearly visible attached to the rear light support.

The soldier is wearing the Summer Cotton Uniform with Service Shoes.
He is armed with a Colt M1917 Revolver carried in a WW1 vintage M1909 Holster.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Dashing thru France'


US Army Signal Corps Photo / Webmaster's Collection

Following the successful break-out in Normandy, a Tank Destroyer speeds around a corner and past a parked WLA in Percy, France on August 1st 1944.

The bike is either a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA and close scrutiny of the fender markings on the original print show it belongs to the MP Platoon of the 28th 'Keystone' Infantry Division (28-X P-? ).

The 28th Division was made of units of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and is the oldest division-sized unit in the US Armed Forces...

 

'Yanks and a Limey in France'


US Army Signal Corps Photo/National Archives

At Pacy-Sur-Eure, France, American and British troops meet on August 27th, 1944. US Army Officers discuss the situation on the pavement while Cpl Gordon C Powell of the 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion poses next to British XXX Corps Dispatch Rider Baltins Dogoughs. Dogoughs rides a Norton 16H with missing front fender and has picked up a German MP40 Submachinegun along the way. He wears standard infantry trousers, shoes and helmet instead of the special motorcyclist's gear.
Powell's riding a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA, evidenced by the low Ammo Box and first pattern front fender. A M1903 Springfield rifle is carried in a leather scabbard on the front forks. Ammo for this rifle is held in a M1923 Cartridge Belt. A standard M1 helmet is slung over the headlight. A Mounted Canteen Cover along with other equipment, possibly a M-238 Flag Set, is carried on the rifle scabbard. Powell's uniform consists of the 2-piece camouflaged HBT suit worn for a short period in France by units of the 2nd Armored Division and unidentified headgear and goggles.
Markings on the front fender are three colored invasion bars above 2/\-82R HQ87, which would indicate 87th vehicle of HQ Company, 82nd Reconnaissance Bn of the 2nd Armored Division. A star is painted to the front of the gas tank.

 

'What are the odds???'....


Private Collection Photo via Tom Peeters

About 2 weeks after Cpl Powell was photographed in Pacy, France alongside a British Despatch Rider; he is welcomed by Dutch civilians.
The picture was taken in Hoensbroek, Holland, in September 1944. The southern part of the Netherlands was mainly liberated by 2 US Divisions, the 2AD and the 30ID.

Powell has discarded the camouflage suit and now wears standard wool garb.
The equipment on the bike is pretty much still the way it was in France; even the M1903 Springfield rifle is in the same position in its scabbard. This picture gives a clear view of the Invasion Code Bar markings which are: 44112 above buff/OD/buff bars on a white square...

What are the odds of seeing the same GI on the same bike in two different places on pictures from different sources??

 

'Preparing for War'...

   
Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

 A group of unidentified GI's pose for a photo during training in Louisiana in 1944.

The bike is a standard Type III 42WLA with a Thompson Sub Machinegun carried in the scabbard on the front forks, together with a map of the area.
The rider wears a camouflaged HBT (Herringbone Twill) uniform.
Visible insignia cannot be identified, not on the bike's fender and not on the overcoat worn by the GI on the right
.

 

'Army Air Forces Military Police'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two Military Police WLAs stand side by side somewhere in England during WW2.
Both motorcycles are equipped with Legshields and Windshields and the bike on the right is supported on the rear stand. The bike on which the GI poses has been fitted with an extra headlight and the shroud on the Black Out Driving Light has been removed. It is equipped with two British rectangular rear view mirrors. 

The markings 8* 1192 MP indentify the unit as the 1192nd MP Company (Aviation), attached to the 8th Air Force in Britain. This Company policed air stations in different parts of England such as Elveden Hall, Boxted and others. Note the difference in Military Police markings on both windshields.

 


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Top Kick In the ETO.....'

Somewhere in the European Theater of Operations, a Company First Sergeant poses on the unit's Harley....

The bike appears to be a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA with low Ammo Box and first pattern front fender....
Note the amount of white painted parts on the bike, no doubt to make it more visible in the dark.

The NCO wears the typical WW2 wool uniform, with his 1Sgt rank insignia barely visible on his shirt sleeves…

 

'Army Air Forces in England'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A Corporal of the US Army Air Forces poses on a Type III 42WLA in use at a USAAF Airfield in England during WW2. The bike's in front of a 'Nissen' Hut, typical for the US Airfields in Britain in WW2. The sign on the wall says: 'Reserved Commanding Officer' and a bicycle rests against the right side of the building.
The motorcycle bears no unit insignia but parts of the bike have been painted white to make it more visible during those dark British Black Out nights..... These parts include front and rear fender lip, front and rear crash bars, legshields and the Black Out Marker Light front cover.
The rear view mirror has been mounted on the right side of the handlebars for better view during British left hand side driving and side skirts have been added to the front fender.......

 

'Patrolling the Airfield'

An unidentified Military Policeman patrols the American Airfield at North Pickenham, England during WW2.

The WLA is a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA with low Ammo Box and first pattern front fender. The headlights lens has been painted OD.
Both the windshield apron and fender bear markings identifying the bike to the 1261st MP Company attached to the 492Bomb Group (Heavy) stationed at North Pickenham.
(8*1261MP)
The 'S' on the near side of the dash cover has been painted over in white paint and is easily visible

The rider wears the Winter Service Uniform of wool trousers and jacket with leather and wool gloves.
Specific MP equipment consists of leather belt and shoulder strap supporting the .45 pistol in its holster and white leggins.
The shoulder sleeve insignia of the Army Air Forces is worn on the left shoulder.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Somewhere in the ETO'

    
Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

The two images above show two GI's posing on a WLA motorcycle, somewhere in the ETO. The bike has some interesting features. The painted engine crankcase, low ammo box and first pattern front fender all identify it as a Type IV 42WLA.
The Army Serial Number seems to be USA 687016,  which confirms the model.
A cigar-smoking face-mask has been attached to the headlight and oddly, an M2 Chemical Decontaminator is attached to the rear crash bar.
Markings include two recognition stars (one with circle on the front fender and another on top of the luggage rack) and in compliance with Army Regulations of unit markings in theaters of operations; only the Company and Vehicle number is visible on the front fender (A9). But again the larger unit is identified by the three-color bar code and 5-digit number (45178) on the Ammo-Box which indicates the bike belongs to the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion...
Instead of the common Thompson SubmachineGun scabbard, an M1 leather rifle scabbard is slit into the holder, containing the famous M1 'Garand' rifle.
A cloth bandoleer holding six 8-round Ammo clips is slung around the windshield.
Both GI's wear typical uniforms of the European Campaign: wool trousers and shirt, worn with Service Shoes, and with M1941 Field Jacket, M1938 Leggins and M1 Helmet on the left. The rider on the left image wears Army Regulation Spectacles, probably made by American Optical.

 

'Courier'

Corporal Weaver poses on his motorcycle somewhere in Europe during WW2.

Although the picture is rather grainy the bike is clearly a Type IV or early Type V, identified by the low Ammo Box and first pattern front fender. Of special interest is the marking 'COURIER' on the windshield apron leaving no doubt as to the rider's mission.

The rider's name and rank have been stencilled on the upper part of the windshield. The rank T/5 refers to Technician 5th Grade, which was an equivalent pay grade to a Corporal, but without the authority of the latter.
While marking Army vehicles with the riders' names wasn't widespread it is occasionally seen on period pictures, notably on Jeeps and trucks.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Dusty Riders'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two GIs sit on their dusty WLAs in July 1944. The bikes are most likely Type III.
It remains unclear where the picture was taken, either during Stateside training or somewhere behind the front.

 Note the different tires; Firestone ANS on the left and Good Year MC Sport Special on the right.

A Half-Track can be seen on the left.

 

'Hot Summer Sun'

Sgt Larry Nolan poses on his ride under a hot Summer sun. The location of the photograph is not known but the vegetation and rocky surface would suggest this photo was taken somewhere in the ETO. The photo was taken by a member of the 34th Armored Battalion of the 5th Armored Division. This Division went all thru France in the Summer of 1944.
The temperature looks very high and Nolan only wears HBT fatigues.

The bike is most probably a Type IV or early Type V; the low ammo box is just visible between the first pattern front fender and front tire. Markings on the front fender are not quite clear but the top number is a '3' with '918??' underneath.
If the '3' indicates the 3rd US Army, it confirms the photo was taken in central France.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Chalons-Sur-Marne, 1944....'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

US Army vehicles pass through a devastated Chalons-Sur-Marne. The French city, located just South-East of Reims, was liberated in late August 1944. The markings 3A-44?? on the trailer's left fender indicate a unit attached to the 3rd US-Army under General Patton.
Two Military Policemen are riding their WLA motorcycles in the column. Note the License Plate attached to the bracket on the WLA on the left.... Both MP's are wearing the standard uniform composed of wool trousers and M1941 Field Jackets. Equipment is very light; only Pistol Belts with Canteens and First Aid Pouches are worn. Only one of the riders seems to have the MP brassard. Although not very clear, it seems they are both equipped with British motorcycle helmets.
The photo was taken from a Jeep; the top of the windshield is just visible..... Note the Jeep is equipped with Trico Vacuum Windshield Wipers, available in limited quantities in 1944.

 

'Stars Galore'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A GI from the 9th US Army Air Force poses on a WLA, somewhere in Europe during WW2.

The bike is a Type III with high Ammo Box. The headlight has been replaced with a Black Out Model which, in combination with the white painted fender tips and crash bars are an indication of use in England where black out conditions were common during the war. An extra light is mounted on the right of front forks.
No unit markings are visible, but the windshield is marked for a Military Police unit and at least 4 stars leave no doubt as to which Army the motorcycle belongs...

The Staff Sergeant is wearing the typical wool uniform of the era.

The 9th AAF moved to mainland Europe once airfields had been established on the continent after the Normandy invasion and seeing the style of house and tent in the background, this picture was most likely taken in France.
A military bicycle of British origin can be seen against the wall of the house...

 


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Company First Sergeant....'

The scenery in the background being typical for the French or Belgian countryside, this picture was probably taken in Northern France or Belgium around August/September 1944.

The bike is a Type II 42WLA with bicycle style kick starter and no Black Out Driving light.....
The leather saddle bags are fully packed. A tent roll and map case are strapped to the rear fender just under the saddle.
A Wire Cutter has been improvised on the front forks, a rather unusual feature on a motorcycle and more common on Jeeps in the ETO.
A leather flap has been added to the rear fender.

Although the markings are not clear, they show the bike probably belonged to Co A/817th Tank Destroyer Battalion, attached to the 3rd US Army at the end of August 1944
(3A-817TD A15)
Other interesting marking is the color coded invasion number on the oil tank.

The NCO wears the standard WW2 wool uniform, with paratrooper jump boots...

A local boy stands in the background, in front of what could be the local cemetery.

 

'Tent City...'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A total of seven (Yes, 7!) GIs have gathered on and around this bike in a tent camp somewhere in the ETO in 1944/1945.
As the bike is equipped with a low Ammo-Box and early fender, it must be a Type IV or early Type V.
Interestingly the windshield apron is marked 'PATROL'.

All men wear standard wool uniforms with so called 'Double Buckle' Combat Boots which did away with the cumbersome leggins from late 1944 onwards. The helmet nets with larger squares were typical of the 79th Infantry Division in Europe, but it is not clear if these men belonged to that unit.
Note the rank insignia painted on the helmets of some men.

 

'Going Downhill'

Motorcyclists of the 89th Infantry Division practise riding down steep slopes at Fort Carson, Colorado in 1944.

The leading bike shows some early features such as the bicycle style kick starter pedal, high Ammo Box and absence of BO Driving Light.
The markings on the fender show this WLA to be Vehicle N° 42 of the Divisional Reconnaisance Troop attached to the 89th Infantry Division Headquarters (89-X R-42).

Both riders wear the one-piece HBT suits with leggins and service shoes. Headgear consists of the Tanker's Winter Combat Helmet and M1938 Resistal Goggles.
Looking at the position of the rider on the first bike, one can only wonder why he isn't applying the foot brake.......

The 89th Infantry Division was the first major unit to be activated at Fort Carson during WW2 and was shipped to Europe in early 1945 where it saw combat during the last months of the war.


US Army Signal Corps Photo
Webmaster's Collection

 

'9th US Army Air Force...'

Once parts of France had been liberated following the Normandy invasion, units of the 9th USAAF moved to the continent to fly missions from often makeshift airfields.
The picture seems to have been taken on a temporary base, evidenced by the presence of PSP (Pierced Steel Planking) to stabilise the ground.
The absence of leaves on the trees in the background suggests the picture was taken late in 1944.

This Type IV or early Type V 42WLA is marked to the 40th Support Command of the 9th US Air Force (9*40th S.C.).
An extra Black Out light has been added to the front.


The rider wears a pair of flying sunglasses.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Aachen, Fall 1944...'

A WLA rider stands next to his ride as other GI's pose for the camera with the bike.
The picture was taken in Aachen, one of the first German cities to be captured by the US Army in the fall of 1944.

An M1938 Dispatch Case is slung from the leather gun scabbard on what appears to be a Type III 42WLA.

The rider is clad in typical winter garb for Armored crews, including the much coveted Tanker's Jacket and matching bib trousers, along with assorted headgear and M1938 Resistal Goggles.

A hastily camouflaged Half Track is parked in the background.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Armored Advance'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

An Armored unit advances through Palenburg, Germany in October 1944.

 The Low Ammo Box on the motorcycle on the left is clearly visible. The bike is equipped with both Legshields and Windshield, the latter bearing rather unusual Military Police markings. The two men in the middle of the street might be the MPs overlooking traffic...

Even at this late stage of the war, the GIs are still wearing the M1941 Wool Uniform although some have already received the new Combat Boots (aka Double Buckles).

An DR-5 Wire Reel has been fitted to the rear body panel of the Jeep on the left. Succes of Army Operations depended heavily on communication which led to thousands of miles of wire being laid near the front.

 

'Cannon Company...'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A Type IV or early Type V 42WLA is parked near the firing position of a 75mm M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage (HMC) somewhere in Europe during WW2.

The bike is equipped with a Low Ammo Box and a standard Windshield with the rubber strip around the edge of the plexi top. The fender marking CN over 25 indicates the 25th vehicle of an Infantry Regiment's Cannon Company although officially those companies were not issued motorcycles. The other markings are not clear and thus the unit of the WLA remains a mystery.

M8 HMCs were typically found in units of Armored Divisions.

 

'Adjusting the Front Brake'


US Army Signal Corps Photo / Webmaster's Collection

The photo above showing superb detail was taken on November 6th, 1944 by J.A. Demarco, Det E of the 165th Photo Signal Company attached to the US 1st Army in France.
Demarco typed the following caption on the back of the picture:
"Adjusting bearings of cycle is Tec 5 Charles W. Leazer, of So. Shaftsbury, VT, left, while rider, Pfc. Jack R. Rudeen, of Minneapolis, Minn, watches right. Tec 5 James W. McGriffin, of Kansas City, MO., stands in rear."

Although the bike is covered in mud and dust, there are some great details to be seen.
It's an early Type V 42WLA, evidenced by the first pattern front fender and steel carburetor inlet connector.
The blue-drab 'S' is visible on the dash cover and the headlight lens is covered with a canvas part.
A .30 Cal Ammo case is used to hold up the bike under the skidplate.
'NO RANK' has been painted as a nickname on the gas tank.

 Even at this late stage of the war, the GI's show a mix of early pattern uniforms, mixing HBT and wools with M1941 and Tanker's Jackets.
The motorcycle rider on the right has closed the holes in the crown of his tanker's helmet with tape, no doubt to keep his head warmer in the chilly European fall weather.......

 


US Army Signal Corps Photo / Webmaster's Collection

'Dutch-German Border Region'
November 1944

Pvt James F Hammons, a Military Policeman from the 29th MP Platoon, 29th Division, is about to ride off on his WLA in November 1944.....

Even at this later stage of the war he wears the regular wool trousers and a Winter Combat Jacket (aka Tanker's Jacket) with the 29th divisonal insignia on the left shoulder. He has managed to obtain a pair of Parachute Jump Boots, more comfortable than Service Shoes and Leggins. The helmet chinstrap is worn  buckled on the chin, an SOP within the 29th Division and fiercely enforced by the Division Commander, General Gerhardt. MP markings on the helmet consist of white MP letters and a yellow band. No doubt the 29th Blue & Gray YingYang insignia is painted above the letters MP.
Note the fringe on his leather gloves...

The motorcycle is a Type IV with low Ammo Box and unpainted cylinder heads. The original horn has been replaced by a (German?) civilian type and a Thompson Submachinegun is carried in the leather scabbard. Note the cadmium plated hose clamps on the air filter tube...
The windshield carries a ' Military Police' banner and the 29th insignia along with a 'V' and 'My Aachen Back', no doubt a reference to riding this 'hardtail' for a long time.....
This photo illustrates how the friction plate of the clutch pedal allows for the rider to leave the bike in gear with the clutch disengaged. The clutch pedal will remain in any position the rider leaves it. Here the transmission is in first gear...

 

'Putting on my Top Hat'...

    

Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

GIs from the 3rd Armored 'Spearhead' Division are clowning for the camera with a Top Hat and a WLA somewhere in Belgium in the winter of 1944-1945.

The Type III 42WLA shows signs of extensive war use, notably to the headlight and Ammo Box.
The three-color invasion bar code with unit number 42972 is clearly visible on the windshield apron along with the divisional marking on the front fender. The meaning of the chalk markings on the fender remains unknown.

A Lightweight Gas Mask bag is slung around the windshield...

 

'Muddy Germany'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A WLA rider leads fellow GIs in a Halftrack through the German village of Beggendorf near Aachen in November 1944. The road conditions are typical for those encountered by American troops in the ETO in the fall of 1944 and even with its low road clearance the WLA manages the mud quite well.

The motorcycle rider is clad in winter clothing composed of a 3rd pattern Mackinaw coat with Winter Combat Helmet and Goggles.

The legshield equipped Harley is fully loaded with bulky saddlebags and Thompson SMG in its leather scabbard.

 

'Battle of the Bulge'...


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two Military Policemen of the 5th Armored Division take a short break along a cobblestone road.
The picture was taken somewhere around Eupen, Belgium in late 1944.
Both MPs wear the heavy wool overcoat to protect them from the bitter cold in the Ardennes.
In front of the house in the background, a couple of Jeeps are being refueled.

Both WLAs are standard and the markings of the 5th Armored Division's Headquarters are visible on the rear fender of the bike in the foreground. Stars and nicknames have been painted on the tanks.

 


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Belgian Winter...'

A rider of the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion attached to the 3rd Armored Division poses with his bike in snowy Belgium early in 1945.

The motorcycle is a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA with low Ammo Box and first pattern front fender. Oddly the Black Out Drive light and its bracket are missing from the front forks.

This GI still wears the early WW2 wool uniform with OD Field Jacket (aka M1941) with the cloth Winter Combat Helmet adorned with Airway type goggles. Although difficult to make out, his shoes seem to be cloth Overshoes.

No extra gear is carried on the bike although the luggage rack is fitted with two straps.
A steel M1 helmet is attached over the bike's headlight.

 

'Atrocious Weather'

The winter of 1944-45 was one of the worst and coldest in history, yet it didn't stop the WLA riding GI!

This picture was taken in Europe that winter.
Extra skirts have been attached to the front fender of the bike to protect the rider's legs from mud and snow.
Sadly the identity and unit of the GI remain unknown.

The uniform worn by the rider is barely different from the one he wore coming ashore in France the previous Summer and one can only imagine how miserable conditions must have been for the soldiers at the front.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 


Private photo via Thierry Debruyn

'Snow.....'

Posing on a 42WLA during winter 1944-1945 near the Belgian/German border is Guy Shoaf who participated in all campaigns of the ETO as a member of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. With Company F he was one of the first men to reach the top of the Pointe du Hoc on D-Day.

The bike is a bit of an oddity. It has the headlight in the high position as on a Type I 42WLA, but the makeshift headlight bracket and (German?) horn suggest the light was moved upwards by the unit mechanics.
There are no visible features to tell exactly what type this is.

Markings are limited to 2RNGR, indicating a vehicle of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. Ranger Battalions were issued 6 motorcycles for messenger duty during WW2.

Shoaf wear winter garb with a Tanker's Jacket and either has paratrooper boots or overshoes. He seems to be holding a Thompson Submachine Gun.

 

'Slippery Riding.....'

A messenger takes on a muddy road in a German forrest in early 1945.
Even in this late stage of the war, he still wears the M1941 Field Jacket and he has a pair of M1944 Goggles on the Tanker's Helmet. Note the tan scarf around his neck.....
He carries an M1 Carbine on his back and there's no leather scabbard in the front fork holder. A bedding roll is strapped to the rear luggage rack.

The motorcycle is a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA with low Ammo Box and first pattern front fender. Although no windshield is mounted, the fork spring guard is attached to the handlebars just behind the horn. Note the fuel valve rod is pulled up in the reserve position..!!
The motorcycle is marked as the 59th vehicle of the 6th Cavalry Group attached to the 3rd US Army
 ( 3A-6C GP-59 )


US Army Signal Corps Photo
via Alain Batens

 

'USAAF Advanced Landing Ground'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A Staff Sergeant poses on a standard Type III 42WLA equipped with both Windshield and Legshields in front of a Headquarters building in Giraumont, France in March 1945.
Giraumont is located just a few miles from Conflans where the US Army Air Forces established their Advanced Landing Ground A-94 from November 1944 to May 1945.

The rider is wearing a one-piece Herringbone Twill (HBT) Suit with double-buckle combat boots and the USAAF Type A-3 Mechanic's Cap confirms his Air Force branch.

The Jeep in the background is fitted with improvised doors and fully enclosed top.
The caption on the original picture describes it as the Chaplain's Jeep.

 

'Brothers in Arms'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Four GIs from the 460th Anti-Aircraft-Artillery (AAA) Automatic Weapons Battalion have their picture taken with a WLA near Naumburg, Germany in April 1945.

The motorcycle bears signs of use with a broken headlight and added lamp on the handlebars. The metal strap on the legshields has been repositioned and fixed around the front crashbars for extra support. A rather large star has been painted on the front fender. The marking above the star remains unclear.

A British Jerrycan fitted with a red 80 Octane tag can be seen in the foreground.

 

'Exploring the Italian countryside....'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

An Officer and a Technical Sergeant have both taken a WLA for a spin around the Italian Countryside during the later part of the war in Europe.
The NCO rides a Type III, while the Officer has a Type IV. Both bikes bear traces of heavy use showing several dents and scratches. Both bikes lack the Black Out Driving Light.
This pictures allows for easy comparison between the high and low type Ammo Boxes on the front forks.

Since the men don't have any insignia and the bikes' fenders are not marked, the unit remains unclear.
The only markings on the bikes are the white stars with interrupted white circle, rather typical for units in Italy.

 

 
Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'The Chief...'

Lieutenant Halsey S HAYS stands between two WLAs, somewhere in Europe in 1944.

Both bikes have white markings on the front fender and one bike has had its windshield apron painted white and marked 'POLICE' and 'CHIEF', referring perhaps to this Officer.
A 6-Volt 'Victory' siren has been mounted on top of the headlight and horn bracket of the bike. These sirens were generally mounted on armored vehicles.

Lt HAYS wears a leather Air Force Type A-2 Flying Jacket in combination with tan (pink) trousers and Parachute Jump Boots.

 

'La Bella Italia....'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Both WLAs shown above are marked to HQ, 10 Port Battalion attached to the Peninsular Base Section (PBS). The PBS was a large organisation which controlled the ports of Naples and Leghorn (Livorno) and the rest of occupied Italy during the later stage of WW2.

Both windshields and fenders have been painted white for better visiblity. The bike on the left with first pattern front fender is either a Type II or III. The WLA on the right has the second pattern fornt fender with high Ammo Box which indicates parts have been mixed.

Both GI's probably belong to the Maintenance & Repair Section (M&R) of the above mentioned unit and their bikes provided a rapid means of transport from one place to another. They both wear light HBT uniforms.

 

'Good Ole Sarge...'

This picture is actually a postcard printed in France and sent home by this Technical Sergeant during WW2.

The motorcycle seems to be an early Type III 42WLA identified by the rectangular air filter and the absence of a Black Out Driving Light on the front forks. But then again the headlight is missing too....
Otherwise the bike is fairly standard with both windshield and legshields fitted.
Note the tire pump attached to the upper rear forks.

Looking at the age of the GI on the bike, he most probably belongs to a support unit behind the front line and his rather casual uniform seems to confirm this.
Of special interest is his jacket which is a so-called 'ETO' jacket manufactured by the British under the Reverse Lend-Lease Agreements and supplied 'en masse' to US troops in Europe in 1944.


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'Motorpool Harley'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

This WLA without Ammo Box and Scabbard Carrier has a slightly damaged front fender.
Where and when the picture was taken is not clear, but the Jeep in the background is from a 1943 contract, so the photo was taken in the second half of the war in what looks like a unit's motorpool.
Jeeps, Dodge and GMC Trucks are all visible in the picture and another GI is working on the Dodge 6x6.
The Jeep and WLA are both marked to a PWR unit, but it is not clear what that means.
PWR is not mentioned in the Army Regulations. Could it have something to do with Prisoner of War Camps?

 

'CBI Theater of Operations'

The use of the WLA was not restricted to the European Theater of Operations as shown by this T5 wearing a CBI Theater (China-Burma-India) Patch on his Summer uniform shirt.

The motorcycle is a straight from the line early Type V with first pattern front fender and steel carburetor inlet tube.
Markings are very basic and consist only of an MP stencil on the front fender and the words 'Military Police' stenciled on the windshield apron.
Note the legshield brackets and rather odd handlebar grips.
The front tire seems a Good Year Motorcycle Sport Special.

Place and date of this picture and the identity of the rider remain unknown.


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'Parts Bike'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two unidentified GIs sit on a Type II 42WLA which has obviously seen a lot of action and is now used as a source of parts for other motorcycles.
The front fender is dinged and the headlight and horn are missing as is the exhaust muffler. There is no rear chain driving the rear wheel so this bike cannot be ridden. The rear tire is just about flat.

Uniforms are limited to Summer Cotton Trousers, and with the war still going on, a M1911A1 Pistol is carried in a leather holster.

 

'After the Bulge...'

A T4 of the 67th Medical Group has his picture taken in Hastière, Belgium, in February 1945.
Now the Battle of the Bulge is won and spring is coming, the end of the war in the ETO is in sight.

The WLA is marked as the 8th vehicle of the 67th Medical Group attached to the 15th Army ( 15A67MGP-8 ).
The 67th was originally constituted as the 67th Medical Regiment in July 1942 and was reorganized as the 67th Medical Group in September 1943. It served as a Headquarters Unit for Medical support in the ETO.

The bike is a Type III 42WLA equipped with makeshift legshields, based on the standard design.
This picture clearly illustrates the protection offered by the legshields which are covered by mud thrown towards the rider's legs by the front wheel.

The headlight is missing.


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'Tank Transporter'...


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

The crew of an M26 Heavy Tractor stand in front of their rig somewhere in the ETO in winter 44-45
It seems the 'Dragon Wagon' is coupled to another M26, whose wheels are just visible on the left.
The vehicle is adorned with a Donald Duck like character.

The unit has its own motorcycle escort on a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA and the bike's windshield is clearly marked 'TANK TRANSPORTER' leaving no doubt as to the rider's mission.

Even at this later stage of the war, all crewmembers still wear early style jackets (M1941, Tanker's or Mackinaws) although M1943 Field Jackets started to replace all of these by mid 1944.

 

     
Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Italian Mud...'

A Military Policeman sits on his Harley-Davidson somewhere in Italy in 1944/45.

Although the exact MP unit is not clear, this WLA sports markings that are typical for a motorcycle of the 202nd Military Police Company attached to the US 5th Army's Second Corps.
The front fender tip is highlighted in white with both 'MP' and blue-and-white Corps markings. Circled stars have been applied to the gas tank and luggage rack.
Additional lights and horn have been mounted to the front.

The rider wears paratrooper style boots with HBT Trousers and an OD Field Jacket.

The 202nd MP Company was activated at Camp Blanding, FL in May 1942 and saw action in North Africa, Sicily and Italy during WW2.

 

'Cobblestone Ride'

An American soldier is about to mount a WLA during the war.

Looking at the low Ammo Box and first pattern Front Fender the bike is a Type IV or early Type V 42WLA.
The leather Saddle Bags are visible against the wall in the background. An M1 Carbine is carried in the leather scabbard on the front forks.
The unit remains unknown but the large marking used for the motorcycle's nickname on the oil tank might indicate an Armored unit. This picture came out of a grouping from a 67th Armored Regt soldier.

The GI is wearing standard wool trousers with the Winter Combat Jacket, favored by Armored crews. Only the helmet liner is worn as headgear.

The house and cobblestone street are typical for the old European towns.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 


Private photo via Alain S Batens

'Germany, 1945'

A Ranger of the 2nd Battalion rides his Type III 42WLA thru pre-war built German Army barracks in the spring of 1945.
This GI wears the standard uniform consisting of  Service Shoes, M1938 Leggins, wool trousers and shirt and an Armored Force's Winter Combat Helmet with American Optical goggles.

Contrary to the 2nd Rangers' bike shown above, this one is marked to the 2nd Ranger Battalion attached to 12th Army Group (12AGP  2-RNGR), again with no specific subunit specified.
A star is painted on the side of the gas tank.
The Black Out driving light has had its shield removed and the sunburst horn, found on most military models, has been replaced by the type carrying the HD logo.
It is not clear what is attached to the Submachinegun bracket. It could be an electric siren......
Tires are Good Year 'G3' Deluxe All Weather type. This type is available from the Coker Tire Company 'Here' and is correct for restorations....

 

'7th Army Rider'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

The above picture shows a GI on a standard Type III 42WLA during WW2.
The markings 7A X indicate the motorcycle belongs to a unit attached to the Headquarters of the US 7th Army which operated all over Europe during the war.

The uniform of the rider is the standard wool uniform of the era, worn without leggins or other equipment.

In the background are other vehicles of the unit with a rather uncommon 2 1/2 Ton Gasoline Truck on the right.

 

'Harleys and Scout Cars'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

This is actually a cropped postcard showing a Military Police unit with 14 WLAs and Scout Cars.
The landscape and the fact that the postcard was printed on AGFA photopaper lead me to believe this picture was taken somewhere in Europe during WW2.
Note the variation of white painted parts and MP markings. It seems white stars are painted on all front fenders.
Some bikes have their headlights removed while others have pursuit lights added.

This is 'Tanks in Town' 1944 style......

 

'The end is near...'

Near the end of the war in Europe, a Military Policeman of the 804th MP Company attached to the US VIIth Corps sits on his Type III 42WLA in Germany in the spring sun of early 1945.

The insignia of the VIIth Corps is painted on both helmet and windshield apron. The fender markings are VII-X above 804P-8 indicating the 8th vehicle of the Company. Other parts of the bike have been highlighted in white and skirts have been added to the front fender. Legshields are attached to the frame.

The rider wears the Arctic Field Jacket, even at this late stage of the war. He holds a pair of sunglasses in his hands. A rifle or Carbine, protected by a canvas cover, is kept in the leather scabbard.

The picture was taken along the river Rhine between Bonn and Remagen as indicated by the roadsign indicating the river ferry at Rolandseck (Fähre Rolandseck).


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

 

'Sightseeing in Italy...'

Somewhere in Italy a GI is taking pictures.

A Type IV 42WLA has been parked on the side of the road and the varied and striking markings lead us to believe this picture was taken after the end of hostilities.
Multiple stars, along with the US 5th Army insignia, adorn the windshield and the front fender, the latter also bearing the following marking: 5A-101-P  C-5 (5th vehicle, 101st MP Battalion attached to 5th US Army). The bike has been fitted with two pursuit lights (one bearing the letters 'MP') and an electric siren.
Leg Shields are mounted but no weapon is carried on the front forks.


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'389th Military Police Battalion'...

    

Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

The three WLAs shown above are all marked 389P which indicates the 389th Military Police Battalion.
The 389th saw service in Europe during WW2 and was attached to the US Army Channel Base Section (CBS) to guard the Cherbourg area after the Summer of 1944 and later deployed to Belgium and Germany before being inactivated in late 1946. All bikes show a variety of white painted parts and markings. On the WLA on the left, a plate underneath the rear lights identifies the unit along with front fender markings. The US Army registration number has been painted on the tank.
The motorcycle on the right still carries markings for the 389th MP Bn, but now attached to an unknown Zone.

The GI posing on the WLA on the right wears the typical late WW2 wool uniform with the popular 'IKE' jacket.

 

'Coming Home'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

An American motorcycle MP guides the Czechoslovakian Armored Brigade through Pilsen on 18th May 1945.

The Czech Brigade had broken the siege of Dunkirk, France shortly before and was welcomed home by a flag waving crowd. The Czech soldiers are escorted through the city by a WLA-riding MP from the US Army's 2nd 'Indian Head' Division which had advanced towards Pilsen earlier and Divisional MPs can be seen guarding German prisoners on the right.

The Czech Brigade was equipped with British (Lend-Lease) uniforms and equipment and two British motorcycles and International M5/M9 Half Track can be seen next to the US Harley-Davidson.

 

'Two WW2 US Army Icons'...


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

The bike shown above next to a Ford GPW Jeep seems a Type II with Bicycle Style starter pedal and
no Black Out Driving Light.
A cracked windshield, damaged starter pedal and several repainted parts suggest extensive use.
Corporal Stripes have been painted on the tip of the front fender and the insignia of the 8th Service Command has been applied to the tanks.
Service Commands carried out logistical functions within the continental United States.
The 8th Service Command comprised units and camps in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

 This picture showing two WW2 Vehicle Icons was taken outside the Motorpool Office at Camp Swift, Texas in 1945. Note the female driver at the wheel of the Jeep. The CS marking on the Jeep's bumper indicates Camp Swift while the PMP-35 marking remains a mystery. GIs wear khaki Summer uniforms.

 

'Parachute Infantry Patrolmen'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two paratroopers of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment pose on WLAs after the end of the war in Europe. During the early occupation period many units were assigned to patrol and police various areas of Germany.

The windshields of both bikes have been painted white and marked to the unit (508P.I.) with the same marking repeated on the front fender of the WLA on the left.
Oddly the bike on the left carries part of the USA registration number (W636421) near the tip of the fender identifying the motorcycle as a Type III 42WLA. Note the difference in front tires...

Both riders wear Garrison Caps with parachute badges and Jump Boots. The rider on the right wears an IKE jacket with full awards and insignia while the one on the left has donned a B-6 Type Air Force Jacket.

 

'9th US Army Motorcycle'

An American GI poses on a WLA motorcycle near the end of the war in Europe.

The bike shows considerable wear to the front fender and accessories. Although still attached to the front forks the machinegun bracket  is missing the loop and scabbard support.
Oddly the front safety bars have holes drilled which might have been used to attach makeshift canvas leg shields.

The circled star on the front fender is the only visible marking on the bike so its unit remains a mystery. The trucks in the background are marked for units of the 9th US Army.
The Diamond T truck belongs to the 207th Field Artillery Battalion.

The soldier is wearing the standard wool uniform with the so-called double buckle combat boots...


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

 

'Ordnancemen policing the Reims area'

                  
Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

At the end of WW2, many GI's passed thru Camp Brooklyn near Reims, France on their way back to the USA.
The 85th Ordnance Battalion organised a Military Police section to police the area.
The two pictures above show bikes, which are marked OIS above 85-O and Military Police and/or MP to indicate the unit.
The picture on the left was probably taken shortly after the end of hostilities, while the image on the right, taken late 1945, shows how the bikes have been enhanced by white paint.
Note the multitude of lights, horns and sirens on the bikes and the added mudguards on the Jeep on the left.
 Riders on the right wear breeches and Cavalry Boots.

 

'Heavy Wreckers'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

This WLA was photographed in a French town at the end of the war.
It is a standard Type III model, confirmed by the registration number U.S.A. 622999 painted on the tank.
The lack of scabbard and the unarmed GIs indicate the picture was taken far behind the frontline. The soldier on the right, who is probably the driver of the Ward La France wrecker in the background, leans on what seems to be a flag attached to the WLA's gun rack. Both GIs and vehicles are from the 344th Ordnance Battalion and the motorcycle is most probably used to escort the wrecker through traffic.
Again some parts of both the wrecker and bike have been painted white for better visibility.
The wrecker's hood is folded open for enhanced engine cooling.

Both men wear the wool uniform with either Jump or Double Buckle boots.

 

'Patrolling French towns'...

  
   
Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

 Military Policemen of the 380th MP Battalion take turns posing on a WLA in the French city of Noyon in September 1945.

The war now over, a lot of parts on the bike have been highlighted with white paint and the Black-Out Driving light has been replaced by two 'pursuit' lights.
Note the tire pump on the rear safety bars and the mudflap attached to the rear fender.
The US Army registration number is painted on the side of the oil tank.

 

'Berlin Snowdrop...'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A US Army Military Policeman of the 822nd MP Company patrols the streets of Berlin in the Summer of 1945.

The WLA has an added metal windshield and several parts have been highlighted in white along with the MP's British type dispatch rider's helmet which gave the MPs their nickname 'Snowdrops'. The front fender marking shows this is the 24th vehicle of the 822nd MP Company (822P over 24) with the Company number duplicated on the windshield.

The rider is wearing the standard US Army wool 4-pocket Service Coat on which the awards show previous combat duty in an Infantry unit. The shoulder sleeve insignia is the US Forces European Theater (USFET) patch which replaced the similar but black SHAEF insignia after VE-Day.

 

'The 4 Musketeers'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

These GIs from the 3511th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company were known as the 4 Musketeers. The picture was taken while on occupation duty in Germany in the immediate postwar period. No weapons are carried and both machinegun brackets and ammo boxes have been removed from the bikes.
Crash Bars have been painted white and markings removed. Interestingly each WLA is fitted with a different front tire.

Uniforms are worn in a rather informal fashion.

Note the steering wheel, leather seats, chrome hubcap and extended fender on the Jeep in the back...

 

      
Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Italian Summer of 1945'

A GI rides a WLA in the Italian sun at Caserta during the Summer of 1945.
The military equipment has been removed from the bike which makes it very hard to determine its type but it is most probably a type III.
With the war over, the motorcycle still shows signs of extensive use, notably on the front fender.

The uniform of the rider consists of the Summer cotton shirt and trousers. Rank insignia and medal ribbons are barely visible on the shirt.

 

'Wiesbaden Patrol...'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two American MPs patrol the streets of Wiesbaden, Germany in the immediate post-WW2 period.

Both WLAs have High Ammo Boxes and are equipped with both Legshields and Windshield. The Windshield Aprons have been painted white and bear black MILITARY POLICE markings. Pursuit lights have been added to the front forks.

Both riders are wearing the Wool Service Uniform with MP brassard and British Dispatch Riders' Helmets.

 

'US Forces in Austria'

   
Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

Right after the end of the war in Europe, Austria was divided in four zones which were occupied by the main Allied Powers. The American troops were known as the US Forces in Austria (USFA). Military Police units were amongst the first Americans to be stationed in the country with the 505th MP Bn leading the way. The 202nd MP Company whose main mission was to protect the USFA Headquarters in the capital Vienna and others such as the 524th and 796th MP Bn would soon follow. These pictures show American MPs on motorcycle patrol in Vienna.

The WLA on the left has side skirts added to the front fender and the tool box is missing. The USFA insignia is marked on the windshield apron and on a metal plate holding a shroudless BO Driving Light and extra pursuit light. On the WLA on the right, the windshield also carries the USFA insignia between the letters M and P and a white star has been painted on the leather Submachinegun Scabbard in front of which a pursuit light is barely visible. The horn has been replaced by a non-WLA model.
On this WLA a siren is mounted on the rear frame above the Tool Box, a highly unusual location for such a device.

The occupation of Austria would end in 1955 with the Austrian State Treaty after which all foreign troops were withdrawn.

 

'Me and my Pal'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

Two GI's on their bikes somewhere in Europe just after WW2.
The casual look and the lack of arms indicate this photo was taken after hostilities ended.
Whether or not both are Military Policemen is not clear; there are no brassards visible and only one bike is marked MP.

It's not really clear what type of WLA they have, but both have first pattern front fenders. It seems some parts have been taken off and others added. Both are (partially) lacking the Machine Gun carrier and both sport odd headlights which seem smaller than the Guide Cycleray models. The bike on the right is equipped with a British military style rear view mirror of which the glass is already broken.
Although not very clear, it seems the bike on the left has the earlier leatherette windshield apron, with the later canvas model on the right.
Note the different tire patterns.

Both riders wear M1943 field jackets with ties and shirts, and the rider on the right has a 'Combat Unit Patch' on his right sleeve, all indicating again that by now the war is over and they belong to the Occupation Army in Germany.

 

'Post WW2 Germany'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

A GI poses on a WLA in Wetzlar, Germany in 1946.
The war over, US troops have now become an Army of Occupation and are stationed all over the country.

The SubmachineGun Carrier and Ammo Box bracket have been removed from the motorcycle which now serves mainly as a patrol and liaison vehicle. Two pursuit lights have been added and the horn has been replaced.
The rear view mirror is attached to the front safety bar and the gas valve is pulled up to release the reserve supply. The objects mounted under the saddle and towards the rear side of the luggage rack remain a mystery.

The wool service uniform worn by the soldier is still similar to the wartime pattern.

 

 

For images of WLAs supplied to other countries under 'Lend-Lease' during WW2, please click
HERE!

 

 

WLAs in Magazines and Advertising

The use of motorcycles in large numbers by the US Army did not go unnoticed and WLAs were featured in many magazines, posters and advertisements all thru WW2.

   
Webmaster's Collection

The November 29th, 1941 issue of the popular Colliers's magazine featured a 4 page article on the 'Toughest Guys in the Army' and showed several WLAs in action.
The article was entitled 'Hell on Wheels' and had images from the 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion.
The cover photo shows a 41WLA with long front fork, high headlight and louvre style black out fender light.
The rider wears the blue denim work suit with Air Corps style headgear and M1938 Resistal goggles.
A Training Gas Mask and a Dust Respirator are attached to the front forks.
His 'side' during the War Games is indicated by pieces of orange cloth on the bike and his arm.

A WW2 US Army poster expressing the need to conserve wood for the war effort features a 41WLA which is clearly based on the Collier's Magazine cover picture. Note the horn and dust mask under the headlight...

 


Webmaster's Collection

The December 1942 issue of the Harley-Davidson  Enthusiast Magazine featuring another 41WLA on the cover.
The marking consist of a white star marked with the letters AFS in black for Armored Forces School.
The rider is a Company First Sgt, wearing the early war rank insignia with three stripes and only two rockers.

 

Although hardly any civilian motorcycles were produced by Harley-Davidson during WW2; the Company was determined to let the public know motorbikes would be available once the war was over.
The US Army Messengers would be the Company's new customers after the war.
Advertisements in magazines made no secret of HD's plans for the future, while at the same time appealing to invest in War Bonds to be able to afford a new Harley-Davidson after the war....

 

Below are ads from 'Popular Science' Magazines from June 1943 and March, September and November 1944.
Note the 41WLA with Buddy Seats in the first ad and the Army 'E' for Excellence award banner in the 1944 ads.......

   

       
All ads from the Webmaster's Collection

 

   
Martin Bogaert Collection

WLAs, in ads for both Firestone and Good Year tires, appeared in 'The Motorcyclist',
a popular MC-riders' magazine, published in the 30's and 40's....
Note the early equipment with M1917A1 'Kelly' helmets and first pattern 'Doughnut' tankers' helmets
 Ads from 1942. 

 

    
Webmaster's Collection

Left: A midwar ad for Bundy Tubing showing men of the107th Cavalry Regiment on the move in May 1942. Bikes are Type I 42WLAs with high headlights.
The motorcyclists are followed by Jeeps.
Center: A 1944 ad for Autocar Trucks featuring a USAAF F2 Fuel Trailer Rig escorted by a WLA rider.
Right: Two GI's have a break and a Camel.... One rides a 42WLA, while the other has an Indian 741B, the 'other' US Army motorcycle....
Both riders wear HBT suits and large leather kidney belts and are armed with M1 Carbines.
This ad appeared in January 1945.