The Wild Stories of the Motorcycles in the 6th Armored Division during World War II. The motorcycles might have caused more problems then the Germans!
Soldiers recount their experiences:
Mel Rappaport – HQ 6th Armored Division
“Yes, we did have Harleys in the division. We had them when we were training at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas and in the Mojave desert in California. In fact, I learned how to drive them, and even suffered a bad fall. I recall all of this very well. Once you master that monster machine, you want to go fast! I was in the desert, making a turn, in the heavy desert sands. The darn thing fell on top of me and it burned my legs as it fell on top of me. That sucker weighed a lot, even in those good old days.
I was careful after that incident; we used them for traffic control. For example, on a road march, they would rush to the front of a tank column, and at a cross road would direct traffic like a traffic cop.
We still had them at Camp Cooke, CA, but if I remember correctly, we had a lot of bad motorcycle accidents and a lot of drivers were hospitalized, all due to recklessness. So I think General Grow just did away with them. Too dangerous. One of my good friends, Sgt. Able, was very badly hurt in a fall and was in the camp hospital.
That was the end of the cycles in our 6th Armored Division. I do not know about the other divisions. All of this is my recollections going down old memory lane, but we did have the motorcycles in the division up to 1943.
Nick, Reconnaissance Company 603rd Tank Destroyer Battalion
“We had Harley motorcycles in Recon Company of the 603rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, and we did take them overseas with us. I believe we had one for each platoon. One of our first casualties was a fellow named Jacobsen who was delivering a message to Headquarters, and had an accident while trying to negotiate a turn on the way back. He was found by some French people, but they were unable to save him.
I cannot remember exactly when, but the motorcycles disappeared later on. They actually were of no use to us, and a real hazard to those that rode them in combat areas. Radios sort of made them obsolete.”
Wayne Field, 2nd platoon, D Troop, 86th Reconnaissance Battalion
“During the spring of 1945 some of us in the 86th found a German motorcycle and rode it a little just for fun. I might say, it ISN’T impossible to ride it a slow speeds, just difficult to hold it down.
As a 18-year-old replacement my first motorcycle ride was in Germany. I tried to turn too short and wound up on my back looking up at the machine, the gasoline dripping from the gas tank cap. I’m thankful there wasn’t a spark or flame around.
My first horseback ride was over there too. I tried to get on from the left side and landed several feet behind the horse. The horse has the upper hand, or was it foot? I tried again, this time going from the top of a fence to the back of the horse, and succeeded. Oh, there wasn’t a saddle around. I don’t remember if there was a halter, but I’m sure there wasn’t a bridle.”
Here is another motorcycle story of sorts.
Horace W Lennon – A Company 25th Armored Engineer Battalion
“On our first morning in combat, we came to a bridge the Germans had blown. The water was only about 2 feet deep so we went on across. On the other side there was an abandoned German motorcycle. My platoon leader Lt. G ( we won’t call his name ), examined it and decided it was ridable. He cranked it up, gunned it a few times, and rode it around in a couple of circles. I was in the 1st Platoon’s half track and he motioned me over. He said: “Sgt. Lennon, you’re in charge now—ride in my jeep—I’m going to do some recon on this motorcycle.” With that he took off.
He’d hardly been gone 5 minutes when the call came in for the engineers to clear some mines. I took a detail (one squad) and we got busy. We cleared and deactivated the mines and placed them outside the road. The convoy got moving again and soon had our first contact with the enemy. Thankfully, it was a light skirmish and we went on our way, but it wasn’t long before the call came out again: “Mines—Engineers!”. After we cleared that batch we came in contact with a German outpost. The Infantry took care of that. By then it was starting to get dark and the call came down to go into bivouac and post guard. There wasn’t much sleeping that night. We could hear sporadic action up ahead. I thought they were “feelers” testing us out.
About daybreak orders came down to get things ready to move out. I heard someone calling for the engineer platoon so I yelled: “Engineers over here!”.
It was my CO, Captain Brooks. He said he was looking for Lt. G. I told him he had ridden off the day before on a German motorcycle, leaving me in charge, and I hadn’t seen him since. After a few choice words, he promised to get me a new platoon leader, and did right away. Lt. Vermillion came and stayed with us from then on. Rumor was that Lt. G. was given a desk job. As for the motorcycle, we never saw it again.”
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