Primary research by Dan Fong, Web Staff.
Photo credits & captions are further below.
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The Spearhead Harley-Davidsons

  In WWII the 3AD had more Harley-Davidson motorcycles than Sherman tanks and could easily have been called the "3rd Hell's Angels Division." The Model WLA was the most recognized version of the U.S. military's WWII-era bikes, and the 3AD during the combat of 1944-45 had in excess of 300 of them, plus a much lesser amount of other versions, such as the side-car model and a shaft-drive bike. Of the Division's 300 (+) Harley WLA's, over 100 were destroyed by enemy fire or land mines, and some by accidents, in the span of ten months. (Article continues below after photo captions)

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  Photo Credits & Captions:

A Harley bike and armored car from 83rd Recon rolls by the Rothchild Estate, Rommel's former headquarters, outside of Pontcarre, France, on Aug. 27, 1944. (Photo by Marvin Mischnick, 3AD Hq, G-2 section)

Next: An unidentified 3AD rider and his heavily laden Harley WLA somewhere in France. The stowage is covering the fender-mounted blackout light, headlight, and horn. The lettering on the front fender indicates it's Hq bike #22 of either the 32nd or 33rd Armor. The lettering has been partly obscured (in a half-hearted way) by a censor's grease pencil so the photo could be released to the press. (Army Signal Corps photo).

Next: A mid-production WLA is shown in this stateside factory photo. The bike changed during the course of the war, creating the 40-WLA, 41-WLA, and 42 WLA models, each slightly different. Notice in this mid-production model the leg shields mounted just behind the crash bars. (US Army photo)

Bottom: James B. Howard of Ennis, Texas, of Hq Co, 3rd Bn, 32nd Armored Regiment is shown on a muddy WLA at an unknown location. The photo was taken by an unknown Bn comrade and sent to us in 2006 by Howard's step-son, William R. Gordon of Harrisburg, PA.


Continuation of article at top of page:

These of course were replaced with new bikes that were constantly being shipped from the U.S. via England. Both Harley-Davidson and its competitor Indian produced numerous models for military use, but apparently the 3AD was a Harley-only unit. According to Division WWII veteran and military vehicle expert Belton Cooper in 2006, Indians were not in the 3AD inventory. He also was quoted as saying that, if a Harley was knocked out or otherwise inoperable, it was normally just dumped off the road, as there was no time for bike repairs. Unfortunately very few photos of 3AD Harley's and their riders are known to exist today, and stories of those often daring riders have never been told. Harley had built bikes for the military since WWI, and the WLA was simply a militarized version of the civilian 45-size WL. Military lighting and lack of chrome are two of the most important changes. The WLA served the US and its allies (including the Soviets) well through WWII and beyond, and many continue to be ridden today in both restored military configuration, as well as in "civilized" form.

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