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Old 10-31-09, 03:54 PM   #1
Old Town
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Bicycles in WW2

If anyone has the DVD collection on World War 2 called "The World At War" you should go to the section on war in the Pacific. First I should say this documentary was first released in 1974 and is both longer and better than Ken Burns' series called "The War". I like all of Ken Burns' stuff but the earlier work on WW2 is far more extensive. Anyway, I was watching the original show many years ago with my WW2 veteran father. He was a submariner and served in the Pacific. In one scene it shows long lines of Japanese foot soldiers riding bicycles along mudding jungle roads. The narrator was going on about how hard it was for the Americans to get their armor and gear around because of the conditions. He then went on to describe the use of the bike by Japanese soldiers as their "secret weapon" because they could move faster than the US guys.

I remember turning to my dad years ago and asking him if this was true. Did the Japanese have this "secret weapon". He looked at the image on the TV screen with an odd and almost disgusted look on his face. He said, "Bikes? Christ, no. The boys were more worried about frikken machineguns and knee mortars. Bicycles? What the hell?"

I recently got a new DVD set of "The World At War". On seeing the Pacific part again I thought of my father.
This same film series is filled with European scenes with bicycles of all kinds ridden by refugees and those who stayed put. It's worth a look if you can find it.
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Old 10-31-09, 04:49 PM   #2
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Can't relate to the American bikes in the war- but I have been "Informed" that bikes were used by the allied troops on D Day. Even been shown pictures of them. Problem is that I knew someone that was "Allocated" a bike for the invasion and he couldn't even get it off the beach it was so heavy. They got left on the beach for others to try to ride.

The only bikes he knew that were in use were on camps that were set up well after D Day. Till then- they were crawling across open ground and not sitting on bikes and being easy targets.
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Old 10-31-09, 05:55 PM   #3
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stapfam: There is some footage with either American or British troops holder their bikes in front of them balance on the rear wheel all crammed into landing craft headed for the beaches of Normandy. It reminded me of people you see on trains trying to make their bike as small as possible.
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Old 10-31-09, 09:14 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Old Town View Post
If anyone has the DVD collection on World War 2 called "The World At War" you should go to the section on war in the Pacific. First I should say this documentary was first released in 1974 and is both longer and better than Ken Burns' series called "The War". I like all of Ken Burns' stuff but the earlier work on WW2 is far more extensive. Anyway, I was watching the original show many years ago with my WW2 veteran father. He was a submariner and served in the Pacific. In one scene it shows long lines of Japanese foot soldiers riding bicycles along mudding jungle roads. The narrator was going on about how hard it was for the Americans to get their armor and gear around because of the conditions. He then went on to describe the use of the bike by Japanese soldiers as their "secret weapon" because they could move faster than the US guys.

I remember turning to my dad years ago and asking him if this was true. Did the Japanese have this "secret weapon". He looked at the image on the TV screen with an odd and almost disgusted look on his face. He said, "Bikes? Christ, no. The boys were more worried about frikken machineguns and knee mortars. Bicycles? What the hell?"

I recently got a new DVD set of "The World At War". On seeing the Pacific part again I thought of my father.
This same film series is filled with European scenes with bicycles of all kinds ridden by refugees and those who stayed put. It's worth a look if you can find it.
Yeah. The Malaysian campaign. The Japs took Singapore by cycing though the jungle.
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Old 11-01-09, 06:49 AM   #5
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Sirrus Rider: When I saw the film again the other day I could not help but think "mountain biking" was a not invented by some California hippies back in the late 60s.
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Old 11-01-09, 07:20 AM   #6
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Bikes played a very small part in the South Pacific Theater. The Japanese soldiers used them on roads in relatively tame places , not what we would consider off-road.
I think the secret weapon is a stretch, interesting though.

It is funny what Old Town wrote; "not invented".... World At War is a must see.
Footage had been televised in the '50s. The full "series" later. My father spent over five years in the Army. Most of which in the Marshals, Gilberts, Hawaii...all brutal.
I've hundreds of photos, a buddy of his was keen with a camera, almost incredible.
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Old 11-01-09, 10:04 AM   #7
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the finnish big screen movie 'ambush' shows bikes in the finnish russian conflict.

bikes, guns and explosions and a great narrative of finnish bike troops fighting the russians.

a scene from ambush

i really recommend renting it.

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Old 11-01-09, 10:31 AM   #8
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the finnish big screen movie 'ambush' shows bikes in the finnish russian conflict.

bikes, guns and explosions and a great narrative of finnish bike troops fighting the russians.

a scene from ambush

i really recommend renting it.
This is how all cyclecross race courses should be set up. Incoming fire and all.
Thanks for including the clip. I couldn't look away.
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Old 11-01-09, 03:49 PM   #9
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Likely the most famous use of bicycles in war is that of the North Vietnamese. They moved many tons of supplies and munitions South over bombed-out roads using heavily-laden bikes.
The technique was to walk alongside, using a bamboo pole tied to the handlebars to steer with.
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Old 11-01-09, 07:25 PM   #10
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Bikes played a very small part in the South Pacific Theater. The Japanese soldiers used them on roads in relatively tame places , not what we would consider off-road
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_infantry

"In its 1937 invasion of China, Japan employed some 50,000 bicycle troops. Early in World War II their southern campaign through Malaya en route to capturing Singapore in 1941 was largely dependent on bicycle-riding soldiers. In both efforts bicycles allowed quiet and flexible transport of thousands of troops who were then able to surprise and confuse the defenders. Bicycles also made few demands on the Japanese war machine, needing neither trucks, nor ships to transport them, nor precious petroleum. Using bicycles, the Japanese troops were able to move faster than the withdrawing Allied Forces, often successfully cutting off their retreat. The speed of Japanese advance have also caught Allied Forces defending the main roads by surprise while attacking them from the rear."

Also Vietnamese; British/Canadian Troops circa D-Day:
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File Type: jpg Viet Cong bicyclists.jpg (63.7 KB, 18 views)
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Old 11-02-09, 07:03 AM   #11
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see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_infantry

"In its 1937 invasion of China, Japan employed some 50,000 bicycle troops. Early in World War II their southern campaign through Malaya en route to capturing Singapore in 1941 was largely dependent on bicycle-riding soldiers. In both efforts bicycles allowed quiet and flexible transport of thousands of troops who were then able to surprise and confuse the defenders. Bicycles also made few demands on the Japanese war machine, needing neither trucks, nor ships to transport them, nor precious petroleum. Using bicycles, the Japanese troops were able to move faster than the withdrawing Allied Forces, often successfully cutting off their retreat. The speed of Japanese advance have also caught Allied Forces defending the main roads by surprise while attacking them from the rear."

Also Vietnamese; British/Canadian Troops circa D-Day:
Good stuff, cat.
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Old 11-02-09, 01:26 PM   #12
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Bicycles have been tried by U.S. troops too. Circa 1895 or so a Black regiment in the west tried them for several years. Tests included a ride of 1000 miles or so from Colorado(?) to St. Louis as I recall. A TV program some time back featured them IIRC. The Wikipedia article linked to above mentions them, with a photo.

Bicycles were also used extensively by civilians in Europe during WW2 as gasoline was not available for civilian cars in any reasonable amount. Even in the U.S. there were special transportation bikes produced during the war for civilian use due to the gas shortage and rationing.

The British produced a folding bike for paratroopers too during the war though I have no idea of how successful they were in actual use.
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Old 11-02-09, 01:37 PM   #13
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10/4 Old and New I cant imagine a bicycle being of much use to me in the Corps with a B.A.R; ammo and personal gear when thay made us run everyware anyway
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Old 11-02-09, 03:01 PM   #14
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Bicycles have been tried by U.S. troops too. Circa 1895 or so a Black regiment in the west tried them for several years. Tests included a ride of 1000 miles or so from Colorado(?) to St. Louis as I recall. A TV program some time back featured them IIRC. The Wikipedia article linked to above mentions them, with a photo.
The 25th US Infantry out of Ft. Missoula, Montana.

I have a book I picked up long ago called Bicycles in War by Martin Caidin. It's a pretty through book on the topic up to 1974.

One of the cruiser crowd here in Denver had a 1940's era paratrooper bike for sale at the Veloswap. $200 but I needed an old bike like I need a hole in the head.
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Old 11-02-09, 04:37 PM   #15
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One of the cruiser crowd here in Denver had a 1940's era paratrooper bike for sale at the Veloswap. $200 but I needed an old bike like I need a hole in the head.

Check out what military bikes go for on ebay and other auctions for. 200 bucks I think I would snap up everyone I could.
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Old 11-02-09, 09:36 PM   #16
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The 25th US Infantry out of Ft. Missoula, Montana.

I have a book I picked up long ago called Bicycles in War by Martin Caidin. It's a pretty through book on the topic up to 1974.
You beat me. I was going to recommend Bicycles in War. At one point, I wrote a letter to Spike Lee recommending that he do a movie based on the "bisquits and beans" ride as Caidin called it. It was a remarkable ride. Obviously, Spike never took me up on the idea.
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