Future War And The 24th Marine Motorcycle Regiment
SUBJECT AREA Warfighting
AUTHOR: Young, David J., Major, U.S. Marine Corps
TITLE: Future War and the 24th Marine Motorcycle
DATE: 5 April 1988
This is a story about, in part, the 24th Marines in the
future. Popularly known as a motorcycle regiment, but not
officially so named, the paper culminates with an evaluation
of the combat employment of the regiment in World War III.
The paper follows several converging story lines, some
fact, some speculation, and some fiction. These story lines
are briefly outlined as follows.
The use of a motorcycle as a military vehicle is
chronicled. It was present during World War I, reached its
zenith in World War II and virtually disappeared thereafter,
much as the horse and bicycle disappeared from modern armies.
One of the manufacturers of the military motorcycle was
Harley-Davidson. The Company's contribution to war efforts
in World War I and World War II is documented.
The late 1980's and early 1990's saw the emergence of
new anti-armor and anti-aircraft missile technology. The
Marine Corps, which had reorganized the 4th Marine Division
into three regiments with different geographic capabilities,
employed the new weapons' technology with the 24th Marines.
The Regiment was designed to fight in desert environments and
in a Western European scenario. Its Marines carried the
majority of their combat power on Harleys.
The reasons for the start of World War III as seen by
two writers of popular fiction will be acknowledged. The
'real' start of the war will be briefly explained.
Finally, the 24th Marines are called up to active duty
to reinforce allied forces in Western Europe. There, the
motorcyclists of the 24th Marines are successfully employed
in a variety of missions until the war's surprising end.
The paper hopes to be informative and entertaining.
Rather than strongly advocating a particular point of view,
it asks the reader to envision how he or she would deal with
contemporary Marine Corps issues such as a changing world,
budgetary constraints, new technologies, reorganization, etc.
Table of Contents
Chapter Title Page
1. The Beginning of World War III 5
2. The Military Motorcycle 16
3. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company 33
4. The Marine Corps Reserve 46
5. The 24th Marines in Combat 53
6. The End of the War 73
7. After Action Report 79
8. Summary 87
Annex A - Chronology of Events 89
Annex B - Area of Operations 91
Annex C - Table of Organization 92
As a new millennium approaches, it is the hopeful
opinion of most Americans that the world is now a safer
place. Whether it's truly safer or not will be for future
generations to decide. The recent world war has changed our
global perspectives. It is doubtful that the superpower
confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union
that characterized the latter half of the twentieth century
will ever occur again. The influence of the main
belligerents of World War III has been circumscribed in a
world with many equals now, not just two.
Since the war's end, much has been written about the
political, economic, social and military causes. As to the
actual conduct of the war, there is a fair amount of analysis
on how it was fought strategically. On the tactical level
however, especially at regimental sized units and below,
there is something of a void at present. The void I speak of
is one of quality, not quantity. Because the destruction was,
so great in men and material among the warring armies, many
units either ceased to exist or were reconstituted many
times. With many records destroyed or not even created, the
military archives are just now being constructed from the
accounts of those who survived.
When a nation doesn't win a war in the strategic sense,
there is an understandable reluctance on the part of the
people to deal with that failure. On the other hand, because
it can be said that the war wasn't lost, Americans are just
now showing an interest in learning about some of the
victories that were achieved tactically.
The recent book, Letters from the 24th Marine Motorcycle
Regiment, has captured the public's imagination. It is a
vivid account of the summer war. The uncensored letters from
members of the regiment to their friends and relatives
provide an emotional backdrop to combat on the personal and
small unit level. It is about men and machines that are a
part of two quintessential American identities, Marines and
Harley-Davidson motorcycles. It tells the story of the new
'aces' of modern conventional warfare.
Some of what you will read is presented here with
permission of the author. As for the rest, I will attempt to
provide the genesis of 'Letters': how the war started; a
background of the motorcycle in the military, with an
emphasis on the Harley-Davidson Motor Company; why the 24th
Marines had motorcycles; and how the 24th Marines were
administratively organized. Finally, I will discuss the
tactical employment of the regiment and the political
developments that led to the end of World War III.
It should be noted that the 24th Marine Motorcycle
Regiment is actually a misnomer. While the motorcycle was
the predominant form of transportation for the regiment, its
proper name was simply the 24th Marine Regiment.
June 3, 1999
The Beginning of World War III
The readers of popular fiction or the military
enthusiast may have read accounts about how a future World
War III started. Between the mid-1970's and 1980's, the
military, social, and economic competition between the United
States and the Soviet Union was portrayed by novelists as
leading to the third great war of the 20th century.
In Red Storm Rising, one of the best selling books from
Tom Clancy published in 1986, disenchanted Muslims sabotaged
the Soviet Union's newest and biggest POL refinery in Western
Siberia. The resulting fire completely destroyed the
refinery and the well tops in the adjacent oil field. The
thirteen member Politburo was briefed that 34% of the
country's total crude oil production would be lost for a
minimum period of one year and perhaps as long as three
years. While the refinery represented only 14% of the
country's refining capacity, the Nizhnevartovsk complex
processed 'light' crude oil. That oil was relatively easy to
refine and thus contained disproportionate amounts of the
most valuable fractions, i.e., gasoline, kerosene, and diesel
fuel. The losses for these distillates as a percentage of
total Soviet production was 44%, 48% and 50% respectively.
The loss was described to the Politburo as "disaster of
unprecedented scale for our economy."1 This disaster was not
just a single event, but an unfortunate combination of other
economic, social, and political factors. There was already a
crude oil shortfall of thirty-two million tons annually.
Coal production was 16% below plan and getting worse. While
gas production was improving, much of the output was going to
Western Europe to earn foreign currency, which in turn was
used to purchase foreign oil and grain. The total crude oil
shortfall after the fire was projected to cause a thirty-fold
increase in imported oil. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union
could barely afford a doubling of foreign oil purchases
because of low currency reserves.
In the Politburo, the practical effect of the disaster
was presented in bleak terms by the Defense Minister: two
hundred fifty million citizens, hungry and in the dark, the
Red Army, ministry of Interior, and KGB with restricted fuel
supplies. The NATO alliance would learn of the crisis and
politically exploit it. The existence of the state was
threatened. The Politburo decided that the only way the
Party could survive was to invade the Persian Gulf,
specifically Iran and Iraq, and seize their oil fields.
Since these fields supplied significant amounts of crude oil
to Western Europe and Japan, the Politburo feared a nuclear
response from the United States. To avoid this, they decided
that NATO had to be eliminated as a political and military
Red Storm was the method of elimination: the code name
for a mechanized attack. The plan called for strategic
surprise using conventional weapons only. It would be a
short campaign thrusting into West Germany and the Low
Countries. The Soviet leadership felt if mobilization of
NATO could be delayed seven days, the campaign would achieve
its objectives in two or three weeks and NATO would be forced
into peace negotiations on unfavorable terms.
Red Storm Rising was a 1986 World War III scenario
caused by an oil shortage. A 1985 conflict was envisioned by
Sir John Hackett in his books, The Third World War August
1985 and The Third World War: The Untold Story. Sir John, a
soldier and military scholar from Great Britain, also
described a war between the Warsaw Pact and the NATO nations.
The instigator was again the Soviet Union. It was faced
with many internal and external problems. Poland was
diverging from the Soviet communist model. East Germany was
seeking a greater political role in Warsaw Pact affairs
proportionate to its economic superiority in Eastern Europe.
There was a growth of nationalism in the Soviet Asian
republics and tbe USSR was also faced with its third
consecutive disastrous grain harvest. Essentially,
"there had long been a growing awareness among the
rulers of the USSR of increasing strains within the
Warsaw Pact, and within the Soviet Union itself,
which could hardly be contained without a signal
military victory over the capitalist West. There
had also been, among the top people in the regime,
a very real fear of West Germany."2
In 1984, discussions were held in the Politburo
regarding the political situation in Europe. Both the KGB
and the Soviet Army General Staff (GRU) concluded for
different reasons that Western Europe was dying of social
decay. The KGB believed that strong trade unions, labor
unrest and massive unemployment, compounded by government
inaction, was leading to industrial anarchy. The GRU
believed the decay lay in the spread of neutralist and
pacifist attitudes. Western Europe did not want to defend
itself. With the aforementioned problems within the Soviet
Union and its client states, the political situation in
Western Europe presented itself as the classic "window of
opportunity" in the military sense. Attack and neutralize an
unprepared enemy while at the same time solidifying control
over unruly allies. If the opportunity was lost, it might
never appear again.
The war was staged. The Kremlin plan called for an
attack on West Germany by conventional and chemical means and
the selective bombing of port facilities in other European
countries. Warsaw Pact forces were to consolidate along the
Rhine within ten days and negotiate a cease fire with the
United States from a position of strength. To precipitate
this invasion and make it appear politically justified, the
Soviets first occupied the Slovenia region of Yugoslavia.
This incursion was opposed by American forces from Italy. The
Soviets had anticipated the response and deemed it an attack
on a peace loving socialist nation. They followed with their
full scale "defensive action" against NATO for which they had
been fully prepared and mobilized.
These popular books by Clancy and Hackett presented a
perspective that was widely believed by the western
democracies; the Soviet Union would be the aggressor in the
next world war. Who actually started the Third World War is
still being debated. It did not begin in 1985 or 1986. It
started in 1995. In retrospect it was a war between two aged
and overcommitted superpowers trying to restore their
youthful vigor. How and why it started is one of the great
ironies of modern history.
The period between 1988 and 1995 was an era of
increasing optimism between the Soviet Union and the United
States. In 1988 the United States Senate ratified the U.S.-
Soviet treaty eliminating Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces.
In 1988 the Soviet Union began withdrawing its combat forces
from Afghanistan in a kind of "peace with honor" retirement
similar to the United States' withdrawal from South Vietnam
in the early 1970's. Regular summits were held regarding the
reduction of strategic nuclear arsenals and in 1993 the
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-2) was signed. It
called for a 10% reduction in strategic nuclear warheads and
it was widely expected that subsequent treaties would be
signed reducing the nuclear arsenals in stages by at least an
additional 40%. Also, in 1993, an agreement in principal was
recognized between the United States and the Soviet Union on
Conventional Arms Reductions. Although not reduced to treaty
form, the countries agreed to reduce their conventional
forces in Europe by a modest 5%. The withdrawals began in
June 1994. Again, expectations were high that a formalized
treaty would recognize further permanent reductions.
Although American-Soviet relations were arguably better
than at any point since World War II, the two adversaries
were insecure. Both countries saw their political and
economic influence waning in central Europe. There was
serious political unrest in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland
and East Germany as those countries seemed bent on
determining their own version of a communist state. In
Western Europe, the negotiated troop withdrawal was seen as
de facto recognition of changing U.S. strategic priorities
and increased nationalism in the NATO alliance countries.
America was turning its attention to the growing economic
importance of the western Pacific and South America, and
countries such as Spain, Turkey, and Greece had gradually
reduced the American military presence because of internal
It all seemed manageable, though. In fact, the
superpowers had greatly increased their social and cultural
ties to a level unknown in the cold-war period. One of the
many cultural exchange programs involved a series of events
which would culminate in the 50th anniversary of the founding
of the modern Polish and East German States in 1997 and 1999,
respectively. There were a number of events scheduled for
1995 and, as far as Americans were concerned, the biggest
revolved around the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee in the
United States, and Gdansk, Poland and Rostock in the German
Both Chicago and Milwaukee had sizable populations of
Polish and German immigrant descendants. After some lengthy
negotiations between all interested parties they decided that
cultural ties could be enhanced by the simultaneous port call
visits of American, Polish and East German warships. On
April 15, 1995, East German and Polish frigates would be
separately escorted to Chicago and Milwaukee with reciprocal
arrangements for an American frigate and an LST in Gdansk and
Rostock respectively. After a one week stay the warships
would change ports.
The port calls began as tremendous successes.
Tragically, however, despite the extraordinary security
precautions, on the evening of 20 April a light plane laden
with explosives was flown into the side of the East German
warship anchored in Lake Michigan near Chicago. The frigate
promptly sank. Although an anti-communist group of Christian
fundamentalists opposed to rapprochement with the Soviet
Union and its allies quickly took creidt for the attack, it
was an international incident of the first magnitude.
The sight of the frigate superstructure jutting above
the waves of Lake Michigan in full view of the commuters
along Lake Shore Drive and the workers in the downtown
highrises was a powerful vision for the world press -- many
of whom had been covering the goodwill visits in the American
cities. While there was minimal loss of life because most of
the crew was staying with American families in the Chicago
area, the political damage was irreparable.
On the 21st of April, Polish and East German naval
forces boarded and seized the American ships. Although the
U.S. government guaranteed compensation for the loss and safe
passage for the remaining Polish frigate into international
waters, the situation quickly deteriorated. NATO and Warsaw
Pact forces were put on an increased alert status.
On 25 April, the East German government declared that
the U.S. sailors would be put on trial for espionage. On 26
April the Polish frigate, by this time near the Saint
Lawrence Seaway, was escorted to Rochester, New York. The
U.S. government declared that the East German and Polish
sailors would be turned over to the International Red Cross
unless they requested political asylum. It was hoped that
this move would secure the release of the American ships and
crews. If an agreement could be reached, a Polish crew could
then be flown to the United States to return the warship.
Negotiations fell apart when a majority of the crews
reportedly requested political asylum. The U.S. government
couldn't immediately resolve the classical dilemma: should
the sailors be returned to their respective countries against
their will or should they be granted political protection?
On 1 May, East Germany, acting in concert with Soviet
army forces, cutoff ground access to West Berlin. On 2 May
a West German C-130 carrying American and British MP's was
shot down on its approach to the Templehof airport in West
Berlin and on 3 May the West Germans shot down an East German
MIG-29, claiming the pilot had violated West German airspace.
In another unfortunate turn of events, the pilot who was
captured after bailing out turned out to be a major in the
Soviet Air Force.
The Soviet Union, United States and their allies began
mobilizing in early May. The 24th Marine Regiment was one of
the first reserve units called up to active duty. They
reported to aerial ports of embarkation on the 19th of May
and by the 26th all the regiments' Marines and most of its
equipment was staged in the vicinity of Hannover, West
Although the aggrieved parties tried to diffuse the
situation in the United Nations during May, there were two
ominous developments. Opposing forces, including units
airlifted from the United States began moving closer to the
East German/West German border. At the border there was
sporadic combat. While ground troops were firing at each
other in a realtively harmless fashion, patrol aircraft
became increasingly aggressive and launched their missiles
deeper into the sovereign airspace of their quarry. On May
31st, the war began in earnest with almost simultaneous air
strikes and massive artillery barrages along both sides of
The 24th Marines and their motorcycles were initially
employed as part of a strategic reserve. Their mobility and
antiarmor/antiaircraft weapons were to be used to blunt any
armor breakthrough in their sector. Why the 24th Marines and
their Harley-Davidson motorcycles were among the first
reserve forces airlifted to West Germany is a fascinating
story that combined history, economics, politics, and the
changing U.S. military establishinent. First, an historical
perspective of the motorcycle and its employment in warfare.
The Military Motorcycle
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the modern
armies of the age relied on two major means of transport for
its men and equipment: horse and foot-power (walking and
pedaling), and from the mid-19th Century a newer element, the
railroad. The development of the gasoline fed internal
combustion engines opened the possibility of a fourth
alternative - motor transport. The Europeans led the
development in a proliferation of military uses for the
motor: omnibus, lorry, passenger vehicle, tricycle, motor-
driven bicycle, motorcycle, etc.
In the case of the motorcycle, its potential had been
sufficiently intriguing by 1904 to be the subject of an arti-
cle in The Journal of the Royal United Service Institution.
The article, entitled "Motor Cycles for Military Purposes"
was written by a British Lieutenant H.G. de Watteville,
R.G.A., who noted that his
"impressions (were) acquired while riding a motor
bicycle during the past year over some 4,000 miles,
more than half of which were ridden in direct
connection with military duties, in all weathers,
and over a variety of road."1
The article contained many insights and comments about
the development of the motorcycle for military purposes and
is quoted below:
"The modern motor cycle has reached a
sufficiently advanced stage in its development to
admit of its being seriously considered as a
military machine. The motor car has already been
recognized in every European Army, and has figured
at all Continental maneuvers of the last three
years. The motor cycle, however, is of younger
growth, and its application to military uses has
been extremely tentative usage, and is only of very
The car and the cycle should not be classed
together as one type of vehicle; but they rather
form two very distinct groups of one class ... The
motor driver on the cycle remains first and
foremost a soldier, on the car he is a mechanician
doing military work. The singular feature of the
motor cycle of today is its extraordinary
simplicity. Not withstanding an appearance of
complexity, it is wondrously easy for a man of
average intelligence to learn the tricks of the
cycle, and to become an expert motor cyclist in a
very short period ... The motor cycle can go
wherever the car can go; and moreover, instantly
turn in a narrow footpath or on a road occupied by
troops; it can go on footpath, across grass,
through narrow gaps ... The cycle burns far less
petrol -- its daily supply will only take the
average car some twenty or thirty miles. The cycle
can quickly be concealed behind bushes and hedges
... spare parts are few and extremely simple. In
even moderately skilled hands the motorcycle of
today has been amply proved to be a reliable
In France, Germany, and Austria it has now
been decided to form regular motor cycle sections
after the experiments that were carried out during
the last two or three years' maneuvers. Germany
has drawn up a most minute specification of the
machines that are to be manufactured for military
use. Austria is sending picked non-commissioned
officers and men for instruction to the various
manufacturies of motors in that country. In
England little has hitherto been done outside the
Motor Volunteer Corps, and a few sporadic instances
where privately owned machines have been used on
A few Royal Engineers have taken to them for
telegraph and other duties. At a recent signaling
course at Aldershot, a so-called motor cycle
section was formed among the officers. The
motorists worked together very well, and the
machines never failed to bring their riders
punctually to the appointed stations. In this
connection it is worth noting that it is easier for
the motorist to reach his destination fresh for a
long message on the large flag, or with a steady
touch for the heliograph, than it is for the pedal
cyclist who comes up to the top of a hill fatigued
and with a shaky hand after a fast spell... This
sort of dispatch riding cannot be said to have
tried the riders as hardly as the machines, and the
maneuvers actually have not demonstrated anything
more than the enormous possibilities in the
utilization of motor cyclists in place of ordinary
cyclists or of mounted orderlies.
The duties of motor cyclist should extend
beyond this; in fact they might be classed under
five headings as follows:
a. Communication, i.e., orderly duties
b. Scouting and intelligence work
c. As cyclist sections in action
d. Special work, such as signaling,
Royal Engineer duties
e. Machine guns and forecars
The last two headings (machine guns and
forecars) entail the use of tricycles and
Lieutenant de Watteville went on to make some perceptive
comment on the five headings he described. Some of the more
relevant to the first four categories are as follows:
a. Communication - "The maneuvers amply proved the
utility of motor cycles for this duty. The
motorists often worked ten to twelve hours a day,
in some cases even up to twenty hours out of
twenty-four without mishap or undue fatigue. This
is a record of work which, taking into
consideration distances alone, could not be equaled
by twice the number of [by] cyclist orderlies, or by
three times the number of horsemen. Yet nothing
has been said about the pace. The speed of the
motor cycle may over all roads be roughly estimated
at double that of the pedal list, or two and a half
times that of the horseman, for all but short
distances. The motor cycle is an ideal mount for
an orderly for long distances."3
b. Scouting and Intelligence - "This offers a tempting
field for speculation, since the motor is in this
respect as yet untried in the field. If it be
granted that great speed and capacity for long
distances are of use for these purposes of warfare,
then it must be admitted that the motor cycle would
be of great utility to the scout. A detour of 40
or 50 miles even is perfectly possible, while still
allowing the motor every chance of a speedy and
safe return. On a risky undertaking, it has in its
favor the advantages of a 25 miles per hour speed,
and of offering a far smaller vulnerable area than
the horseman.... The motor cyclist is well fitted
for acting singly. He can leave his machine, use
his field glasses, and be on the move again in a
few seconds at almost the best speed of his motor.
If need be, he can hide it, and reconnoiter on
foot. Absence of fatigue, in spite of long
distances and long hours, is a weighty
consideration on such work."4
c. In Action - "If the motor cyclist can be used singly as
a combatant, there is no reason why they should not
be used in small bodies. On the tactical use of
motor cycle sections in action, it is not within
the scope of this article to venture an opinion.
But certain considerations under this heading are
clear enough. A number of motor cyclists, not
exceeding 30, could be easily controlled by one man
on the road, provided the motorists were all
thoroughly capable of regulating their speed the
instant it is required .... The motor cycle will
take a fair amount of weight over and above its
rider. A rifle and ammunition could be easily
carried, besides some kit. The only question is how
to store it on the frame, since there is little
room left on the machine. The rifle might be
carried vertically along the front fork and
steering head. For orderly work and scouting, a
repeating pistol, held in a clip on the handlebar,
would seem to be a better weapon. Forty or fifty
pounds should not be exceeded as the weight for
rifle and equipment."5
d. Signaling - "There are a number of other uses to which
the military motor cycle might be put. Amongst
these there seems to be an attractive opportunity
of combining motoring with signaling. Mounted
signalers are already in existence, and of proved
utility. The speed of the motor, together with the
absence of fatigue experienced by the rider, would
permit the rapid establishment of an efficient line
...Motor cycles might further be most
profitably employed by supply officers, by officers
visiting a line of outposts, and on other such
work; also by officers employed on duties which
preclude the use of orderlies, and at the same time
require the utmost dispatch in their performance."6
The author, while being an obvious enthusiast of the
motorcycle, also recognized its limitations at that time. He
noted that the machines had maintenance problems, were noisy,
had a hill climbing capacity of only twelve degrees with a
two and one half horsepower motor, and were restricted by
rough terrain and inclement weather. There were also
limiting human factors, such as difficulty in hearing signals
and sounds, limited observation while moving, and the ease of
losing directions while speeding along, especially at night.
He recommended various improvements to the motorcycle and
concluded by noting that
"The motor cycle is as yet very young; but
experience has already shown that it is a reliable
machine if properly attended to and carefully
managed. Given a sufficiency of petrol and
electricity, the skilled rider need fear little
from anything but punctures, and even these are not
as common as many people would imagine. If a total
disablement should happen, which is really a very
rare occurrence, it chiefly takes place with a
neglected motor or in the hands of a novice...
Should motors be adopted, doubtless new factors in
warfare will arise; barbed wire across roads, etc.
Meanwhile the best that can be done is to
experiment with these machines wherever possible.
An accurate opinion of their use in war cannot be
yet formulated; but much can be learnt by peace
A decade after this article was written, the motorcycle
was one of the nascent vehicles of World War I. Because the
war quickly settled into a protracted battle of trench
warfare with relatively static front lines, the motorcycle
was used primarily for communications. Its use as either an
offensive weapon or a fast moving reconnaissance platform was
stifled by the general absence of tactical mobility and the
reliance on aircraft for mobile observation.
In the post World War I period, Germany prepared to
fight the next war. General Guderian and other German
military strategists refined their tactics, including the
offensive doctrine of lightning attack by a concerted effort
of aircraft, mechanized infantry and tanks (Blitzkrieg).
However, despite Germany's industrialized state, these forces
were still a minority within the German Army.
The doctrine, organization, and equipment of German
armored and mechanized divisions was generally known in
military circles in the late 1930's although its
effectiveness had not yet been demonstrated. For example, a
14,000 man armored division consisted of a headquarters,
reconnaissance group, tank brigade, motorized rifle brigade,
motorized artillery battalion, engineer battalion, antitank
battalion and signal battalion. The motorcycle was an
integral part of the armored division. The reconnaissance
group contained in part a motorcycle company composed of
three platoons (each equipped with three light machine guns)
and one section with four heavy machine guns. The rifle
brigade contained a motorcycle battalion, composed of three
rifle companies with nine light machine guns each and one
machine gun company with twelve heavy machine guns. It is
interesting to note that the armored division contained
approximately 1,000 vehicles, including motorcycles, 500
tanks and armored cars, and twenty-four pieces of artillery.
On the road the total number would form a tactical column
62.5 miles long.8
The relatively small American Army at the time could
only look on in envy at its German counterpart. Numerous
articles in professional journals advocated a modernization
of almost every aspect of the Army. Typical is a 1938
article which appeared in the Infantry Journal entitled
"Military Motorcycles." As "Captain Wheeling" wrote that
"Combat troops need a small, light, efficient
cross-country motor vehicle which can, to some
extent, replace the horse. In several armies,
notably the German and Italian the motorcycle has
satisfactorily met this need...
But in general, those who have had
considerable experience with motorcycles in our
service credit them with little military value.
This viewpoint is almost entirely due to the fact
that we have never had a dependable army
motorcycle. The American machine's performance on
bad roads and in cross-country tests has been
almost universally unsatisfactory.
On the other hand, European armies have found
the motorcycle a useful adjunct to combat troops,
possibly because the foreign machine has kept pace
with the advances in the general automotive field
... With the lessons of the World War in mind, the
Germans instituted an improvement program after the
war, and there has been no let up in their efforts
to improve design and construction ... the German
high command has great faith in the motorcycle and
its ability to make itself tactically useful.
Here are a few of the motorcycle's advantages
that foreign observers consider significant.
1. As a cross country vehicle it is far
superior to the passenger car or truck. The
Germans say that the motorcycle can go practically
anywhere a man can go. So enthusiastic are they
over its mobility that entire battalions are
equipped with motorcycles as the principal means of
support. The Germans feel that in the motorcycle
they have found a satisfactory substitute for the
2. Motorcycles can operate independently and
unobserved. They may be employed for reconnais-
sance, screening, or in the service of security.
3. The ease and rapidity with which a
motorcycle unit can be handled facilitates the
dispersion of large units into small groups for
cover and concealment.
4. The motorcycle's small size makes it a
comparatively easy vehicle to park under cover.
5. Although a motorcycle column is longer
than a truck column of comparable fighting power,
it compensates for the disadvantage by superior
speed and mobility.
The general distrust of motorcycles in our
army may be attributed mainly to the mechanical
unreliability of the makes now in use."9
The article goes on to discuss the effectiveness of the
German BMW and then concluded by noting: "The military
importance of a motorcycle of small size, high speed, light
weight, and reliability justifies an intensive effort on our
part to secure a suitable motorcycle for our service."10
It is worth noting that in 1938 the German and American
armies were fundamentally different. The German Army was
much more prepared for war. The American Army was a peace
time organization with many understrength or cadred units. A
large standing army did not exist. It should also be
mentioned that the popular notion of the German Army as
highly mechanized and motorized is somewhat misleading.
While it was certainly more mobile than its European and
American counterparts it still relied on traditional infantry
for the majority of the fighting and most of its transport
was still drawn by horse. In fact, the most common labor-
saving devices for the basic infantry were not trucks or
armored vehicles. They were bicycles and horses.
While exact comparisons between the German and American
armies were difficult to make during 1938 because of their
differing states of preparedness for war, it is interesting
to note that an American cavalry regiment of the era
contained only eight motorcycles: three solos and five with
Once war came to Europe in 1939, the American military
observed in fascination. The German victory over Poland in
September and the two month victory over France in May and
June of 1940 provided the impetus for a radical change in the
size and composition of the American Army. The organization
and equipment of the German Army was used as a model for
change. In 1940 the U.S. Army received the authorization to
increase its regular strength by 375,000. With increased
size and appropriations, the Army began to evaluate as
quickly as possible its own ability to fight Blitzkrieg type
Blitzkrieg was a combined arms attack linked by communi-
cations. The Blitzkrieg technique followed certain well
defined successive steps:
1. An air attack on all enemy aviation and airports.
2. An air attack on all railroad junctions and stations,
barracks, depots, bridges, and motor convoys on roads --
everything used for mobilization and concentration.
3. Artillery barrage, air attack on enemy batteries and
trenches, and assault by regular infantry to open the way for
Blitzkrieg troops. In general, the infantry divisions
attacked on broad fronts and bore the brunt of the fighting.
4. The light mechanized and motorized divisions were
employed on cavalry missions, both by exploiting
breakthroughs and by attacks around the flanks to gain to
enemy rear area. They disrupted communications, prevented
delaying tactics and denied the retreat to final defensive
positions. These divisions were led by motorcycle infantry
with machine guns, armored cars, light tanks, and truck and
5. The final step was the introduction of the heavy
mechanized (Panzer) divisions with their medium tanks,
motorized infantry, artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft
artillery, and engineers. These mechanized divisions were
led by motorized reconnaissance battalions. When anti-tank
barriers were encountered, the motorcycle company supported
by infantry howitzers cleared the advance for armored
vehicles. In the pursuit battle, the primary requisite was
speed in combination with enough combat power to overcome
whatever minor resistance rear guards might put up. The
elements that produced the best results were light speedy
tanks armed with machine guns, armored cars, and motorcycle
infantry where the terrain permitted their use. The
Blitzkrieg troops did not attempt to engage in knock-down
drag-out combats. Instead they went around the flanks,
leaving the job to the regular divisions which came plodding
along in the rear.12
By the summer of 1940, the U.S. Army was experimenting
with new organizations and new equipment in their field
maneuvers. The new armored corps (two armored divisions),
about half again as large as a Panzer division, had over
19,000 personnel, 1017 trucks, 588 scout cars, 56 passenger
cars, 574 light tanks, 220 medium tanks, 402 motor tricycles
and 816 motorcycles.13 The nine Army infantry divisions were
also authorized a cavalry reconnaissance troop composed
chiefly of scout cars and motorcycles.
The increased use of the motorcycle in 1940 maneuvers
received some mixed reviews in the Army's Cavalry Journal.
The 6th Cavalry evaluated a motorcycle troop of 40
motorcycles with side cars and 41 solo motorcycles on
maneuvers in Georgia and Louisiana. While there were only
two burned out engines, it was apparent that at least 30 or
40 more engines would require rebuilding. The article
concluded that "motorcycles in their present state of
development are entirely unsuited for military purposes,
except for use in messenger work, traffic control and the
like. Even for these uses they should be radically
The 22nd Cavalry participated during the same period in
exercises in northern New York. Although the after action
report did not comment on the reliability of its motorcycles,
the cycles did receive a back-handed compliment in one of the
exercise lessons learned.
"The futility of placing main reliance on radio
communications. Utilization of scout cars and
motorcycles, so far as available, for securing
information and transmitting orders and messages,
proved the dependability and speed of transmission
of this form of communication."15
Apparently by early 1941, at least some of the
mechanical difficulties and employment possibilities of the
motorcycle had been addressed. Again, in Cavalry, an officer
from the 6th Cavalry, Captain C.P. Bixel, wrote about the
motorcycle troop. It now consisted of 181 personnel equipped
in part with 64 motorcycles.
"The motorcycle troop has only been in existence
for one year. Its equipment, organization and
tactical doctrine have been highly experimental...
The motorcycle troop should not be broken down into
small groups attached to other units for use as
messengers. The motorcycle troop is a combat unit,
a fast moving reserve of fire power capable of
being moved great distances in an incredibly short
time. It is the only unit in the mechanized
squadron capable of carrying on dismounted combat.
It is in effect a horse troop mounted on
motorcycles instead of horses, and possess a great
many of its capabilities when dismounted ...
As a reconnaissance agency in itself the
motorcycle troop is not believed to be as
efficacious as other organizations of the regiment
and can better be employed on the missions for
which its means suit it. However, the use of
motorcycles in limited numbers for reconnaissance
of trails and secondary roads over which scout cars
cannot go due to narrowness of the trails or
weakness of bridges and culverts has some merit.
A regimental mission of delay, opens up a wide
field for the employment of the motorcycle troop.
With anti-tank guns attached, it is an effective
unit for the establishment of road blocks... it can
remain on any given position until the last and
still get away provided terrain is suitable...
acting under the regimental commander as a
harassing force against the hostile flanks and rear
while other units delay the heads of columns it is
believed most valuable. Its great mobility and
considerable firepower make it a valuable force if
employed in this manner.
For security reasons the troop has reasonable
capabilities. Its flexibility makes it suitable
for furnishing the advance guard, rear guard or
flank guard for the regiment when required.
To sum up - the motorcycle troop, unique in
our army, has been tested for a year. Some of its
equipment appears to be adequate, some inadequate.
It is basically a body of firepower -- fast moving
on roads -- approaching the mobility of the foot
soldier cross country. It replaces nothing, but
with possible changes in equipment seems destined
to take its own place in the combat team."16
An interesting evaluation of the mechanical problems of
American motorcycles is found in the book, The Harley-
Davidson Motor Company. The author claimed the following:
"Some how, in 1941, sidecar equipped Indians (the
Indian Motorcycle Co.) wound up in Louisiana for a
series of tests in swampy, tropical conditions.
The inability of these machines to function
hastened the development of another all-terrain
vehicle, the jeep."17
Following some of these generalized observations about
the motorcycle and its employment, subsequent articles,
although infrequent, were more specific in content. A 1941
Cavalry article, entitled "Mounting Trooper's Individual
Equipment on Solo Motorcycles," described a modification of
the McClellan saddle so that the trooper could use it to
carry his shelter half, raincoat, wool blanket, one tent pole
and five tent pins in his roll; his mess kit, flashlight,
canteen, tools, and dry rations in the saddlebag.18 Another
1941 Cavalry article, "Motorcycle Platoon in the Dismounted
Attack," detailed the attack of a roadblock or other isolated
point of resistance.19 In 1942 Cavalry published "Motorcycle
Ambulance," which described a make-shift frame which was used
by trucks to transport disabled motorcycles.20
By 1943, the use of the motorcycle had become
sufficiently institutionalized that two articles appeared
about motorcycle training at the Motorcycle Department
Cavalry Replacement Training Center, Armored Force School,
Fort Knox, Kentucky. The prospective cyclist received three
weeks of basic training, followed by nine weeks of
instruction in the Motors Department broken down as follows:
Preliminary Phase - three weeks; safety, assembly,
Advanced Phase - three weeks; ride more difficult
terrain, map reading, scouting, bridge and road
reconnaissance, camouflage, demolitions, patrolling
Tactical Phase - three weeks; field exercises, all-day
The author of one article noted,
"One constant task faced by the officers and cadre
of this division (Cavalry Replacement Training
Center), is the problem of overcoming original fear
of the motorcycle, common with many men. The only
way to do this is to make the man ride."21
While some in the military saw great potential for
the motorcycle in a variety of tactical missions, the
motorcycle's reliability was questionable. With a small
standing army between the first and second World Wars, the
active forces could ill-afford motorcycle testing and
evaluation to improve field performance. Consequently,
American manufacturers were accustomed to meeting the needs
of their civilian and law enforcement clientele whose quality
and reliability concerns were far different than those of the
military. Motorcycles were constructed primarily for on-road
use and were supported by the local dealership network.
While various forms of off-road motorcycle competition were
common, the cycles were specially modified production models.
If they were more durable, little thought was given to
potential military applications in this country.
The pre-eminent manufacturer of American military
motorcycles throughout this century has been the Harley-
Davidson Motor Company. The next chapter discusses the
Company's production of cycles for World Wars I and II, and
the technological and political developments which led to the
"Harley" which was to be fielded by the Marine Corps in world
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company
According to the book, The Harley-Davidson Motor Compa-
ny, An Official Eighty-Year History, the Company built its
first motorcycle in 1903 in Milwaukee. It had a DeDeon type
single cylinder, three horsepower engine. Supposedly, this
design was passed along to the founders of the company by a
German immigrant who was familiar with the French designed
motor. From a single bike in 1903, two in 1904, eight in
1905, 50 in 1906 and 150 in 1907, the Company grew rapidly so
that in 1914, its production was over 16,000 cycles annually.
The first use of a Harley-Davidson in what might be
called a combat environment occurred in 1916. While Europe
was at war, the United States was conducting a punitive
expedition into northern Mexico in an attempt to catch Pancho
Villa. The New Mexico Military Institute, the Springfield
Armory and Harley-Davidson engineers jointly developed a
motorcycle with machine gun equipped sidecar. A few of these
machines were driven into Mexico by the Army's first Aero
Squadron. Their utility was described in the following
"When machine guns were carried on mules in the old
way, from two to four minutes were required to set
up and begin firing. The motorcycle machine gun
permits instant firing from the sidecar and when it
is desired to set up separately, firing can be
started within 50 seconds from the command to halt
when the rate of fire is 480 shots per minute."1
At the same time, of course, World War I was at its mid-
point. Shortly thereafter, the Company began motorcycle
production for the War Department. Virtually all the Harley-
Davidson's were of the sidecar variety. An Official Eighty-
Year History notes,
"The first glimpse of Harley-Davidson's by World
War I soldiers may have been the line of bikes that
gave rides to the wounded at various hospitals in
England prior to the United States entry into the
war. Once war was declared (by the U.S.), the
cycles were shipped with all other vehicles, though
they were used primarily for messenger service
rather than in actual combat... as many as 7,000
Harley-Davidsons found their way to France. War
Department records show that 26,486 Harley-
Davidsons were ordered through November 1, 1918,
and that a total of 20,007 Indians and Harley-
Davidsons were shipped overseas."2
In conjunction with their production, the Company
converted its dealership service school into a school for
"Beginning in July 1917, groups of thirty enlisted
men spent three weeks in Milwaukee, learning how to
maintain the thousands of Harleys seeing service in
France and to greater extent at Army camps through-
out the United States. More than 300 enlisted
repairmen were put through the service school in
the sixteen months before the World War I armistice
was signed in November, 1918. Most of the instant
mechanics never made it to France, primarily
because the United States was not fully mobilized
when peace came.
At war's end, Harley-Davidson did not need to
convert to peace time production - the cycles it
had furnished the military were no different from
the Harley-Davidsons available in approximately
1,000 dealerships throughout the United States.
The most visible indication that Harley-Davidson
had been to war was the olive paint job, which
lasted with minor variations into the thirties."3
Following World War I, production of cycles expressly
for the military tapered off. Beside the general public,
sales were targeted on police jurisdictions. Company
literature prominently featured such slogans as "Harley-
Davidson will curb this tragic traffic slaughter"4 in
response to the attendant problems of passenger vehicles.
It wasn't until 1937 that the army again started showing
an interest in the capabilities of Harley-Davidson. Perhaps
the tactics and equipment used in the Spanish Civil War and
political developments in Europe prompted the military to
review the preparedness of American industry. In that year
"the Army came in ... to look over the civilian service
school and equipment, making sure everything was ready."5
Company officials were busy also. Following the German
conquest of Poland in September 1939, two of the Company's
founders, William S. Harley and Walter Davidson, traveled to
Camp Holabird, Maryland. In their October 1939 visit, the
army expressed an interest in a shaft-drive, three wheel
vehicle for sandy and mucky terrain. Two other companies,
Indian and Delco, were also invited to develop prototypes.
Although this three wheel project was dropped, Harley-
Davidson received an order for 1,000 two wheel shaft-driven
cycles. These were essentially copies of German BMW's that
featured the shaft-drive technology. Harley-Davidson cycles,
as well as those of other American manufacturers at the time,
were chain driven. The designation of this production cycle
was the Model XA-solo.
Following the quick German conquest of France in
May/June 1940, the Army began to quickly evaluate the
equipment and tactics of the German Army. Harley-Davidson
delivered modified production cycles to Fort Knox, Kentucky
for evaluation of military potential. Since the motorcycle
was an integral part of German mechanized, motorized, and
infantry divisions, U.S. Army maneuvers in 1940 and 1941
evaluated the employment, durability and design of solo
motorcycles, solo with sidecar, and tricycles.
Eventually the Company was contracted to produce a solo
motorcycle which became known as the WLA.
"Although the WLA varied minutely from one defense
contract to another, it generally differed form the
civilian machine in only five ways:
- A more substantial luggage rack was
installed on the rear fender (designed to carry a
forty pound radio)
- A scabbard for a Thompson machine gun or a
rifle ran parallel to the right front fork
- Blackout lights front and rear were
- Oil, spark plug, and speed recommendations
were listed on a metal plate attached to the
gasoline tank, between the instruments and the seat
- A skid plate was attached to the crankcase
Every armored division listed 540 cycles in its
complement of vehicles."6
The WLA which saw service in U.S. armored divisions was
produced in quantity. Production of the cycle from 1942-45
totaled 88,000, plus spare parts for an additional 30,000.
Of this total 20,00 were shipped to Canada for use by its
armed forces and several thousand were sent to the Soviet
Union. During these war years, the Company again ran a
school for service mechanics. The school trained 50
mechanics every four weeks.
For its overall contribution to the war effort Harley-
Davidson received Army-Navy "E" awards in 1943 and 1945.
Following World War II, Harley-Davidson's production of
motorcycles for the military virtually ceased. Neither the
Korean nor Vietnam wars saw much use of motorcycles. The
only purchase of cycles during those eras were some 400
Sportsters for use by military police and shore patrol units.
In the early 1980's, both the Army and Marine Corps
again showed some interest in the motorcycle. The following
is an example of the proposed military application during
that era. The information was contained in a final report
prepared by the Marine Corps in 1986 which evaluated a
"The Marine Corps identified a requirement for
a military motorcycle and in September, 1981, the
Marine Corps completed testing to determine
suitability. In August 1982 the Commandant of the
Marine Corps decided that rather than pursuing an
independent procurement effort, to express interest
in the United States Army motorcycle program.
During fiscal years 1984-85 the U.S. Army program
was delayed as a result of funding constraints.
Headquarters Marine Corps decided to procure off-
the-shelf commercial motorcycles. This is an
interim item of equipment which will satisfy an
existing requirement until the U.S. Army Joint
Military Standard Motorcycle Program comes on line
in fiscal years 1988-89.
The Marine Corps Motorcycle is a lightweight
motorcycle which will provide cross country
mobility and essential service to combat service,
combat service support, and command elements by
providing an alternate means of transporting
messages, documents and light cargo. Secondary
missions may include transportation for forward
observers, military police, and reconnaissance
Some of the technical specifications for the cycle were
- between 240-250cc
- luggage rack or second seat capable of transporting
an additional person for short distances or a means of trans-
porting fifty pounds of equipment or cargo
- detachable document carrying case
- ascend a 60% continuous grade on a smooth, dry
surface road with transmission in low gear
- maintain a speed of not less than 55 mph with
transmission in high speed range
- fuel tank capacity sufficient to provide a maximum
range of 100 miles with rated gross vehicle weight when
operated on secondary roads at an average speed of 25 mph and
have an additional 25 miles reserve capacity.
There was speculation at the time that the Army alone
would purchase 6,000-7,000 cycles. Procurement, however, was
delayed for several reasons. The first was funding. The
growth in the Department of Defense Budget slowed
significantly starting in fiscal year 1988, and the Army's
motorcycle program was not a high priority item. The most
important reason for the delay, however, was political. The
Army had planned to purchase the cycles from a Japanese
manufacturer since the Japanese built the dual purpose (on-
road, off-road) cycles in the power range the Army wanted.
At this time, Harley-Davidson was the only remaining American
manufacturer of motorcycles, and it had ceased production of
off-the-road vehicles in 1978 to concentrate on its forte -
street cycles of 750cc and larger.
The thought of a Japanese motorcycle in the service with
the Army and Marine Corps was an anathema to the members of
Congress from Wisconsin. Although the Japanese offered to
build a plant in Wisconsin to manufacture the motorcycles, an
influential member of the House Armed Services Committee
blocked the Army's program until it could be agreed upon to
use an American manufacturer, i.e., Harley-Davidson.
Following the inauguration of a Democratic President in
1989, and some restrictive trade legislation that followed,
Harley-Davidson was awarded a contract in 1990 to build a
320cc motorcycle for military use. Delivery of the
motorcycles began in 1992. It is ironic to note that the
motorcycles were assembled in the Harley-Davidson plant in
York, Pennsylvania (although the engines and transmissions
were made at the Milwaukee plant).
It surprised many observers to see the motorcycle back
in military service, albeit not in great numbers. After all,
the decline of the motorcycle had been due in part to the
advance of technology. During the first and second world
wars, the motorcycle had been used primarily for two
functions: message delivery and reconnaissance. The advent
of more reliable means of communication and observation
forced the motorcycle aside. The development of more
efficient means of troop transportation in armored vehicles,
helicopters and the like also contributed to the cycles
demise. It appeared destined to share the same fate as the
horse and the bicycle in the modern military-extinction.
However, it wasn't the technology of the motorcycle that
brought it back. It had changed little other than in
reliability. What resurrected the motorcycle was changing
technologies in other fields. The greatest change was in
computer technology. The micro chip had many military
applications, including its use as a controlling mechanism
for the guidance of missiles, bombs, and other ordnance.
There were also improvements in the field of explosives
technology. The combination of the development in these
fields and others had the effect of making weapons smaller,
lighter, more accurate, and more lethal at greater ranges.
Whereas in World War II an anti-tank weapon was commonly a
small artillery piece moved about by truck or horse, the
anti-tank weapons being developed in the 1980's were
infinitely more sophisticated and versatile. The following
examples are typical of the anti-tank technology trends
pursued in the late 1980's as reported by military oriented
publications of that era.
From the January 18, 1988, Navy Times. Navy, DoD Seek
Proposal for Antitank Killer.
"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) and the Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC)
are seeking parallel efforts to develop rifle-
launched and tube-launched versions of a light
weight anti-tank weapon able to destroy modern
Soviet battle tanks at close range.
In the search for a Short Range Anti-tank
Weapon (SRAW), DoD is calling for industry to
submit bids by January 29, for proposals to develop
tank-killing missiles by the early 1990's. DARPA
and NSWC officials envision a missile light enough
for one Marine to carry, yet powerful enough to
blast through the latest Soviet armor.
Pentagon documents describing the SRAW program
say the effort stems, in part, from new initiatives
in chemical energy warhead research demonstrating
the potential to 'significantly increase the
lethality of chemical energy anti-tank missiles and
projectiles.' The chemical energy research is part
of an extension joint effort of DARPA, the Army and
the Marine Corps to study ways to strengthen U.S.
armor and armor penetrators.
U.S. companies and foreign firms with U.S.
partners are invited to submit any combination of
technologies, 'to achieve the desired objectives of
the integrated weapon system...' DARPA, the
Defense Department's independent research
organization, explores advances technologies and
potential military applications. The NSWC, located
in Dahlgren, Virginia, does similar research to
meet Navy and Marine Corps needs...
The Marine Corps has a written requirement for
the light weight anti-armor weapon... If the
technology is successfully demonstrated, the Marine
Corps would consider paying for the program when it
enters full-scale development around 1992 ... The
Marines think the goal of designing a 20 pound
anti-armor weapon is achievable.
A key feature of the SRAW will be its ability
to penetrate modern Soviet battle tanks such as the
T-64 and T-80 which have been fitted with reactive
armor, a material with an explosive charge that
detonates when struck by missiles or projectiles
... by blowing the enemy round outward, reactive
armor is designed to halt the momentum of the
missile, thus protecting the interior of the tank.
Reactive armor can defeat many of the shaped-charge
warheads common on Western anti-armor missiles by
preventing the formation of the explosives on the
The weight of the tube-launched missile is
limited to twenty pounds while the rifle fired
version designed for use with standatd infantry
rifles is limited to fifteen pounds. In contrast
to the maximum weight listed, program documents say
the desired weight of each of the weapons is five
pounds below the ceiling, or 15 pounds for the
tube-launched missile and ten pounds for the rifle-
fired version, not including the weight of the
The SRAW development work is divided into
three segments. The first phase will last six
months and will include detailed designs of the
missile, projectile, launcher and guidance unit.
Phase two is a fifteen month program to demonstrate
some of the technical concepts that pose a higher
risk, manufacture and test hardware components,
update designs and provide initial cost estimates.
The final phase of the anti-tank program is
scheduled to last fifteen months and culminate in a
shoot-off among the competitors. During this
period, industry contenders build a prototype of
the projectiles or missiles and the launcher."8
Along similar lines at the same time, the following
excerpt appeared in the 1987-88 Jane's Infantry Weapons
entitled Ford Saber Dual Purpose Missile.
"This is a shoulder-fired, dual-purpose (anti-
aircraft and anti-tank) missile system currently
under development. It consists of three elements:
missile launcher assembly and a reusable guidance
unit which can be quickly attached to the launcher
assembly. The missile is a single body/tail
configuration which is attitude stabilized about
all three axes. It is ejected from the launcher at
low speed to minimize flashback and noise, and the
flight motor ignites after the missile has traveled
a short distance from the launcher. The launch and
inflight signature is very low, making it extremely
difficult to detect from the air or by adjacent
ground troops. Guidance is performed by the
guidance unit which incorporates a stabilized
sight-line for target tracking and a laser guidance
beam projector which provides guidance data to the
missile receiver. The system has inherently low
susceptibility to countermeasures .... The missile
can be produced at low cost since it does not
require a seeker... Saber is designed for the
defeat of all types of subsonic air threats; the
quick-reaction point-and-shoot characteristic is
particularly effective against high speed incoming
and pop-up targets, since there is no delay while a
seeker locks on. The missile can be configured
with a fuze/warhead combination that is optional
for either the air defense or anti-armor role."9
By 1992, a consortium of AT&T and Singer began
production for the Marine Corps, of a portable anti-tank,
anti-aircraft missile. Its key components were an enhanced
chemical energy warhead, a thermal imaging sighting mechanism
and a guidance unit which used a carbon dioxide pulse laser.
The weapon, known in defense industry jargon as the Jointly
Developed Anti-Armor Weapon System, nicknamed JAWS, came in
several sizes depending on the volume of propellant needed
for increased ranges. In its anti-aircraft role it was
effectively limited to targeting helicopters.
The heaviest JAWS weighed eighteen pounds and had a
range of 1200 meters. This was the model carried on the
Marine Harleys. The combat load was six JAWS fastened-on a
special A-frame over the rear axle in two three weapon pods-
- one on each side of the wheel.
The JAWS and Harleys turned out to be a complimentary
mix of "new" and "old" technology: a weapon and a weapon
platform. Although the two weren't designed with each other
in mind, an unlikely catalyst brought them together in lethal
fashion: the reorganization of the Marine Corps Reserve.
The Marine Corps Reserve
The late 1980's and early 1990's saw a dramatic change in
the organization of the Marine Corps' active and reserve
forces. The change was caused by the convergence of three
factors: the nature of American warfare in the last half of
the 20th century, the changing distribution of the United
States budget, and the identity of the Marine Corps as
influenced by a succession of Marine Commandants.
The conflicts since World War II were increasingly off
center stage. Rather than the great land battles of Europe,
the wars of the superpowers were being fought on the
periphery, in so-called third world countries. Korea, South
Vietnam and Afghanistan were the most protracted and better
known. Since Vietnam, however, American combat forces, and in
particular, the Marine Corps, found itself preoccupied with
planning for what was called low intensity conflicts. The
Marines found themselves in places like Lebanon, Grenada,
Haiti and the Persian Gulf. Their missions were variously
called peace keeping, military presence, noncombatant
evacuation operations and the like. Each of them, however,
called for the introduction of relatively small numbers of
forces from Marine battalions which were continually afloat
in naval shipping in various parts of the world.
At the same time, the Department of Defense budget
declined slightly in real dollars as a percentage of the
gross national products. This caused all the armed forces to
look closely at the cost of developing weapons systems, the
size of the active duty structure, and the composition of the
The Marine Corps found itself faced with some tough
choices. Over the years it had begun to resemble a lightly
armored Army force with its own air force. It had fighter-
attack and ground support jet aircraft, troop transport and
attack helicopters, and some limited numbers of propeller
driven transport aircraft. Its main battle tank was the same
as that used by the Army and a number of artillery battalions
used the heavy guns commonly found in the Army. It was even
envisioned that in the event of a war in Europe, the Marine
Corps would deploy its forces to Norway to protect NATO's
While the Marine Corps prepared diligently for its
varied missions, they weren't stationed any place where war
was likely. Marines had to get there by Navy shipping or Air
Force transport, or a combination of both. While this was
satisfactory for a low intensity conflict, it was apparent
that if forces were needed in some place like Europe, the
Army would be given the highest priority to move its bulky
divisions by sea and air. If the war lasted long enough, the
Marine Corps could get there in due course. The Army trained
for protracted land battle, the Marine Corps did not.
It amounted to something of an identity crisis for the
Marine Corps: not heavy enough to fight a 'big' war, yet too
heavy to fight a 'small' war efficiently.
Faced with the dilemmas in the areas of structure, size,
money, and missions, the leadership of the Marine Corps made
some fortuitous decisions, at least in retrospect, which
earned the Corps a prominent place on the battlefield in the
Third World War. Several of these decisions affected the
Marine Corps Reserve and, ultimately, its 24th Marine
Doctrinally, in the late 1980's, the Marine Corps,
within the Department of the Navy, was composed of land
combat forces, service forces, and aviation forces. These
forces, called the operating forces, were composed primarily
of Fleet Marine Forces which in total consisted of the
following active service regular forces: three divisions
(ground troops), three aircraft wings (aviation), and three
force service support groups (logistics). The Marine Corps
structure also contained a Reserve Division/Wing Team
consisting of a reinforced division, aircraft wing and a
force service support group. Its mission in general was to
provide trained units and qualified individuals to be
available for active duty in time of war or national
emergency, and such other times as the national security
might require. Its specific mission was to provide trained
ground and air units available for mobilization.
The mobilization of reserves occurred in three different
1. Reinforce active commands with selected reserve
combat and combat service support units such as self-
propelled artillery, tanks, amphibious vehicles, and air
defense and aircraft squadrons to provide a Marine Air-Ground
Task Force (MAGTF).
2. Augment active forces with selected reserve units as
needed to bring reduced strength and/or cadred active units
to wartime strength. Examples were rifle, communication, and
reconnaissance companies; and assorted combat support/service
3. Provide a MAGTF. The command structure and units
available provided balanced air-ground teams for service with
the fleets or to reinforce already committed Marine
It was expected that reserve units would have the
capability to meet its augmentation and reinforcement
requirements early in a conflict.
To better meet its mission of reinforcement, the three
infantry regiments in the 4th Marine Division were
reorganized to train and equip for a specific
climatic/geographical threat environment. The 23rd Marines
was designated a jungle regiment, the 24th Marines was
designated a desert regiment, and the 25th Marines became an
alpine regiment. While these reserve regiments had not
necessarily been mirror images of their active force
counterparts, their new organizations became part of an
extensive change in the employment philosophy of the Marine
The active forces concentrated on the traditional roles
of the Marine Corps:
1. To serve with the fleet in the seizure and defense
of advanced naval bases and in the conduct of such land
operations as essential to the prosecution of a naval
2. To develop those phases of amphibious operations
which pertained to the tactics, techniques, and equipment
employed by anphibious troops.2
Since the seizure of advanced naval bases could occur in
any kind of terrain, the role of the reserve regiments was
easily identified: to form a pool of highly trained Marines
who could be quickly called upon to provide expertise in the
appropriate climatic conditions during any subsequent land
As noted, the 24th Marines were designated a desert
regiment. Their primary weapons platform was the high tech
JAWS carried by the low-tech Harley. It was expected that
they would be most effective as a fast moving anti-tank
force. The regiment also had a secondary mission: to train
in an urban environment, such as one might find in Europe or
other heavily populated and developed areas.
The 24th Marine took great pride in their motorcycles
and their unique nature. Each battalion designed a logo and
insignia which was subsequently approved by the Secretary of
the Navy in 1993. The battalion designations were as
1st Battalion, 24th Marines - The Knuckleheads
2nd Battalion, 24th Marines - Low Riders
3rd Battalion, 24th Marines - Fat Bobs
When choosing their nicknames, the regimental headquarters
suggested that each battalion design a logo which in some way
related to the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
The "Knucklehead" was a 74 cubic inch engine introduced
by the Company in 1941.
"Low Rider" was a 1977 model, popularly associated with
"Fat Bob" was a 1980 model which got its name from its
bobbed rear fender.
The latter two nicknames were registered trademarks of
Harley-Davidson which the Company allowed the Marines to
In early 1995, the furthest thing from the minds of the
24th Marines was combat. There were probably some fleeting
thoughts of preparation for summer drills but
the preoccupations were the normal springtime concerns:
baseball, the opening of fishing season, warm weather, home
repairs, and family vacations. No one could have possibly
foreseen the mobilization call on 6 May and the deployment to
West Germany which followed. In less than a month's time the
Marines and Sailors went from the security blanket of close
communication with family and friends to the uncertainty of
notes and letters to distant loved-ones when time permitted.
The 24th Marines in Combat
Editor's note: The Regimental Chaplain, Commander Richard
Hill, USNR, dated the following letter 8
July, 1995. Now semi-retired, his
"congregation" is the patients at the
Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago.
Nothing in my ministry to Sailors and Marines over these
last fifteen years could have prepared me for what I have
seen, and smelled, and heard, and touched in the last six
weeks. The extent of death, destruction and misery numbs the
senses. It is as if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have
become our constant companions. An ordinary death is an
extraordinary event. To die in a mundane accident seems to
be the tragic loss of life. The other forms of dying:
shooting, exploding, crushing, burning and a dozen other
traumas, seem more necessary than tragic. We need all our
Marines so they can go into battle.
I had never doubted there was a God until now. My faith
was tested. After much praying my doubts have vanished, but
my belief has a different basis. Amid this devastation lies
the fundamental truth about the existence of God and his
relationship to Man. While God is perfect, He creates
imperfection. It couldn't be otherwise.
Had He created man as a perfect image we would Gods
ourselves. While it is abundantly clear in this landscape
that our imperfection is a curse, our imperfection is our
greatest blessing. We can still aspire to be God-like. So
much for my self-doubts and the short sermon. There is hope.
I have a new enlisted assistant. He will take the place
of Private Carson who was seriously wounded a week ago. Our
position was nearly overrun. Our regiment helped stop a
Russian advance and he was injured by artillery fire. I think
he is going to make it. I hope I can say the same for the
rest of us. Our movement has been in every direction except
How are the children? I think the dearest possession I
have now is the picture of you and the children...
Pray for the end of this
All my love,
The Marines were in an uncomfortable position. They
were not on the offense and they were not part of a Marine
command. With the exception of a few specialized units, they
were the only Marine Corps unit of any size deployed to
central Europe at that time. There had been two battalion-
sized Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) aboard naval shipping
prior to the outbreak of hostilities but they had been
diverted to the north Atlantic area when the U.S. warships
were seized in Poland and East Germany. The MEU's had
subsequently deployed to Norway.
The 24th Marines found themselves as part of the 10th
(US) Corps, which in turn constituted the reserve of Allied
Forces Central. There was some confusion as to how to best
employ the regiment and it was eventually decided to attach
each of the battalions to a 10th Corps division: the 52d
Infantry Division (Mechanized); the 54th Infantry Division
(Mechanized); and the 14 Panzers. The Corps commander,
Lieutenant General Thompson, later remarked, "I inspected the
regiment on a soccer field near Hannover. They were in full
battle dress, straddling their motorcycles. With their black
machines, camouflaged uniforms, and black helmets with the
dark visor down they looked like a swarm of mutant insects.
As I approached the formation, the commanding officer called
the regiment to attention. With that the Marines started
their cycles and pulled them up on their rear wheels, all the
while revving the engines. The noise actually sent a shiver
down my spine. I had a sudden image of them riding straight
to hell. I just hoped that was near Moscow somewhere."
During the first month of the war, the belligerents
tried to obtain air superiority for their respective ground
Forces. Due to the sudden outbreak or war, both sides were
relatively unprepared for mobilization and the deployment of
their armies. Air forces on each side were the most combat
ready of any of the strategic forces. Consequently, the
first phase of the war was primarily an air battle. Both
sides attempted to disrupt lines of communication and combat
formations, destroy command and control facilities and
logistics bases, and neutralize each other's air combat
power. Both NATO and Warsaw Pact forces had one singular
success in these efforts. The numbers of destroyed, damaged
and ineffective for maintenance aircraft reached staggering
proportions. The skills of the individual pilots and the
tactics of aircraft formations were largely negated by
technology. Antiaircraft missiles, whether hand held,
vehicle mounted, or air delivered were extremely effective.
Losses were in the thousands. It was no glamour war for the
air force of either side.
As a consequence of the mutual losses, only localized
air superiority could be achieved. Much of the remaining air
assets were used to protect vital installations and to escort
mobilized troops to the theater of operations. By the end of
June there was little impediment to either side in
positioning their ground combat formations. The "air" had
been temporarily removed from the expected air-land battle.
Without the aircraft assets at the front lines, the battle
was shaping up as protracted land warfare. Rather than the
carefully orchestrated ballet of combined arms, maneuver
warfare, blitzkrieg type tactics and the like, it appeared it
might become a wrestling match between two heavyweights.
The Warsaw Pact saw the situation emerging as
advantageous to their forces. With the air forces of both
sides effectively neutralized, the top Soviet military
commanders believed they held a strategic and operational
advantage because of their overwhelming numerical
superiority in armor and artillery, plus their ability to
quickly move their mechanized and motorized forces. By the
end of June and early July they began to exploit these
The Soviet's basic principle of land warfare was
violent, sustained, and deep offensive action. Mechanized
and armored formations, supported by air action and
artillery, were to seize the initiative, penetrate the
enemy's defenses, and drive deeply and decisively into the
enemy's rear area.1 The essence of the attack and final
assault was combined arms cooperation based on the close and
uninterrupted interaction of all forces to best exploit their
capabilities. The Soviets believed the tank was the major
ground force weapon. It was the keystone of combined arms
cooperation in the attack. Concern for the enemy anti-tank
threat was the dominating factor in coordinating the combined
In late June the Soviet's 28th Combined Arms Army began
massing west of Magdeburg for an attack towards Hannover. It
was to be a classic assault by the Army's five maneuver
divisions. They would begin a frontal attack and use
selected regiments to exploit open enemy flanks, gaps, and
breaches. With maneuver room the regiments would begin deep
envelopments on division objectives. It was the simple
tactical application of their offensive doctrine. When a
first echelon regiment's battalions had achieved a major
penetration, the area of penetration would be widened for
exploitation by second echelon forces.3 The division second
echelon or combined arms reserve would ideally be committed
upon the achievement of the division's immediate objective.
This commitment had to take place before the momentum of the
advance decreased.4 Intensified reconnaissance, artillery
and air strikes, and rapid ground attacks would be employed
to locate and destroy enemy reserves.5 Assuming the division
commander committed his second echelon or reserve on the axis
of the most successful penetration and the attack continued
successfully, the break-through could be developed further by
the parent army's commitment of follow-on forces. Additional
divisions could be deployed on a widening and ever deepening
rapid penetration and exploitation.6 The attack would
achieve an operational breakthrough.
Although the preferred method of Soviet attack was an
attack from the march, their attack from a position in direct
contact did have some advantages.7 It allowed more thorough
study of terrain and NATO force dispositions; it permitted a
more refined organization of battle; and it was easier to
coordinate fire and maneuver.8
The attack commenced at 0400, 29 June. By the next
day it was obvious to the commander of the 28th Combined Arms
Army that things were going well. Although he had received
only a small fraction of the aviation requirements he thought
prudent, the similar lack of opposing aviation negated the
disadvantage. Elements of the 7th Guards Tank Division and
the 27th Guards Motorized Rifle Division had achieved
breakthroughs and were already engaged with units suspected
of being NATO reserves of the 10th (US) Corps.
The battalions of the 24th Marines, attached to their
respective NATO divisions, were deployed near the rear
boundaries of front-line units. In general they had the
mission to assist in sector defense. For the motorcycle
Marines it was an ideal mission. The mobility of the cycles
allowed them to respond to areas of breakthrough and deploy
in width or depth as the situation required.
Within unit formations the motorcycles were employed in
fire teams of four motorcycles each. Besides personal
weapons two cycles carried a full complement of six JAWS
each. The other two cyclists composed a light machine-gun
team to provide suppressive fire in case dismounted troops
accompanied the most likely targets for the JAWS gunners:
tanks and light armored vehicles. The machine gun team also
carried extra JAWS rounds and everyone carried a variety of
smoke rounds. The smoke could be launched by rifle or
dropped individually to screen movement from position to
While in the reserve area east of Hannover, the Marines
had rehearsed extensively for day and night operations. The
terrain was advantageous to their employment. There was an
extensive system of primary and secondary roads which could
be used for high speed ingress and egress. Cover and
concealment were also excellent. There were numerous wooded
areas and ample man-made structures for convenient hiding
spots. The cyclists familiarized themselves with the key
terrain and obstacles, and prepared firing positions in depth
along likely avenues of approach. The weather was an unknown
factor. Rain, in particular, could limit mobility. However,
if and when an attack came, the Marines expected to be able
to fire and move repeatedly.
The tactics and weapons were tested in earnest on 30
June. In the early morning darkness, the first thermal
images of Soviet tanks, BRDM's, and personnel carriers
appeared on the sights of the Marines anti-tank weapons.
What happened then can best be described by a sequence of
conversations that appeared in Red Storm Rising but could
have just as easily been said by the commander of the 28th
Combined Arms Army.
"Every time we break through," Major Sergetov (the
aide to General Alexseyev) observed quietly, "they
slow us down and counterattack. This was not
supposed to happen."
"A splendid observation!" Alexseyev (Deputy
CINC, Western Theater) snarled, then regained his
temper. "We expected that a breakthrough would
have the same effect as in the last war against the
Germans. The problem is these new light anti-tank
missiles. Three men and a jeep... can race along
the road set up, fire one or two missiles, be gone
before we can react, then repeat the process a few
hundred meters away. Defensive fire power was
never so strong before, and we failed to appreciate
how effectively a handful of rear guard troops can
slow down an advancing column. Our security is
based on movement... a mobile force under these
conditions cannot afford to be slowed down. A
simple breakthrough is not enough! We must blast a
massive hole in their front and race at least
twenty kilometers to be free of these roving
missile crews. Only then can we switch over to
"You say we cannot win?"
"I say what I did four months ago and I was
correct: this campaign of ours has become a war of
attrition. For the moment, technology has defeated
the military art, ours and theirs. What we're
doing now is seeing who runs out of men and arms
Later, Major Sergetov remarked to his father, a minister
at the Kremlin:
"But the worst thing of all are their anti-
tank missiles -- you know, just like ours, and
these missiles work all too well... Three men in a
wheeled vehicle. One driver, one gunner, one
loader. They hide behind a tree at a turn in the
road and wait. Our column comes into view and they
fire from a range of -- say two kilometers.
They're trained to go for the command tank -- the
one with the radio antenna up. As often as not the
first warning we have is when the first weapon
hits. They fire one more and kill another tank,
then race away before we can call down artillery
fire. Five minutes later, from another spot, it
happes again. It's eating us up."10
In much the same manner, the motorcycle Marines engaged
the Soviet vehicles. Their weapons and tactics were
effective, and they helped stop several penetrations along
the front. They weren't alone, of course. In the overall
scheme of things, the regiment was a very small piece of the
puzzle. Its Army friends and German allies were just as
responsible, perhaps more so, in preventing the introduction
of follow-on forces which could have widened and exploited
the initial breakthroughs by the 7th Guards Tank Division and
the 27th Guards Motorized Rifle Division.
By the middle of July, NATO forces were on an offensive
of their own. For the American public the offensive spirit
was embodied in the 24th Marines. The regiments' notoriety
had a life of its own. The making of a legend happened
somewhat by accident. After a lull in the Soviet offensive
operations of late June and early July, a writer for the an
Wisconsin State Journal filed a story for the Madison paper
about the local men from Delta Company, 2d Battalion, 24th
Marines. In it he described-how the "Low Riders" were
proudly fighting on Harley-Davidsons. After each action, the
Marines were keeping score by painting small tanks, trucks,
and personnel carriers on the gas tanks of their Harleys,
much in the same way as fighter pilots of the last great war
recorded their kills on the sides of their fighters. The
story was picked up by wire services across the country. It
wasn't long before camera crews were on hand to dutifully put
the Marines and their cycles on film. It made great copy.
Marines (reservists at that), Harley-Davidson motorcycles,
evidence of success: it had the aura of a gun fighter
notching his belt after a shoot-out at high noon. It was a
human story. While the tanks and jets had their share of
success, there was an impersonal quality about the way they
carried out their deadly business.
For their part, the Marines did little to dispel any
myths. Their natural braggadocio not only made great copy,
it made great viewing. The new 'aces' of modern warfare were
Editor's Note: The following letter was dated 18 July, 1995.
The writer is Corporal Rickey Hunter,
originally a member of Headquarters and
Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines.
This letter to his brother is the last his
family received. Corporal Hunter was
reported missing in action on 23 July.
How'd you like to trade places with me? Everyone
thought when we left St. Louis on those C-5's the most
dangerous part of the trip would be liberty in Germany
somewhere. We thought this was just another screw-up by the
politicians and we would be back home in a week or two
sucking up some Budweiser at a Mets-Cardinal baseball game!
Not only was that wrong, but I thought I'd get to pound away
on a typewriter or something like that. Wrong again. At
least not dead wrong-yet.
No sooner than we got here and I was put on a cycle like
the rest of the grunts. I feel like I'm an official Fat Bob
now. Fat Bobs, -- can you believe it? Everyone runs around
asking if you've seen Bob. When we hear that we try to stick
out our gut as far as we can. The Army guys think we're
pretty bizarre. They're right.
Anyway, if you want to know the truth, its bad over
here. Our losses are pretty heavy already. Jessie and Alan
are missing but that's the way it is. We go out, shoot and
move, shoot and move -- go back and reload and head out
again. When its all over there's always some missing -- they
So much for the bad news. You can tell the guys back
home I'm an ace. I know I got at least five. When that
happens we paint an ace of spades on our helmet. If the ammo
holds out at the rate I'm going maybe I'll have a full house
soon (that's five aces for some reason). As for good news I
do have some jokes for you. Here goes -- they all relate to
food -- don't ask me why.
How many different kinds of tank crews are there?
Two - original recipe and crispy.
Why are hamburgers and tanks alike?
They both lose weight during cooking.
What do crewmen and french fries have in common?
Both are placed in a tank and deep fat fried.
Better to be blown away than burned away I say. Well,
rumor is we're going to see some more Marines from the States
soon and attack in a different direction. Don't tell Mom the
crispy-critter jokes -- Dad might savor them though.
This Bud's for you brother!
On the 2d of August the 24th Marines were officially
detached from the 10th (US) Corps to join the 4th Marine
Expeditionary Brigade (MEB). The 4th MEB, nominally assigned
the mission to reinforce NATO's northern flank in Norway, had
just made an amphibious landing in West Germany in the
vicinity of Bremerhaven. It was the intent of the 4th MEB,
as part of a combined NATO force, to drive north and east of
Hamburg along the East German coast. Presuming there was
sufficient amphibious lift capability and sea lines of
communications stayed open along the approaches to the Baltic
Sea, the 4th MEB would conduct a series of landings along the
East German and Polish coasts or move overland to seize port
facilities and landing sites. Both strategies would
accommodate the introduction of additional follow-on forces
at advanced naval bases.
The 24th Marines were happy to be back in the Marine
Corps fold. At Bremerhaven they had a chance to catch some
well deserved rest and perform much needed maintenance on
their cycles. There were even additional reservists to be
used as individual replacements, and some cycles and spare
parts had been flown in. The men and equipment didn't fill
all the holes but the regiment was flushed with success and
anxious to show some offensive spirit to the newly arrived
expeditionary leathernecks. Again, the battalions of the
24th Marines were attached out, this time as part of the
three maneuver elements of the brigade: the 2d Marine
Regiment, the 8th Marine Regiment, and Task Force Super
Glide. Super Glide was a mechanized task force of a U.S.
Army tank battalion and two infantry companies mounted in
Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the 2d Marine Light
Armored Vehicle (LAV) Battalion with their organic infantry,
a self-propelled artillery battalion, and 3rd Battalion, 24th
Opposing the 4th MEB were elements of the 10th Combined
Arms Army. Corporal Hunter was part of the Super Glide Task
Force. He and his fellow "Fat Bobs" soon found out how
different and how dangerous it was to be on the offensive.
The Super Glide Task Force was frequently the lead element of
the 4th MEB while the 2d and 8th Marine Regiments were held
in reserve to exploit the tactical situation. With Warsaw
Pact forces in northeast West Germany conducting a strategic
withdrawal to more defensible positions, the Task Force used
its maneuver ability to exploit the tactical situation.
Typically, the Task Force advanced to locate enemy
forces and rapidly develop the situation for the main body.
Their advance often resulted in a meeting engagement which
was a combat action which occurred when the moving Task
Force, incompletely deployed for battle, engaged the enemy at
an unexpected time and place.11 The Task Force commander
then had to quickly determine whether he would bypass the
enemy or conduct a hasty attack. If the latter, the Task
Force commander deployed and attacked quickly to gain the
upper hand and to keep the enemy from organizing
resistance.12 The speed of attack offset a lack of thorough
preparation. As the attack developed, the Task Force
commander, relying on his own evaluation or orders from
higher headquarters, then conducted either a battle of
exploitation or one of pursuit.
In exploitation, the Task Force drove swiftly for deep
objectives, seized or destroyed command posts, severed escape
routes, and struck at reserves, artillery, and combat support
units to prevent the enemy force from reorganizing an
effective defense or from conducting an orderly withdrawal.
The key to success was speed, as any delay afforded the enemy
the opportunity to regroup and mount counterattacks or to
establish delaying positions in depth. The psychological
effect of exploitation created confusion and apprehension.13
In pursuit, the objective was to completely destroy an
enemy force which had lost its ability to defend or delay in
an organized fashion. Unlike exploitation, in which the
objective was the destruction of the enemy support systems,
the objective of pursuit was the destruction of the enemy
force. In the conduct of a pursuit, relentless pressure was
directed against the retreating enemy while enveloping forces
severed the lines of escape. 14
The various tactical maneuvers of a hasty attack,
bypass, exploitation and pursuit were not mutually exclusive
terms. Rather, all were often elements in a single battle.
The participation of Task Force Super Glide in the Battle of
Rostock, 26-31 August, 1995, is illustrative.
The Task Force was advancing east towards Wismar in East
Germany when it made contact with elements of the Soviet
128th Motorized Rifle Division, holding key terrain near the
junction of highways 106 and 105. Estimating that it was a
regimental sized force, the Task Force commander believed a
quick attack would be successful but the MEB commanding
general instructed him to bypass Wismar to the south and then
swing north to pursue enemy forces withdrawing east along
highway 105 towards Rostock. While the 8th Marines enveloped
the Wismar resistance, the Task Force continued along 105 and
fought a pursuit battle for the next two days. It was then
ordered to the east of Rostock where, for the next three
days, it fought a battle of exploitation. The Task Force
blocked escape routes leading from the city on highways 103,
105, 108, and 110, and attacked command and control
facilities and logistics concentrations in and around the
city and port. As this phase of the battle progressed, the
2d Marine Regiment was lifted by helicopter west of Rostock
to eventually link up with the Task Force and encircle the
remaining enemy left in the city.
For the motorcycle Marines of the Task Force, the
enthusiasm of the advance was tempered by the high number of
casualties. The Marines frequently became victims of one of
their greatest assets - speed. Attacks were conducted while
on the move and the cyclists often raced ahead to reconnoiter
the area and seek targets of opportunity. While effective in
these roles, the small dispersed fireteams and single and
paired cyclists often fell easy prey to small enemy units and
individuals of the retreating Warsaw Pact forces. The same
kind of defensive tactics that the Marines used near Hannover
were equally as effective for the other side while the
cyclists were on the attack.
Unless they were disabled, it was unusual to find a
motorcycle after a battle. Frequently, ropes were laid
across the road and as a cyclist approached they were pulled
taut to either clothes line the rider or spill the cycle and
accomplish the same thing. The Marines were frequently left
simply dazed or injured on the road while the enemy retrieved
the cycle and rode off.
A captured prisoner described the technique in the
"We hid the rope with dirt or debris as best we
could. The riders were seldom alone but they were
usually dispersed in line by a considerable
distance. We waited for the last rider to spring
our trap. With the rider dispatched, we retrieved
the motorcycle. We rarely shot the Marines.
Shooting them while mounted involved a great risk
of damaging the cycle. Shooting them dismounted
risked alerting the others. It just wasn't
While a captured cycle could be used as as rapid means
for one or two soldiers to rejoin their unit, few cycles were
recaptured. They were mostly retrieved from civilians if at
all. The soldiers usually drove them to what they thought
was a safe area and traded them for whatever their greatest
need was at the time.
The loss of Marines and their cycles, frequently in
"one's and two's," was rapidly thinning the ranks. Offensive
combat was expensive in men and material. Had sustained
combat lasted much beyond the battle for Rostock, it is
questionable whether the 24th Marine Regiment could have
maintained its combat capability without an extended period
to replenish its depleted assets. Fortunately for those
doing the fighting and those caught between the armies, the
war was quickly coming to a surprising conclusion.
The End of the War
Editor's Note: The next letter was written by Staff Sergeant
David Schmidt of "Charlie" Company, 1st
Battalion, 24th Marines. On September 20,
1995, he wrote his father in East Lansing,
Michigan. Staff Sergeant Schmidt is now a
student at Michigan State University.
We've been here in Rostock, East Germany, for the past
three weeks. I guess it's a combination of things --
weather, replacements, rest, evacuation of the dead and
wounded, refugees, POW's. The fighting is only a small part
of our job. By comparison, the rest is confusion.
A couple of things of note. Last time I wrote I was a
Corporal, I'm now a Staff Sergeant in charge of a platoon.
I'm not sure if it's deserved or not. The most important
factor in getting promoted is staying alive. If I survive a
couple more months I'll probably be an officer!
There's a sad sight in the harbor here -- as if there
weren't plenty to go around. The USS Manitowoc, the ship
that was involved in the start of this war, was scuttled to
block the entrance to the port. It's ironic. It was here
for goodwill and now we're spreading a little "goodwill" of
I don't know where we're headed next. We understand
both sides have been using chemical weapons to the south of
us. None in this area, thank God!
We hear the United Nations is getting involved in a
truce and there is talk of a cease fire. Mostly rumor I
guess. Do you know what's going on? The truth is hard to
find around here.
Hope to see you soon. Your son,
In fact, there was something going on but it wasn't a
United Nations sponsored truce or a cease fire arranged by
the combatants. Early on, it was clear that the UN was
ineffective. Although a majority of the nations worked for a
negotiated settlement of some kind prior to and after the war
started, many of the key NATO and Warsaw Pact nations were
using the UN for propaganda purpose. It was not a forum for
peace and reason. Rather, it was a forum for excuses and
Because of the UN's impotence, several nations
informally organized an association called Nations for Peace
(NFP). The initial members were China, India, and Brazil. By
the end of June, the fledgling organization was meeting
regularly in New Dehli. The membership, their attention
focused by the expanding war, had one basic item on their
agenda -- what could they do to prevent the war from
escalating into a nuclear exchange? During July, the
membership grew in prestige and diversity as Sweden, Mexico,
Japan, South Africa, Vietnam, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Iraq,
Australia and New Zealand joined. The seriousness of the NFP
agenda was underscored by the fact that nations put aside
their long standing differences to work towards an end to the
conflict. Eventually, the NFP membership encompassed most of
the original UN countries, less those at war.
As the July/August NATO offensive advanced into East
Germany and Czechoslovakia, the NFP feared the worst. This
fear drove the formulation of what became known as the
"Manifesto for Peace." The document and its contents were
debated and agreed to in private so that, by early September,
the NFP countries were ready to exert their influence. The
Manifesto, in phase one, contained seven initial provisions
for the signatory nations to execute sequentially as
1. A declaration of neutrality.
2. The elimination of all exports and imports to and
from belligerent nations.
3. The freezing of all economic assets held by
belligerent nations in member financial institutions.
4. The nationalization of all business interests in the
NFP countries owned by belligerent nations.
5. The revocation of existing agreements covering land
basing, ship repair and port facilities, over-flight rights,
and intelligence gathering facilities for belligerent
6. The extension of national boundaries recognizing a
seaward zone of sovereignty of 100 nautical miles.
7. The immediate removal of all personnel and military
equipment of belligerent nations from NFP member nations.
With a great deal of publicity, the first step of the
plan was announced and implemented on 12 September. The next
steps were announced one at a time over the next six days.
The reaction from NATO and Warsaw Pact countries was
perhaps predictably nonplused. They refused to believe that
the NFP countries would actually cause them significant
economic or military damage since the war was substantially
confined to central Europe.
When chemical agents were used for the first time by
both sides in East Germany and Czechoslovakia during the
third week of September, the NATO offensive was stopped.
More importantly, however, it raised the specter that a
nuclear exchange was now a real possibility.
The resultant civilian casualties and a lull in the
fighting gave impetus to the NFP to execute phase two of
their Manifesto. On the 29th of September, Vietnam seized
Soviet military assets at Camh Ranh Bay and elsewhere and
Japan did likewise to American assets on their soil.
With the warring sides perplexed over the rapid, new
diplomatic developments and the growing prestige of the NFP
in the eyes of world opinion, the NFP played their final
card. On the third of October, elements of the Swedish Air
Force flew north to the Kola Peninsula and south to West
Germany and harmlessly dropped some bombs near Warsaw Pact
and NATO port facilities. As soon as the aircraft returned,
the NFP announced that its member nations were willing to
enter the war as a third belligerent, against both the other
factions. This development carried great risks for both
NATO and the Warsaw Pact and underscored how serious the NFP
nations viewed events in Central Europe.
NATO, and in particular the United States, faced the
loss of naval superiority and a rising tide of public opinion
against the war. The Soviet Union faced the real possibility
of a second front against China, while its influence on other
Warsaw Pack nations was waning because of the chemical
attacks on their soil.
What quickly followed, of course, was the NFP supervised
cease-fire on the 21st of October and the negotiated peace
which subsequently followed. United States forces were
withdrawn from Europe and Soviet forces withdrew to their
own border. Following this disengagement the countries of
Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East Germany,
Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Romania
declared their neutrality.
Thus, the NFP, perceiving global survival the issue,
exerted the necessary political will to diffuse the war and
change the world.
AFTER ACTION REPORT
As in any endeavor that involved combat, there are
"lessons learned." The after action report, or command
chronology, of the 24th Marines is a military document that
contains the experience, insight, and observation of the
commander and his staff who were actually on the scene. Some
key points from the "lessons learned" by the 24th Marines are
presented below. The words of the regimental commanding
officer have been paraphrased.
If any word or concept characterized the regiment's
participation in the war, it might very well be serendipity,
"the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought
for." We were called up to active duty on 6 May. The
division commander and I had talked periodically on the phone
about that possibility, but we were both of the opinion that
the likelihood of a call-up was remote. A political
settlement would diffuse the situation. On the other hand,
we also agreed that a call-up would provide a much needed
test of what we perceived was a critical weak link in the one
combat capability which is rarely effectively tested and
evaluated -- mobilization.
The mobilization problems were threefold: would a
political decision to mobilize be made soon enough to allow
us the needed time to get ready? Were our own mobilization
plans adequate? Would we be able to get there once
mobilized? I really only had to concern myself with the
question of our own plans. The answers to the other
questions were beyond my control.
Was the mobilization successful? The answer is a
qualified yes. The entire regiment and most of its equipment
made it to West Germany in three weeks. That was surprising
speed as far as I was concerned. The biggest challenge was
to overcome inertia. Initially no one really believed we
would go. When it became obvious we were going, we had to
devote all our energy to the logistics details. The myriad
of remaining administrative matters were largely ignored. We
rationalized that we would sort it all out when we had the
time. We literally had no other choice. I was in Germany
with an advance party on the 13th of May. My battalion
commanders told me that the actual embarkation had a circus
atmosphere about it. They half expected that the Marines
would debark the planes with an assortment of wives,
children, pets, and briefcases full of office work still with
them. I'm exaggerating of course, but I always had my doubts
that the entire regiment would join me.
Once it became apparent we would all make it, I was
preoccupied with my foremost concern -- combat readiness.
Again, the problem was multi-faceted. Had we trained for the
right war? Would our motorcycles and anti-armor weapons be
effective? Could untested reserves fight in unfamiliar
Our training worried me the most. The regiment had been
designated as part of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force
and had periodically participated in battalion sized strength
in joint exercises along the east coast with active duty
units. However, the preponderance of our training had been
done at 29 Palms and environs like it. We thought our most
likely employment would be in the middle east or southwest
Asia. The questions of whether our weapons and tactics would
be effective and could we fight effectively are addressed
elsewhere in this report.
Our initial employment as part of the 10th (U.S.) Corps
reserve of Allied Forces Central was one of those fortuitous
decisions, which, I believe, was in great measure responsible
for our survival as a combat unit throughout the war. We
were best suited for defensive operations. Although I
personally disagreed when my battalions were attached to
other 10th Corps divisions, our defensive role gave us some
time to train and rehearse. Had we been in the front lines,
we might have been overrun in the first onslaught.
When the actual combat started, I'd like to say that our
success was due to the simple fact that we were Marines.
Although that is part of it, we had unexpected help. Most of
my Marines were from the midwest. Although there was the
normal grumbling among the troops, when it became clear that
we would fight, the Marines seemed to have a special spirit
because the war had "started" in their backyard. After the
first shot was fired, morale was never a problem. If
anything, the Marines were too aggressive, especially in
The other unexpected surprise was in the effectiveness
of our motorcycles and the JAWS anti-armor weapons. It is my
observation that the battlefield was not dominated by
airplanes, tanks, and personnel carriers. It mattered little
how big or how fast they were. They could be easily seen or
detected and destroyed. The individual soldier in many
respects was safest when on foot. The ultimate in foot
mobility, as far as I was concerned, was having a Marine on a
motorcycle. In fact, as the war progressed, the Marines
literally had to sleep with their cycles to protect them. It
seemed that the ultimate war trophy, for friend and foe
alike, was a Harley-Davidson. In combination with the JAWS,
which turned out to be extremely reliable, it was a deadly
combination of speed, accuracy, lethality and mobility. It
was a unique "system." Neither side had a real counterpart.
A little bit about offensive operations. As I
mentioned, over aggressiveness was a problem. With a subdued
air battle, my Marines were occasionally the fastest movers
on the battlefield. With the extensive road network in
central Europe, it was all too easy for units and individuals
to sprint ahead, hoping to surprise an armored vehicle for
the kill. When the Marines did this, they became targets for
rear guards and stragglers. We had our greatest number of
casualties while attacking.
At one point I became so frustrated that I considered
ordering my Marines to remove all the tank, helicopter, truck
and personnel carrier insignia they were painting on their
cycles. I thought that unit cohesion had broken down in
favor of individual goals. Who would be the biggest "Ace" of
the war? I felt responsible for the problem because it was a
good morale booster that I let get out of hand. When the
first stories appeared about the new aces of warfare, I had
encouraged the media coverage. It was too successful. It
sometimes seemed as if there were a hundred correspondents
following us around on their own cycles with mini cameras.
I eventually decided not to order the removal of the
decals, but it was because we were back in defensive
positions at the end of the war. I regret that the situation
existed. I think it cost needless loss of life. Such is the
burden of command.
While I have discussed some of the generalities of the
war, let me mention some of the specific problems we
encountered that should be corrected in the future.
Administration. Next to training, mobilization is
probably the most important combat multiplier for a reserve
unit. We were lucky. In May we were in the midst of
preparing for summer exercises, so we were as
administratively ready as we could have been. As it was, we
had to ignore everything just to get our Marines to the
airports. If it had been another time of the year we might
have stayed at home. No notice call-ups should be one of the
commanders top priorities.
Communications/Intelligence. I have lumped these two
together because for us the problems were inseparable. For a
similarly equipped regiment in the future, I believe each
Marine needs a multi-channel radio built into his cycle and
helmet. We could really only effectively communicate down to
the platoon level. Critical intelligence was usually obtained
only while in combat. Had we had the means of communicating
through the chain of command to the individual Marine, we
would have been much more successful. The Marines and their
motorcycles are a mobile weapons platform just like an
aircraft. Without a means of telling them exactly where to
go, their effectiveness is diminished. Individual radios
have to be part of the "system."
Operations. Doctrinally, you could say the combat
employment of the cycle is at a similar stage of development
to that of the airplane after World War I. It needs some
innovative thought, especially in offensive operations. Some
of my recommendations in the areas of communications and
logistics, if adopted, will drive these doctrinal
considerations. If you grant that we were successful, our
euphoria needs to be tempered. The motorcycle is still but
one part of combined arms. It worked in Europe in the summer
but will it work in other climes and places against other
Logistics. Our motorcycles and anti-armor weapons were
durable and effective. Need I say more? Well, yes. I think
it is clear, that to the limit of technology, we need lighter
weapons with a greater range so we can increase our combat
load. Again, luck was with us in logistics. Our motorcycles
and the heavier (greater range) JAWS they carried were
somewhat unique. Our supply of replacement cycles, spare
parts, and the weapons held up because we had little
competition. We were the sole end-user. This might not be
the case next time. If you have quality, quantity becomes
As for new pieces of equipment, I have already mentioned
the radios. That should be the first priority. The other
piece of gear I put in the "must have" category is a night
vision visor. The motorcycle helmet needs, to be completely
redesigned. I think it is technically feasible to incorporate
protection, communications, and night vision capability into
a light weight helmet. It could probably even have some
filters that would enhance rider survivability in a
I mentioned serendipity earlier. Let me explain.
Certainly, the war and our participation was neither sought
for, nor expected. What we found was unexpected success on a
battlefield we least expected to fight on.
Success is difficult to define. Sometimes it is the
final score with a clear victor. Other times the victory is
phyrric; the battle is won but the war is lost. Often the
participants have long since left the stage and the critics
and historians decide who the successful actor was.
World War III was unique because both combatants "lost."
With no winning side, it has been easier for military
historians to objectively view the war. On the operational
level, each side had notable victories in which personality,
tactics, equipment, or luck played key roles.
The 24th Marines are a fascinating subject of study
because one can look at them and ask some interesting
questions about what might have been their fate had
decisions made a decade ago been different.
How should the reserves be organized? How should they
be equipped? Do they have any relevance other than providing
the structure in the case of general mobilization? How
should they train? Can they be a force in readiness in an
environment in which low intensity in the expected norm of
Does the nation have enough resources to fully prepare
for all levels of conflict? Are we spending our money
wisely? How can the military demonstrate value for the money
it spends? Is relative peace and security demonstration
Will technology defeat the military art? What
technology is appropriate? Will weapons become so reliable,
so accurate, so fast, or so deadly, that the relative small
size of individual soldiers is their greatest protection?
Is the motorcycle relevant again to the military? Might
it be a form of cheap transportation which brings the
ultimate in mobility to the individual soldier and his
weapons? Is it a cheap weapons system in comparison to the
expensive tanks and other armored vehicles?
Are our leaders making the right decisions? What is
determining the decisions? Money? Technology? Strategy?
Tactics? Politics? Assumptions based on unsubstantiated
beliefs? What input do you have?
There are many questions and the answers to some may be
elusive. I hope the 24th Marine Motorcycle Regiment and its
future war have raised a few of those questions, and
at the same time been informative and entertaining.
Annex A - Chronology of Events
1992 - Delivery of Harley-Davidson motorcycles to the
24th Marines begins.
1993 - START-2 signed - a further reduction in nuclear
1994 - The United States and Soviet Union begin
reducing conventional forces in central Europe.
15 Apr 1995 - Goodwill port visits begin in Chicago,
Milwaukee, Rostock and Gdansk.
20 Apr - East German frigate sunk in Lake Michigan near
21 Apr - American vessels and crews seized in Rostock
25 Apr - East Germany declares its intention of trying
U.S. sailors for espionage.
1 May - Ground access to West Berlin cut off by Warsaw
2 May - West German C-130 shot down on flight to West
3 May - West Germany shoots down an East German MIG-29.
6 May - Mobilization call for 24th Marines.
19 May - 24th Marines report to aerial ports of
26 May - 24th Marines assembled near Hannover, West
Germany -- assigned to 10th (US) Corps, the
reserve of Allied Forces Central.
31 May - The War begins.
June - The Nations for Peace organize.
29 June - 28th Combined Arms Army attacks near Hannover.
30 June - 24th Marines fully engaged in combat.
mid July - NATO offensive begins.
2 Aug - 24th Marines detached from 10th (US) Corps to
join 4th MEB.
26-31 Aug - The battle for Rostock between the 4th MEB and
elements of the 10th Combined Arms Army.
12 Sep - Phase One of the NFP's Manifesto for Peace
3d week Sep - Chemical agents used for the first time.
29 Sep - Phase Two of the Manifesto for Peace initiated.
3 Oct - Swedish Air Force bombs NATO and Warsaw Pact
facilities. The NFP declares its willingness
to enter the war as a third belligerent -
against both sides.
21 Oct - NFP supervised cease fire leads to negotiated
Click here to view images
Chapter 1, The Beginning of World War III
1Tom Clancy. Red Storm Rising. (New York: G.P.
Putnam's Sons, 1986), p.25.
2General Sir John Hackett (et al). The Third World War:
August 1985. (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc.,
1978), p. 311.
Chapter 2, The Military Motorcycle
1Lieutenant H.G. de Watteville, R.G.A., "Motor Cycles
for Military Purposes," The Journal of the Royal United
Services Institute, Vol. XLVIII, March, 1904, p.254.
8"The German Armored Divisions," Military Review, March,
1938, p.226. - from a translation of portions of the book
Achtung Panzer by General Heinz Guderain.
9Captain Wheeling, "Military Motorcycles," Infantry
Journal, May/June, 1938, p.240.
11Captain H.H.D. Heiberg, "Care and Maintenance of Motor
VEhicles of the Cavalry Regiment", Cavalry Journal,
March/April, 1938, p.126/
12Lieutenant Colonel A.T. McAnsh, "The New German Army
Showing Organization of Panzer Divisions," Cavalry Journal,
July/August, 1940, pp.307-314.
13"The Armored Corps," Infantry Journal, September-
October, 1940, pp.436-441.
14Lieutenant W.B. Fraser, "Motorcycle Maintenance
Problems," Cavalry Journal, September/October, 1940, pp.450-
15Major General E.J. Stackpole, Jr., "22nd Cavalry in
First Army Maneuvers 1940," Cavalry Journal,
September/October, 1940, p.449.
16Captain C.P. Bixel, "Cavalry Motorcycle Troop,"
Cavalry Journal, January/February, 1941, pp.52-55.
17David K. Wright. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company:
An Official Eighty-Year History. (Osceola, Wisconsin:
Motorbooks International Publishers and Wholesalers, Inc.,
18Lieutenant W.J. Davis, "Mounting Trooper's Individual
Equipment on Solo Motorcycles," Cavalry Journal, May/June
19Lieutenant T.E. Matlack, "Motorcycle Platoon in the
Dismounted Attack," Cavalry Journal, July/August 1941, pp.86-
20"Motorcycle Ambulance," Cavalry Journal, March-April
21Lieutenant L.C. Alexander, "Motorcycle Training,"
Cavalry Journal, March/April, 1943, pp.74-75.
Chapter 3, The Harley-Davidson Motor Company
1David K. Wright. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company:
An Official Eighty-Year History. (Osceola, Wisconsin:
Motorbooks International Publishers and Wholesalers, Inc.,
7First Article Test of Motorcycle, Utility, 2 Wheel
(MCM); Final Report of, (Motor Transport Branch, Mobility and
Logistics Division, Development Center, Marine Corps
Development and Education Command, Quantico, Virginia,
January 1986), P.1.
8D. Polsky, "Navy, DoD Seek Proposal for Antitank
Killer," Navy Times, January 18, 1988, p.31.
9Jane's Infantry Weapons 1987-88. (New York: Janes
Publishing Inc.), p.704.
Chapter 4, The Marine Corps Reserve
1Fleet Marine Force. (Education Center, Marine Corps
Development and Education Command, Quantico, Virginia, June
Chapter 5, The 24th Marines in Combat
1The Soviet Army: Operations and Tactics, FM 100-2-1.
(Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., 16
July, 1984), p.1-1.
9Tom Clancy. Red Storm Rising. (New York: G.P.
Putnam's Sons, 1986), p.428.
11Marine Light Armor Employment OH 6-6. (Marine Corps
Development and Education Command, Quantico, Virginia,
September 1985), p.5-2-5-3.
Clancy, Tom, Red Storm Rising. New York: G.P. Putnam's
The reasons for the start of World War III
chronicled - primarily driven by a shortage of oil in
the Soviet Union after a huge POL refinery is sabotaged.
Describes in detail the air, land, and sea battles which
follow and events leading to the end of the war.
Hackett (et al), Sir John. The Third World War: August
1985. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1978.
Reasons for the start of World War III detailed -
influenced by access to oil and political developments
in central Europe. Lays the political, economic, and
social framework which lead to the war.
Hackett, Sir John. The Third World War: The Untold Story.
New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1982.
A sequel to the previous book. Goes into detail
about the military conduct of the war at sea, in the air
and on land. The primary emphasis is the ground war.in
central Europe and developments in the Politburo which
weren't 'known' when the first book was written.
Wright, David K. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company: An
Official Eighty-Year History. Oceola Wisconsin:
Motorbooks International Publishers and Wholesalers,
Details the history of the company: key figures,
production, sport racing, civilian and military markets,
Alexander, L.C. "Motorcycle Training." Cavalry Journal,
March-April 1943, pp.74-75.
Describes training phases at the Motorcycle
Department Cavalry Training Center, Ft. Knox, KY.
Bixel, C.P. "Cavalry Motorcycle Troop.' Cavalry Journal,
January-February 1941, pp.52-55.
Discusses equipment, organization and doctrine of
the motorcycle troop in the 6th Cavalry reconnaissance
regiment - motorcycle troop in existence one year at the
Clow, K.G. "Traffic Control for Military Marches." Cavalry
Journal, January-February 1941, pp.60-61.
Explains the uses of the motorcycle in traffic
control for a regimental column during administrative
Davies, W.T. "Mounting Trooper's Individual Equipment on
Solo Motorcycles." Cavalry Journal, May-June 1941,
Discusses a modification of the McClellan saddle so
it will fit on a motorcycle - in this case, one of the
twelve Indian Model 640's in the Sixth Reconnaissance
Troop to which the author belonged.
de Watteville, H.G. "Motor Cycles for Military Purposes."
The Journal of the Royal United Service Institute, March
An early evaluation of the potential of the
motorcycle as a military vehicle.
Fraser, W.B. "Motorcycle Maintenance Problem." Cavalry
Journal, September-October 1940, pp.450-453.
Evaluation of 81 motorcycles used by the motorcycle
troop of the 6th Cavalry in 1940 maneuvers in Georgia
Haber, R.E. "Marines Pop Wheelies." Marine Corps Gazette,
July 1979, pp.23-24.
The experimental use of motorcycle messengers in
combined arms exercises at the 29 Palms, CA, Combat
Heiberg, H.H.D. "Care and Maintenance of Motor Vehicles of
the Cavalry Regiment (Horse)." Cavalry Journal, March-
April 1938, pp.126-130.
Discusses maintenance of the vehicles contained in
the June 1, 1937, table of basic allowances for a
Herr, J.K. "Notes from the Chief of Cavalry." Cavalry
Journal, July-August 1940, pp.322-323.
Contains the table of organization and equipment
for the four regimental cavalry troops of the 1st
Matlack, T.E. "Motorcycle Platoon in Dismounted Attack."
Cavalry Journal, July-August 1941, pp.86-87.
A description of a motorcycle troop attacking a
road block or other isolated point of resistance.
McAnsh, A.T. "The New German Army Showing Organization. of
Panzer Divisions." Cavalry Journal, July-August 1940,
Organization and tactics of the German Army as
evaluated early in the war - an emphasis on blitzkrieg.
Polsky, D. "Navy, DoD Seek Proposal for Antitank Killer."
Navy Times, January 18, 1988, pp.24,31.
Research and development for a lightweight antitank
weapon able to destroy modern Soviet battle tanks at
close range being examined by the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency and the Naval Surface Weapons
Richardson, R.C. "The Wider Role of Cavalry." Cavalry
Journal, January-February 1941, pp. 4-5.
Notes that mechanization by the cavalry provides
the commander an extraordinary means of surprise warfare
to accomplish his mission.
Robinson, C.R. "The Motorcycle in March Control." Cavalry
Journal, March-April 1940, pp.52-53.
The use of the motorcycle by the 106th Cavalry on
an 800 mile march from Illinois to Camp Livingston, LA.
Speidel, W.H. "Guerrilla Warfare and Motorization."
Military Review, December 1939, pp.55-57.
Condensed from 18 Nov., 1938 article in Military-
Wochenblatt by LtCol Braun. Chinese irregulars fighting
the Japanese. Advocates motorized troops for the
partisan's, including motorcyclists equipped with
machine guns and demolitions for long range missions.
Stackpole, E.J. Jr. "22nd Cavalry Division in First Army
Maneuvers 1940." Cavalry Journal, September-October
1940 maneuvers in northern New York including
a number of lessons learned.
Walsh, B.A. "Motorcycle Endurance Run." Cavalry Journal,
May-June 1943, p.85.
An extra-curricular endurance run for the soldiers
at the Motorcycle Department, Armored Force School,
Fort Knox, Kentucky. One hundred five riders negotiate
a 61 mile course on secondary roads - in the rain and
Wheeling. "Military Motorcycles." Infantry Journal, May-
June 1938, pp.240-241.
"Captain Wheeling is the pseudonym of a captain of
Field Artillery who spends his spare time investigating
the wartime potentialities of the motorcycle. He
contends that in this field the United States is not
keeping up with the Joneses" -- so says the 'Meet the
Authors' section of this issue. Advocates the
development of a reliable motorcycle for the army.
Notes that the European armies have overcome the
mechanical problems and find it a tactically useful
"Ford Saber Dual Purpose Missile." Jane's Infantry Weapons
1987-88, 1987, p.704
Review of infantry weapons from around the world -
fielded, still in production and under development.
"Motorcycle Ambulance." Cavalry Journal, March-April 1942,
During maneuvers in Louisiana in 1941, soldiers
make an improvised carrier to tow disabled motorcycles.
"The Armored Corps." Infantry Journal. September-October
Details the organization and equipment of an
"Motorcycles Go to War." Scientific American, April 1928,
Military applications of the motorcycle and sidecar
in the French Army in the late 1920's. Examples:
Sidecar supplanted by a tank for the transport of
aviation gas; machine-gun-equipped motorcycle for
defense/attack against low flying enemy aircraft;
communications cycle which lays wire from a reel on the
rear of the cycle and has a battery/telephone hookup in
the sidecar; motorcycle configured as a sending and
receiving wireless station; an armed and armored cycle
with sidecar; special rafting equipment carried in
sidecars to be inflated to carry the cycled across
bodies of water.
"The German Armored Divisions." Military Review, March 1938,
p.226 - from a translation of portions of the book
Achtung Panzer by Heinz Guderain.
u.s. Government Publications
First Article Test Report of Motorcycle, Utility, 2 Wheel
(MCM); Final Report of. Report No. 1642-C. Motor
Transport Branch, Mobility and Logistics Division,
Development Center, Marine Corps Development and
Education Command, Quantico, VA. January 1986.
Test data, test criteria, deficiencies and
suggested improvements in determining the suitability of
fielding a Marine Corps motorcycle.
Fleet Marine Force. Education Center, Marine Corps
Development and Education Command, Quantico, VA. June
An instructional publication intended to be used in
conjunction with current Marine Corps Tables of
Organization and Tables of Equipment. Serves as a guide
and ready reference for commanding officers and staff
The German Motorized Infantry Regiment. Military
Intelligence Serviced War Department. Washington, D.C.,
October 17, 1942).
A translation of a captured German field manual on
the tactics of the motorized infantry regiment and
battalion when used as part of the German armored
Marine Light Armor Employment. Marine Corps Development and
Education Command, Quantico, VA, September 1985.
An operational handbook to provide concepts,
procedures, and terminology for employment of the light
armored vehicles battalion. It represents a starting
point from which formal doctrine and procedures can be
developed based on operational testing and actual unit
The Soviet Army: Operations and Tactics, FM 100-2-1.
Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C.,
16 July, 1984.
The most current and definitive source of
unclassified information on Soviet operations and
tactics and their interaction with other services in
combined arms warfare.
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