Join the Army and Learn to Ride
While Harley-Davidson was cranking out tens of thousands of motorcycles to meet the demands of the military, the U.S. Army was faced with the task of training service men to ride the fleet of new machines.
Training facilities sprang up all around the country to teach everything from basic riding to motorcycle maintenance. Intense six week courses got inexperienced riders ready for their work at the front, which routinely consisted of dispatch and reconnaissance missions.
With major roads either inaccessible or guarded by enemy troops, dispatch riders often found themselves “bushwacking” their way across the European countryside. This led to an emphasis on offroad riding during the training courses, with riders learning to maneuver their motorcycles over rough terrain, up steep grades and even fording shallow creeks.
Keep in mind that the Harley WLA weighed in at 550 lbs and was fitted with only front suspension, increasing the skill needed to successfully pilot one through the back country.
The following video contains some excellent footage shot at one of the motorcycle training facilities used during WWII. There’s plenty of dropped bikes and spilled riders, but the trainees seem to spring right back up and are back on the their bikes in seconds.
There is even one bike that catches fire, which is saved by a group of quick thinking soldiers who smother the flames with handfuls of sand. The soundtrack doesn’t quite match the mood of the footage, so go ahead and mute this one…