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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Motorcycle troops of the Wehrmacht *. 69

German army is perhaps the only army in the world that made use of the motorcycle for armed raids and attacks. The Germans converted their BMW and Zundapp machines to military use by an innovative addition. They mounted the side car of the motorbikes with a rotating rapid fire machine gun. While the bike was piloted by a driver, his buddy who sat in the side car manned the machine gun.
In the flat plains of Europe the motorcycle patrols were a great success and every regiment had its complement of motorcycle troops. The motorcycle troops were also excellent for scouting and terrorizing the villages of occupied Europe. It was not uncommon for these motorbike troops to enter a village square with bursts of machine gun fire and terrorize the villagers of occupied Europe.
The Motorcycle troops were also used in the assault on Russia. They were part of the infantry and moved with them. In the summer they served their purpose but with the onset of winter these machines faced severe problems and the causalities mounted. Many motorbikes got stuck in the massive mud and drift and were rendered
useless. The Wehrmacht thus had to withdraw many motorcycle units from the Russian front.
In Eastern Europe and the west these bikes with the mounted machine gun served a definite purpose. Many captured bikes were also painted in the colors of the Wehrmacht and modified with side cars and machine guns and put to use with the German army. The BMW proved to be the best of the machines and its twin cylinder gave it plenty of power. However the allies and the Russians did not copy the German tactics and never fitted their bikes with machine guns. They put them to auxiliary use only.
One can say that the motorcycles were a great help in occupied Europe, but in Russia and the the North African campaign they were not a success
The use of the motorcycle as a weapon of war in the arsenal of the German army is something that needs study. The German genius of innovation was an asset and they were able to add a new page to the concept of war.