Happy Memorial Day to all! Memorial Day is today, so it’s a good time to think about the meaning of this important public holiday. Memorial Day is a day to honor those who died serving the USA in military service. The holiday was established after the Civil War as Decoration Day, a day when soldier’s graves would be decorated. The name was gradually changed to Memorial Day over the years, until the name Memorial Day was formalized by the Federal Government. Now, the day is celebrated nation wide on the last Monday in May.
In addition to remembering fallen soldiers, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer with many outdoor events. I noticed a lot posts about bike rides and races in many US cities and I wondered if there was a connection between bikes and the US military … and there is!
The most extensive experimentation on bikes was carried out by 1st Lieutenant Moss, of the 25th United States Infantry (“Colored”). Using a variety of different bikes, Lt. Moss and his troops carried out extensive bike journeys covering between 800 and 1,900 miles. By the end of the 19th century, bikes were being used by messengers and scouts, reducing the need for horses. (Saving horses from the trauma of being in war zones.)
Moving forward to the 20th Century and World War II: to support the efforts of all Americans to limit the use of rubber, gasoline and oil, the US Military used bikes extensively for transportation around their bases and in patrols – and they were also used by air bases.
Also during World War II, the Allied forces supplied folding bikes to paratroopers and to messengers behind friendly lines. And behind enemy lines, US forces dropped bikes out of planes to stranded service men, to enable them to escape the enemy. These escape bikes were known as “bomber bikes.”
Bikes were also used by opposing forces. During the Vietnam War the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army used bikes to ferry supplies down the “Ho Chi Minh trail.” Bikes are stealth and were used on minor roads, to avoid detection and attack by US and Allied bombers. A lot of people figured out the usefulness of bikes a long time ago!
And women also rode bikes in wartime service!
Bikes were used so extensively by the US military during World War II that they were featured in advertising, such as this ad from the Westfield Manufacturing Company.
And this one from Columbia Bicycles:
No wonder bikes are a big part of Memorial Day today, with races and charity bike rides going on all over the country. Many of them are three-day rides that end on Memorial Day. It may be too late to join one now, but it’s not too late to be proud of your history and to start making big plans for next year!
Happy Memorial Day everyone!
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