Photo: David Thomas

Dave Thomas and a friend on Dave's WW2 Russian 'Lend-Lease' WLA impression


Addressing the subject of 'Lend-Lease' isn't easy. Details of the transfer of vehicles and equipment by the US Government to other nations during WW2 remain highly obscure, even after all these years. However seeing that more than half of the WLAs produced during WW2 were shipped to other countries makes a closer look at 'Lend-Lease' an absolute necessity.
The information on this page is as far as I know correct and was verified thru different sources. It is however possible that flaws or inaccuracies occur on this page and I appreciate any feedback and corrections that could be added.
At this point too, I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to Martin Bogaert, the Indian Model 340 CAV Guru, who helped me tremendously in getting tru the 'Lend-Lease' maze, as well as all others that 'lend-leased' me with photos or information....

Yes, there's lots of text to be read, but there are pictures too ;-)




Early 1940, 50 US-Navy destroyers were transferred to the British and Canadian Royal Navies in exchange for basing rights in the Caribbean and Newfoundland, in a program which was known as the 'Destroyers for Bases Agreement'. And after June 17th, 1940; 475 Indian Model 340 CAV Motorcycles, manufactured for France, were transferred to the United Kingdom and Canada. These motorcycles were initially part of a batch produced by the Indian Motocycle Company for the French Army. However the fall of France, followed by the occupation by the German Army, made delivery of this batch impossible and they were diverted to Britain and Canada (325 and approximately 150 respectively).
These events gave birth to the later 'Lend-Lease Act'.

'Lend-Lease' began in March 1941, long before the US entered WW2, and almost 9 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Under that name the United States of America initiated a program during which they supplied Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, France and other Allied nations with vast amounts of war materiel (i.e. vehicles, motorcycles, guns, ammunition, engineering equipment, tents, clothing, etc....) between 1941 and 1945.
The 'Lend-Lease Act' passed on March 11th 1941
, permitted the President of the United States to "sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, any defense article to any such government, whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States".
In April 1941, this policy was extended to China. China had been at war with Japan since 1937 and it might well have been the intention of the US to support China in a war against a future common enemy.
At the end of October 1941, President Roosevelt approved 1 billion USdollars in 'Lend-Lease' aid to Britain , who was then at war with Germany and about six weeks before Germany declared war on the US.
Simultaneously the US Army ran a program called Motor Vehicle Defense Aid (DA) in which vehicles for other nations were contracted and paid for by the US Army through the Quartermaster Corps, but by the end of 1941, once the US was actively involved in WW2, all foreign supply activity would be known as 'Lend-Lease'.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, eager to ensure public consent for this controversial plan, explained to the public and the press that his plan was comparable to one neighbor lending another a garden hose to put out a fire in his home. The president asked at a press conference: "What do I do in such a crisis?"  "I don't say... 'Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it' …I don't want $15 — I want my garden hose back after the fire is over."

President Roosevelt set up the Office of 'Lend-Lease' Administration in 1941, appointing steel executive Edward R. Stettinius as head. In September 1943, Stettinius was promoted to Undersecretary of State, and banker Leo T. Crowley became head of Lend Lease which then became part of the Foreign Economic Administration, also known as the FEA.
'Lend-Lease' aid to Russia was nominally managed by Stettinius. Roosevelt's Soviet Protocol Committee, dominated by Harry Hopkins and General John York, who were totally sympathetic to the provision of "unconditional aid." Until 1943, few Americans objected to Russian aid.

The 'Lend-Lease' program was abruptly stopped by the Americans immediately after V-J day. It is not clear how much of the equipment was returned or paid for. In return for these goods, some countries provided the US troops with camps and bases in their country or put their industry to work to manufacture uniforms, equipment or other goods for the US Army. Best known examples of this, are the 'British Made for US Army' uniforms and equipment; a production which is sometimes referred to as 'Reverse-Lend-Lease'.

The 'Lend-Lease' deliveries consisted of hundreds of different items, all described under the general term of 'Defense Articles'. Ilya Grinberg's excellent website describes the different shipments in detail and has lists of all quantities that were sent around the globe.



'Lend-Lease' WLAs

A total of 38.103 WLAs were supplied to Allied Nations under the 'Lend-Lease Act'; which means that more than half of total WW2 production was actually supplied to, and used by, Armies other than the United States'.....
It seems that mostly Type IV or later bikes were supplied to other nations, with the exception being the Type I and II's that were shipped to China and Brazil. Except for these early bikes, which were delivered under the Defense Aid Program, all 'Lend-Lease' bikes were issued US Army Registration Numbers painted in 1" blue drab numbers on the rear fender under the lights.

The table below, taken from Page 13 of the Lend-Lease Part 3B shows how many bikes were delivered to other Nations in 'Lend-Lease'
Click HERE to see the complete listing of 'Lend-Lease' delivered Motorcycles, as published on
Ilya Grinberg's website described above.

Lend-Lease Part 3B – Page 13


Item Description:



5 Solo, Chain Drive, 45 cu in 38,103 Harley-Davidson WLA
6 Solo, 30.50 cu in 26,914 Indian Model 741
7 Chain Drive, w/sidecar 1,789 Indian Model 340
Indian Model 344

This list appears courtesy of Martin Bogaert

Countries that received the WLA (or maybe even the WLC?) were: The USSR (26.670), The British Empire (8.686), French Forces (926), China (1.000), Brazil (45), Other Latin-American Republics (156), The Netherlands (420) and the FEA (200).
Other countries that may have been supplied with WLAs thru the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA) are Belgium, Ethiopia, Greece, Iran, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Yugoslavia, but sources are not clear about this. Also note that the 'British Empire' consists not only of the United Kingdom, but also of Australia, New-Zealand and other regions of the Empire at that time. Canada did not receive the Harley-Davidson under 'Lend-Lease' but purchased the Model WLC separately for the Canadian National Defence Force. For more information on the Model WLC, click HERE!

No wonder Liberators turned up all over the world, once hostilities ended and military motorcycles were sold as surplus.... And as far as Roosevelt's proverbial garden hose is concerned..... It seems none were returned after WW2.........



The Russian Connection

In 1993, I started to shop around for a restorable WLA project. I got in touch with a guy who imported WLAs and parts from Russia. He showed me a WLA, fitted with Ndjepr front forks and modified beyond possible restoration....
The Iron Curtain had just come down and in the following months I heard more and more rumors about he vast quantities of WLAs that were still available in the former USSR. Years went by without further research about those Russian WLAs, but the import of bikes and parts from Europan former-communist countries increased al thru the 90's....
Finally thru networking and asking around, I began to have a good view on the reason why so many bikes were still around in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and other Russian cities..... It was 'Lend-Lease' that ensured the delivery of thousands of WLAs to the USSR during WW2, and even today hundreds, if not thousands, of them are still around, some in remarkably good condition....

Knowing how the Cold War influenced Eastern versus Western relationships and that for more than 40 years, threat of nuclear war was never out of people's minds; it might seem odd and hard to comprehend that it was the USSR who received the largest amount of supplies from the USA during WW2.
Stalin and the Red Army were Allies during WW2 with Germany being the common enemy; so supplying Russia with everything it needed to fight the Germans on the Eastern front probably seemed the right thing to do.....

American deliveries to the Soviet Union can be divided into the following phases:

All sorts of equipment and supplies were delivered to the USSR during WW2; equipment which included 7.056 Tanks, 51.503 Jeeps (Willys MB....), 375.883 Trucks (Studebaker....), 11.205 Bicycles, 131.633 Machine Guns, 3.786.000 Tires, 15.417.001 Pairs of shoes and.......34.190 Motorcycles!!!!! Of these 34.190 Motorcycles, 26.670 of them were Harley-Davidson Model 42WLA!.....The other models were Indian Models 741, 340 and 344....

Most of the WLAs delivered to the USSR were equipped with the M72 side car and a passenger/pillion seat on the luggage rack, upon arrival in Russia and many were used to transport a field mortar and crew, although the WLAs 750cc engine wasn't really up to the task. 

'Russian WLA Line-Up'

Photo from an unknown source

A line-up of brand new WLAs with Russian crews during WW2.
Looking at the fenders, high Ammo Boxes and leatherette apron, bikes all seem to be Type III or IV 42WLA....

These motorcycles were used extensively by civilians after WW2, and after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, many of these bikes and parts were shipped to customers all over the world. Some of these were in a remarkable original condition, while others had been repaired with whatever was available in Russia. This resulted in WLAs with Ndjepr front forks, or engines rebuilt with Lada pistons, etc....

Photo: Semyon Trofimov (St-Petersburg) via Martin Bogaert

With over 26.000 WLAs issued to the Red Army, the Ministry of the Armed Forces of the USSR, printed their own technical manuals.
Note that the cover drawing shows the bike without SMG-bracket and Ammo Box, although they were mounted on Russian WLAs.


These drawings from the Russian manual show the M72 Type Side-Car and Pillion Seat


The Russians even made their own 'Sportsman' Tires, in a factory in Saint Petersburg.

Tire from the Maurizio Beretta Collection


The M72 Side Car fitted to the WLA by the Russian Army

Side Car from the Michel Clements Collection

Shown above is an original unrestored M72 Side Car. The tire is a Russian made Firestone Sportsman type in 4.00x18 size.
Note the fender light, which is also visible on the wartime pictures below...


'Men and Machine...'

A Russian Army 42WLA somewhere on the Eastern Front in WW2.
From the front fender, it appears to be a Type V or higher. The markings on the Side Car remain a mystery.

Private photo via Martin Bogaert


'Russian Mortar WLAs'

Private photo via Martin Bogaert

A Mortar Crew about to fire their weapon, mounted to WLAs fitted with Side Cars.
The motorcycles seem to be standard WLAs with legshields fitted.
This is probably a staged photo taken during a field exercise.


'к Berlin!!' ("To Berlin")

Private photo via Martin Bogaert

Russian Troops are speeding past a vehicle column on their drive to Berlin. All bikes are equipped with a Side Car.
The first WLA is a Type IV or early Type V identified by the first pattern front fender and low Ammo Box.
The legshields are attached to all bikes.
Note the US made M3 75mm Gun Motor Carriage Half Track in the background.



Private photo via Martin Bogaert

At this Victory parade at the end of WW2, WLAs are lined up with their crews across the street.
Note the variation of side-cars and absence of luggage rack on at least one bike.


'The mystery WSR'

Photos: Harley-Davidson

The Model WSR was a prototype designed to be used on the Russian Front. It was created in 1944 after thousands of WLAs were sent to the Soviets and was based on the later type 42WLA equipped with a side-car.
The factory pictures above show how the bike was equipped wth a higher frame and longer front forks which made for more ground clearance.
The WSR never left the factory and there were no 'WSR' marked engines.



The British Empire

The 'Lend-Lease' figures show that the British Empire received 8.686 45ci Motorcycles. If indeed they were issued that many Liberators, it's odd they do not show up on wartime images more often.
Both Australia and New Zealand were issued WLA motorcycles.
The only Harleys in British use that I found were three Royal Air Force WLCs shown below. They were either supplied from Canadian WLC stocks, or were given as 'Lend-Lease' by the US. The 'Lend-Lease' paperwork does not specify whether motorcycles were WLA or WLC Models.

(Left Courtesy Imperial War Museum and Right 'British Forces Motorcycles 1925-45' by Orchard & Madden)

Both pictures show Dispatch Riders of the 83rd Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force (RAF).
More info about these bikes can be found on the WLC-Pages


'Divisional Review...'

Photo: Australian War Memorial Museum

At Puckapunyal, Australia, members of the 1st Australian Armoured Divisional Provost Company display their riding ability at arview of the division by the Commander-in-Chief of Allied Land Forces, General Sir Thomas Blamey on or around June 20th, 1942. 


'Korean War Despatch Rider...'

Australian Army WLA motorcycles stayed in service after WW2 and were still used during the War in Korea in the early 1950's.

Bob Parker, a despatch rider with the 3rd RAR Co, poses for a photo with his Harley.
It seems a type II model with bicycle style kickstarter pedal and legshields attached.

Note the US M1943 shovel carried in the SMG-bracket on the front forks.

Private photo via David Thomas



France, the country of Lafayette

The Free French Forces, commanded by General De Gaulle, were almost completely equipped by the US. This means they had US uniforms, equipment, weapons and vehicles. They were issued 926 WLA, used by the 1st and 2nd French Armored Divisions.

'Return to France......'

Photo: Imperial War Museum

In an English seaport town, a motorcycle unit from the French 2nd Armored Division, led by General Leclerc, awaits embarkation for the crossing to France on July 29th, 1944.
At least 7 WLAs are visible in the above image and all are heavily packed for this one-way trip across the Channel. Markings include the divisional insignia (Map of France with a Cross of Lorraine). The convoy number and designated transport (LST433) has been chalked on the windshield or headlight. Note the Invasion Color Bar Code on the front fender.
The first WLA seems to be a Type V with second pattern front fender while the ones in the background clearly have the earlier pattern front fenders.

The French 2AD was attached to Patton's 3rd Army and fully equipped with US made vehicles, equipment and weapons; but these riders wear a mixture of British and US uniforms. All have a British Dispatch Rider type helmet. 


'Flowers for the Liberators...'

In the small Normandy town of La-Haye-du-Puits, a Harley rider of the French 2nd AD, receives flowers from a local lady in early August 1944.

Markings on his Type IV bike are minimal, and consist only of an Allied star on the front fender, the Divisional Cross of Lorraine shield and the name 'Lille' on the windshield.
Lille is one of France's larger cities, situated in the North, close to the Belgian border. Maybe this was the rider's hometown?

Note the Sportsman tire, low ammo-box and legshields, even during this hot August day.

US Army Signal Corps Photo/National Archives


'Paris is Free!!!!!'

s from George Stevens' 'D-Day to Berlin', Warner Bros DVD

Both photos above show surrendering Germans and troops from the French 2nd Armored Division in Paris on August 25th, 1944.
Two WLAs are visible in the background. The one left is equipped with windshield and legshields even in this hot August weather. The one on the right has the French Tricolore painted on the second pattern front fender with the Divisional Insignia 'Cross of Lorraine' applied to the windshield apron.

The motorcycle rider on the left wears a US HBT uniform with British Made helmet and large leather 'kidney' belt.


'Welcome Home, General....'

Photo: Martin Bogaert

Escorted by motorcycles of the French 1st Armored Division, General De Lattre de Tassigny, enters the Place de la Comédie in Montpellier on August 30th, 1944.
Four WLAs are visible in the picture, all heavily packed, two of them with legshields and windshields.
The other two bikes are ridden by French Gendarmes and are Indian Model 340 CAV. 


Photo: Unknown

'Pouvez-vous me dire la route vers....?'
(Can you tell me where......?)

Two members of the French 1st Armored Divsion confer over a map, somewhere in the South of France in the summer of 1944.

The bike is a Type III, with a French Army Registration Number painted on the front fender above Invasion Color Bars.

Note the 'Skull & Bones' insignia attached to the horn and the Firestone 'Champion' tire on the front wheel.

Although the uniforms and equipment are standard US WW2 gear, this rider wears the pre-war french M1935 Tanker's helmet, a common practice with French riders in 1944.



Chinese WLAs?

One of the greatest mysteries of the 'Lend-Lease' program remain the WLAs which were shipped to China. They were procured by the US Army under the Defense Aid (DA) program in 1941 and as such they did not receive US Army Registration Numbers. 1000 Type I and Type II bikes were delivered to China at the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942. The only pictures of a 'Chinese' WLA are the Harley-Davidson photo's shown below.

Images from Bruce Palmer's 'How to restore your military HD'

42WLA2580, a Type I, is easily recognised by the high headlight, early round Air-Cleaner and Bicycle style kick starter pedal.



Força Expedicionaria Brasileira (FEB)

Other bikes ordered under the DA program were 45 WLA Type II's for the Brazilian Army. They were supplied with contract number DA-W-398-QM-185 in the beginning of 1942.
In 1943, Brazil joined the war in Europe and deployed the FEB to Italy. The Brazilian Expeditionary Force saw action in Italy attached to the US 5th Army. They were equipped with US weapons, vehicles and some uniform items.

The magazine below shows Brazilian riders with their Type II Harleys; note the absence of Black Out Lights. They also wear US style uniforms, headgear and M1938 Resistal goggles.

Magazine from the Steve Gregori Collection


Photo: Brazilian Army Museum

'Brazilian MP's in Italy...'

A Brazilian motorcyclist rides his WLA somewhere in Italy. The bike is a Type II, without the Black Out Driving light. Note the electrical siren mounted on the front fender and the insignia of the unit painted underneath it.


'Brazilian MP's...'

Another Brazilian Type II in Italy.

The Military Police markings appear twice, once on the windshield and also on the front fender above the Brazilian insignia.

MP's of the FEB, were mostly former police-officers of São Paulo.

Photo: Brazilian Army Museum



And the Dutch?...

Before and during WW2, The Netherlands actually had two separate Armed Forces: the Dutch Army and the Dutch-Indonesian Armed Forces (KNIL). From the list, it seems The Netherlands received 420 bikes. Since Holland was occupied until the last day of the War in Europe and the Dutch Brigade, formed in England, was completely equipped by the British, it is most likely these bikes were used by the KNIL. However, again there are only images of WLCs used by the KNIL and they are postwar... another mystery...
Next to these motorcycles, the KNIL were also supplied with Ford GP early Jeeps, Johnson M1941 Rifles and B25 Mitchell Bombers....

Photos: Unknown Internet Source

Both pictures were taken in Indonesia in the immediate postwar period, as evidenced by the Willys CJ-2A Jeep in the background.....
Both bikes are 43WLC Models with an improvised buddy seat on the luggage rack left.



Greek Harleys

There is no doubt Greece was supplied with a large amount of Harley's at the end of WW2.
When I think of Greek WLAs, the picture below shows exactly what I remember. In the mid-80, piles of WLAs came out of Greece and were sold all over Europe. Asking price for a complete WLA was about 2.000USdollars back then.... Those were the days........

Photo: Stelios Veis


Photo: Stelios Veis

'Still going strong in 1953...'

Greek Army Pvt (Signaler) Michael Litzerinos showing off on a WLA in 1953.

The bike looks in remarkable original condition, with only the Black Out Driving light moved to the right side of the front forks...

In the past 20 years or so, I have observed several bikes in exactly that condition coming out of Greece....

On November 9th, 1943, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was created . Its mission was to provide economic assistance to European nations after World War II and to repatriate and assist the refugees who would come under Allied control. The picture below shows many WLCs ready to be shipped to Greece for the UNRRA program.... Where are they now???

Photo: UNRRA, from Ray Cowdery's 'All American Wonder II'




The Belgians, attached directly to the Royal Air Force Military Police units, were equipped with WLC Models. It is however unclear whether these were supplied under 'Lend-Lease' to Belgium, or came straight from RAF supplies. And if they were RAF supply, were they 'Lend-Leased' to the British or supplied thru Canada.......?

Private photo via Erwin Peters

'Belgian WLC...'

Herman Wirix poses on a Royal Air Force marked WLC in Germany.

Wirix served as a member of the Belgian Auxiliary Air Police Service (BAAPS) with the RAF.
For more on BAAPS Click Here!

The bike is a 43WLC Model set up in 'Export' version. A Black Out Shroud has been added to the Headlight. It is equipped with a windshield with leatherette apron. The extra stand mounted to the front axle is just visible.
This photo gives another clear view of the Firestone tires.

The bike is marked to the RAF Police attached to Tactical Air Force (Police?) Headquarters (TAF PHQ). Note the RAF Registration Number RAF 157554 painted on the oil tank. Crashbars have been painted white...


If you have more info or you see errors on this page that you want to see corrected,
please don't hesitate to contact me!