The WW II G519 Military Bicycle

History and Development

The G519 military bicycle was the standard means of non-motorized transportation for United States military personnel during the Second World War. Procured by both ordnance and quartermaster supply departments, the bicycle was designed for "Dispatch or Messenger purposes." Also identified by the designation M305, the G519 was first adopted by the Navy in limited quantities around 1939, procured by contract for production in 1941, and becoming standard for all branches of the armed services by April 1942. Tmanufactured by two companies; Westfield Mfg. Company, located in Westfield, Massachusetts, which was the larger of the two contracts, and the Huffman Mfg. Company, located in Dayton, Ohio. Westfield's Columbia, their flagship name brand, was based on the company's civilian motobike series produced in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Huffman’s Dayton, which was but one of numerous lines produced by Huffman, such as Davis, Zephyr, Airflyte, and National, was adopted from the series Champion and Special series Huffman model 51 bicycle. Government contracts specified these militarized versions meet "army" criteria and therefore had peculiarities and specific characteristics which set them apart from their civilian commercial counterparts. Throughout the course of the bicycle's service life, which stayed in inventory until 1953 (at least as "limited standard"), the G519/M305 remained mostly unchanged. Both of the bikes produced for the armed forces under the same specs differed slightly. Although similar in appearance, each carried their own respective company headbadge and retained their manufacturer's own style and design; all of course with interchangeable parts. In addition, early procurement frames differed from later frames with a noticeable change of the curved bottom frame tube to the original straight tube.

Early USMC MC Series G519 Bicycle

The M305/G519 military bicycle was specifically manufactured for the armed forces by these two well-known and popular commercial manufacturers. Besides their obvious military attributes, they could be distinguished as military bikes by their respective hand-stamped special serial numbers on the underside of the bottom bracket. Military bicycles manufactured by Westfield were designated with the prefix "M,” followed by their associated yearly sequential production series number (MC for series 1938, MF, or MG for 1942-1944.) The earliest of the military bicycles, manufactured by Columbia, originated from Westfield’s 1938 production series and was contracted by both the Marine Corps as well as sent to China under a "lend-lease" agreement. Bicycles manufactured by Huffman, first seen in 1942, were identified by their corresponding series number of either a "D," identifying a Dayton line or an "H,” which identified origin from one of their other Huffman commercial lines. During World War Two, government nomenclature required goods made for the armed forces to be dated (or at least identifiable within series number by year of manufacture.) Because Huffman production numbers did not follow a sequential yearly system as Westfield did, their bracket stamping also included the year of manufacture. See below left for bottom bracket stamping. Additional markings have also been seen identifying them for government use but was a non-standard practice added later by the military quartermaster or service corps.image

G519 Columbia MG Series Bicycle

The M306, the women’s military bicycle, was designated as standard by December 1942, corresponding with the formation of the Woman’s Auxiliary Corps earlier that year. Also manufactured by both Westfield and Huffman, the women's version was equipped the same as the male counterpart with the same contract requirements. It utilized a reinforced twin-tube frame different from their respective commercial series counterparts. Other than the basic differences between male and female models such as frame shape, sprocket differential and steer-tube length, the parts were mostly interchangeable between both the M305(G519) and M306 bicycle.

Differences between the two manufacturers’ versions were in company brand-name styles alone. At a glance, both bicycle versions appear the same, but closer inspection reveals several subtle differences peculiar to each bike. Most noticeable were the sprockets and chain guards specific to each company-a feature which today most distinguishes one maker from another. Another brand difference was the rounded Huffman fender versus Westfield’s stylish "Gothic" or arched fender. The fenders themselves were again "beefed-up" versions of the standard commercial counterparts. There were some slight differences between the frames themselves, although most are virtually unnoticeable. Subtle differences included a slightly lower mid frame bar on the Huffman as well as Westfield’s instantly recognizable rear axle dropouts for rear kickstand placement common to their commercial product lines after 1937.

Contracts for the G519 specified a sturdy and dependable utility bicycle, which was from the military’s point of view, practical. The bicycle was basically a heavy-duty version of several different commercial models with various elements and components reinforced to meet contract specifications, including heavy duty wheels and reinforced fork support. A tool kit, tire pump and battery-operated forward lamp came as standard equipment on the bicycle. Frames during that era, including the G519, were typically bonded by brazing (a method in which metal is joined by heating together with a filler metal which had a liquidus above 450ÂșC but below the solidus of the base metal.) Military frames, however, in addition were commonly reinforced at the joints by large, somewhat crude welds. Done to strengthen existing design either as a "field modification" by the military itself or prior to shipping from the factory, evidence of such a common practice indicates original factory frames were lacking in durability. The bike was factory-painted entirely in olive drab over standard Zinc-Chromate, which was designated by the Quartermaster catalog as "QM Specification ES no. 474, Enamel, Synthetic, olive drab, lusterless flat." It was also procured in Navy gray, or USMC forest/sage green, depending on the branch.

The G519 crank system had off-set cranks with lug length of 6 3/4" and the heavier BD chain to move a 26T "skip-tooth" sprocket of either the “rolling” Huffman or the Westfield "sunburst" pattern. The chain guard which differed between the two was either the larger and highly distinguishable Huffman model or the thinner McCauley "ribbed” chain guard common to Westfield's Motobike series. The saddle was a model 1352W manufactured by Persons-Majestic with russet-tan leather seat cover and thin steel "crash" tabs fastened underneath. The seat box itself was essentially a Persons motorcycle frame and brackets mated to a standard bicycle seat pan and saddle suspension. The Torrington model R stem and no. 12 box handlebars, also known as “service” or “delivery” bars with 22” width were plugged with "torpedo" style hard plastic grips, (identified in the ordnance manual simply as Textile #43) also molded in army drab.

The entire wheel assembly of the M305/306 was similar to the commercial/utility Schwinn Cycle-truck. It incorporated heavy-duty 26” x 2 1/8” rims either "drop-center" beveled or early "hooked bead" rims and drilled for heavier .110 gauge spokes. The earlier "hooked bead" style rims eventually gave way to the clincher style rims in the later stages of the bike as they were difficult to change tires without specific tools. The hubs were the heavy-duty Eclipse Model K service hubs with the rear also incorporating the complex Morrow coaster-brake assembly. Each rear hub was stamped with sequential numbers for identification of date of manufacture. Chain-thread tires were supplied by various rubber manufactures such as US Rubber Company, Goodyear or Goodrich, and commonly molded with the nomenclature "war-tire" to recognize critical components during the war’s rubber shortage. Torrington no. 8 pedals with rubber pedal blocks were the standard pedal used, although adopting wood blocks again during war-effort rubber conservation.

1942 Huffman Dayton Model G519 Bicycle

The reinforced fork/truss system was of unique design and one of the elements truly exclusive to the G519. The system incorporated two truss plates; the top anchored to the stem nut holding the truss rods and the lower sandwiched between the fork steer tube and front fender. The concept was to help stabilize the fork to the truss rods and give the front-end more rigidity and support. Up until the 1940s, most heavier bikes incorporated a similar truss rod support system but with the lower fork support mounts cast as part of the fork itself. Although some early Huffman models were were supplied to the army with single cast supports, this earlier design was not only costly to manufacture, but structurally problematic as well. The army specified the rigid truss support system and eventually the G519 was delivered with separate components altogether. By the mid 1940s however, stronger fork design and the impracticability of anchoring the rods at mid-point eventually led to it's discontinuation. In fact, by WWII, except for the military, neither Westfield nor Huffman incorporated the lower truss rod supports into their commercial bikes. Nevertheless, as uncommon as this particular system was, components of the military truss support system are extremely difficult to come across in today's market and it's incorporation alone often sets apart true war-time bikes from later reproductions.

As specified in the service and parts manual, the G519 military bicycle came equipped with accoutrements specified by the contracts that were issued with the bike. Although minor, these simple accents gave the bike that exclusivity and classic identity and again from a collector’s point of view, complete the authenticity and accuracy of a restoration. The bike came equipped with a tire pump manufactured by Woodbridge Brass Company and mounted to the vertical frame tube. Standard service equipment also included a leather tool pouch manufactured by Persons-Majestic and mounted to the back of the saddle. Within it came a cone wrench, a screw driver, and an adjustable monkey wrench. Mounted to the front fender of the Huffman or later Columbia MF and MG series models was a battery operated "Winner" head lamp manufactured by Delta. The light was activated by a small switch under the rear of the case. The bicycle was also delivered to the military with a Gluco rear reflector encased in a "blued" steel cup and a standard Bevins bell mounted on the handlebars. Period photographs sometime show an added "musette" bag or other improvisations by the rider but were not standard equipment.