During WWI Westfield Mfg. Co. supplied bicycles for both the US Army and Marines
under specific contracts and to those branches particular specifications. The Army versions came with quite a few accessories
such as tool pouch, tire pump, bell and front fender headlight. The Marine versions to the best knowledge of the experts had
none of these "extras" and were a bare bones heavily built bicycle. The Marine bikes also came with the rear parking
stand instead of the side kickstand that the Army used.
In 2015 I
was able to purchase this Marine Issue Columbia. It was not easily recognizable as to what it was since it was now sporting
a red and white paint job.
After closely examining the picture I noticed some telltale WWII Military parts like the handle
bars and their grips and also the extra truss rod brace between the fork and front fender.
Upon Getting Confirmation of the Serial Number I realized this was not an
Army bike as I had suspected but the very rare Marine version. The Serial Number, MC14643A told the true story.
|The Serial number once the red paint was removed
Once I received the bike the examination to find what was original and what was not began. Unfortunately
the original wheels and front sprocket had been replaced. No doubt this was done because the originals ran the "old fashion"
1" pitch chain. It would have also taken hard to find tires.
is the more "modern" 1/2" pitch front sprocket or chainring as some people call them as was on the bike when
I found it.
Below is the correct 1" pitch front sprocket now restored to the bike. This sprocket
design was the same one used on most of the Army units and was also used on civilian Columbia bikes for several years
before WWII. It is often called the "coffin sprocket" because of the 5 cutouts that look like traditional coffins.
Some have called it the "5 Sullivan's" after the 5 Sullivan bothers who all lost their lives on one ship
at the same time during the war. The crank itself was fortunately the original to the bike and still had the "Lusterless
Marine Forest Green" paint under the gloss black. This would be the same for most parts including the frame, fork,
fenders, seat frame, chain-guard and even most nuts and bolts.
Below is the handle bar once one of the grips was removed. The Marine Green was still under the grip.
Following are before and after pictures of the front of the bike. An interesting note is the name
badge. Once I removed it from the frame I noticed what appeared to be rust on the back side of it. This was odd since
Pre-war Columbia badges were made of brass and sometime after the war they changed to aluminum. A magnet proved this was made
of steel. I've never seen a steel Columbia badge. It made sense as brass was used for ordinance and aluminum for
airplanes. All other applications were highly restricted during most of the war.
This bike was used for a number of years as a campus bike at California's Chico State College. This
is the brass serial number badge that was riveted to the frame by the school.
The competed restoration of the Marine Columbia;
A special thank you has to be extended to Bergerwerke Bicycle LLC. They provided
the reproduction wood pedal blocks and also re-covered the original seat pan with new leather to correct specifications including
the Persons logo stamped on it.
|click on logo to go to Bergerwerke Bicycle
A very special thanks also goes out to my friend Johan Willaert of the "LIBERATOR"
web site. Picking his brain was the only way I was able to know for sure what I potentially had and what it was worth. His
extensive knowledge also provided me with the guidance to restore this bike as correctly as possible.
For more information on Columbia bikes in WWII please go to my "Columbia at War"
and "Compax and Paratrooper "The Folding Bikes" pages of this site.