Even during World War 1 (1914-1918) there was already talk within the ranks of various countries of developing "airborne" forces - paratroopers - to assault enemy positions from behind the frontlines. Little came of this and it wasn't until 1927 that the first "true" paratrooper drop was had over Italy. World War 2 (1939-1945) witnessed the first large-scale use of paratrooper operations with many such actions proving critical in both the early- and mid-war campaigns.
One of the unique challenges for warplanners was in outfitting these specialist troops with the materials needed to attack the enemy and hold positions long enough for the advancing ground force to meet up and secure said positions. As these troopers were jumping out of aircraft they could not be saddled with too much equipment and the equipment they carried was to be inherently very portable. Gliders were eventually arranged to deliver larger products such as jeeps, light tanks and artillery. Various infantry-minded tools and weapons were ultimately devised for the fighting man - including the Cushman Model 53 (U.S. Army Model G683) airborne scooter.
This two-wheeled system was light enough (and compact enough) to see airdropping in an airborne operation. The vehicle featured a sprung seat for one and steerable front wheel by way of rearward-cranked handlebars. The small engine was fitted under the seat with the cylindrical fuel tank aft of the operator. Fenders covered both front and back wheels from dirt spray and other road debris. A skeletal metal framework was set over the engine works of the scooter and a kickstand supported the vehicle when parked. Overall weight was 254lb.
The Cushman Model 53 was developed with the American paratrooper in mind and proved suitable for road travel and delivering vital information from point to point. The system could reach road speeds up to 40 miles per hour with power stemming from an in-house Cushman 16M71 1-cylinder, four-stroke 242cc engine developing 4.6 horsepower.
Cushman Motorworks handled production of both engine and scooter with service entry occurring in 1944. Production numbered in the thousands before the end and the post-war civilian market form became the "Model 53A" - such was its popularity.
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