Just after midnight on December 8, 1941, Japanese troops began invading the island states of Malaya on their way to capture Singapore. The Japanese 25th army launched an amphibious assault in the northern city of Kota Bahru, setting in motion a sweeping campaign south across Malaysia that would end in their eventual occupation of the peninsula. This success was largely due to their unorthodox use of bicycle infantries in the thick jungle terrain.
Soldiers were unable to bring their own bikes for fear of slowing down the assaults, but, as luck would have it, bikes were plentiful in Malaya. They were easily confiscated from retailers and even civilians as the troops made their way through the countryside.
Bikes allowed the armies to travel faster and carry more supplies than a walking infantry and had the distinct advantage of being fueled by manpower instead of petroleum. With these bicycles, Japanese troops were able to quickly and quietly infiltrate Malaya, creating surprise and confusion as they descended upon the Allied troops.
Fold3’s WWII Japanese photos collection includes several pictures of these bicycle troops.