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105th Anniversary of the First Order of Military Motorcycles

Added April 5, 2021
A closer view of one of the earliest Harley-Davidson military vehicles, a sidecar vehicle with a machine gun mount.

In the 1910s, revolution had broken out in Mexico. The United States established garrisons in border towns to ensure the war would not come to the US.

After revolutionary Pancho Villa attacked the New Mexico town of Columbus to find supplies, President Woodrow Wilson ordered General John “Blackjack” Pershing to pursue Villa.

Harley-Davidson®’s First Military Order

As a military strategist, Pershing was known for studying and employing new machinery and technology, including motorcycles. Among other gifts, Pershing recognized the motorcycle was a nimble and fast vehicle that could deliver soldiers and armaments with unprecedented speed.

On March 16, 1916, an order arrived from Fort Sam Houston for twelve Harley-Davidson® motorcycles, the first order of its kind in Harley-Davidson’s history. More orders followed and a whole new line of business opened up for Harley-Davidson.

Increased Production of Military Motorcycles

The coming decades would see a boom in Harley-Davidson’s production of military motorcycles. During WWI, approximately one-third of overall H-D production went towards military motorcycles.

Total military motorcycle production expanded further during WWII, with H-D providing support to the US and Allies with about 70,000 vehicles.

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