U.S. Marines Ride Motorcycles Too!

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When it comes to military motorcycles, the U.S. Army gets most of the credit.  Their first documented use of motorcycles in a military action dates back to 1916 and the hunt for Pancho Villa across Mexico.

Then of course there was the 88,000+ Harley WLA’s that were produced during WWII, many of which saw action being ridden by Army dispatchers and scouts.  But as anyone who has been in the military knows, what one branch has, the others want too and motorcycles did make their way into the motor pools of the Navy, Air Force and Marines.

This great collection of photos comes from the USMC Archives and contains some really unique images. It also documents that the Marines were riding motorcycles during the occupation of Haiti which occurred one year before “Black Jack” Pershing headed down to Mexico.

In the years that followed, motorcycles accompanied Marines around the world, including actions in China, Nicaragua, Cuba and Japan.


Initially, the USMC’s motorcycle of choice was the Indian, but they came to their senses and switched to Harleys by the 1920’s.

The following is my favorite photo from the collection. It shows a group of Marines unloading a J-series Harley-Davidson with sidecar from a boat anchored near an undocumented  beach in Hawaii.  Who needs a landing craft?  Oorah!

Marines unload a motorcycle during maneuvers in Hawaii, circa 1943.

Here’s the complete collection.



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