Motorcycles thrilled civilians first. The military then tapped the nimble bikes for use in combat and reconnaissance.
“Spitting death from machine guns,” we wrote, motorcyclists in the “first mile-a-minute army” were part of a mechanized force that replaced the cavalry when it became clear that horses were no longer fast enough to compete in modern warfare. Sparsely used in direct fighting, motorcycles yielded to jeeps by World War II as the versatile vehicles of choice for operations in rough terrain. By then, though, motorcycles already had three decades of history with the military—Gen.