The History of the United States Secret Service Motorcycle Unit
When on the road, the Secret Service primarily relies on the automobile to get around. However, motorcycles have also played an important role throughout the years.
While in the early stages of the Secret Service transportation development, this agency occasionally deployed a White House Detail motorcycle escort unit to support its protective movements. In February of 1917, the Service contacted the New York and Brooklyn Automobile Supply Company seeking information on motorcycle rentals for use in protective assignments. A Henderson Company representative in Detroit, Michigan, advised the Secret Service that the Henderson Model G motorcycle, produced by the Henderson Motorcycle Company factory in Detroit, Michigan, was the “most available for the purpose being less objectionable on account of its being noiseless.” The Secret Service purchased three motorcycles (#7300, #7318, #7592) and arrangements were made to have them sent to Washington, D.C. They were to be rented at $3.00 a day, and when the total reached $975.00, the motorcycles were to become the property of the Secret Service.
Each Henderson Model G four-cylinder, three-speed transmission motorcycle contained an electric generator, an Exide storage battery, an electric horn, a headlight with “regular or high-beam” options, a tail light bracket, mud guard clips, and heavy type saddle springs.
Consisting of operatives from the Secret Service’s White House Detail, the motorcycle escort unit was utilized to travel with President Woodrow Wilson’s motorcade in the Washington, D.C. area and assist in ensuring a safe journey to and from destinations. After Operative Harry Shepherd, formerly a motorcycle patrol officer with the Metropolitan Police, was badly injured in a serious accident during the President’s second term, the unit was disbanded.
The Secret Service’s use of motorcycles to support motorcade movements was revived in July 2001, when the U.S. Secret Service Motorcade Support Unit (MSU)became functional. The MSU is comprised of Uniformed Division personnel highly trained and skilled in all aspects of motorcycling. Each motorman rides a Harley Davidson Model FLHTPI Motorcycle. The Unit is assigned to the Dignitary Protective Division and deploys out of the Uniformed Division Foreign Missions Branch.
The mission of the Motorcade Support Unit is to provide the President, Vice President, and designated foreign dignitaries with skilled motorcycle tactical support during official motorcade movements within the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Information and Photos provided by the United States Secret Service