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Chapter XXIV

Books and Documents > Medical Department of the U.S. Army in the World War, Volume III, Finance & Supply

CHAPTER XXIV

MOTOR CYCLES

The various acts of Congress appropriating funds for the support of the Army during the fiscal years 1917-1919,1 inclusive, beginning with the act of August 29, 1916, contained a provision under the title “Medical and Hospital Department,” for the purchase of motor cycles as well as motor ambulances for medical service. The previous acts had provided for motor ambulances but not for motor cycles. The Indian motor cycle with side car, military model NE, manufactured by the Hendee Manufacturing Co., of Springfield, Mass., was adopted as the standard of the Medical Department. No other type was purchased for its use.

The first contract for motor cycles was placed with the Hendee Manufacturing Co. June 14, 1917.2 This contract called for 120 motor cycles with side cars, at $345.53 for each complete outfit; 120 sets rider’s spare parts, at $9.52 per set; 20 sets field spare parts each for 6 machines, at $67.82 per set; 5 sets field spare parts for each 36 machines, at $1,202.15 per set; and one base spare parts set for 120 machines, at $7,549.33. Itimization of these sets was a part of the contract.

The second contract placed with the Hendee Manufacturing Co. was dated June 25, 1917.3 This contract called for 500 motor cycles, at $286.50 each; 500 side cars, at $74 each; and 500 sets rider’s spare parts, at $10.05 the set. Provision was made for crating these machines for overseas shipment at an additional cost of $4 per motor cycle and $6 per side car. The aggregate cost of the complete vehicle crated for overseas shipment was $380.55.

Three additional contracts for motor cycles with side cars and rider’s spare parts were placed by the Medical Department with the Hendee Manufacturing Co., aggregating 800 machines. The prices in these three contracts remained the same as those in the contract of June 25, 1917, above noted. The dates of these contracts and the number of machines on each were, September 14, 1917, 100;4 November 23, 1917, 100;5 January 10, 1918, 600.6

The purchase and technical supervision of motor-propelled vehicles had been devolved by General Orders, No. 38, War Department, April 18, 1918, upon the Motor Transport Service. Request was made upon that service, June 20, 1918, to procure for the Medical Department 1,000 motor cycles with side cars and the requisite quantity of spare parts A and B.7 This request called for Indian motor cycles or such other standard motor cycle as might have been adopted by the motor transport board.

Increasing numbers of troops in France resulting from increased transportation facilities during the summer of 1918, called for a revision of the estimated requirements of the Medical Department for motor cycles. Revised estimates were submitted to the Motor Transport Service early in August of that year.8


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Under these new estimates that service was requested to supply, during the period July 1, 1918, to December 31, 1918, 4,606 motor cycles with side cars with spare parts A, 40 sets spare parts B, 32 complements spare parts D, and 6 complements spare parts C. The C complements were for domestic depot stock and the D complements for overseas depot stock.

These contracts included a set of rider’s spare parts, later known as motor cycle spare parts A, for each machine purchased. A list of factory parts and tools suitable for five motor cycles and side cars had been made up in the latter part of 1917 and designated motor cycle equipment B. This set was intended to provide for roadside repairs for the motor cycles in the same manner as the ambulance spare parts B provided for the ambulances. This set was to be carried in the spare parts car with each ambulance company. The five motor cycles included the three with the ambulance company and the two with its associated field hospital company. This set was afterwards carried in the spare parts trailer.

Two contracts for spare parts B were placed with the Hendee Manufacturing Co. The first, dated December 31, 1917, called for 275 such sets at a unit price of $388.43 per set.9 Deliveries on this contract were rather slow in coming in. They began April 22, 1918, and were completed by the end of the following June.9 The second contract was dated August 9, 1818, and called for an extensive list of factory parts not assembled into unit sets 10 Deliveries on this contract were not completed until after the armistice had begun 11 The articles on this latter contract were intended for depot use and for issue within the United States.

A similar arrangement was made with the Quartermaster Corps for the supply of motor cycle spare parts overseas as obtained for ambulance spare parts. The Quartermaster General advised the Surgeon General on December 21, 1917, that ample provision had been made for Indian motor cycles shipped to France; that provision had been made for base repair of this type of motor cycle; that expert motor cycle mechanics had been provided in all the quartermaster mechanical repair shops; that repairs to motor cycles with mobile units would be made by mechanics with machine shop truck units; and that at least one machine truck unit was attached to each division.12

The Hendee Manufacturing Co. had a special representative make an exhaustive inspection, during the early part of 1918, of all the Indian motor cycles in service at a large number of camps.13 This inspection included motor cycles with the Quartermaster Corps as well as those with the Medical Department. This representative found a great many machines in an unserviceable condition awaiting the action of an inspector so that they might be turned in for salvage or repair. Several causes were found for the unserviceable machines. The greatest source of trouble was improper lubrication. The lubricating oil was not of the proper grade. Bearings were burned out in less than 1,000 miles due to this poor oil. The next cause in importance was lack of proper upkeep, due to lack of capable mechanics and proper supervision. Most of the men riding these machines had had no previous experience with any kind of a


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gasoline motor before they were assigned to the motor cycle. In only three camps was there any supervision by the company officers of the use of these machines. This resulted in extensive use of the vehicles for absolutely non-official purposes. Difficulty was experienced in getting spare parts. Requisitions for parts were not promptly filled. The instructions intended for the information of the individual rider sent out from the motor ambulance supply depot seldom reached the rider. The men actually using the machines failed to receive proper instruction in their use. No one seemed to regard himself as responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of motor cycles. The net result was that the machines often were put into service improperly assembled; were not properly cared for, even lubricated; were placed in the custody of untrained and ignorant drivers; and were kept going without supervision, maintenance, or repair until they refused longer to run. Many machines were discarded which, at comparatively small cost, could have been repaired and continued in service.13

Whether any of the difficulties experienced with this make of motor cycle were due to defects in design or construction was not definitely determined.

REFERENCES

(1) Acts March 4, 1915 (38 Stats. 1079); August 29, 1916 (39 Stats. 639); May 12, 1917 (40 Stats. 60); June 15, 1917 (40 Stats. 196); October 6, 1917 (40 Stats. 364); June 4, 1918 (40 Stats. 597): July 9, 1918 (40 Stats. 865); November 4, 1918 (Stats. 1030).
(2) Contract of June 14, 1917, between Maj. Percy L. Jones, M. C., and the Hendee Manufacturing Co., of Springfield, Mass., for 120 motor cycles with side cars and spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts, No. 356.
(3) Contract of June 25, 1917, between Lieut. Col. C. R. Darnall, M. C., and the Hendee Manufacturing Co., Springfield, Mass., for 500 each motor cycles, side cars, and sets rider’s spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts, No. 398.
(4) Contract of September 14, 1917, between Maj. M. A. Reasoner, M. C., and the Hendee Manufacturing Co., Springfield, Mass., for 100 each motor cycles, side cars, and rider’s spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts, No. 1571.
(5) Contract of November 23, 1917, between Maj. M. A. Reasoner, M. C., and the Hendee Manufacturing Co., Springfield, Mass., for 100 each motor cycles, side cars, and rider’s spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts No. 2283.
(6) Contract of January 10, 1918, between Maj. John B. Fletcher, M. C., and the Hendee Manufacturing Co., Springfield Mass., for 600 each motor cycles, side cars, and rider’s spare parts. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts, No. 3193.
(7) Letter from the Surgeon General, to the Director, Motor Transport Service, War Department, June 20, 1918. Subject: Motor cycles. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-594/6.


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(8) Letter from the Surgeon General, to the Quartermaster General, U. S. Army, Motor Transport Service, Procurement Division, August 8, 1918. Subject: Requirement of motor ambulances, motor cycles, and equipment for Medical Department. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-519/6.
(9) Contract of December 31, 1917, between Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., and the Hendee Manufacturing Co., Springfield, Mass., for 275 sets of equipment for Indian motor cycles. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Contracts, No. 3163.
(10) Contract of August 9, 1918, between Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., and the Hendee Manufacturing Co., Springfield, Mass., for motor cycle spare parts. On file, Finance arid Supply Division, S. G. O., Motor Transport Contracts, No. 6930.
(11) Voucher 5723, March, 1919, accounts Maj. C. E. Gray, Q. M. C. On file, Miscellaneous Section, Finance Department.
(12) Letter from the Quartermaster General, to the Surgeon General, December 21, 1917. Subject: Motor cycle spare parts and repairs. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-594/61.
(13) Letter from Maj. John P. Fletcher, M. C., Motor Ambulances Supply Depot, Louisville, Ky., to Col. Edwin P. Wolfe, M. C., S. G. 0., April 27, 1918. Subject: Motor cycle difficulties. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-440/347.