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M-274 Mechanical Mule

The M274, known as the Mechanical Mule, was developed in the 1950s as a light weight cargo carrier to replace both the 1/4-ton jeep and 3/4-ton trucks in infantry and airborne infantry battalions. The M274 was known as the "Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4x4" or the "Carrier, Light Weapons, Infantry, 1/2 ton, 4x4".

M-274 Mechanical Mule operated by a Marine at the bulf fuel area, Cua Viet, Vietnam, October 1966
M-274 Mechanical Mule operated by a Marine at the bulf fuel area, Cua Viet, Vietnam, October 1966.

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2 Sep 1945 Japanese formal surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, remembered as VJ Day (Victory over Japan) in the US.
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M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4

The M274 family could be fitted for many infantry tasks including transport of personnel or cargo (slowly--keeping up with foot soldiers), for stringing wire with a cable reel, for carrying patients on stretchers, and as a weapons platform for a recoilless rifle or TOW anti-tank missile. Each wheel had shackles for lifting by helicopter or parachute airdrop. The seat and the foot basket can be detached and stored underneath the platform which can then be rigged as a steerable trailer. The steering column could be set in multiple positions so the driver could operate the vehicle from almost any position, including crouching down.

The M274 vehicles were phased out by 1980, with the intended replacement being the HMMWV. However, the need for a small, versatile vehilce was not fully met by the HMMWV and in the 2000s the U.S. Military adopted the M-Gator as a modern version of the M-274 Mechanical Mule.

Thanks to Keith Byrd for help with the proper nomenclature.

M274 1/2 ton, 4x4 Mechanical Mule Variants

All M274 variants are 4x4 with the same size platform, a transmission with 3 forward speeds and one revers, and a two speed transfer case. The full-time four wheel drive is further enhanced by locked differentials -- the Mule will move even when only one wheel has traction.

VariantEngineSteeringNotes
M-274 4 cyl air-cooled Willys gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A14 cyl air-cooled Willys gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A22 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A32 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A42 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas4 wheelMagnesium alloy platform
M-274A52 cyl, 4 cycle Continental Hercules air-cooled gas2 wheelAluminum platform, electronic ignition

M274 models were prototyped and manufactured by Willys (1950s), then later variants produced by Bowen-McLaughlin-York, Baifield Industries (1965) and Brunswick Corp. (1970).

M274 Mechanical Mule Specifications and Performance

Length118.25 inches
Width46.6 inches
Platform height27.5 inches
Weight870 lbs
Payload1000 lbs
Ground clearance12 inches
Fording depth18 inches
Max Speed25 mph
Range90-150 miles

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the M274 Mechanical Mule at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:

Service members, retirees and friends within the local community gathered together at the Jacksonville NC American Legion, 31 July 2009, to enjoy an event to raise money for the Museum of the Marine.  Vehicles like this M274 mechanical mule, with .50 cal. machine gun mounted, and other exhibits were featured.
Desert Test of Carrier, Light Weapons Infantry, 1/2 ton, M-274 (Mechanical Mule), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Ordnance Test Activity, Yuma, AZ,  circa September 1959.  Typical operation over sand plains.
M274A2 Truck, Platform, Utility, 1/2-ton (Mechanical Mule). This vehicle was Lot 1106 of The Jacques M. Littlefield Collection, Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, Portola Valley, CA, auctioned 11-12 July 2014 by Auctions America. Courtesy:   Auctions America by RM.
Weapons Plt., H&SCo, 2d Bn, 3d Marines use an M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle mounted on an M274 Mechanical Mule against North Vietnamese bunkers on Hill 881S, near Khe Sanh, 1 May 1967, prior to the final assault by 3d Bn on 2 May 1967.
M274A2 Truck, Platform, Utility, 1/2-ton (Mechanical Mule). This vehicle was Lot 1106 of The Jacques M. Littlefield Collection, Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, Portola Valley, CA, auctioned 11-12 July 2014 by Auctions America. Courtesy:   Auctions America by RM.
M-274 mechanical Mule, used in the Vietnam War to carry the 106mm recoilless rifles, as well as transport ammunition and rations. Displayed at Jacksonville, NC, American Legion Building, 16 July 2009, for a fundraising event for the benefit of the Museum of the Marine, near Camp Lejeune, NC.

M274 Mechanical Mule Photo Gallery

Marines secure canvas covers on M-40 106mm recoilless rifles mounted on M-274 utility platform trucks, June 1967
Marines secure canvas covers on M-40 106mm recoilless rifles mounted on M-274 utility platform trucks, June 1967.

M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967
M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967.

M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967
M-274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. USMC photo, 1967.

Soldier driving an M-274 Mechanical Mule while a second soldier, armed with an M-16A1 rifle, walks alongside, Honduras, 22 May 1984
Soldier driving an M-274 Mechanical Mule while a second soldier, armed with an M-16A1 rifle, walks alongside, Honduras, 22 May 1984.

M274 Mechanical Mule.  Photo courtesy of Andreas Mehlhorn
M274 Mechanical Mule. Photo courtesy of Andreas Mehlhorn.

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