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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.

Today in WW II: 24 Apr 1945 Retreating German troops in Italy destroy all the bridges over the Adige in Verona, including the historical Ponte di Castelvecchio and Ponte Pietra.   

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:

A soldier uses a field radio to direct helicopters as an air assault takes place during the joint Exercise BRIGHT STAR '83. Visible is an M274 4x4 lightweight vehicle (mechanical mule).  Cairo West Air Base, Al Qahirah, Egypt, 10 Sep 1983.
A Marine CH-34 helicopter sets down on Hill 327 in a cloud of dust blown up by the rotor blades, Da Nang, South Vietnam, 10 March 1965.  M274 Mechanical mule in foreground waits for the incoming supplies.  Unit is 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), 3d Mar Div.
M-274 Light Cargo, Personnel and Weapons Carrier -- Mechanical Mule (1959-1975).  M-274 weighed only 870 lbs, and could transport up to 1000 lbs for 90-150 miles
An M274 4x4 Mechanical Mule vehicle is examined after being driven out of a C-141B Starlifter aircraft during Exercise KINDLE LIBERTY 83, Dec 1982.  A CUCV pickup truck is to the left.
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 in a dry wash.

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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