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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: 31 Jul 1941 SS Major General Reinhard Heydrich ordered by Göring to prepare "...a total solution of the Jewish question [Gesamtlösung der Judenfrage]..." in European areas controlled by Germany.   

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:

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
M-274 Mechanical Mule, the Light Cargo, Personnel and Weapons Carrier (1959-1975).
M274 light utility vehicles (Mechanical Mule) from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, lined up for inspection at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, CA,  11 Oct 1983.
Flight deck crewmen and Marines offload an M-274 Mechanical Mule from a Marine CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter aboard the amphibious assault ship USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA-3), off the west coast of Australia, 7 June 1981. The Marines are a part of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, who are returning from an operation held in Australia.
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.
The M274 Mechanical Mule can be operated from a crouched position with the operator protected better than if seated.  The steering wheel is folded forward and the foot controls can be worked by hand.  Photo circa 1960s.

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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