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Military Horses & Mules During the Korean War

The terrain features of the war in Korea (1950-1952) often resembled the mountains of Sicity or Italy during World War II. And like those campaigns, horses and mules found a valuable role as pack animals, going where trucks and jeeps could hardly reach.

U.S. Army veterinary officers provide clinical instruction to students at the Seoul National University, Seoul Korea, between WW II and the Korean War
U.S. Army veterinary officers provide clinical instruction to students at the Seoul National University, Seoul Korea, between WW II and the Korean War.

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Military Horses and Mules During the Korean War

The Eighth U.S. Army and South Korean forces captured Pyongyang, North Korea on 19 October 1950. In this photo of Pyongyang on that day, South Korean General Shin Sang-Chul, Commander of the 7th Dvision (left) and another officer are mounted on horses captured from the North Korean Army.  Photo:  Seoul Times
The Eighth U.S. Army and South Korean forces captured Pyongyang, North Korea on 19 October 1950. In this photo of Pyongyang on that day, South Korean General Shin Sang-Chul, Commander of the 7th Division (left) and another officer are mounted on horses captured from the North Korean Army. Photo: Seoul Times.

The horse had no official U.S. military duty in the Korean War, with Cavalry fully mechanized since the early 1940s and draft animals' work taken over by motorized prime movers. The Army still had two active mounted organizations, the 35th QM Pack Company and the 4th Field Artillery Bn, both stationed at Camp Carson, CO. However, they were not sent to Korea during the war and were deactivated on 15 February l957.

Some horses were maintained by individual units and veterinary services were provided in Korea. Since the Chinese Communists and North Koreans used mules for transport, it was inevitable that some would be captured by American and allied forces. In their 1951 spring offensive against South Korea, the Communist forces used pack mules for supplies. During the U.N. counterattack north from Seoul in late May 1951, the Communists abandoned their animals as they were forced back. 1st Cavalry Division captured many of the pack animals, using standard 6x6 trucks to move them to temporary depots. The mules were found to be thin and sick but were quickly restored by candy, sugar, and cereal from 5-in-1 Small Detachment Rations. The captured mules were then used for transport, particularly in the rugged mountainous areas where they brought in rations, ammunition, barbed wire, steel stakes, mines, and other supplies.

U.S. Mule Preston Brand 08K0

U.S. Mule, Preston Brand 08K0
U.S. Mule, Preston Brand 08K0.

One of the mules captured from Communist forces in Korea was found to have a standard U.S. Army brand (called a Preston Brand), number 08K0. When that brand was located in Army records with the mule's history, it was found that he had been dispatched to the Chine-Burma-India theater during World War II, possibly with the Mars Task Force. At the conclusion of WW II, he was transferred to the Nationalist Chinese Army. The mule must have been later captured by the Communist Chinese, then moved to the fight in Korea, finally ending up back in the hands of the U.S. Army after more than six years. He had his picture taken, then dutifully went back to work on a pack train.

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