M274 Army Mule History
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Thanks to http://www.olive-drab.com/idphoto/id_photos_m274.php3 for the following information

U.S. Military M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4

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".

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 vehicle 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 reverse, 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.

Variant Engine Steering Notes
M-274 4 cyl air-cooled Willys gas 4 wheel Magnesium alloy platform
M-274A1 4 cyl air-cooled Willys gas 4 wheel Magnesium alloy platform
M-274A2 2 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas 4 wheel Magnesium alloy platform
M-274A3 2 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas 4 wheel Magnesium alloy platform
M-274A4 2 cyl, 4 cycle Continental-Hercules air-cooled gas 4 wheel Magnesium alloy platform
M-274A5 2 cyl, 4 cycle Continental Hercules air-cooled gas 2 wheel Aluminum 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

Length 118.25 inches
Width 46.6 inches
Platform height 27.5 inches
Weight 870 lbs
Payload 1000 lbs
Ground clearance 12 inches
Fording depth 18 inches
Max Speed 25 mph
Range 90-150 miles

Thanks to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Military_M274_Truck,_Platform,_Utility_1/2_Ton,_4X4 for the following information.

U.S. Military M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4

The U.S. Military M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4 or "Carrier, Light Weapons, Infantry, 1/2 ton, 4x4" aka "Mule," "Military Mule," or "Mechanical Mule" is a 4-wheel drive, gas powered truck/tractor type vehicle that can carry up to 1/2 ton off-road. It was introduced in 1956 and used until the 1980s. It is today a popular military vehicle collectors' items and is incredibly durable and useful.



The M274 Mule was introduced in 1956 to replace both the 1/4 ton trucks ("Jeeps") and 3/4 ton trucks (Weapons Carrier Series and M37 series) in airborne and infantry battalions. They were used throughout the Vietnamese Conflict and other U.S. military operations until the 1980s as platforms for various weapons and for carrying men, supplies, and weaponry/ammunition. They offered absolutely no protection to the driver yet that was relatively unimportant as they were mainly used as cargo carriers and medium-range infantry support vehicles rather than close-combat anti-infantry vehicles. They were phased out from military usage in the 1980s with the introduction of the HMMWV series vehicles. The HMMWV was however unable to fulfill the role of the Mule and the 3/4 ton trucks they replaced so the M-Gator, a military variant of the popular John Deere Gator vehicle, was introduced.


The M274 Mules were often outfitted with a wide array of weaponry, especially in the Vietnamese Conflict. They could be modified to carry pretty much any type of conventional weapon that could be mounted on a truck. They were most commonly outfitted with:

  • M60 7.62 NATO light machine guns
  • M2HB .50 Caliber machine guns
  • 106mm Recoilless Rifles

Powerplant and Drivetrain

The M274 Mules were all powered by internal-combustion gasoline engines. The variants of the M274 with respective powerplants are listed below:

  • M274- 4 Cylinder Willys 4 Cycle
  • M274A1- 4 Cylinder Willys 4 Cycle
  • M274A2-5 2 Cylinder Continental-Hercules 4 Cycle air cooled, variants M274A2 through M274A5

All Mules had 3 speed manual, non-synchromesh transmissions with 2 speed transfer cases, and were 4-wheel drive. All Mules except the A5 variants had 4-wheel steering. Only the A5 variants had Electric Ignition as standard. They had no suspension aside from the low-pressure tires and the seat cushions.

Thanks to http://www.militarymules.com/main.html for the following information

The M274 is officially known as the Army Mule or Mechanical Mule. It was developed out of a requirement for an infantry ammunition, light cargo, personnel, and weapons carrier. It was adopted for service in 1957 and used with the US Army, Marine Corps, and to limited extent with the Navy, Seabees and Air Force. The first models, the M274 and the M274A1, had a four cylinder horizontally opposed, air cooled Willys engines.The later models, the M274A2, M274A3, M274A4, and M274A5 have a two cylinder, horizontally opposed air cooled military standard engine. The M274A5 has an aluminum platform while the other versions are constructed of magnesium alloy.

The M274 consists of a platform mounted on two drop axles with four wheels. The engine is rear mounted. It has no suspension system other than low pressure tires. All models are equipped with full time four-time four wheel drive, two speed transfercase, and a three forward and one reverse speed transmission. A quick change mechanism allows for either two- or four-wheel steering on the M274, A1, A2, A3, and A4 models. The mule is equipped with a cargo retaining set of rails can be raised to accommodate the payload or lowered for shipping, storage, or flat bed operations. The seat (which can be adjusted to two positions on all models except the M274 and A3) and the foot rest can be detached and stowed underneath the platform for air transport. The driver can extend the steering column brace forward to allow operation while walking or crouching in front of the vehicle. The M274A1/A2/A3/A4/A5 are equiped for slingload operations. It is designed to carry a maximum of one thousand pounds of cargo over most types of terrain, but has no published towing capability as no hitch is installed. All models of the M274 may be turned on their sides or top to ease maintenance, repair, or lubrication operations.

The first Mechanical Mules, the M274 & M274A1, had a magnesium bed and axle housings with a four cylinder engine, four wheel drive and four wheel steering. The later M274A2, A3, & A4 had a magnesium beds and axle housings, four wheel drive, four wheel steering and a two cylinder engine. The last production model, the M274A5 has an aluminium bed and axle housings, with four wheel drive and two wheel steering. Optional A5 extras include electric starters, fording kits, wide wheels and fender kits. Mules will operate over all types of road, cross-country terrain, and in all types of weather and are capable of fording in up to 18 inches of water without modification. The Mule weighs only 860 pounds and its rated load is 1000 pounds. A spare wheel/tire is not included as the mule will operate on three wheel/tires.



  • seating....................1
  • length.................118.25in
  • configuration............4X4
  • width...................46.60in
  • towing capacity..........N/A
  • height: (at platform).. 27.50in
  • weight:
    • empty..........870lbs
    • loaded.......1,870lbs
  • wheelbase..................57in
  • tread....................40.5in
  • turning radius:
    • two wheel steering:
      left................44ft 5in
      right..............38ft 0in
    • four wheel steering:
      left.............23ft 4in
      right...........21ft 4in
  • ground clearance:
    • front...12in
    • rear...12.5in
    • fording depth...18in
  • cruising range:
    • 5mph in high gear on highway.......approx. 150mi
    • 25mph in high gear on highway......approx. 90mi
  • speeds transmission/transfer:
    • 3rd gear
    • 2nd gear
    • 1st gear
  • fuel consumption:
    • 5mph in high gear on highway..........17.8mpg
    • 25mph in high gear on highway..........8.4mpg


  • 11,240 mules were made and approximately 5,000 were destroyed or left in Vietnam.


  • M274 Willys-2,452 built 1956 to 1960 A04-53 engine (4 cyl)
  • M274-A1 Willys-1,905 built 1962 to 1964 A04-53-1 engine (4 cyl)
  • M274-A2 Bowen McLaughlin/York-3,609 built 1964 to 1967 A0-42 engine (2 cyl)
  • M274-A3 Result of installation of A0-42 engine into M274
  • M274-A4 Result of installation of A0-42 engine into M274-A1 A
  • M274-A5* Baifield Industries-2,400 built 1965 to 1969 A0-42 engine (2 cyl)
  • M274-A5* Brunswick Corp. 874 of these were built from 1968 to 1970 A0-42 engine (2 cyl)* Two wheel steering

Thanks to http://members.aol.com/brimiljeep/WebPages/ArchiveJeepSerialNumberPage.html  For the following Information

Mules: 1/2ton M274 Mechanical Mule: Willys built the first Mechanical Mule prototype in 1953 under a development contract with the U.S. Army. Production began in 1957, with vehicles going to the US Army and to the US Marines. By 1960, Willys had built 2,452 mules, and an additional 1,905 more mules between 1962 and 1964. From 1964 to 1970 several other manufacturers also built the Mule with similar but different engines because U.S. Government contracts stipulated blueprint sharing between competing manufacturers.  The M274A1 Army Mule was produced from 1962-1964 by Willys Motors, Inc. In March of 1963, Willys Motors, Inc. was renamed the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation. Any mules built after the name change would have 'Kaiser-Jeep' data plates. Prior to that, they would be 'Willys Motors, Inc.' data plates.  I will assume that A3's & A4's were not stamped as being built in the year they were converted, but retained the original year of manufacture

Thanks to http://www.720mpvietnamproject.org/history_project/vehicles/mule/mule.html for the following information

Photographs and personal stories of 720th MP Battalion MP's that used the Mule, please use the Email Link above.
The Mule was not a standard issue vehicle for the 720th MP Battalion. I can recall when the first, and I believe the only one the 720th MP Battalion possessed, was assigned to duty at Outpost #2 in Long Hung, Vietnam in the early summer of 1968.
"Yes It Did Do Wheelies" Collectively we had never seen one before and instantly fell in love with it. After all what better to give a bunch of men in their late teens and early 20's stuck in an outpost than a single seat, stick shift, all terrain vehicle, and yes it did do wheelies.

     There was a critical need for the jeeps for convoy and patrol duties, and the jeep was not constructed for hauling bulk supplies unless you removed the rear seat or attached a trailer. The 3/4 ton utility truck was maintained on post and was used primarily for transport and other duties. To use the 3/4 ton truck you had to schedule it and a driver ahead of time.

     The Mule was just what we needed at the outpost, there was no need for scheduling it for supply runs. We made runs to Long Binh Post and transported our water and fuel supplies in 5 gallon cans, hauled food, ammunition, supplies and mail between Outpost #1 and #2 with ease.

     It's only shortcoming was running supplies during the rainy season. Because of it's low speed, no cab, floorboard, or windshield, staying away from other vehicular traffic on the roads, especially the dirt roadways, was a must.

     I last recalled seeing it in use late in the summer of 1968. If you have any additional photographs or information on it's use by the Battalion after the summer of 1968 please let me know via the Email Link at the top of this page. CPL Thomas T. Watson, B Company, 720th MP Battalion, March 1968 to March 1969.

M274 Mechanical Mule is essentially a platform mounted on two axles and four wheels, with a 17 hp air-cooled flat opposed type gasoline engine under the platform at the rear. The light weight vehicle is designed to carry cargo over rough terrain at slow speeds with an extremely low silhouette and keep pace with riflemen at foot speeds in combat. The unit has four wheel drive, with three speeds forward and one reverse in the transmission, and a two speed transfer case.

     Some early models had four wheel steering. There is no suspension system, shock being absorbed by the low pressure tires. The steering gear is so constructed that the driver can dismount, disconnect the brace and hold the steering column in a horizontal position, and walk along side the vehicle.

  seating: 1

length: 118.25in

configuration: 4X4

width: 46.60in

towing capacity: None

height: 27.50in

weight: 900 lbs.

wheelbase: 57in

It was built originally by Willys, weighs 900 lbs., and has a top speed of 13 mph. An unusual feature is that it can carry more than it weighs.

The Mule weighs only 860 pounds so a strong person can set it on its side, and that's how the army stores them. It can carry half a ton. A spare wheel is not standard - the manual says to put a flat on the front right corner, move all the weight off that corner and run on the three good tire's.

Prototypes were produced between 1953 and 1956. Production started at Willys, later moving to Bayfield (1965), and Brunswick Corporation (1970).

Thanks to http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/ralph.html for the following information

"In Hue (Hue City, Vietnam), it (the 106mm RR) was a real workhorse. By "trial and error" we learned several helpful points in mind when deploying the 106mm in a city environment. We found that it was more effective to aim the 106 just below the window where the snipers were located, rather than fire through the opening. This creates more shrapnel than a round that sails through the room. This is equally true for the LAW and the 3.5 rocket launcher. In Hue, we also learned that NVA, positioned along a street several blocks away were able to place accurate grazing fire down the street. Since the street had to be crossed, we used the backblast smoke of the 106 to cover and conceal movement across the street. This was done by popping smoke, a tactic that always drew enemy fire, to reveal the enemy's location.
        Then a "(M274) mule mounted " 106 was moved partially into the street and a round was fired at the NVA position. (The jeep mounted 106 could be employed in the same way.) This caused the enemy to duck their heads and allowed us to move across the street, concealed by the backblast smoke and dust. Once a foothold was gained in the next block, fire could be directed from a new position to eliminate the NVA resistance."

Thanks to http://www.tractor.org.il/tractors/showTractor-en.asp?id=81 for the following information


Home About Contributors Pictures Collection New Where Contact Links

Jeep M274

Mechanical Mule


Jeep M274, Hurricane engine

Army utility vehicle that was transferred to agriculture.

Mechanical  mule from Lahav

Thank to: http://www.army.mil/cmh/books/Lineage/in/infantry.htm for the following information

Part I:
Regular Army

John K. Mahon
Romana Danysh


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 74-610219
First Printing

This article is quite long so to scroll to the information about the Army Mule use the find function for a PC by pressing the Ctrl and F key to display the Find Dialogue Box type M274 in the Find what: text box and select Find Next command button.

In recognition of the importance of communications on the modern battlefield, the signal equipment of the airborne battle group was made greatly superior to that of the former airborne infantry regiment. Although the total strength of the battle group was less than half that of the regiment, the group was authorized the same number of radios and even more telephones than had been organic to the regiment. In addition to its 100 percent air transportability, the Pentomic airborne battle group also had increased ground mobility. The most significant development in this field was the adoption of the infantry light weapons carrier, M274, better known as the mule or mechanical mule. By taking some of the load off the paratrooper's back, the mechanical mule improved the mobility of airborne infantry units in ground operations.


Manuals http://www.boyceequipment.com/1533_2milmanuals.html#WILLYS

Pictures http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:M274_Mechanical_Mule

Thanks to http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1602087/posts for the following information

The HMMWV replaced the M151 1/4 ton Jeep, M274 1/2 ton Mechanical Mule, M561 1 1/4 ton Gamma Goat, M718A1 Ambulance, M792 Ambulance, and some M880 1 1/4 ton trucks.









Date page last modified: Saturday, May 27, 2017