A U.S. military "mechanical mule" will be one of the featured items on display at the 33rd annual Minot Rifle and Pistol Club Gun Show at the State Fairgrounds. Military memorabilia has long been popular at gun shows, including rolling equipment, but the mule is among items seldom seen on display.
"They were used in Vietnam and there's a lot of interest in the Vietnam era and military arms now. It seems like that interest has gone up 200 percent," said Bruce Wolla, director. "The older guys are passing away and the kids want to know what they used. There's a real surge in military interest now."
The frontier army used to travel "40 miles a day on beans and hay," but horse and mules eventually became outdated. However, the usefulness and practicality of mules was never forgotten. The military decided that mechanical mules would be suitable replacements. Officially known as the M274, the mechanical mule was adopted for service in 1957 and was used, to some extent, by all branches of the service.
This “mechanical mule” will be on display at the upcoming Minot Rifle and Pistol Club Gun Show. The mule was restored by Ken Yuly of Minot.
This Vietnam-era photograph shows a G.I. driving a “mechanical mule.” A total of 5,000 mules were deployed to Vietnam.
The mules were basic haulers, weighing only 860 pounds and housing either a two- or four-cylinder engine. The four-wheel drive was designed to carry a 1,000-pound load over a variety of terrain, much like a real mule. It had no suspension system, relying instead on low-pressure tires.
According to Ken Yuly, Minot, who restored the Minot display's mechanical mule, the military ordered 11,240 of the unusual vehicles. A total of 5,000 mechanical mules were transported to Vietnam where they were either destroyed or abandoned.
In addition to the military equipment on display, the gun show will feature myriad other items from the antique to the modern.
"It's going to be a great gun show," said Wolla. "We've got some pretty high-grade guys coming in and the collections of guns will be real nice."
The gun show moved from the Minot Auditorium to the State Fair Center due to the flood of 2011. According to Wolla, the move has proven beneficial with crowds averaging over 3,000 people. The gun show will be held Nov. 24-25 with hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.