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Thread: Special Forces Use of Pack Animals

  1. #21
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    The Burma theater was a donkey's paradise: look at the 5307th Composite Unit "Merrills Marauders".
    My first wife's father was one of the mule skinners with Merril's Marauders. I may be misremembering, but he claimed that they were able to provide almost all the logistic support for the unit. (He still had his McClellan saddle. I admired the fortitude it took to spend hours on the d--- thing. )
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    That doesn't sound right to me. Could you find a source for that?

    The cavalry used 25% as a rule of thumb for the amount a saddle horse should carry for sustained operations. That means 1000lbs of horse carries 250lbs of trooper and gear. Some Arabs can sustain 1/3 bodyweight.

    So, using that rule of thumb, a 1000 - 1200lbs mule should have a 250 - 300lbs load, maximum. If anything, pack stock should carry less proportionately, not more; dead weight is actually harder on an animal than a good rider.

    Having said that, both animals and men were pushed past exaustion on campaigns when the tactical situation required it.
    I missed this one earlier....

    There was much talk about mules being able to carry 250-400 pounds, but it was just that...talk. Thomas Devin discovered in 1868 that mules were really only capable of handling about 200 pounds; anything more than that and mobility was reduced to an unacceptable level. Crook's packers might have squeezed a few more pounds on them, and had better stock, but you're still looking at 250 pounds as a maximum (and the 1944 packers' manual was based on articles and manuals that were a direct result of Indian Wars experience with mules).

    Crook was notorious for his expenditure of men and horses on campaign, and had been since before the Civil War. He was much more careful of his mule train (too much so in the opinion of many who campaigned with him in 1876). Other commands had reasonable success with them (Mackenzie used mules during his Remolino raid in 1873 and later during the Red River War...and if I recall he also complained about Crook's logistics during the 1876 campaign).

    Mules, on the whole, tended to work best with small scouting operations or columns that had under, say, 150 men. Once you cleared that point, it became something of a toss-up, IMO.
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  3. #23
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    My first wife's father was one of the mule skinners with Merril's Marauders. I may be misremembering, but he claimed that they were able to provide almost all the logistic support for the unit. (He still had his McClellan saddle. I admired the fortitude it took to spend hours on the d--- thing. )
    good paper here on the Marauders from a good friend Dr, Gary Bjorge

    Merrill's Marauders:Combined Operations in Northern Burma in 1944


    Also a Chapter in Research Survey #6 on Light Infantry on the Marauders and the Chndits Gary wrote this one as well.

    Tom

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    Default Canada Now Looking at the Idea, Too

    Canadian military looking to donkeys to help carry the load during summer
    Canadian Press, 12 Dec 08
    Article link
    The Canadian Forces already have tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters at their command in their battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan. They are about to add one more item to their arsenal - the donkey, perhaps the humblest of the beasts of burden.

    Yes the donkey corps, for lack of a better name, is in the plans for next summer.

    Even those involved in the project see the humour of going back to basics in an era of high-tech weaponry.

    "You can't have a project like this that you don't laugh at a bit, but it has the potential to be very successful and, like a lot of things we do, we're adding another arrow to the quiver," said Capt. Chris Quinlan.

    The terrain is one of the major challenges facing Canadian and coalition troops in Afghanistan. There are mountains, irrigation canals, grape fields, mud walls around compounds, and wadis - a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain.

    Roadways can be limited and narrow, meaning the Taliban can easily place improvised explosive devices that can prove deadly to vehicles carrying Canadian and Afghan soldiers.

    The other problem is the heat during the summer months. The temperature can hit the 50s, even 60s.

    "Last summer we were up to 55 degrees Celsius, so you're looking well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit," said Maj. Charles Jansen, the self-proclaimed "Ass-Master" spearheading the donkey brigade idea.... More on link
    Also, a tongue-in-cheek draft of a shoulder patch for the soon-to-be-formed Canadian Forces Pack Animal Command (CFPANCOM)

  5. #25
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    As an old cowboy, I found the 1940 Marine Corps Small Wars Manual had one of the better sections on the care, feeding, handling and training of pack animals and the associated equipment. I believe it even went into how to manufacture the pack equipment locally if necessary, and how to acclimate foreign animals to new locatiosn.

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    Default Mars Task Force

    I realize that this an older post, but a link to it is what brought me to this board. I just want to make you all aware of the other Long Range Penetration Unit that took up the mission from the Marauders at Myitkyina and continued on to open up the Burma Road. The Mars Task Force, the 5332d Brigade, was also a unit that moved with mules. My Father was a member of C Bty, 612th Field Artillery Bn (Pack), which, along with the 613th FA (PAK) was the artillery slice of the task force. They employed the 75mm Pack Howitzer which was designed to be broken down and packed on mules. Despite the fact that they carried out the same mission in the same area as Merrill's Marauders, the Mars Task Force is not nearly as well known. After they opened the route to China, the Mars Men rolled over into a FID role and trained members of the Chinese Army in a wide range of military tasks.

    Many years later, the members of the Mars Task Force were authorized, along with other units from WWII who carried out unconventional missions but were never designated as such, to wear the Green Beret.
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Khyber Pass to Italy: WW2 mule OB

    Maybe should be in the Obituary thread, but seems best here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obit...or-Warren.html

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    I just finished a basic horse and mule packing course. I have seen 250 lbs used a number of times on this board and I know that it was in the old manual but we were taught no more than 10 -15% of the animals body weight, which meant about 150lbs as an upper limit. I wasn't really all that impressed with the animals. They tended to be willful stubborn and high maintenance.

    SFC W

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    They tend to be willful stubborn and high maintenance.

    SFC W
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  10. #30
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I resemble that remark...

    and the Mules...

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I wasn't really all that impressed with the animals. They tended to be willful stubborn and high maintenance.
    They can be at that. Yet, was it likely any different for a Mongol packing a Bactrian camel?

    Of course, many NCOs think that troops tend to be willful, stubborn, and high maintenance too.

    It is what it is.
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  12. #32
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    Default This is a plug for some real experts

    Uboat, RFD TV has a number of programs devoted to equine training. One of them even deals with mules and donkeys. Horses, donkeys, and mules are smart animals with lots of quirks but they all respond to repetition, intelligently applied pressure, and release. One of my favorite trainers, Aussie born Clinton Anderson has a training motto, "As gentle as possible, as firm as necessary TO GET THE JOB DONE."

    Pretty good for all stubborn, high maintenance old mules...

    Cheers

    JohnT

  13. #33
    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    The problem is that, as far as I can see, the areas where these animals might be preferable to more modern modes of transport is very narrow. Excluding their use as a means of blending into the local population, which is a different issue, there really aren't many places where I could not do the same job better with modern equipment. I am aware that these animals can be trained and used effectively but I can't help but feel that it is not worth the effort when there are better means available.

    SFC W

  14. #34
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    Default Brings us back to Dave Maxwell's blog post

    Whose war is it anyway? If it is their war, then some of the "modern" stuff may not be either available or appropriate. If I may refer to the El Salvador experience here, one of the problems faced by the ESAF was an effective means of pursuit of fleeing FMLN bands. Helicopters would have been the best solution but ESAF didn't have enough and the USA wasn't going to supply them with sufficient numbers. I proposed to my boss a concept of mounted infantry (as distinct from cavalry) using lots of cheap ($150 each) horses with the point rider wearing blast chaps and blast booties as a defense against mines. If a horse took a mine he would be destroyed on the spot and the point rider would mount a new horse and keep going. The pursuit column wouldn't be slowed at all. Couldn't sell it because my boss only saw helos as the solution (oh, and he was a personal friend).

    Cheers

    JohnT
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-27-2009 at 10:13 PM. Reason: Spelling

  15. #35
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Not to mention that if this sort of thing gets more effort

    and Teams applied (LINK) the skills may come in handy.

    Now if we can just cease with the CIF stuff and get other less extensively trained Fords dedicated to that so the SF trained Cadillacs can do what they should do...

  16. #36
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I just finished a basic horse and mule packing course. I have seen 250 lbs used a number of times on this board and I know that it was in the old manual but we were taught no more than 10 -15% of the animals body weight, which meant about 150lbs as an upper limit. I wasn't really all that impressed with the animals. They tended to be willful stubborn and high maintenance.

    SFC W
    You need a Mule Skinner
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j70GS...eature=related

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    Default Ghost Soldiers

    I think that is the title of a book about Rangers rescuing Allied POWs in the Phillippines. Their original MOS was Mule Skinner.

  18. #38
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I am aware that these animals can be trained and used effectively but I can't help but feel that it is not worth the effort when there are better means available.
    And that is confirmed by the IDF's use of Llamas - in preference to Donkeys of Mules. Long Range dismounted infiltration into enemy territory, along pre-cleared routes, with extensive UAV support.
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    I have a co-worker who packs llamas for summer trips in the Rockies. He says they are something to carry your backpack. They can sustain about what an average well conditioned hiker can. Since many tourists are not well conditioned, the llamas are needed.

    I can see how this could be very helpful for a soldier when the circumstances are right to employ it, since the soldier wouldn't arrive at his objective as fatigued. I don't doubt llamas have their place but they're not exactly like the Roman practice of one mule per tent group either.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

  20. #40
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    I can see how this could be very helpful for a soldier when the circumstances are right to employ it, since the soldier wouldn't arrive at his objective as fatigued. I don't doubt llamas have their place but they're not exactly like the Roman practice of one mule per tent group either.
    If a Lama can only carry a man's load than the advantages experienced by the IDF for the specific tasks must be rather large. The question here is how much can an average well conditioned hiker carry according to your co-worker?

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