Built as a supplement to World War II-era Jeeps and weapons carriers, the 4x4 “platform truck” was light and small but could carry 1,000 pounds into places no other vehicle could go. Built mainly as a cargo carrier, the vehicle’s basic design offered absolutely no protection for the driver.
The small machine could be carried in a helicopter or airplane or be parachute-dropped near the front lines. Over 11,200 Mules were made from 1956 to 1970. Various versions were built by Willys, Bowen-McLaughlin-York, Baifield Industries, and Brunswick Corporation.
Mules were used extensively in Vietnam where the jungle environment often prohibited larger and heavier vehicles from efficiently transporting troops and supplies near the fighting. The Mule’s seat could be folded out of the way and the steering column adjusted so that the M274 could be moved with the driver standing or couching next to the vehicle.
In combat, soldiers often mounted machine guns or heavier weapons on Mules. Equipped with a TOW missile launcher or, in this case, an M40 106mm recoilless rifle, the M274 could be a small but potent anti-tank weapon. This version, an M274A5, was built by Baifield Industries in mid-1968 and appears as a Vietnam-era vehicle in the service of the U.S. Marine Corps.