Horses and Mules and National Defense
1958, Office of the Quartermaster General
by Mrs. Anna L. Waller
NOTE: This document does not contain photographs and appendixes from the original publication.
Compiled by Mrs. Anna L. Waller, Contracting Officer, Office of The Quartermaster General, for the Purchase of Horses, Mules and Dogs. Mrs. Waller began her career in the Government Service in 1917 and, except for an interim between World Wars I and II, has served exclusively with the Animal Activity at Remount Field Installations and in the Departmental Service.
Definition of the Word “Remount”
Function of Remount Service
The Horse Breeding Program
Location of Remount Depots
Effect of Gradual Mechanization of Army on Use of Animals
Liquidation of Horses
The Cry for Horses
Quotations from High-Ranking Officers Relative to Need for Animals in Various Theaters during World War II
The Phillips Pack Saddle
Demand for Pack Mules
Deactivation of Last Two Animal Pack Units, Fort Carson, Colorado
Transfer of the Horse Breeding Program to Department of Agriculture
Lessons Learned in Korea
Post World War II Importations of Horses from European Theater
Foreign Aid Animal Programs
Agreement Between Department of the Army and Department of Agriculture Re Use of Animal Processing Facilities at the Former Reno Remount Depot
Current Use of Horses & Mules by the Army
Tribute to Horses and Mules the Part They Played in the Annals of Military History
The following official document published on October 8, 1863, is offered in sharp contrast to the current concept of military preparedness; an evolution which covers less than 100 years, during which period horses and mules were essential components in our military set-up.
Upon the energy, ability, fidelity, and foresight of the Chief Quartermaster of any body of troops, the success of every march and of every military operation undertaken by their Commander largely depends.
If he is active and vigilant he can be of the greatest service to his Commander, and to the troops, and to his country. If he is careless, his example will corrupt the whole Department under his direction, the officers and driver. will become careless, inefficient, and wasteful, the equipage will become unserviceable, and the Government will be called upon to replace animals ruined by neglect and inattention.
It is not too much to say that the Government has already been obliged to replace many thousands of horses and mules which, with proper understanding of and attention to their duties on the part of Chief Quartermaster, would have been at this moment in serviceable condition. Many thousands of animals purchased at the very beginning of the war are now in service, fat, and in good condition. Proper service does not necessarily destroy these animals.
Neglect and inattention, and imbecility on the part of those in charge, ruin them and tax the Treasury.
M. C. Meigs,
Quartermaster General, U.S.
October 8, 1863
Definition of the word “Remount”
The word “Remount” as defined by Webster means a fresh mount, a horse to replace one lost or killed in combat. The function of remount depots was to procure, train and issue horses to mounted men to replace those becoming non-effective for various reasons including combat. The term as it applies to animal activities within the Service today is erroneous but it has been associated so long with the procurement of animals for military use that there has been no inclination to change the name of the activity.
Function of Remount Service
The procurement and training of animals for military use were functions of the Quartermaster Corps in World War II just as they had been from the beginning of the Corps in 1775. Motorization, mechanization, and aviation, of course had reduced requirements of the Army for animals to only a fraction of former needs, but these advancements did not make animals obsolete in modern warfare as many military men had come to believe in the years following World War I. While requirements for them were relatively small, animals proved indispensable in an all-out global conflict. For example, much of the fighting in World War II had to be carried on in mountainous terrain where steep inclines and the lack of roads made motor vehicles useless. In such areas, pack combat and supply units were vital to military operations.
It was the mule, because of its sure-footedness and sturdy qualities, that was in demand as the pack animal. In all previous wars requirements for horses far exceeded those for mules, but in World War II this situation was reversed and the mule became the No.1 animal of the Army. The need for horses, on the other hand, steadily declined. In fact, World War II marked the passing of horses from the U. S. Army as auxiliaries in combat and except under the most unusual conditions, their almost complete elimination as factors in transporting supplies and equipment. Speed and mobility, the qualities which, before the age of motorization had given horses their highest military value, were now better provided by airplanes, tanks, and motor vehicles. This development was a milestone in military history, for, since ancient times, these animals had been used to carry troops and to haul supplies.
In the years following World War I, when all Quartermaster activities dwindled, the Remount Service eventually was reduced to the status of a Branch in the Supply Division, where it was at the beginning of the emergency in 1939. After the Army began to expand again, following the adoption of the Selective Service Act the Remount Branch became a separate Division in January 1941. Fourteen months later however when the Army was reorganized along functional lines and it was becoming obvious that remount activities would be quite limited in scope, the Remount Division once more was reduced to a Branch and transferred to the Service Installations Division. That is where it stayed throughout the remainder of World War II.
Another function of the Branch was that of supervising the Army horse breeding plan, which was desired to procure better mounts for the military establishment by raising the quality of horses in general. The plan was an outgrowth of the experience in World War I when the Remount Service had been called upon to purchase nearly 500,000 horses and mules. The procurement of so large a number of animals focused attention on the fact that a serious shortage of suitable riding horses was developing in the country as a result of the general trend toward motorization in the city and on the farm.
The Horse Breeding Program
The breeding program originated in 1919 when the War department created the Remount Board, consisting of prominent civilian horsemen and Army officers, to make recommendations for regulating and supervising the breeding of public animals for the Army. The Board, recognizing the fact that horses required by the Army in time of war would have to be produced in peacetime recommended a long-range plan for improving the breed of horses in the United States so that in the event of any future emergency there would be a reservoir of good horses upon which the Army could draw. The Department of Agriculture had been conducting a minor horse breeding program, and the Board recognized that this program be taken over by the Army. The Department of Agriculture concurred in this proposal and Congress appropriated funds for the project beginning with the fiscal year 1921.
For the administration of the animal breeding and purchasing operations of the Army, the United States was divided geographically into remount areas, each with an appropriate headquarters. At the outbreak of World War II, there were seven remount areas, corresponding roughly to the corps areas, but, with the decline in remount activities, the number was reduced to six late in l944. The six remount areas, as established on 5 September l944, were located at Front Royal, Virginia; Lexington, Kentucky; Sheridan, Wyoming; San Angelo Texas; Colorado Springs Colorado; and Pomona Quartermaster Depot, Pomona California. Their responsibilities consisted largely of procuring animals for military use, of breeding stallions for breeding purposes, and of selecting and inspecting civilian breeding centers
These tasks did not require large headquarters. Each remount area was under the supervision of an officer in charge, who was assisted by the necessary officer personnel, including a veterinarian and an assistant; a small clerical force; and one or more civilian grooms. Only small quarters, usually rented, were needed for the offices. There also were usually a stable of about ten box stalls and two paddocks for the few newly purchased horses that might be brought to headquarters before being shipped to a remount depot. A quota of animals to be purchased was allotted periodically to each area. Horses normally were purchased directly from the breeders after personal inspection by the officer in charge and his veterinary assistant.
The role of the remount areas was of paramount importance in the Army horse breeding plan for they were responsible not only for locating and procuring the best available stallions but also for placing them in the hands of the best civilian breeders throughout the country and for supervising the actual conduct of breeding activities. Stallions, of which the remount areas normally had approximately 700, were shipped to civilian agents at Government expense, but after a stallion was delivered, the civilian breeder was responsible for all costs incident to the horses care and maintenance. He could however, enter into an agreement for prorating expenses with neighboring farmers or ranchers who bred their mares to the stallions. The War Department gave the agent complete instructions concerning the handling of stallions, the minimum and maximum number of mares to be bred, and the largest number of services permitted a week. The Army assumed no obligation to buy the offspring of remount stallions, but normally about 75 percent of the horses procured were actually the produce of sires placed with the agents under the breeding program.
It was to remount depots that horses and mules procured by the Remount Branch were sent for conditioning, initial training, and issue to using units. These tasks could not be performed adequately outside the depots because the receiving organizations however well qualified they might be to train animals for work with the cavalry or field artillery, rarely had men sufficiently experienced to condition animals and give them primary training. In fact, a major reason for maintaining remount depots was to assure the existence of a reservoir of officers and enlisted men to keep alive the techniques of handling animals. In connection with the Army horse breeding plan, remount depots tested stallions for their breeding ability before sending them to stud farms, instructed personnel in breeding methods, and bred a limited number of selected stallions and mares in order to have a few superior animals.
The procurement and issue of animals was different in many respects from that of other types of Quartermaster supplies. They cannot be stored like hams, trucks, shoes and pants. They must be provided for every hour of the day because they are animals of flesh, bone and blood. Moreover, animals when first purchased, are not suitable articles of issue. They must be sent to Remount Depots where they have an opportunity to overcome the ills of shipping, regain health, flesh and condition, and obtain a suitable degree of training so that the average soldier can handle ride or drive them. The processing period at depots in normal times consumed not less than 120 days because it has been found by experience that to attempt to issue animals in a shorter period of time runs the risk of their becoming sick after being issued to troops.
Location of Remount Depots
At the beginning of the emergency there were three permanent remount depots, located at Front Royal, Virginia, Fort Robinson, Nebraska, and Fort Reno, Oklahoma. All of these had been in existence for years. A fourth was established in 1943 at Pomona, California, when W. K. Kellogg, fancier of Arabian horses, donated the Kellogg Arabian Nursery to the War Department. This famous well-equipped nursery located in the heart of the largest concentration of pure-bred Arab horses in the United States, was given to the Government with the understanding that it would continue the nursery’s work of improving and perpetuating good Arabian stock. When the nursery was acquired, it was made a remount depot. A number of temporary remount depots were established overseas during the war, notably in the China-Burma-India, Mediterranean, and Southwest Pacific theaters of operations. The mission of these overseas remount depots was to receive animals from permanent remount depots or other sources in the rear and issue them in a state of excellent health, training, and fitness for immediate combat use by the mounted arms.
Effect of Gradual Mechanization of Army on Use of Animals
Throughout the period from the end of World War I to the start of World War II the question of whether motorization, mechanization, and aviation had made animals obsolete in modern warfare was a matter of much discussion and serious study. As late as 1940 radical views on both sides of the question continued to be held by officers serving in top echelons of the Army, although by then horses and mules had been replaced completely by motor transportation in most military units. Steps had been taken in 1938 to motorize the last of the infantry regiments which were still in part animal-drawn, and this eliminated the need for draft mules in such regiments. The Army in 1940, however, still had two horse-cavalry divisions, two horse drawn artillery regiments, and two mixed horse and motor transport regiments with a total authorized animal strength of 20,300-16,800 horses and 3,500 mules.
Despite the trend toward elimination of animals, mobilization planning in 1939 contemplated a notable expansion in remount operations in the event of a national emergency. Procurement of more than 200,000 horses and mules was envisioned. While no new remount areas were called for, purchasing boards were planned in each area to meet the anticipated rise in demand. The three peacetime remount depots were to be expanded and four new depots, to be located at Pleasanton, California, Fort Worth, Texas, Lathrop, Missouri, and Atlanta, Georgia, were proposed for receiving, conditioning, and issuing animals.
The execution of these plans was dependent, of course, upon the development of an actual demand for more horses and mules. After the war broke out in Europe in the fall of 1939 it became increasingly uncertain whether this demand would really develop. The proponents of complete motorization gained many new adherents because of the decisive fashion in which German panzer and motorized divisions shattered organized resistance in Poland and France, and plans made in the Summer of 1940 for the immediate expansion of the Army provided for a much larger degree of mechanization and motorization than had been contemplated originally.
Those who would eliminate the horse cavalry were numerous and influential in the General Staff. They maintained that airplanes performed reconnaissance better than the cavalry had ever done and that tanks were far superior to cavalry in fire power and in ability to ward off hostile attacks and to menace the enemy’s rear and flanks. As carriers of supplies and haulers of field artillery, horses were declared to be patently inferior to automotive trucks, especially since roads existed almost everywhere in the world. It was pointed out, moreover, that an unduly large part of the time and activities of the Army necessarily would be concerned with obtaining forage and caring for horses if they were present in large numbers. Another objection to horses was the fact that on both land and sea, transportation at best difficult to obtain in adequate quantities, would become still scarcer if ships and trucks had to carry the huge quantities of forage, necessary to feed thousands of animals.
The Remount Branch and many veteran cavalrymen vigorously dissented from the contention that horses no longer had a role in modern warfare. “Battles,” a prominent remount officer pointed out, “cannot always be fought on roads, and in many campaigns there will arise situations in which mechanized units cannot move at all.” (This was later proven to be true in our struggles during the Korean Conflict). He maintained that conditions would inevitably occur under which fire power could most quickly be brought to a desired point by horse cavalry. He urged that the Cavalry “be considered mobile fire power and the horse and mule a means to transport men and fire power to a position where fire power could be used on the ground.” A veteran cavalry officer declared that “erroneous pictures of horse cavalry have developed in recent years with too little consideration for its adaptability in actual warfare.” Many, he said, still visualized cavalrymen riding boot to boot and recklessly charging with saber and pistol though such tactics had proved suicidal during the Civil War. He pointed out that the Cavalry could negotiate terrain which the mechanized forces could not get over, and do it much faster than the infantry. He cited the important roles which horses had played in recent years in the fighting in China, the Italian conquest of Abyssinia, the Spanish Civil War, and the German conquest of Poland.
Meanwhile, procurement activities of the Remount Branch were expanded in the fiscal year 1941, but buying fell far short of the 200 000 level that had been envisioned as possible in the prewar mobilization plans. In fact, only about 24,000 horses and 4,000 mules were obtained for the Army during that period. But this figure was many times the annual procurement of between 1,500 and 2,500 in the 1930’s.
Issues of animals to the using arms, however, did not keep pace even with these limited purchases. The cavalry took but 13,500 of the 22,000 riding horses procured, the field artillery about 1,800 and the other branches of the Army about 250. Draft horses and mules went almost wholly to the field artillery, which took 600 draft horses and 2,400 pack mules. Army demand for animals thus fell far below what had been regarded as probable by mobilization planners, and at the end of the 1941 fiscal year the remount depots still had 28,000 horses on hand.
At the beginning of the following fiscal year the Remount Branch estimated that a limited number of riding horses would be required for replacements and that a small number of pack mules would be needed to provide initial issue to new units and for replacements. Procurement of riding horses which had been brought to a standstill in the summer of 1941, began again in September but was stopped soon thereafter when it was announced that various units were to be dehorsed and their animals returned to remount depots. Only about 2,900 horses were purchased in the 1942 fiscal year, a figure that approximated the total number of requisitions during that period.
Liquidation of Horses
The procurement of horses in the 1942 fiscal year, small though the number was, represented the last substantial purchases made by the Remount Branch. Only four horses were procured in the 1943 fiscal year and none from then on through V-J Day.
As a matter of fact, throughout the war period the problem of the Remount Branch, insofar as horses were concerned, was chiefly a matter of liquidation rather than of procurement. This situation began to develop after Pearl Harbor when animal-using organizations were ordered dehorsed because the units were needed overseas immediately and no shipping space was available for movement of their animals. The large-scale dismounting of these units began in the spring of 1942 when seven federalized National Guard horse-mechanized regiments and the 6th Cavalry Regiment were directed to turn in their animals. Similar orders were issued to various other units in the following months. The 1st Cavalry Division was dehorsed during April and May 1943, and finally the 2d Cavalry Division and the 56th Brigade of the Texas National Guard in March 1944.
The rapid dismounting of the Army naturally was reflected in the return of more animals to depots than were being issued by these installations. In the 1942 fiscal year more than twice as many horses were returned to depots as were issued about 6,000 animals being issued as compared to approximately 15,000 returned. On 30 June 1942 the depots still had more than 21,000 animals on hand despite the sharp drop in procurement. While fewer horses were sent back to depots in the following fiscal year, with the dehorsing program nearing completion, the number still exceeded the issues — about 6,900 were returned as against 5,200 issued. That the excess was not greater can be attributed mainly to the unexpected demand from the Coast Guard for riding horses for its beach patrols then actively engaged in protecting United States shores from landings by hostile submarines. The Remount Branch supplied more than 3,000 riding horses to the Coast Guard during the 1943 fiscal year, slightly more than the total number of horses of that type furnished to the Army in that period.
During the ensuing year; however, the danger from submarines virtually disappeared as a result of the increasing effectiveness of countermeasures, and issues of horses to the Coast Guard dropped sharply to only about 800, a figure which, though small was still half the number of horses requisitioned by the Army. Issue to the Coast Guard finally all but ceased, and at the and of the 1944 fiscal year many horses on beach patrol were declared surplus to existing needs.
Statistics in the Remount Branch for the fiscal years 1941 through l945 reveal the extent to which horses were liquidated in World War II. Approximately 33,000 horses were returned to the depots by using agencies during these years, as compared to less than 31,000 issued to units and stations, exclusive of the 3,900 loaned to the Coast Guard. Most of those issued to the Army in the earlier years were sent back in the later years, with the result that the depots always had a considerable excess. Although procurement was brought to an end in 1942, more than 28,000 horses were turned over to disposal agencies for sale between July 1943 and December l945. Throughout the war period only 49 horses were shipped from the zone of interior to the armed forces overseas.
Although the requisitioning of horses for military use virtually ceased, the Army horse breeding plan continued in operation throughout the war on a slightly reduced scale. Difficulty was experienced in placing stallions with civilian agents because war conditions and the shortage of farm labor made it impossible in many instances to provide proper care. Breeding activities therefore were somewhat curtailed both at depots and on stud farms. Nevertheless, approximately 39,000 foals were produced during the war years.
Many protagonists of the military use of horses were not convinced that the complete dismounting of the Army was a wise policy. They argued that operations in mountainous areas in World War II proved their contention that horses were a useful supplement to motors and the cavalry a valuable adjunct to armor. The following, which is quoted from the Stars and Stripes, 26 March 1944, gives a general picture of the absolute necessity for horses and mules in modern mechanized war:
“THE CRY FOR HORSES”
“Despite mechanization of modern weapons of war, the value of the horse on the field of battle has been dramatically rediscovered during the past winter and has been the difference between success and failure on the Russian front.
“It is an old cavalry axiom that a horse can go wherever a man can travel, and this is still not true of the tank, truck–or even the faithful jeep. This winter on the Russian front, horses have packed men, munitions, supplies and weapons over impossible and practically impassable terrain. Pulling wagons sleighs, caissons and guns, horses have kept pace with the Red Army.
“In Italy the cry for horses, mules and more horses became almost a howl during the past winter months as troops operating in treacherous mountain country faced the problem of packing in food, ammunition and other supplies and packing out wounded men. Once again the horse filled the vital need, and many an old cavalrymen watching man’s beast of burden pass a column of mud-embedded motor transport smiled a knowing smile and kept his peace.
“The German army has used the horse to supplement its motor transport from the first day of war and on the Eastern front has developed the use of horse-drawn vehicles to a scale almost equaling that of World War I. In China both the Japanese and Chinese find the military value of the horse undiminished when used to support campaigns in mountainous terrain. And the god of war still crazy over horses, has given many a recent victory to the army commander who has been able to assemble sufficient animals to meet the needs of the military situation–planes, trucks and tanks not withstanding.”
Many of our leading generals commented in no uncertain terms on the lack of horses and mules in our armies, a few are quoted below:
Quotations from High-Ranking Officers Relative to Need for Animals in Various Theaters during World War II
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
In a report in August l943, stated that horse cavalry units could have been used in Tunisia if they had been available.
General George S. Patton
“In almost any conceivable theater of operations, situations arise where the presence of horse cavalry, in a ratio of a division to an army, will be of vital moment.
“”It is the considered opinion, not only of myself but of many other general officers who took their origin from the infantry and artillery, that had we possessed an American cavalry division with pack artillery in Tunisia and in Sicily, not a German would have escaped, because horse cavalry possesses the additional gear ratio which permits it to attain sufficient speed through mountainous country to get behind and hold the enemy until the more powerful infantry and tanks can come up and destroy him.”
General 0. N. Bradley
“In contemplated operations in mountainous terrain, plans should include facilities for supply by pack train.”
Lieutenant General L. K. Truscot, JrLieutenant General L. K. Truscot, Jr.
“The need for mounted reconnaissance and combat elements to work in close cooperation with the infantry in rough terrain was no less marked than the need for pack animals. The need for such elements is obvious. However, such elements cannot be improvised in combat from untrained personnel, although we made strenuous efforts to do so.
“I am firmly convinced that if one squadron of horse cavalry and one pack troop of 200 mules had been available to me at San Stefano on August 1, they would have enabled me to cut off and capture the entire German force opposing me along the north coast road and would have permitted my entry into Messina at least 48 hours earlier.”
Major General John P. Lucas
“The Infantry accomplished wonders, and I am convinced that no other foot soldiers in the world can equal the stamina of the American dough-boy. However, their progress was necessarily slow, the work tedious and it soon became obvious that UNLESS A HIGHLY MOBILE FORCE COULD ENCIRCLE THE WITHDRAWING ENEMY, IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO KILL HIM IN ANY REALLY DECISIVE NUMBERS.
“During these operations I made strenuous efforts to get at least a regiment of horse cavalry. There was a desperate need for some type of unit that could penetrate cross-country and get through the difficult mountains at a decidedly faster rate than the infantry. MOTORS WERE TIED TO THE ROADS BY THE INACCESSIBLE TERRAIN. HORSES AND MEN ON FOOT WERE THE ONLY THINGS THAT COULD MOVE. I am convinced that if I could have gotten some type of troops behind the Germans to work on their lines of communication in order to execute demolitions in their rear, the results in southern Italy might well have been decisive.
“Mounted units, schooled in the American cavalry doctrine, would have been the perfect solution. Hardened and well trained horsemen, possessing mobility and fire, power, could have infiltrated through the extended German lines, encircled the delaying detachments, and would have permitted the maintenance of pressure on the retreating enemy main forces by our infantry division in their direct pursuit and would not have given the Germans sufficient time to prepare strong defensive positions to the north. As it was, there was no cavalry available. There were only men on foot–and German infantry withdrawing on good roads could move more rapidly than American Infantry could move over rugged and mountainous terrain.”
It is apparent, therefore that developments in motorization, mechanization, and aviation actually did not make horses obsolete in certain types Of operations, and that the decision of the War Department against shipping horse units to combat theaters was based largely upon other considerations, primarily the severe shortage of shipping space.
Transportation of horses and their forage was costly in ship tonnage. In strenuous campaigns horses could not live entirely off the land, and grain not only was more bulky than gasoline but was needed regardless of the amount of activity. Another factor was that the feeding and upkeep of horses presented great difficulties to a motorized army, and tended to complicate troop movement and supply. Moreover, with the dismounting of many units early in the war most of the experienced horsemen became scattered throughout the Army on other assignments and, with only a limited program of training replacements, comparatively few men capable of caring for horses were available when battle experience made it evident that animals could be used, and were needed, for mountain fighting.
An element of uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the policy relating to the use of horses appears to have persisted in the War Department General Staff throughout the war. While they ordered most of the old horse organizations converted to infantry artillery, armor, or reconnaissance units in l942 they still retained the 2d Cavalry Division more or less intact until early in l944, when it finally was sent to North Africa, without its animals, only to be inactivated and broken up upon arrival overseas. The only other cavalry division, the 1st, was sent to the Southwest Pacific early in the war and fought dismounted as infantry, under special Tables of Organization. As late as November l944 the War Department was still discussing the possibility of using horse cavalry units in the final stages of the war against Japan.
The Phillips Pack Saddle
The success of our Quartermaster Pack Trains and Combat Pack Units, and their reputation for being the finest, was due largely to their superior equipment. Credit in this connection is due Colonel Albert E. Phillips, Retired for designing the Cargo Pack Saddle and the Cavalry Pack Saddle which were adopted as standard equipment for our Army and designated the Phillips Cargo Pack Saddle and the Phillips Pack Saddle, Cavalry.
Demand for Pack Mules
In contrast to the declining interest in horses, the demand for mules increased during the war. This shift in requirements is illustrated clearly by records showing the number of animals purchased in the United States during the war. These records reveal that purchases of horses outnumbered those of mules by more than 5 to 1 in the l941 fiscal year and by nearly 2 to 1 in the 1942 fiscal year when procurement of both types of animals dropped off sharply as the need for them failed to materialize. The situation changed radically, however beginning with the 1943 fiscal year when only 4 horses were purchased and none thereafter whereas 10,206 mules were procured in the l943 fiscal year and more than 14,000 in the final 2 years of the war, as shown in the following table:
Horses Purchased Mules Purchased
Fiscal Year in United States in United States
1941 23,546 4, 279
1942 2,859 1,699
1943 4 10,217
1944 0 5,129
1945 0 9, 199
Total 26,409 30,523
Battle experience in the winter of l942-43 accounted for the sudden interest in procurement of mules. Observers overseas reported that Army ground units bad discovered in their early encounters with the enemy that while modern warfare had made the general use of horse cavalry of questionable value, there was no question about the need for animals in rugged mountain terrain where few if any roads existed. Standard cargo trucks could be used only on the main roads in the mountains. Jeeps usually could negotiate the narrow twisting trails in the lower ranges, but beyond the jeep trails, where much of the fighting took place, animals were needed to pack supplies to the foxholes, the dugouts, and gun emplacements of the troops who carried the fight to the enemy. The mule was preferred to the horse for this task because it was surer of foot and more hardy.
The principal function of animal transport was to supply ammunition water and food and to a lesser degree, to move heavy weapons to troops at points that could not be reached by motor vehicles. Mules were also utilized to some extent in the evacuation of wounded personnel. Pack animals were needed almost constantly while fighting was in progress in mountains. Upon reaching open terrain however, the troops mechanized their reconnaissance and supply units when motors were available, and moved the animals forward in trucks until more mountains were encountered.
Pack mules were utilized by the United States forces initially in World War II in Tunisia during the winter of l942-43. The number used there, however, was comparatively small. When the fighting moved over to Sicily many more were used, but it was in the rugged mountain terrain of Italy that mules were employed for the first time on a really extensive scale. Animal pack outfits also were used in the China-Burma-India theater, especially during the active combat operations in Burma.
Despite the sharp increase in procurement of mules in the United States, most of the pack animals used by the Army overseas were procured in the theaters in which the troops were operating. Of the 30,500 mules procured by the Remount Branch in this country during the war, only about 7,800 were shipped to the United States armed forces overseas with an additional 3,500 sent to the United Kingdom under lend-lease. Many times that number were utilized by the Army in the theaters where needs for them were encountered. The U. S. army Quartermaster Remount Service in Italy for example, procured approximately 15,000 pack animals and issued 11,000 to the using forces in the Italian campaign alone.
There were several reasons why more pack mules were procured abroad than were sent to the theaters from the United States. One of these, of course, was that it was extremely difficult to obtain shipping space for the animals and their forage. Another was that requirements for animals in the theaters, particularly in the early stages of the war, were not anticipated sufficiently in advance to enable shipments to be made. In this connection there appears to have existed even in the minds of many early planners in the War Department an implicit faith in the ability of mechanized forces to move over all type of terrain, and apparently this faith persisted until the troops in the field actually began to encounter rugged mountains in which motor vehicles simply could not operate. In any case, it is obvious that no adequate advance plan. were made for the use of pack mules overseas nor for the training of personnel to handle and care for the animals.
Most of the pack animals obtained overseas by the Army were procured on requisition through the theater remount service which purchased the animals locally and processed and trained them before issuance to the troops. In many instances, however, particularly during the early part of the War, Army units had to commandeer animals on the spot when the need for them suddenly arose. Later in the war many mules were captured from the enemy. In some cases, pack mules owned by civilians were hired to carry supplies to the troops up in the mountains.
The War Department policy of replacing the cavalry with mechanized units and the curtailment of the program in the United States for training personnel in the care and handling of animals, resulted in a serious shortage of experienced horsemen in those theaters where urgent needs developed for pack mules. The Fifth Army, one of the largest users of pack animals, eventually solved the problem in the Italian campaign by utilizing experienced Italian Army horsemen who had the added advantage of being familiar with the terrain. By the end of the Italian campaign the U. S. Army Remount Service in Italy was supplying animals to 15 Italian pack troops and to the U. S. 10th Mountain Infantry Division. The Italian pack units on the average consisted of 260 mules, 12 horses, 11 Italian officers, and 320 enlisted men. Each of the U.S. Army Divisions to which these pack troops were attached had a liaison officer who advised the Italians of the tasks to be accomplished.
Deactivation of Last Two Animal Pack Units Ft. Carson Colorado
At the close of World War II, the Cavalry Arm of the Service ceased to exist and the use of horses for tactical purposes at posts camps and stations ended. Two animal pack units, the 4th Field Artillery Battalion and the 35th QM Pack Co., equipped with mules and a small number of horses were retained at Fort Carson, Colorado, for training purposes to insure a means of expansion in case of emergency. In the final analysis these two pack units were deactivated on 15 February l957, and all of the animals were sold or transferred to other Government agencies, including the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture and the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior. In ceremonies befitting and honoring the long service of this patient but sometimes cantankerous Army animal, the mules were publicly mustered out of the Army, to be replaced by the helicopter. Thus, a majestic Army tradition was ended. The spectacle at Fort Carson Colorado, was attended by more than 3,000 persons “A farewell that few will easily forget”, as published in numerous newspapers and periodicals covering the event.
Transfer of the Horse Breeding Program to Department of Agriculture
The Remount Purchasing and Breeding Headquarters Offices were closed and the Army Horse Breeding Program was transferred to the Department of Agriculture by Act of Congress on 1 July l948, along with the Remount Depots, equipment and breeding stock. The Program was liquidated by the Department of Agriculture the following year and all stocks sold at public auction. During the 28 years the Plan was in operation by the Army, 1921-1948, a total of more than 700 stallions had been placed throughout the country and 230,000 foals were produced. Without doubt it resulted in immeasurable improvement in the horse stocks of the country and added untold wealth to its economy.
Lessons Learned in Korea
The following comments by Colonel R. E. Ireland, a former Cavalry Officer and Chief of Remount Service, are based on 2 1/2 years service in the CBI during World War II and a year with I Corps on the “western part of’ the front” in Korea.
The absence of pack troops in Korea was due to nonavailability in the United States of trained organizations. Had they been, their value can best be estimated by the fact that without exception, all horses and mules captured from the Chinese and North Koreans, by the use of enemy or improvised equipment were utilized for pack transportation if they were physically able to carry a load.
“Several pages could be devoted to instances of confirming the foregoing statement but no actual record was kept. In March 1951, North of Kumyanjung Ni, the famous Wolfhound Regiment had 33 mules with one machine gun unit. There were many others in use in the same sector. Troops were reluctant to give information as to where captured animals were located, or in what numbers, for fear they would be denied their use and they would be moved to another area. On the drive north from Seoul late in May, the 1st Cavalry Division moved the animals they had acquired earlier by trucks. (The QMC 6×6 truck is readily adaptable for this purpose and required no major change.) In the mountainous sector north of Seoul to the Imjin River, captured animals were used to pack in barbed wire, steel stakes, mines, etc. As an interesting sidelight, one of the animals being used was a former U. S. mule about whose identity there was not the slightest doubt. His Preston Brand was 08K0. He was one of the many mules shipped to CBI during World War II and later commandeered by the Red Chinese Army. Numerous similar instances, all personal observations, could be added.
“It is rather astonishing the load the average Korean can carry on his back using what is known as an ‘A” frame. The Chinese had counted on this in their logistical planning, but the removal of thousands of refugees denied the use of native carriers and badly upset their supply system.
U.N. Forces formed Koreans into labor companies and used them in lieu of pack troops. It is a fallacy to accept this practice as a criterion for future operations for two reasons. First, all foreign countries do not have natives capable of carrying abnormal loads on their backs and, second, conditions will not exist where, of their own volition, they will not ‘bug out’, leaving the organization they are serving without means of transport. Mules are not addicted to this.”
Post-World War II Importations of Horses from the European Theater to the United States
On 24 August 1945, Colonel Fred L. Hamilton, Chief of Remount Service was ordered to proceed to Paris, France, and such other places in the European Theater as were necessary to inspect and select breeding stock of horses and dogs from captured enemy stocks for transfer to the United States to supply the Army Breeding Program.
On arrival in Germany, he requested authority of the U. S. Group Control Council, to procure for shipment to the United States a number of thoroughbred brood mares, Arab brood mares, East Prussian brood mares, thoroughbred stallions, Arab stallions, and German Shepherd dogs and bitches.
A large percentage of the animals selected were in the custody of the 3rd and 7th Armies, having been recovered from the enemy by troops of those Armies. They were unsuitable for farm work, having been bred and used exclusively for pleasure and military purposes. It was difficult to feed and care for the animals at that time and they were not needed by our troops for recreational purposes. Under the circumstances, their security was burdensome.
Many of the animals were of German origin; others were French. Colonel Hamilton further requested authority to appraise the animals selected and report the appraised value to the Deputy Military Governor for subsequent settlement either as reverse lend lease with the nation concerned or through reparations.
Under the Potsdam Agreement of Advanced Deliveries Reparations Account, he was authorized to take the animals selected. Removals, however, were to be confined to animals of known German origin.
Colonel Hamilton made another trip in the spring of 1946 to the European Theater and selected another group of horses for shipment to the United States.
There follows a narrative of the acquisition of horses in Germany during the years 1945-46, as told by Colonel Hamilton:
“After three and one-half years in the Southwest Pacific Area, I returned to Washington, D. C., and was assigned to duty as Chief of the United States Army Remount Service in August 1945.
“Immediately thereafter, I was approached by certain horse-minded United States Senators reference the shipment to America of horses known by them to be in the hands of our troops in Europe. I conferred with General George S. Patton then on leave in Washington D. C., about the matter and obtained from his first-hand information concerning the horse situation in Germany. I also entered into personal correspondence with several Cavalry officers on duty with our occupation forces in Europe.
“Eventually, War Department orders were published which directed me to proceed to Europe.
“Upon arrival, I found that, although other allied nations were making frequent demands, I was the first American to present a formal request for reparations in kind. No procedure was in effect, and it was apparent that a certain amount of pioneer work would be necessary.
“I proceeded to Berlin where I presented my orders to Lt. General Lucius D. Clay, American Representative on the Group Control Council and Deputy Military Governor of the American Sector in Germany. I conferred with General Clay personally and discussed the entire matter with him. He authorized me to proceed with the procurement of horses and to arrange for their shipment to the United States.
“I then proceeded in company with Colonel Louis O. Gibney, United States Cavalry to the German Government’s thoroughbred breeding farm at Altefeld, approximately 100 miles northwest of Frankfurt in the American Sector. Colonel Gibney had been Remount Officer for the Seventh Army throughout the European campaign and had a good general understanding of the horse situation in Europe.
“Altefeld was built by the German Government as a thoroughbred breeding farm in about 1934. They immediately set out to accumulate superior foundation stock thereat, and, of course, the war gave them almost unlimited opportunity In this respect. The farm records were kept with characteristic German thoroughness.
“All animals were inspected individually. Brief pedigrees and a description were taken of all animals selected. Later a number was painted on the back of each horse and a similar number entered on the proper pedigree sheet.
“I then departed for the German Army breeding farm at Monsbach and Donauworth where inspections and selections were made.
“This first importation totaled 150 animals, including 65 thoroughbreds. They were shipped from Bremerhaven, Germany and arrived at Newport News on October 29, 1945.
“On my second trip to Germany, in the Spring of 1946, I inspected and selected 83 horses for shipment to the United States.
“In all of my transactions, insofar as the selection of horses that had been taken by our Military Forces as ‘legitimate prizes of war’ in Germany, I worked closely and directly with appropriate staff sections and had their full concurrence and endorsement in everything I did. In matters pertaining to the requisition of horses privately owned or horses under property control of the Military Government I worked directly and with the approval of the Military Government in Berlin. The Occupational Army had made use of many horses taken in exactly this manner as ‘prizes of war’ to mount their Constabulary Mounted Platoons and for recreational purposes throughout the Occupational Army. Many of these horses so used by the Occupational Forces in Germany for military purposes were issued from the group of horses at Donauworth.”
Many of the animals included in the two importations referred to above were subsequently claimed by the Hungarian Government and plans were under way for their return when, as a result of adverse public opinion, hearings were scheduled by the Senate Armed Services Committee, whose Chairman was Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, and witnesses from the State Department, Office of the Secretary of the Army, and the Department of the Army were heard. The decision of the Committee was to retain the animals as “prizes of war”. They were later disposed of by the Department of Agriculture at public auction, inasmuch as the Army Horse Breeding Program was transferred to that Department in July 1948.
Foreign Aid Program
At the time of transfer of remount depots to the Department of Agriculture, when that agency assumed responsibility for the Horse Breeding Program, a Foreign Aid Program was underway to purchase process and ship 1000 pack mules to Greece. This program was enlarged and by the time the last military personnel left Fort Reno, Oklahoma, in December l949, approximately 10,000 head of mules had been purchased and shipped to Greece.
In 1951 another program of this type was inaugurated and through mutual agreement the animal processing facilities at Fort Reno were loaned to the Department of the Army by the Department of Agriculture and approximately 12,000 horses and mules were purchased and shipped to Turkey. This program ended in May 1954.
Agreement Between Department of Agriculture and Department of Army Re Use of Animal Processing Facilities at Beef Cattle Research Station, Fort Reno, Oklahoma (Formerly Reno Quartermaster Remount Depot)
A new agreement was entered into during Fiscal Year 1955 between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Army, placing the animal processing facilities at the Beef Cattle Research Station Fort Reno, Oklahoma, in a standby status for the use of the Army during emergencies and for processing animals purchased for any possible future Foreign Aid Programs. The amount to be made available to the Department of Agriculture by the Department of the Army for maintenance of facilities involved is $1,800 annually.
Current Use of Horses and Mules by the Army
Current inventory of horses and mules has dwindled to less than 50 in Continental United States. The United States Army in Berlin, Germany is authorized 56 riding horses for the use of the Constabulary. The traditional use of horses for ceremonial purposes in conducting military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, was dangerously threatened in the Spring of 1957. However, strong public sentiment and opposition to the proposed move to motorize the burial ceremonies brought a prompt halt to the movement by representatives in Congress and ultimately the President of the United States.
The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, still retains the Army mule as its mascot. TROTTER, a four-gated mule, possessing a number of other outstanding accomplishments, was transferred to that Station when the 35th QM Pack Co., was deactivated at Fort Carson, Colorado, in the Spring of l957.
A negligible number of horses and mules are utilized at US Disciplinary Barracks for draft work and perimeter patrol in apprehending escaping prisoners.
Since World War I, the Remount activity has been reduced in size and importance from a separate service, utilizing the services of more than forty civilians and five commissioned officers within the OQMG a Function within a Section of a Branch of a Division within the OQMG with full-time employment of one civilian and one Animal Purchase Board to function as needed.
Tribute to Horses and Mules and the Part They Played in the Annals of Military History
The following sentiments are offered in concluding the horse and mule phase in the annals of military history:
“War has been from the beginning……
“Through the ages of conflict and strife the horse has been the constant companion and steadfast friend of the soldier, sharing his sufferings and dangers, his toil and hardship and consecrating the battlefields with his blood. The mule likewise has been the army’s devoted friend, patiently bearing his burden that the army might be supplied.
“Our British allies have paid high tribute to the splendid service rendered by the American horse and the American mule during World War I. Both were as indispensable to the successful prosecution of the war and to final victory as were shot and shell.
“Many mechanical services were adopted as a partial solution of the problems of transportation involved, but in the last analysis it was found that the requisite mobility for success depended upon the horse and the mule. They therefore remain, today as always, essential factors of successful warfare.
“While more than 68,000 of them serving with our armies in World War I passed to the great beyond in silent agony, and while many of them now sleep on the gentle slopes made beautiful by the poppy’s bloom, no white crosses, row on row, mark their last resting places.
“It is fitting and proper that praise and honor should be lavished on the armies of the victorious nations yet in doing so we should not forget to render the meed of praise due the hundreds of thousands of horses and mules that died nobly in the cause of humanity.
“It is therefore with great pleasure and with deep appreciation that I now, in the name of the Government of the United States, accept this beautiful tablet presented by the Red Star Animal Relief in commemoration of the horses and mules that died in World War I.
“This imperishable bronze will ever bear silent witness of the great debt we owe our equine friend. and will inspire in the hearts of the present and future generations a determination to see that they receive the fair treatment and consideration which is their due.”
These were the words of General Willard A. Holbrook, a former Chief of Cavalry commemorating the horses and mules which died during the great European War of 1914-1918 on the occasion of the unveiling of a bronze tablet erected in the State, War and Navy Building, Washington, D. C., by the American Red Star Animal Relief. General Holbrook made the acceptance speech on behalf of the Government on 15 October 1921.