New mule training exhibit opens at Cavalry Museum on post
A donation of photographs from retired 1st Lt. Jimmy Handford of New York made Fort Riley Museum Division’s newest exhibit possible. Visitors can see how mules were trained at Fort Riley and used to bring supplies and food to the frontlines in Europe and Africa during World War II on terrain too rough for mechanized vehicles. Photo by: Pamela Redford, POST.
Story by: Pamela Redford
1ST INF. DIV. POST
Fort Riley's Museum Division opened a new exhibit Aug. 16 thanks to a generous donation of photographs from retired 1st Lt. Jimmy Handford of New York.
Handford contacted Robert Smith, museum director, Fort Riley museums, about one year ago and described his time at Fort Riley as a lieutenant during World War II.
His job, now documented in an extensive display of photographs and captions, was to train mules using pack saddles.
During WWII, some of the terrain in Europe and North Africa was too rough for mechanized vehicles, so mule trains served to bring food and supplies to Soldiers fighting overseas.
"What they would do is they would take the heavy weapons and supplies up on the mules during day to supply the Soldiers and bring the wounded back at night, so the mules had a dual purpose," Smith said.
Mules were used in WWII in countries such as Italy, Burma and Tunisia.
The Phillips pack saddle, developed in 1924, enabled the mules to carry a heavy load of weapons and machine guns into rough terrain where vehicles could not go.
"The revolutionary thing about the Phillips pack saddle is that you did not have to have an experienced packer to pack the saddle because it would equalize the load on the horse's back. It was also contoured to fit the horse's back," Smith said.
At the center of the new exhibit, visitors will see a Phillips pack saddle, flanked by Handford's treasure trove of photos.
"(Handford) asked if he donated (the photos), would we do something with it, and we said 'absolutely,'" Smith said.
The mule training exhibit is currently open. To learn more about the Museum Division at Fort Riley, call 785-239-2737 or visit http://www.riley.army.mil/UnitPage.aspx?unit=DPTMS.Museum.