Your editorial (March 14), "Hee-Haws and Yak-Yaks," disparaging the Army plan to study the use of mules in conjunction with the re-establishment of the 10th Mountain Division, prompts this reply.
When the 10th Mountain Division was attacking high mountain passes in Italy in World War II, mules were plodding faithfully up alpine trails with the division's supplies, such as ammunition, food and other necessities. The mules also plodded down the trails carrying casualties. They did the same for the 36th Division, the 92nd Division and the 88th Division, and other units fighting in the Italian Alps.
Mules were also used to carry supplies for Merrill's Marauders in Burma, behind Japanese lines, without any banshee-like braying because they had been trained to keep silent.
Mules have several advantages over helicopters. They cost less to acquire. For the cost of one helicopter you can get a lot of mules. They cost less and are easier to maintain. It takes three men and a lot of down time to service a chopper. One man can take care of a dozen mules and their transmissions never break down. They cost less to operate. No gas, no oil--just oats and hay.
Three mules can carry as much as one small chopper and can deliver its load without having to use a lot of manpower to chop a hole in the jungle canopy or a landing zone on a mountain ledge.
Mule trains do not alert the enemy and pinpoint your position the way a helicopter does. Ask any Vietnam veteran about the joys of Med-Evac and resupply on a hot L-Z.
Last but not least, if things get really bad you can eat the mules, as the 26th Cavalry did on Bataan. WILLIAM G. MILLER