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world war I nerd

Wow - A WW I, 2nd Division "Show Pony"

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I just received this rather unusual WW I era photograph, whose primary subject appears to be a horse!

 

The first thing one notices about this horse is that it is wearing a "bedazzled" blanket/coat.

 

A close inspection of the equine garment's bedazzlement reveals the insignia of the 15th Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Division … a secondary 3rd Army insignia … three overseas service chevrons on the right flank … what I'm guessing is the animal's name directly beneath the star & Indian head motif, which, in turn, is surrounded by what I speculate may be the battles in which this veteran work horse participated in. A most singular sight, to be certain!

 

I'm guessing that this beast of burden is one of the very few horses that survived longer than the life expectancy of a draft animal, which in 1917, according to the British Army, was just one week. Hence, it's VIP treatment for what I presume to be its sea voyage home to greener pastures.

 

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And an even closer view of the bedazzled coat/blanket.

 

I can make out the words:

 

It looks like "Noyon" - "Aisne" - "Chateau Thierry" and nothing more

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Sadly, the shoulders of most of most of the Doughboys are facing the wrong way, so no shoulder patches are visible.

 

However, one of the returning veterans does have the star & Indian head logo painted onto the helmet he's slung from the rear of his pack. Unfortunately, the background shape, if there is one, cannot be made out.

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And finally, another soldier appears to be carrying a gasmask emblazoned with the initials "AEF" and "FH", possibly for field hospital. By coincidence, the same man is also wearing an enlisted men's medical belt.

 

Does anyone have any thoughts or theories as to why this horse is receiving the royal treatment?

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Wait a minute … Is that a mule? I can't tell. It does have pretty long ears for a horse … hmmm.

 

Flasharue, you read my mind (or I read yours). I didn't see your post until after mine arrived.

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Is a mule, nice pic, wish the story was known.


"The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him" G.K. Chesterton

"A people that values it's privileges above its principles will soon lose both" D.D. Eisenhower


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Man that is a fantastic picture!!


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Always looking for quality WWI and WWII USMC items. Particularly 4th Marine Brigade related items, medals, uniforms helmets ephemera, Also WWII USMC items including uniforms, medals, etc. to combat veterans especially Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima. Let me know what you have. Semper Fi


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Since there was obviously something special about that mule (mascot, hero, survivor, etc.), I wonder if it might be mentioned in a 15th FA or 2nd Division history?

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The insignia on the blanket is that of the 15th Field Artillery. Obviously, mules were used to move the field artillery pieces, caisons, wagons and other equipment used by the 15th FA and other untis. Since there is a 3rd Army insignia- the Army of Occupation, the photo was taken after the end of hostilities.

 

These doughboys are on the ship heading back to the USA. I'm amazed that they took the mules home with them. Of course, this mule could have just been singled out as a mascot after having pulled its fair share of weight in the trenches during the war.

 

OUTSTANDING photo!

 

Allan


Never under-estimate the power of prayer.

 

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Everyone, thanks for the comments about this image.

 

There's no doubt that draft horses and mules, as well as their riding counterparts, were very important to every AEF division.

 

I seem to recall reading that the AEF did not bring back any of its surviving draft animals to the United States. I believe they were given, or sold, to France to be used as farm animals after the war. However, at this moment I cannot cite the source from which that memory came from.

 

The above, was the primary reason why this photo was so interesting to me. If the AEF's policy was not to repatriate its horses and mules, then why was this particular mule exempt?

 

I'm convinced that there must be a good story behind this photo. Regulations for AEF debarking soldiers and their baggage were very, very rigid. Unlike a mascot in the form of a dog or a cat (both of which could easily be hidden and taken care of), it would have been extremely difficult for a handful of Doughboys to smuggle a mule (not to mention the fodder it needed and appropriate living quarters) on board a troop transport without any debarkation or Navy official noticing. This mule had to be on the ship's manifest. A berth for it would have had to have been assigned, special rations would have been provided, etc.

 

If anyone has access to a 15th FA or 2nd Division history, I'd very much appreciate it if you could have a look to see if the repatriation of a mule is mentioned.

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Greetings Nerd,

One observation, who travels back to USA from France whilst their wearing full marching order/let alone a with pack animal on deck? I concur with Allan's observation's, that this is a postwar photograph, but I differ in that I think it is taken while on the Rhine River and not the ocean. I believe, this image shows a group being transported to or from the Koblenz, Bridgehead. 2ID was one of several Divisions assigned to the 3rd Army's Bridgehead.

The Soldiers have their kit on as it is a short trip of a only few hours (if that) duration and the same goes with the on-deck mule getting the royal treatment. They have all of their kit on so that when they get to their destination, they can quickly offload. If they were going back to the USA, they would have grounded their kit in their berthing spaces and would be wearing no field gear while on deck or possibly, life vests.

 

Wish I could speak more towards your original questions about the Mule, but wanted to add my 2CTs on the "possibility" of this being a Rhine River's image taken during the Occupation.

 

Regardless, I agree, a very cool image.

 

Best,

 

V/r Lance


“With a gentleman I am always a gentleman and a half, and with a fraud I try to be a fraud and a half.”

Otto von Bismarck.

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Lance, you make a very good point about the image being taken on the Rhine River, not the Atlantic Ocean. That's a very real possibility, one I hadn't considered.

 

However, if they were on the river for an hour or more, there's a very real possibility that the men would have taken off their heavy packs as soon as the vessel was underway. If the journey was a matter of say, 15 minutes or so, then they would likely keep their packs on.

 

When I first viewed this image on eBay, I thought it was a photo of the mule and it's immediate handlers being ferried out to a much larger troop ship, which in my view would probably have been a short journey - hence their packs remained on. But then again, it could also be a short trip across the Rhine River.

 

This is how a large number of returning Doughboys made their way onto a homeward bound troop ship as some of the French ports were not large enough to accommodate larger troop ships. In addition, arriving and departing troop ships frequently had to anchor outside of the docks because the berths were already occupied by other vessels that were in the process of being loaded or unloaded.

 

Without further information there's really no way for us to know how long their journey was - or if that journey took place on a river boat or an ocean going ferry.

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The decorated blanket appears to have the name Verdun written beneath the Indianhead. I checked the name Verdun the Mule and discovered that "Miss Verdun" was the mascot of Battery E 15th Field Artillery. The website Texas Highways has an article about her. Verdun was born in 1918 and nursed by Stable Sgt Norman Kendall after her mother died at Belleau Wood. As mascot, she stayed with the regiment through the Occupation and, despite the quarantine restrictions, sailed back to the US with the 15th. The article says Sgt Kendall was punished, but Verdun was allowed to live out her days at Ft Sam Houston, dying on Memorial Day, 1934

 

More at http://www.texashighways.com/eat/item/4329-verdun-the-mule


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What an amazing story! Jeffery, thanks for the great researching. You nailed it.

 

Now that I know what I'm looking at, I too can read the name "Verdun" below the insignia of the 15th Field Artillery on the mule's covering.

 

However, in this photo, it doesn't look as if any stealth is being used to transport the mascot, so this image may indeed have been taken on the Rhine, as militariaone suggested.

 

Nevertheless, its great to know more about this fascinating image.

 

Thanks again, to all who helped bring this story to light.

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I love a good mystery, and a good mystery solved is even better. Great photo, great detective work and some really great eyes to be able to read "Verdun".

 

All in all, a very neat post!

 

Thanks all.

 

Mikie


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This is one of the neatest research success that I have seen while collecting estate uniform groups for 35+ years! I know the greater interest is in such personal stories from the Civil War and WWII periods but this is why I collect and enjoy so much the stuff and the stories from the World War I era. Thanks for sharing so much, from the discovery of the photograph, which is really cool by itself, to the research that goes with it!! I am still amazed at how much material is available now on the World Wide Web–what a great time to be interested in military history!

 

David

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Great period photo and even greater story! The mule, the individual kit set ups, painted helmets; all great elements.

Just wondering, where's the photo now?

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BlackLion, I'm glad you liked this now, somewhat older post. To answer your question, I'm proud to say that the photo that is the subject of this post is still a part of my WW I era photo collection

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That is a fantastic photo & study in WWI equipment and insignia. Thanks for sharing!

 

TH1


Collector of WWI US Navy "Donald Duck" Caps and Hat Tallies - Looking for Tallies from the USS Carp & USS Chauncey

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