In continuing my research into the mules who assisted the men of the Mars Task Force, I came across an interesting website. This is Le Minh Khai’s: “SEAsian History Blog”. I liked the post about mules dated October 14, 2014, titled: “The Silenced Mules of World War II Burma”. In this article, a doctor, A. J. Moffett, is reported to have developed a procedure to cut off the mule’s vocal chords in order to silence them. This procedure prevented the mules from braying, which was dangerous during the war as it alerted the enemy to the soldiers’ presence.
Le Minh Khai states that it was Colonel Orde Wingate, a senior British Army officer, who was looking into ways to silence the mules. His First Chindit Force fought the Japanese in Burma during 1942 to 1943. This was before the Mars Task Force came onto the scene. I don’t know if this procedure was still in effect when the Marsmen arrived with their mules in 1944. (1)
I will check this detail out with the veterans I am still in touch with. (2) But parts of my novel, The Burma Road, might have to be revised depending upon what I learn. I am not sure how I will proceed if revisions are in order, I’ll decide later.
Emotionally, I have difficulty accepting that these officers mutilated the animals, although I understand the need for military maneuvers to be carried out in secret. But as a pet owner and lover of all four-legged critters, I don’t like to read that their vocal chords were cut, no matter how good the reasoning was. But war is harsh medicine that we take to cure a world without peace, yet the very words “war” and “peace” are contradictions. Still, there are times when the unthinkable must be done, whether or not it is morally acceptable, in attempts to achieve a higher goal. These are the moments when an officer must make difficult decisions—choosing one “wrong’ in order to prevent another. If the mules needed to lose their vocal chords in order for the Allies to win against the Japanese, this might have been one of those times.
At any rate, Le Minh Khai’s article gives the mules back their voice. It is well worth reading, being both informative and interesting. Please check out the blog, details are in the footnote below.
(1) Details about silencing the mules from an internet article:
“The Silenced Mules of World War II Burma” by Le Minh Khai, article on website dated 10-14-14, “SEAsian History Blog”.
(2) According to PFC Ken Laabs (as passed on to me through his wife, Beulah Bennett-Vernon) the mules never brayed. He did not know for certain, but he thought they must have had the surgery to remove their vocal chords. I have not decided whether nor not to revise my chapter, “Bye, Bye Lucky”, as the animal’s braying is an important aspect of the chapter, and contributes to Jack’s grief. I’ll consider this, and decide later, before I publish. Having the facts correct is important, but it might not be vital to the overall message of the book to have this detail included.
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