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Moffett's muted mules: the science of laryngology in the art of war

  • V Sekhar (a1), E Wong (a1), H A Elhassan (a1) and N Singh (a1)
Abstract
Background

Mules and other equine species have been used in warfare for thousands of years to transport goods and supplies. Mules are known for ‘braying’, which is disadvantageous in warfare operations. This article explores the fascinating development of surgical techniques to stop military mules from braying, with particular emphasis on the key role played by the otolaryngologist Arthur James Moffett in devoicing the mules of the second Chindit expedition of World War II.

Method

The PubMed database (1900–2017) and Google search engine were used to identify articles related to devoicing mules in the medical and veterinary literature, along with information and images on the Chindit expedition.

Results

This paper reviews the surgical techniques aimed at treating braying in mules, ranging from ventriculectomy and arytenoidectomy to Moffett's approach of vocal cordectomy.

Conclusion

Moffett's technique of vocal cordectomy provided a quick, reproducible and safe solution for devoicing mules. It proved to be advantageous on the battlefield and demonstrated his achievements outside the field of medicine.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Dr Vimal Sekhar, Westmead Hospital, Australia E-mail: vsek183@gmail.com Fax: +61 2 9680 8822
Footnotes
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Dr V Sekhar takes responsibility for the integrity of the content of the paper

Footnotes
References
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1Spartacus Educational. Horses and Mules. In: http://spartacus-educational.com/FWWhorses.htm [12 January 2018]
2US Government. Special Forces Use of Pack Animals. In: https://fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-05-213.pdf [18 October 2017]
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4Moffett, AJ. The silent Chindit mules. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;287:1946–7
5Henning, H. Taking the bray out of the army mule. Popular Science 1918:82
6Cramp, P, Barakazai, SZ. Surgical management of recurrent laryngeal neuropathy. Equine Vet Educ 2012;24:307–21
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10Belknap, JK, Derksen, FJ, Nickels, FA, Stick, JA, Robinson, NE. Failure of subtotal arytenoidectomy to improve upper airway flow mechanics in exercising standardbreds with induced laryngeal hemiplegia. Am J Vet Res 1990;51:1481–7
11Möller, VDH. The Laryngeal Whistling of the Horses (Hemiplegia laryngis) and its Operative Treatment [in German]. Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke, 1888
12Curing roaring in horses. Mount Ida Chronicle and St Bathans Weekly News 1910 July 29: 1
13Hobday, F. Specimens of equine larynx, and records of cases illustrating the results of the “ventricle-stripping” operation for the relief of the conditions known as “whistling” and “roaring” in horses. Demonstrations of instruments specially designed for this operation. Proc R Soc Med 1911;4:8792
14Stewart, CM. The muting of animals of General Wingate's force operating behind the Japanese lines in Burma. J R Army Vet Corps 1946;17:8792
15Phillips, R. The operation of muting or vocalis chordectomy in the mule. J R Army Vet Corps 1959;31:42–5
16Imperial War Museum (UK). A Chindit column crossing a river in Burma. In: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194375 [13 November 2017]
17The 1st Chindit Expedition, Operation Longcloth, 1943. In: http://www.chindits.info/Longcloth/Main.htm [9 April 2017]
18Benjamin, E, Wong, DK, Choa, D. Moffett's solution: a review of the evidence and scientific basis for the topical preparation of the nose. Clin Otolaryngol Allied Sci 2004;29:582–7
19Max, W. Obituaries. Br Med J 1996;312:505
20American Mule Museum. History of the Mule. In: http://www.mulemuseum.org/history-of-the-mule.html [19 July 2017]
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The Journal of Laryngology & Otology
  • ISSN: 0022-2151
  • EISSN: 1748-5460
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-laryngology-and-otology
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