One of the first females to ever see combat with the Marine Corps was no ordinary lady called Sgt. Reckless. “I first saw this little lady when the First Marine Division was in reserve for a brief period,” said Lt.Gen. Randolph Pate, then-Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. “I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps. Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades. She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her.”
The funny thing was Sgt Reckless was a horse! A small sorrel or chestnut-colored horse with a white blaze on her face and three white stocking feet. Her mama was a race horse in Korea named Morning Flame. Morning Flame was trained and cared for by a young Korean boy named Kim Huk Moon, who came to love the colt even more than he loved Morning Flame. When war enveloped the country, Kim and the colt had to leave the empty race track and survive many daring and dangerous adventures. Kim, in order to raise money to buy his sister an artificial leg to replace the one she lost to a land mine, made the greatest sacrifice of his life: he sold Reckless to American Marines for use as an ammunition carrier at the war front. The Marines had pooled their own money to buy her and spent their own time training her to help carry shells for the recoiless rifle which they had named “Reckless”. And that’s how she got her Marine Corps name.
The recoilless rifle was an antitank weapon. It was heavy and needed 3 or 4 men to carry it. The shells would hit several thousand yards away with great precision so it was an important weapon in the Marines’ arsenal. One of the bad things about it was it had a terrific back blast, which made it impossible to conceal, so the enemy would quickly zero in on its location and start firing at the Marines.
The shells weighed about 24 lbs each, and a Marine ammunition carrier could only carry three or four rounds, so the Marines came up with the idea of getting a horse to help carry the rounds and that’s how Reckless was recruited.
The Marines built her the best bunker they could with the materials at hand, and she spent the first few nights tied in her bunker, but that didn’t last long. She was soon given free rein to wander around and often visited the Marines in their tents and even spent some restless nights with them. They would just move their sleeping bags to one side or the other to make room for their “buddy”. On very cold nights, Sgt. Latham would invite her into his tent to sleep next to the stove. Sometimes she’d lay down and stretch out, taking up most of the tent.
Reckless liked her horse food OK, which sometimes included apples and carrots, but she REALLY liked what the Marines were eating. She once strolled by the mess hall tent and snuck some scrambled eggs and then washed them down with coffee her Marines gave her. Another time she grabbed some bacon and buttered toast with her scrambled eggs. She considered herself a Marine and liked to share a beer or a Coke with her fellow Marines too.
Her antics off the battlefield, and her insatiable appetite for strange stuff like poker chips, coca cola, shredded wheat, vitamin pills, cookies, peanut butter sandwiches, mashed potatoes and a hat or two, entertained the young Marines and relieved the stress of being in combat. She loved scrambled eggs and pancakes in the morning with her cup of coffee and the Marines learned quickly never to leave their food unattended. She also loved cake, Hershey bars, and candy from the Marines’ C-rations. And no matter where the Marines hid their treats from home, she would tear their tent apart to find them while they were out on missions.
During the day, Reckless had to go through “Boot” – I mean “hoof” – camp and learn her new job. She learned how to get in and out of a jeep trailer, which took some nimbleness on her part, since the trailer was only 36″ by 72″. She’d jump in the trailer and arrange herself catty-cornered so they could lift the gate. She learned how to take cover on the front lines: when tapped on the front leg, she knew to hit the deck or get down. She learned to head for the bunker when incoming rounds hit behind the lines. The Marines just had to yell, “Incoming! Incoming!” and she would run for the bunker.
Reckless had become quite comfortable around her trainer, Sgt. Latham, because he had gained her trust and her love. Now it was time to go to work. Lt. Pedersen had written to his wife back home and asked her to send a pack saddle for Reckless. It would help Reckless carry 6 rounds and with adjustments to the saddle, she could carry 8-10, but Lt. Pedersen didn’t want her to carry so much weight unless it was absolutely necessary. When the loaded pack was placed on her back by Sgt. Latham, she accepted it and set off for the hills with the Marines for more training.
It didn’t take long for Reckless to prove she was a real Marine. When the Marines went out on a fire mission some distance from their camp, vehicles transported the recoilless rifle, ammo and the squad to the site. Reckless jumped into her trailer ready to go! When they got to their destination, Sgt. Sherman and his gun crew started climbing a hill with their heavy weapon. Reckless eventually passed them with some ammo and dropped it off at the top of the hill. On her way back with another load, the gun crew fired the weapon. WHOOSH! The loud noise sent Reckless straight up in the air – even with the six shells she was carrying! When she came back down, she was trembling with fright. The weapon fired again – Reckless snorted and shook her head to stop the ringing in her ears. Again and again the weapon fired. Reckless eventually was no longer scared. The Marines fired 5 or 6 times from one location and then had to move to another location so the enemy wouldn’t be able to locate them and return fire. Reckless delivered ammo each time the gun crew moved. By the end of the mission she was calmly looking around for grass to eat. She passed the test and officially became one of the squad.
When they got back to camp, Reckless was rewarded with a beer. She drank it all and asked for more by nudging her trainer. She spent the night in the staff NCO tent and fell fast asleep by the stove.
The Marines were relieved from duty for a short while as winter set in, but there was still plenty to do. Although Reckless didn’t have ammo to transport, she had other jobs such as stringing communications wire. The reels of wire were attached to her pack and would spin out as Reckless walked along. It was said that Reckless could string more wire in a day than a dozen Marines. While they relaxed, some of the Marines played poker in Sgt. Latham’s tent with Reckless standing behind him. Sgt. Latham’s poker chip pile began to grow which fascinated Reckless. All of a sudden she leaned over and grabbed a mouthful of chips! Latham tried to get all the chips out, but the Marines figured she ate about $30 worth of chips that night.
When it was time to move up to the front lines again, Reckless and her regiment went to fight the enemy at Outpost Vegas in March of 1953. What Reckless did in the battle made her not only respected and loved by her Marines and the entire regiment but also by the whole First Marine Division. It was written of this battle that, “The savagery of the battle for the so-called Nevada Complex has never been equaled in Marine Corps history.” Twenty-eight tons of bombs and hundreds of the largest shells turned the crest of Vegas into smoking, death-pocked rubble. And Reckless was right in the middle of it.
It was still dark when the Sgt. went into the pasture to get Reckless. She was a little skittish from all the loud noises from the enemy incoming fire. Reckless’s pack was loaded with 8 rounds. Both Latham and Sgt. Coleman went on the first few trips with Reckless, showing her the way from the supply site to the firing site and back again, where she would pick up load after load. One section of the trail they took had an incline of 45 degrees with 250 feet of turning, twisting pathway before a resting place was even reached. Reckless worked with other members of the squad who were packing 3 rounds each, eventually making the re-ammo trips all by herself. She was making two trips to each one for the Marines. After her 21st trip, Latham took off the pack and gave her some water and food. She rested for a short while and then the pack was replaced and she began again. Reckless made the 700 yard trip carrying 8 rounds in 20 minutes. Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way across the deadly “no-man’s land” of rice paddies and up the steep mountain trails that led to the firing sites as they tried to pick her off. Twice she was wounded, but she never quit. She made 51 trips to that gun site, carrying more than 9,000 pounds of explosives to her Marines. THAT’s MORE THAN 4 TONS! Lt. Pedersen estimated she had traveled more than 35 miles. “It’s difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy bringing vitally needed ammo up the mountain,” said SgtMaj. Bobbitt. Her heroics defined the word “Marine.”
Reckless was taken back to the bunker, fed, rubbed down and covered with a blanket. She was asleep before Latham left the stall. For 3 days, Reckless provided vital support to the raging battle by packing the ammo her Marines needed, exposing herself to danger every step of the way and never hesitating in the noisy heat of battle.
So completely did Reckless capture the hearts of her Marines that they promoted her every chance they got and presented her with citations for bravery. They personally paid her way to the United States to enjoy a well-earned retirement, and had a custom USMC blanket in crimson and gold made for her to which they attached all her medals.
Reckless arrived in the States on November 10, the Marine Corps birthday, to a crowd of her adoring Marines who had come from all over the country to welcome her. The captain of the ship had to radio ahead, however, to inform them that Reckless had eaten her custom blanket – and all her medals!
Her enterprising Marines got her on an elevator and took her to the 10th floor of a fancy hotel where the annual Marine Corps Ball was being held. Staff Sgt. Reckless was the guest of honor and got to eat her own cake! . . . and then she started in on the floral arrangements . . .
There are several books available about Reckless, Marine Corps hero at Amazon.com. Please also enjoy the attached clip about Sgt. Reckless.