A little mare named Reckless served in the US Marine Corps – an unusual job for a horse, but in this case it was the perfect job for a very unusual horse. She stood around 14.1 hands (technically a pony) and was bought in 1952 by Lieutenant Eric Pedersen for $250 from a young boy, Kim Huk Moon, at the race track in Seoul, South Korea. Moon loved his horse, whose name was Ah-Chim-Hai (Flame of the Morning), but he needed money to buy his sister an artificial leg when hers was blown off in a land mine accident.
Lt. Pedersen, commanding officer of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Antitank Company, Fifth Marine Regiment, bought the mare, who would be renamed Reckless, with his own money. He needed a way to carry ammunition to the front lines during the Korean War that raged from June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953. Not only was Reckless expected to march right into battle, she was often a walking bomb herself, with ammo strapped to her.
Platoon Sergeant Joseph Latham was put in charge of Reckless and taught her how to step over lines, ignore battle noises and when touched on the leg, to get down and lie low. He also trained her to head towards a bunker when she heard the command ‘Incoming, incoming!’ Reckless was given other jobs, including laying communications wire, and carrying grenades, small-arms ammunition, rations, sleeping bags, and even barbed wire.
In March of 1953 Reckless showed everybody what she was truly made of during the Battle of Outpost Vegas, gamely walking across the death zone rice paddies and up a steep mountainside to bring the ammunition to the firing area. Reckless did this 51 times over a five-day period and most of the time she was alone. In all, she carried 386 rounds of ammunition totalling 9,000 lbs (4,082 kg). She also shielded four Marines from enemy fire, carried the wounded and, when she was wounded herself, kept on going.
Reckless must have been a source of inspiration to the battle weary marines, and they were devoted to her. Sgt. John Meyers,who served with this gallant lady, recalls, ‘I would feed her, so every time she’d see me, she’d trot over and I’d give her an apple a day. She knew exactly where I slept and she’d come in the tent and lick my face to wake me up, so she could eat.’
Reckless also liked chocolate bars, hard candy, shredded wheat, peanut butter sandwiches and mashed potatoes. She drank beer and cola, but Latham, who had grown up with horses, was careful of what the adoring marines fed her. She had free rein of the camp and she often slept in the tents with the men; they just moved their sleeping bags over and she stretched out nearby.
After the war, Lt. Col. Geer wrote a letter to headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps requesting that Reckless be brought back to the US. The answer was that she was not government property, so government funds could not be allocated. Luckily, Stan Coppel, the executive vice-president of Pacific Transport Lines, had read about Reckless in a Saturday Evening Post article and he offered to have her brought back on one of his ships, free of charge. Back in the States, Reckless lived at Camp Pendelton and received many military honours (including two Purple Hearts), appeared on TV, walked in parades, had a race at Aqueduct named in her honour and made celebrity appearances.
Reckless died in May, 1968. In 1990, Life magazine included the brave little mare in their list of 100 all-time greatest heroes. Many years later, California movie writer and producer Robin Hutton became interested in her story, and spoke to many of the Marines who had served with Reckless. Hutton also helped support a memorial statue to Sgt. Reckless that was unveiled July 26, 2013, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. The statue was created by Jocelyn Russell and it shows the determination in the eyes of this game little mare as she carries heavy ammunition up a steep track – a heartfelt tribute for the many lives she saved and the many men she inspired over 60 years ago.
For more information, visit the website at www.sgtreckless.com and ‘like’ her page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/sgtreckless