“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.”
Lieutenant General Randolph Pate
One of the most beloved members of the Marine Corps went into battle on four feet. A mare of Mongolian mixed breed, the horse who would become Sergeant Reckless was foaled in 1948 in South Korea. Originally named Ah Chim Hai, Morning Flame, she was sold to Lieutenant Eric Pederson, USMC, for $250.00 in October of 1952. (The owner was a stable boy who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister who had stepped on a land mine.)
Pedersen bought the horse, which had been a race horse, to serve as a pack animal for his recoiless rifle platoon of the 5th Marine regiment. The platoon called her Reckless after the platoon’s nickname of Reckless Rifles. Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Latham gave Reckless an equine version of boot camp, known in her case as hoof camp. He taught her how to avoid getting tangled up in barbed wire, how to lay down under fire, and to run to a bunker when hearing the shout “Incoming”. Latham had his wife mail a pack saddle from the states so that Reckless could better fulfill her role of being a pack animal from the platoon. Reckless quickly became a platoon favorite and was given the freedom to roam the platoon encampment at night and to enter tents at will. She loved cokes and beer, and would eat with enthusiasm whatever she could get her mouth on, including, one dark day, $30.00 worth of winning poker chips of Latham.
However, Reckless quickly demonstrated that she was not a mere mascot or pet. In the battle of Hedy’s Crotch she proved fearless in transporting shells for the recoiless rifles of the platoon. At first alarmed by the sounds of the rifles going off, by the end of the day she was calmly going about her business. A highly intelligent horse, she only needed to be led the first few times, and afterwards would make the trips bringing up the shells on her own.
At the battle of Outpost Vegas, March 26-28, 1953, she received a promotion to Corporal for her sterling service, including on one day 51 solo trip bringing up 386 shells. She was slightly wounded twice during the engagement for which she was awarded two Purple Hearts.
Outside of battle Reckless performed many functions, including stringing telephone lines. It was said that she could string telephone lines at a rate that it would take 12 men to match. She enjoys the distinction of being the only horse to participate in a Marine Corps amphibious landing.