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Sergeant Reckless, War Horse

Sergeant Reckless, War Horse

 

 

Linda Cole, Yahoo Contributor Network
Feb 27, 2012

The Korean War is often referred to as America’s “forgotten war.” When I ran across the story of an amazing horse that put her life on the line to serve Marines on the front lines, I knew it was a story I needed to pass on to keep her legacy alive. Sgt. Reckless was a real war horse and surpassed everyone’s expectations with her unflinching dedication and willingness to carry ammunition through enemy fire. Because of her bravery, she found a place in history as a much loved, respected, and decorated Marine and war hero.

Ah Chim Hai (Flame-of-the-Morning) was a sorrel Mongolian mare living in Korea in 1952 with her young owner, Kim Huk Moon. His older sister, Chung Soon, had lost a leg in a land mine accident and needed a prosthetic leg. The only thing of value the family had was Moon’s mare. U.S. Marine Lieutenant Eric Pedersen, commanding officer of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Antitank Company, Fifth Marine Regiment saw Reckless at the Seoul racetrack and was impressed with her. He offered Moon $250.00 for his horse and with a heavy heart, the boy agreed to sell his beloved thoroughbred racehorse to Pedersen who used his own money to buy her.

Reckless was trained to carry shells and supplies for the 75mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5thMarines. The little mare was named after the weapon they had nicknamed, “Reckless.” The recoilless rifle was first used in WW II as an antitank rifle; accurate up to a couple of thousand yards. It took three to four men to carry the rifle and each shell weighed 24 pounds. When fired, the rifle produced a back blast so loud, it was impossible to hide the position of the weapon and the enemy could quickly find the location and return fire. The U.S. gun crew would shoot four or five rounds and then move to a new location to hopefully avoid enemy incoming fire. The 75mm shells were stored at an ammunition supply point and ammunition carriers had to haul the ammo to the gun. One Marine could carry three or four shells at a time. Pedersen hoped the horse could move faster and carry more shells in one load; if she wasn’t spooked during battle.

No one knew if Reckless would be able to withstand the tremendous sound of the rifle. No horse had ever been close to this type of gun before, but there was no time to sensitize her to the blast of the rifle. She would have to be tested during battle. Reckless was hauling six shells for the gun when she had her inaugural introduction to the weapon. She was heading up a hill to resupply the gun crew when it fired. All four feet left the ground and the whites of her eyes clearly displayed her discomfort when the rifle roared into action. However, she quickly regained her composure. Sgt. Reckless had passed her first test as a war horse on the battlefield.

The Battle of Outpost Vegas (March, 1953) was a fierce battle that raged on for five days. The Chinese were determined to retake ground they had lost and mounted an attack. The recoilless rifle crew set up their weapon on the summit of the hill. On the first couple of trips from the ammunition supply point to the gun crew, Reckless was guided by two soldiers who went with her to show her the route. After that, she made all of the other trips by herself and impressed everyone with her calmness and courage. On one day alone, she made 51 trips up and down the hill with no one helping her.

The trail she took included twists, turns, a 45 degree incline and an area of “no man’s land” through rice paddies. Taking only short breaks to rest and eat, Reckless kept up her pace of supplying the rifle crew with ammunition while evading enemy forces who knew what she was doing. She continued racing up and down the hill, carrying a wounded solider on her back with each trip down and hauling more ammo back up the hill to keep up a steady supply of shells for the big rifle. At one point, she gave cover to several Marines who had been pinned down as they made their way to the front line.

A constant barrage of exploding bombs filled the air and when incoming fire was heavy, soldiers took off their flak jackets and tossed them on Reckless to protect her. After the battle, it was figured she had carried 386 rounds of ammo that totaled more than 9,000 pounds of explosives and traveled a distance of 35 miles. Reckless was wounded twice, but kept going and proved her bravery during the five day battle. To reward her for her devotion to duty, Reckless was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Reckless was retired on November, 10, 1960, with full military honors and a rank of Staff Sergeant. She received two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. She wore them all proudly on a scarlet and gold blanket when she went on official visits around the country. Reckless had three colts and one filly, Fearless (born 1957), Dauntless (born 1959) and Chesty (born 1964). The fourth died shortly after birth.

Sgt. Reckless died on May, 13, 1968 at the age of 19 or 20 after suffering injuries while in her pasture at Camp Pendleton and had to be put to sleep. She is buried at the Marine base. The little mare was a true Marine and she was the only war horse that served during the Korean War. The Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis” (always faithful) describes aptly the little sorrel mare that faced the horrors of war with valor and earned an honored place beside her fellow Marines.

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