“It’s that time of week, that particularly special day where we lay down our swords of battle and drink deeply from the challis of well-being and comradeship. Here at SFTHH we have, for years, cherished our ‘Feel Good Sundays’ as a time to sit back, take a deep breath and remind ourselves of why and for whom we are fighting for…and of course, today shall be no different.
We have written, many times, about the true War Horse of the United States that saved hundreds lives and served us all well during World War II, the decorated Marine…Sgt. Reckless. And today we pluck an excerpt from a new book written by Robin Hutton called “Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse” in hopes that it inspires you and helps to further solidify your conviction that what we are doing to protect the future well being of American equines, both domestic and wild, is a cause that must be seen through to it’s conclusion and is pure in both concept and nature.
Read, relax and enjoy your day as we at SFTHH hope that you and yours are in fine shape and prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we press forward in the battle to save our horses, burros, donkeys and mules. May the Force of the Horse® be with you…keep the faith my friends!” ~ R.T.
Sixty years ago, a barrier was broken for the US military — the first animal ever was promoted to sergeant. But Reckless the horse was no ordinary beast. Serving with valor in Korea, she saved the lives of fellow Marines and was decorated with presidential citations and two Purple Hearts. In this excerpt from the new book, “Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse” (Regnery History), writer Robin Hutton tells her story.
In the spring of 1954, as the Korean War was winding down, Navy Corpsman Robert “Doc” Rogers decided to buy a Marine a drink.
“I heard stories about the guys. Marines would come in drunk off of liberty and they’d go down and say, ‘Let’s go down and let Reckless out.’ And they’d do it — just to see what trouble she’d get into.”
That Reckless was a horse didn’t really matter. She loved beer — and camaraderie.
“Sometimes the guys would be standing around talking and she’d walk right up to us and just stand there,” Doc Rogers said. “And somebody would be talking and she would look at him. And the other guy would start talking and she’d look at him. And another guy would talk and she’d look at him. It was like, ‘Hey, I’m a Marine. I’m one of you.’
“One night a bunch of us were all standing around in a circle, talking. There was a Marine lieutenant there. Lieutenant Louie was his name. And while we were talking, Reckless came up behind this one soldier and muzzled the back of this guy’s neck. Nipped him on the back of his neck. It scared him half to death and he screamed, ‘What the f—!’ and jumped and turned around. And he’s right face to face with Reckless, and shouted, ‘Get that motherf—–g nag out of here!’
“And Lieutenant Louie exploded on the guy and said, ‘That horse has done more for the United States Marine Corps than you have, or ever will do. And besides that, she outranks you. And if I ever hear you talking to that horse like that again, I’m going to have you written up and court-martialed.’”
‘Reckless ! Let’s call her Reckless!” a voice cried out from the crowd of Marines gathered around their newest recruit. The name might have seemed ill-suited for a small, chestnut-colored horse with a blaze down her forehead and three white stockings.
But to the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines, the moniker was perfect — it was their radio call sign and captured the toss-caution-to-the-wind attitude of men who relied on the “reckless” rifle.
The little Mongolian mare was born Ah-Chim-Hai, or “Flame-of-the-Morning,” and raised to race at a Seoul thoroughbred track. She officially joined the Marines on Oct. 26, 1952, after the commander of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Eric Pedersen, bought her for $250.
Not as a mascot, but because his unit desperately needed help hauling heavy guns and artillery over Korea’s rugged terrain. Trucks simply couldn’t negotiate the steep, rutted mountains, especially in frigid, icy conditions. Pedersen realized a horse would make the ideal ammunitions carrier.
Because it had no wheels and sat on a tripod, the 75 recoilless rifle, at 6-feet-10 inches long and weighing nearly 115 pounds, was awkward and challenging to carry; moving it in the field usually required three and at times four men, though sometimes two could manage. It could throw a 75 mm shell several thousand yards with extreme precision.
Reckless was put through “hoof camp,” learning how to get on and off a trailer, carry the rifle and ammunition, and not stand behind the gun as it was fired. The horse was even taught to lie down or kneel in case she needed to crawl into a shallow bunker for protection from incoming fire.
After much experimentation, the platoon found Reckless could safely and easily carry six rounds of recoilless rifle ammunition in canisters without much trouble. Yet in the heat of battle, they found she could tote eight to 10 rounds, if necessary.
The day of Reckless’s long-awaited “baptism by fire” finally arrived in late November 1952. The intended firing line was the colorfully nicknamed “Hedy’s Crotch,” a valley between outposts Ingrid to the south and Hedy to the north (the Marines named the hills after famous actresses), in the center sector of the Jamestown Line.
The Jamestown Line was a series of defensive positions occupied by UN forces stretching about 35 miles from the Imjim River near Munsan-ni, to a point east of Kumhwa, South Korea. The distance from camp to the firing site was 2¹/₂ miles. Part of the way could be traveled by Jeep, but the final five hundred yards was a steep climb to the ridgeline.
Three trucks were sent out at 10-minute intervals. The squad, led by Lt. Pederson and Sgt. Ralph Sherman, and weapon went out first, followed by Reckless in her trailer and finally the ammunition.
When they reached the base of the ridge, Reckless sensed something was up. She clambered out of the trailer, and headed straight to Technical Sgt. Joe Latham’s pocket, sniffing for chocolate.
But her trainer stopped her. “No pogey bait ’til this is over,” he said as he strapped on six canister rounds of high-explosive shells on her and slapped her backside for encouragement. (“Pogey bait” is Marinespeak for non-issued food or drink, especially sweets.)…(CONTINUED)
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