A little red Mongolian mare became a Marine Corps hero in the Korean War. 

Written by Sgt. Dennis Litalinen, September 1983

Latham RecklessMarine gunnery sergeant Joseph Latham is acquainting Reckless with the perils of barbed wire.

The Marine Corps has traditionally been a breeding ground for legends. Often, its legends have emerged from unremarkable circumstances. Such was the case in October 1952 when 1st Lt. Eric Pederson, commander of a 5th Marine recoilless rifle platoon, bought a horse at a racetrack in Seoul, Korea. Pederson had received permission from his superiors to utilize a horse as an ammunition carrier for his platoon.

The gentle, affectionate horse was an immediate hit with Pederson’s platoon. She was named Reckless after the platoon’s nickname, the Reckless Rifles. Platoon Sgt. Joseph Latham began training her as an ammunition hauler. She also became adept at stepping over barbed wire, and became accustomed to riding in a jeep trailer.

When Reckless first joined the recoilless rifle platoon, she was kept in a pasture. After a short time, however, she was allowed to roam freely and came to be regarded as much a Marine as anyone in the unit. She also became renowned for her voracious appetite. Reckless would eat anything and often did. She loved apples, candy, scrambled eggs, beer, carrots, shredded wheat, chocolate, and cola.

Reckless earned her place in Marine Corps history at the battle for Panmunjon [sic]-Vegas. Fighting between the 5th Marines and the Red Chinese was bloody and intense. Reckless had to haul ammo over rough, hilly terrain under grueling conditions. In the first day alone, the brave little sorrel made 51 trips to various gun positions. On one trip she suffered a slight nick over the left eye from shrapnel. Later that day she was cut again on her left flank. Despite the wounds, Reckless carried 386 rounds-over 9,000 pounds of explosives–and traveled over 35 miles. It’s no wonder the 5th Marines loved her.

When she joined the Marines, Reckless was the pride of her platoon. But her accomplishments at Panmunjon [sic]-Vegas made her the pride of the entire Corps. Her photograph and story appeared in the Stars and Stripes and the Saturday Evening Post.

There was also the matter of the sorrel mare’s challenge to the great racehorse Native Dancer. Actually, the recoilless rifle platoon issued the challenge. A letter of race terms was sent to Native Dancer’s owner. They were to race 1 ½ miles over a course of hills and rice paddies. Each animal would carry 8 rounds (192 pounds) of 75mm ammunition. There would be no riders. The first horse to reach a firing recoilless rifle would be the victor. Each man in the 1st Marine Division bet $1 on Reckless for a $25,000 side bet. The platoon never received a reply to the letter. The Marines didn’t care. Naturally they felt Reckless would’ve won easily.

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