Reckless: The Racehorse Who Became a Marine Corps Hero
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From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Heart of Everything That Is, comes the unlikely story of a racehorse who truly became a war hero, beloved by the Marine Corps and decorated for bravery.
Her Korean name was Ah-Chim-Hai—Flame-of-the-Morning. A four-year-old chestnut-colored Mongolian racehorse, she once amazed the crowds in Seoul with her remarkable speed. But when war shut down the tracks, the star racer was sold to an American Marine and trained to carry heavy loads of artillery shells across steep hills under a barrage of bullets and bombs. The Marines renamed her Reckless.
Reckless soon proved fearless under fire, boldly marching alone through the fiery gauntlet, exposed to explosions and shrapnel. On some of her uphill treks, Reckless shielded human reinforcements. The Chinese, soon discovering the bravery of this magnificent animal, made a special effort to kill her. But Reckless never slowed. As months passed, the men came to appreciate her not just as a horse but as a fellow Marine.
highlight in his career was when Flame-of-the-Morning raced to victory in the Governor-General Cup Race, held at Sinseul-dong. There were many other wins after that, which endeared him to the colonel as well as to the jocular Kan and the wizened Takeo. Another highlight for the boy was at least one visit to Japan. When he returned home, even Father Kim marveled at the descriptions his son offered of a land that might as well have been on the other side of the world. Kim’s apprenticeship ended in
the 1st Marine Division . . . meaning the line was in excellent hands. It had done just about everything else asked of it for almost forty years. The original unit had been activated two days before Christmas in 1913 in Philadelphia as the 1st Advance Base Brigade. It was deployed to Vera Cruz, Mexico, while that country endured political turmoil involving Pancho Villa and his rivals. Over the years the brigade had several deployments, including Haiti; then while in Cuba in February 1941 it was
could entangle Reckless and rip her flesh open. Day after day Sergeant Latham instructed the horse on how to recognize barbed wire and step over it or at least locate a gap in it. The same went for communication wires—not as dangerous, but they could trip her up and be severed as Reckless tried to free herself, putting units out of touch with commanders. Sergeant Latham and Corporal Coleman, who after Latham spent the most time with Reckless, noticed a trait she had of lowering her head and
enemy eyeballs some of the American side. Though they were viewed together as a complex, each hill had its own geographic characteristics that had to be considered when deciding how best to defend it, which was mostly the responsibility of Colonel Lew Walt’s 5th Marines. Carson was on the left. A mostly barren hilltop, it contained a cave housing Marines who manned an oval-shaped perimeter festooned with barbed wire. Behind it were bunkers, tunnels, and a five-foot-deep trench with twenty-eight
reports about the campaign—especially those by the well-known war correspondent Bob Considine in his newspaper columns and radio broadcasts and the San Francisco columnist Herb Caen—to bring Reckless to the States had already made her famous in America. Reporters and photographers waited on the dock, and there was a lot of excitement and camera bulbs flashing as the famous sorrel mare greeted the crowd. Most knew that Ed Sullivan, the popular newspaper columnist in New York City, had offered to