Not every museum is a great museum or even a really good museum. But there’s always something to learn or something to enjoy. Today we visited one of these: the Museum of the Horse Soldier. Sounded pretty good with loads of history and lots to learn. Unfortunately, it was not as good as we had hoped. It had lots of artifacts and lots of uniforms on Horse Soldiers throughout the west. But, that’s where it stopped Lots of artifacts, a dearth of explanation about them. For example, we had looked at a whole case of mannequins in uniforms but, when another visitor who knew lots about the cavalry, asked about one of the uniforms, we rushed over to hear the explanation. This was the uniform of a Native American Scout. OK. That’s the explanation that I would have liked to be near the uniform itself.
On the other hand, we did learn the story of Sgt. Reckless - a pretty cool story and very unusual.
It was during the Korean War when American troops were fighting in Korea. She was bought for $250 by Lt Eric Pedersen from a young Korean boy, Kim Huk Room at the Seoul Race Track in Korea. The only reason that Kim sold Ah Him Hai, his ‘Flame of the Morning’ was because he needed money to buy an artificial leg for his older sister who had lost her leg in a land mine incident.
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.
Here she is being trained to not spook with the sound of fire. She also learned to head for cover when she heard the words: ‘incoming, incoming.’
Her finest hour came during the Battle of Outpost Vegas in Arch of 1953 when she made countless trips across ‘no man’s land’ and up a 45-degree mountain trails to bring ammunition to an outpost under heavy fire. One day alone she made 51 trips from the Ammunition Supply Point to the firing sites, 95% of the time all by herself. She carried 386 rounds of ammunition, over 9000 lbs. almost 5 tons, walked over 35 miles through rice paddies and up the steep mountains with incoming enemy fire. Then, she would carry wounded soldiers down the mountain to safety, unload them and head back up the mountains with a new load of ammunition.
Here’s Reckless with her trainer, TSgt. Latham.
REckless did other things besides carrying ammunition into battle and wounded Marines out to safety. She was a demon at string communications wire. They fastened wire reels to her pack and play it our as she walked along. She could string more telephone wire in a day than a dozen Marines. She carried rations, bedrolls, grenades - anything that needed carrying.
Twice she was wounded in battle but kept finished her mission. She was decorated with 2 Purple Hearts, a Good Conduct Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, a National Defense Medal and a Korean Service Medal - etc, etc., etc.
But, it was her stomach and appetite by which she was best known. She would eat anything in sight but she especially loved her pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast with her coffee in the morning. On later occasions Reckless ate bacon and buttered toast with her scrambled eggs. She also loved cake, Hershey bars, candy form the C rations, Coca Cola and even poker chips. One night she reached over one of the Marine’s shoulder, grabbed a few chips and downed them. It was estimated that she ate $30 worth of chips that night. Her favorite pastime was drinking beer with her Marines.
The rule was: don’t leave her alone with your food.
On Aug. 31, 1959, Reckless was promoted to staff sergeant by her good friend Gen Pate in a ceremony attended by the 5th Marines, friends and her two sons, Fearless and Dauntless. The 21st Commandant, Gen Pate, earlier had written: "In my career I have seen many animals that have been adopted by Marines, but never in all my experience have I seen one which won the hearts of so many as did. . .Reckless."
She was retired on Nov. 10, 1960, with full military honors, according to an article in The San Diego Union. The article also stated that Gen David M. Shoup, then-Commandant of the Marine Corps, had issued this order: "SSgt Reckless will be provided quarters and messing at the Camp Pendleton Stables in lieu of retired pay."
On May 13, 1968, the Corps lost a dear friend with the passing away of SSgt Reckless. Some reports state she was 19 and others say 20 when she was injured and had to be put to sleep.
Dinner. Well, we decided that we were right next to one of the iconic steakhouses in Tucson, the Pinnacle Peak, and we ought to go there. Big mistake. We shared a hamburg which came with beans and a salad. The beans were tasteless, the salad was right out of a bag with a tomoto and some croutons thrown on top, the bun was so dry that it obscured the taste of the hamburg - what’s left? Not much. But the place was packed. It seems as if every Tucsonian brings their out-of-town friends and relatives here, every office party ends up here and every family reunion ends up here. There were tables for 22 and 19 in our room which had no tables empty when we left. We must just be out of step. Or did they have different beans and salad? Beats me but we sure don’t need to go there again. We should have gone to In-N-Out.