The Nevada Complex was surrounded by higher ground held by Chinese troops, and to make matters worse, each outpost depended on the others for flank defense. Between Carson and Vegas was a small area code-named "Reno Block"; the Marines in that area were ordered to keep the enemy outside the "Iron Triangle" . . . if one of the Marine outposts fell, the other two would almost certainly fall as well.
26 March 1953 was a normal day for the Marines, but at 7 pm simultaneous surprise attacks hit all three outposts, with 180 Chinese artillery/mortar shells per minute. After ten minutes of choreographed artillery and machine gun fire, 3500 Chinese troops attacked a much smaller force of Marines that were divided among three outposts.
The Marines at Vegas were about to be overrun, and they put in a call for VT artillery. VT artillery meant that "variable time" fuses were used, designed to burst overhead on the advancing enemy, which was just short of suicide for the Marines at Vegas (thankfully, the Marines at Vegas had created caves in the back of the hillside). Communications, both wire and radio, were no longer functioning with Vegas, and the officers at the command post by midnight concluded that the outpost had been taken by the enemy.
On 27 March 1953, plans for a coordinated attack were made to retake Vegas and Reno; Carson was still held by the Marines. Reckless was loaded with 192 pounds of explosives, and was pointed in the direction of the recoilless rifles to which her delivery was to be made, and she advanced on her own (not the first time she had done so) towards the guns. Again, the toughest climb was at the end, surmounting the crest of the ridge. Reckless started off in a trot, then she reached a full gallop in order to tackle the severe incline. Reckless made it over the incline to the ridge, then she had to navigate 250 feet of twisting trail to the gun site; nothing was going to stop her from her duty.
The Chinese artillery was also trying to kill Reckless, who was in full view of the enemy making her deliveries of ammunition. Reckless was in constant motion, determined to keep her beloved herd supplied; the sight of a little 13 hand horse doing so did wonders for the morale of the Marines under fire. On Reckless' 21st delivery, 3 enemy mortar shells with white-hot burning phosphorous hit nearby, engulfing the Marines, including Reckless. Gunnery Sgt. Latham threw his flak jacket over Reckless' eyes, and comforted her to keep her from bolting. When the situation returned to "normal", Latham had Reckless continue with her mission.
Reckless also carried wounded Marines, and on one trip, Reckless shielded four Marines heading to the fighting; in return, the Marines threw their flak jackets over Reckless. Reckless suffered a shrapnel cut over her left eye, but she kept going. Later that day, she was wounded again when hot shrapnel struck her left flank behind the rib cage and in front of her hind leg. Her wounds were dressed, and Reckless went back to the battle, with neither of the wounds slowing her down. However, instead of galloping up the last incline to the ridge, she crept up and took rests.
An almost incomprehensible sense of duty was ingrained in Reckless. Every time Reckless was sent out, it wasn't expected that she would return to the load site, and when she did, the Marines couldn't believe their eyes. Reckless kept the recoilless rifles firing due to her willingness to keep doing her duty, and the fact that she survived was beyond-astonishing. Reckless endured the extreme loneliness of her mission, and showed incredible loyalty to her fellow Marines in the face of extreme danger.
Strangely, nobody controlled the summit at Vegas, with both slopes held by opposing forces. Additional recoilless rifles arrived (to replace the ones with melted barrels) and the 5th Marine Recoilless Rifle Platoon was told to be ready for action the next day. On the morning
of 28 March 1953, Reckless accepted the packsaddle without a fuss after she ate, and she appeared to still show the effects of the disorienting concussion waves from the previous day's artillery. Although very tired and sore, Reckless was back in "mission-mode" before the end of her first trip.
Reckless and her platoon (a.k.a. herd) fired directly into the trenches of the Chinese soldiers as the Marines advanced . . . now the Marines had to hold what they captured. The battle ended when all available Marines on Vegas took all available grenades (including those from dead/wounded Marines) and lobbed them in the smoke when they smelled garlic (a strong garlic smell indicated a large number of Chinese soldiers nearby). Finally the Chinese reached their breaking point; having gone through 4000 soldiers, they were unwilling to endure more casualties. The number of artillery shells fired began to subside, and the smoke disappeared.
On 30 March 1953 at 2:30 am, the most savage battle that the Marines faced in the Korean War was over. The battle at Outpost Vegas broke the back of the Chinese in terms of their ability-and-will to fight at that level of intensity and ferocity. The Marines gave a lot of credit to Reckless for their victory, seeing her as a hero.
Reckless was elated to be in a new pasture that teemed with fresh grass and colorful flowers. For the Marines, the Battle for the Nevada Complex was the turning point; skirmishes
continued, but the 5th Marine Recoilless Rifle Platoon would not experience any more intense battles during the Korean War. The Marines didn't yet know, but peace was only four months away, with a cease-fire taking effect on 27 July 1953.
(Below: another short video chronicling the heroism of Sergeant Reckless)