From the Lincoln News Messenger archives Thursday, Feb. 20, 1964:
Retired ‘Movie Actress’ Now Living in the Lincoln Area – Acreage in rural Lincoln, nestling in the foothills of the Sierras, has been selected as the place of retirement for a famous star of motion pictures and television. Turned out to pasture after 23 exciting and eventful years, Foxhole Flicka, as she was originally called, star of the movie, “Gallant Bess,” will spend her remaining years on grassy slopes near Lincoln. Her loving master and friend, Warrant Officer Arthur L. Parker, United States Navy, retired, tells the story of Bess’ life.
Bess was foaled during a Japanese attack on the island of Tulagi in the South Pacific. Her mother was a purebred Arabian mare brought to a plantation on the island as a riding horse for the planter’s wife. The planter has released his stock to roam at will during the attacks.
It was in 1942 and Bess was only a spindle legged colt when her mother was killed by bomb fragments and Bess was left alone. No one knows how she managed to survive the air raids and bombing attacks that ravished the island at that time.
When the United States Marines and Navy forces moved in on the island stronghold, the plantation owner began a search for his stray horses. He found Bess, bloated with colic, injured, covered with infested sores, lying in a ditch along a jungle trail, too sick to move. He decided the colt must be put out of its misery.
At that opportunity moment, call it fate, call it coincidence, Parker and his sailor buddies came along the trail. Parker, raised around horses in Montana before entering the service pleaded for the filly’s life and the opportunity to heal the stricken colt. The plantation owner sold Parker the colt for $10 and Parker, with his buddies, rigged a makeshift sled and dragged Bess to camp.
As the war raged on, Parker found caves for Bess, dug oversized foxholes and spent all his off-duty hours nursing his filly back to health. With this rim determination and loving care, it was not long before Bess regained her health and, from then on, she became the pet of the Navy. Her antics brought laughter to many homesick sailors and her devotion to Parker was clearly evident. He taught her to shake hands, give kisses and many other tricks.
Bess would rout the gobs out at reveille, drink their coffee or beer, eat their candy and peanuts and even scratch their backs with her teeth. A whistle from any of her buddies would bring Bess on the run with water barrels strapped to her back.
It was after several brushes with death that Bess learned to “dig in” or gallop for a cave at the bombing alert. Her actions during numerous air raids consequently ended in her being nicknamed Foxhole Flicka by her admirers and undoubtedly saved her life on many occasions. She survived approximately 200 bombing raids.
Eventually the time came when the Navy was to ship out. Parker had been injured and was scheduled to return to a naval hospital in the States. What was to become of Foxhole Flicka, who had so endeared herself to the sailors?
“Against Navy regulations,” were the most frequent words heard as Parker and his buddies tried to arrange transportation for Bess.
Finally, the skipper of a Liberty ship bound for the States, agreed to provide passage for Bess, who was without passport or visa. Expressing a fondness for horses, the ship commander booked Bess as baggage. Willing hands soon built a stall aboard the ship and Bess shipped out with hundreds of sailors to a new life on a foreign shore.
Going ashore at Long Beach, Calif., was not quite so easy for “the mascot of the Pacific Fleet.” Yards of red tape were unraveled before Bess finally got shore leave.
Parker related the story of his remarkable horse while recuperating in the naval hospital at Long Beach. The story was brought to the attention of Metro Goldwyn Meyer studios and the newspapers. A contract was offered to Parker and soon Foxhole Flicka became Gallant Bess, acting out a story of bravery and devotion that was strictly her own.
Publicity, public appearances, USO shows and even nightclub entertaining brought fame to the once doomed filly from Tulagi.
And now both horse and master have retired; Parker after 32 years in the Navy and Bess – because she’s just getting old. She will spend her remaining days in lush green pastures and after she’s gone, Parker will still have a part of her in her colt, Gallant Pat, who, please God, will always be free from the bursting of bombs and screeching of mortar shells that once plagued his mother, Foxhole Flicka.