Hoofed Heroine Sgt. Reckless

By November 12, 2012
Sgt. Reckless gets blanketed.

Sgt. Reckless was a Mongolian mare, purchased by a Marine to serve in the Korean War.

Who doesn’t love a horse with character? Well, this one was not only a war hero, but loved to eat pancakes and eggs for breakfast.

Sgt. Reckless was a 14-hand Mongolian mare who joined the Marine Corps on October 26, 1952 as a humble pack horse. Distinguishing herself with feats of bravery and intelligence, Reckless was promoted many times, eventually to Staff Sergeant.

During the Korean War (1950-1953) she carried rifles, ammunition and supplies. That in itself is not too unusual ― horses were a routine in the U.S. military from the days of Gen. George Washington in 1776 through the middle of the 20th century, used as cavalry mounts, pack animals and to pull field artillery.

Sgt. Reckless did something more. She became famous for unescorted trips carrying munitions to the front lines. In 1953, during a five-day test known as the Battle of Outpost Vegas the little sorrel mare transported a total of 9,000 pounds of shells. In one day alone she made 50 trips, packing ammunition up the hill and carrying wounded soldiers down. With the exception of the first trip or two, she made these journeys solo, with no human  leading her.

Sgt. Reckless on the Korean battlefield.

Sgt. Fearless would have been an equally appropriate name for this mare, who soldiered on even when injured.

This while artillery was firing at the rate of 500 rounds per minute! The savagery of that battle was legend. “Twenty-eight tons of bombs and hundreds of the largest shells turned the crest of Vegas into a smoking, death-pocked rubble,” it was written at the time.

The tiny horse served heroically in the middle of all of it.

“Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way across the deadly ‘no man’s land’ of rice paddies and up the steep 45-degree mountain trails that led to the firing sites,” according to the fan site SgtReckless.com, which goes on to quote Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt recalling, “It is difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy bringing vitally needed ammunition up the mountain.”

Reckless was recruited at the age of five by Lt. Eric Pedersen, who paid $250 to buy her off a Korean track where she racing under the name Ah Chim Hai, or Flame-in-the-Morning. Her new name was derived from a  new weapon, the recoilless rife anti-tank gun. As the story goes, the young boy that owned her, Kim Huk Moon, was reluctant to sell his beloved horse, but wanted the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister, who had stepped on a land mine.

Sgt. Reckless carries a recoilless rifle.

Sgt. Reckless carries a recoilless rifle.

It wasn’t just fearlessness and professional chops that earned the horse the respect and love of her fellows, but her endearing personality, evident when she was ignored or hungry. “Let’s just say you never wanted to leave your food unattended… her appetite became legendary. This horse had a mind of her own – not to mention, being very determined,” reads her memorial at SgtReckless.com.

In addition to a morning cup of coffee, she loved cake, coffee, Coca Cola, Hershey bars and all candy), and was famous for escaping her pasture and sneaking into tents for a warm night’s sleep. Fan site founder Robin Hutton is marketing a book and screenplay about the brave little mare.

Sgt. Reckless includes among her many military honors two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. She would wear the decorations on ceremonial occasions, pinned to her red-and-gold blanket, along with a French Fourragere that the 5th Marines earned in WW1.

Reckless died in May 1968 at the age of 20 at her home at the Marine Corps’ stables in Camp Pendleton, CA. A plaque commemorating her noble deeds of service to our country stands in the stable yard, reminding us to this day of her courageous service.


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