You’ve heard of the famous racing ones: Seabiscuit, Secretariat, War Admiral. But there’s one horse– a decorated military hero– you haven’t heard of. It’s the story of Sgt. Reckless, the little chestnut Mongolian mare.
Reckless was a pack horse during the Korean War and she carried recoilless rifles, ammunition and supplies to Marines. This by itself wasn’t too unusual; lots of animals were pressed into service doing pack chores in many wars before Korea.
But Reckless did something more.
During the battle for a location called Outpost Vegas in 1953, this mare made 51 trips up and down the hill. On the way up, she carried ammunition. On the way down, she carried wounded soldiers.
What was so amazing about that?
She made every one of those trips without anyone leading her. Relentless artillery rounds fell around at her at the rate of 500 per minute. The fighting was so intense that only two men made it out alive without wounds.
We can imagine a horse carrying a wounded soldier, being smacked on the rump at the top of the hill, and heading back to the “safety” of the rear.
It’s harder, though, to imagine the same horse loaded down with ammunition trudging back to the chaotic battlefield under
enemy fire and exploding heavy artillery.
Making 51 of those trips in the blazing battle is unheard of. How many horses would even make it back once, let alone return to the soldiers in the field? Reckless did it without fail, every single time, on her own.
Reckless walked 35 miles and carried 9,000 pounds of equipment that day, and while exhausted and wounded twice, she kept her duty transporting the wounded faithfully throughout. Many men survived because of her fearless actions.
Marine Sgt. Harold Wadley remembered seeing the small horse stagger up a hill loaded with heavy 75mm recoilless rifle ammunition. It was an amazing sight. The air was thick with smoke, tracer rounds were streaking in both directions and the dead and injured were piling up. “I didn’t think she’d live five seconds,” Wadley said.
When the Chinese had first attacked, lighting up the sky with tons of incoming fire, Reckless was frightened. She ran to a bunker, where the Marines found her covered with sweat. But the Marines calmed her and sent her on her mission. She performed faithfully and fearelssly after that.
“Her gun crew kept firing,” Wadley said. “Reckless was the only Marine with four legs.”
Outpost Vegas was retaken after a five-day battle.
She became a national hero and was covered by Lifemagazine and the Saturday Evening Post. She was promoted by the Marines to the rank of Sergeant, and later Staff Sergeant in her career.
Reckless bonded quickly with the Marines, Wadley recalled. “She’d stick her nose in the tent where Marines were living and she’d just lumber in. She’d eat almost anything,” Wadley
said. “She loved Tootsie Rolls.”
The Marines also gave her some of their monthly beer allotment.
Wadley said she would lurk around the Marines when they played poker, allegedly eating some of the poker chips. At night she would nestle with the Marines by a smoky oil stove to ward off the bitter cold.
After the Korean War, Reckless was brought back to the United States in 1954. She retired at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in 1960 where her commanding General issued the following order: “She was never to carry any more weight on her back except her own blankets.”
Reckless died in 1968 at the age of 20 as a full-fledged Marine with full military honors.
Reckless’ decorations included two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, all of which she proudly wore on her scarlet and
She was quite a courageous and hardworking gal, fondly looked after and loved by her unit.
Lieutenant General Randolph M. Pate reminisced later:
“I first saw this little lady when the First Marine Division was in reserve for a brief period.
I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps. Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades.
She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her.”
There’s a great deal more to the story of Reckless. If you’d like to read more of her amazing and forgotten story here’s the best and detailed article that we could find, located in the Marines Leatherneck magazine archives of 1992.
It’s a very good read.
Please feel free to pass this story onto others– fellow Vets, friends, and equestrians.
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Thank you for your service, Veterans.
by Skippy Massey
This post originally appeared at the Humboldt Sentinel. Reprinted with permission.