Heroes come in all sizes and shapes – and species. This is the story of a real “War Horse” and her name was Sgt. Reckless.
The Korean War is known as the Forgotten War and Sgt. Reckless — although popular in her time – was all but forgotten, too. We are all familiar with the admired animals of the day including Rin-Tin-Tin, Mr. Ed, Lassie and Seabiscuit. But unless you were of a literate age in 1954 – when The Saturday Evening Post shared her story with the world – you’ve probably never heard of Sgt. Reckless.
The Story of Reckless
A Korean youngster, Kim Huck Moon, sold the racehorse for $250 to U.S. Marine Lieutenant Eric Pedersen. The boy didn’t really want to sell his horse but did it because his older sister, Chung Soon, had lost her leg in a mine accident and needed a prosthetic. In Part I of a 1955 book written by Andrew Geer about the little red mare Kim had named Flame-in-the-Morning (Ah Chim Hai), he describes in detail how Kim came to sell her to Lt. Pedersen.
Reckless got her American name from the nickname of the weapon used by the 75mm (millimeter) Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines. The anti-tank weapon had a brutal back blast. The platoon was also affectionately known as Reckless Rifles.
The horse was trained to step over communication lines, ignore battle sounds and get down when incoming fire arrived. The little Mongolian mare weighed only 900 pounds and was used to transport ammunition for the company. She ended up providing much more than that when she transported injured soldiers back to base camp and provided cover for soldiers during battle. And amazingly, she did this all on her own.
In one particularly bloody battle — Outpost Vegas in March, 1953 — Reckless made 51 trips up steep hills and through rice paddies carrying ammo and saving soldiers. She carried over 9,000 pounds of ammunition that day and covered more than 35 miles. Artillery was exploding at the rate of over 500 rounds per minute.
You can listen to a first-hand account by Harold Wadly — a soldier who witnessed Reckless in Korea — in a radio broadcast. This battle took place mostly at night so Reckless was given the nickname of “Nightmare,” affectionately intended.
She was injured twice in this battle; once in her left flank, and once above an eye. Her ears were also hurt from barbed wire, but the injury was not a serious one. She was awarded two purple hearts for her troubles. Reckless fought so bravely, she was officially promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps while in Korea. And she retired with the additional rank of Staff Sergeant at Camp Pendleton, California.
Other medals include the Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. She wore them proudly on her red and gold blanket whenever she was paraded around at official functions and simple fun outings.
Photo of Reckless with recoilless rifle used with permission from Robin Hutton
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