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A Real War Horse: Sgt. Reckless, Korean War Hero

A Real War Horse: Sgt. Reckless, Korean War Hero
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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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3:26PM PDT on May 20, 2012

I think a lot has to be given to this horse for going against all it's built in responses. I'm sure there was enough smells and noises to make even the most steel nerved horse go white eyed and I've seen them respond far worse to far less. This type of working relationship comes from one that was built on trust between the handler and the horse. The first part of her training as a race horse was probably not as "kindly" shall we say, as what she received from the marines, so she obviously responded favorably to it and the trainer. I've seen this type of dedication before in horses and it comes from"asking" a horse to do something, rather than forcing or telling it to by means of spurs etc. The result is having them go to the "ends of the earth" for you as in Reckless's case. She gave what she did so freely for the men she learned to respect and trust. It was something that was "asked of her" not made to do...otherwise the out come would have been far different and she would have just got a point and said"screw it" out of resentment. She did this because she liked her job and her "humans" Think of all the lives she saved and how many people would not be here, either directly or indirectly as in future generations if there was no Reckless!! God Bless Her and all that she was!! Now, if we could just get people to stop the needless slaughtering of many Sgt. Reckless's have gone under the executioners hammer?

5:33AM PST on Feb 19, 2012

Sgt.Reckless what a wonderful animal!!Indeed that movie should have been about her as she was a true war horse.She did things that were so brave many of them on her own.She knew what she had to do and did it,saving lives.The best part was learning she retired to a good life being taken care of in they way she rightly deserved.BRAVO

2:46AM PST on Feb 3, 2012

Wow. What a story. I had never heard it before. She was sure a beautiful and brave horse.

I think they got a bargain when they paid only $250.00 for her.

I am glad she was able to retire comfortably afterwards.

8:40AM PST on Jan 28, 2012

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

7:15AM PST on Jan 24, 2012

im so sad to hear that this poor animal was "trained" to be used as a tool in a terrible war that had nothing to do with her species... still, its impressive to see how intelligent animals can be.

9:39AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

Thank you for bringing this story to our attention. I have to admit that I did not know this.

8:08PM PST on Jan 22, 2012

Thanks for including the links to let us get involved in promting this story...

2:26PM PST on Jan 22, 2012

yes, indeed what a beautiful story. A credit long overdue for her. This should be the one in the movies.

10:08AM PST on Jan 22, 2012

This is an excellent story! I found myself crying during the video which I watched after listening to the radio or audio program.

2:39AM PST on Jan 22, 2012

This is a great, true story!

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