Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Most Famous Unknown Chestnut Mare - The Unbelievable Sargeant Reckless

Alongside Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Mother Teresa sits the relatively unknown Sgt. Reckless - a horse that was so heroic during the Korean War, the US Marines officially promoted her to Staff Sergeant - an official honor never before or since bestowed upon an animal. She was not a mascot. She was an official military officer.  And she was as well known as Mister Ed, Seabiscuit, Rin Tin Tin and Lassie in the 1950's.  She was named as one of Life Magazine's 100 most heroic people in a 1997 commemorative edition.

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 Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, all of which she proudly wore on her scarlet and gold blanket.  Sadly, today she is all but forgotten.

During one battle for the fight for Outpost Vegas in March 1953, she carried more than 9,000 pounds of ammunition up to the firing sites (386 rounds), walked over 35 miles up steep mountainous terrain with incoming ammunition exploding at the rate of 500 rounds per minute and shielded four men from gunfire.  There was so much incoming and outgoing firepower that the rounds were hitting each other mid-air, causing aerial bursts that looked like the Fourth of July. She carried ammo up to the guns and wounded soldiers down the hill to safety. She was wounded twice but never stopped.

Reckless was recruited into the Marine Corps in October of 1952 by Lieutenant Eric Pedersen.
Pedersen first laid eyes on the small Mongolian mare at the Seoul racetrack and used his own $250 to buy Reckless from a young Korean who was in dire need of money.  The Marines took her back riding in a small jeep trailer.

During the first few nights with the Marines, Reckless was tied in her bunker. This didn't last long as she was soon given free rein to roam around. She visited the Marines in their tents and even spent some restless nights with them. They would just move their sleeping bags to one side or the other and make room for their new friend. On very cold nights, the Marines would invite her into his tent to sleep standing up next to the stove. Sometimes she'd even lie down and stretch out.

Reckless was taught how to take cover while on the front lines and how to step over wires. When tapped on the front leg, she would know to hit the deck or get down. The training proved invaluable on many occasions. Reckless was taught to head toward a bunker when incoming rounds hit behind the lines. "We'd get incoming there too, and they'd [the enemy] lay it on you. If Reckless was back in the back, she'd go to a bunker. All I had to do was yell, "Incoming, incoming!' and she'd go."

Reckless was promoted twice.  A 19-gun salute accompanied her second promotion ceremony in 1959, when she was promoted to staff sergeant. She was retired on Nov. 10, 1960, with full military honors, according to an article in The San Diego Union. The article also stated that Gen David M. Shoup, then-Commandant of the Marine Corps, had issued this order: "SSgt Reckless will be provided quarters and messing at the Camp Pendleton Stables in lieu of retired pay."

On May 13, 1968, the Corps lost a dear friend with the passing away of SSgt Reckless. Some reports state she was 19 and others say 20 when she was injured and had to be put to sleep. 

In 1971 Reckless was again honored when the First Marine Division Association erected a memorial at the entrance to the base stables at Camp Pendleton. On Nov. 10, 1989, the first race at Aqueduct racetrack in was named "The Sgt Reckless" through the efforts of former Marine who worked at the track and the secretary of the New York Racing Association.

Leatherneck file photo 

PltSgt Joe Latham was Reckless’ trainer. He taught her to step over wire, how to get down during enemy fire and other means of staying alive.
Leatherneck file photo
Reckless delivered ammo to the recoilless rifle platoon’s firing sites. She would be led a few times and then could make the trip to and from the ammo dump by herself. During just one battle, she made 51 trips under enemy fire, most of them by herself. She was wounded twice but didn’t quit.

The photo below is of Reckless appearing at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco (it appeared in the Saturday Evening Post).

Wow.  Talk about an unknown hero.......................
 Visit her website at www.SgtReckless.com for more information. There is also a great video on YouTube.


  1. Thank you, for the very interesting post,

  2. I always like to start my day with a cry;) Thanks for that one...horses never stop to amaze.


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