This video features Brigadier General Kevin Killea, then-Commanding General of Camp Pendleton, telling the story of Reckless. New York Racing Authority produced this segment.
The story of Reckless is not only remarkable - it is unusual. And once you learn about her, you will see why the Marine Corps not only fell in love with her - but honored her and promoted her every chance they got. And it wasn’t just the Marines that served with her in the trenches that honored her - her last promotion to Staff Sergeant was by Gen. Randolph McC Pate - the Commandant of the entire Marine Corps. You can’t get higher than that in the Marines.
Reckless was born in June 1948 in South Koea. Her owner, Kim Huk Moon, named her "Ah-Chim-Hai" or "Flame of the Morning" because of her beautiful blaze. She was bred to be a racehorse, but never had a chance to race because the Korean War broke out in 1950 when she was two-years-old.
On October 26, 1952, Lt. Eric Pedersen, commanding officer of the 75mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon, 5th Marines, went to the Seoul Racecourse looking for a pack animal to help his men carry ammunition over the rugged terrain of South Korea. Pedersen paid $250 of his own money for her. The only reason Kim Huk Moon sold his beloved horse to the Marine was so he could buy an artificial leg for his older sister, Chung Soon, who lost her leg in a land mine accident.
Kim’s loss was the Marines’ gain. The men named her "Reckless" after the gun she carried the ammo for, and she quickly earned the love and respect of all of the Marines that served with her.
It was not only Reckless’ heroics that endeared the Marines to her - it was her incredible antics off of the battlefield. You will not believe her antics when she was being ignored, or if she was hungry – let’s just say you never wanted to leave your food unattended. As legendary as she was for her heroics – her appetite became even more legendary. This horse had a mind of her own – not to mention, being very determined.
Reckless had a voracious appetite. She would eat anything and everything – but especially scrambled eggs and pancakes in the morning with her morning cup of coffee. She also loved cake, Hershey bars, candy from the C rations, and Coca Cola – even poker chips, blankets and hats when she was being ignored – or if she was trying to just prove a point. But one of her favorite pasttimes was sharing a beer with her Marines after a hard day's work.
One of Reckless’ finest hours came during the Battle of Outpost Vegas in March of 1953. At the time of this battle it was written that, “The savagery of the battle for the so-called Nevada Complex has never been equaled in Marine Corps history.” This particular battle “was to bring a cannonading and bombing seldom experienced in warfare … twenty-eight tons of bombs and hundreds of the largest shells turned the crest of Vegas into a smoking, death-pocked rubble.” And Reckless was in the middle of all of it.
Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way across the deadly “no man’s land” rice paddies and up the steep 45-degree mountain trails that led to the firing sites. “It’s 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,” Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt recalled.
During this five-day battle, on one day alone she made 51 trips from the Ammunition Supply Point to the firing sites, 95% of the time by herself. She carried 386 rounds of ammunition (over 9,000 pounds – almost FIVE TONS! -- of ammunition), walked over 35 miles through open rice paddies and up steep mountains with enemy fire coming in at the rate of 500 rounds per minute. And as she so often did, she would carry wounded soldiers down the mountain to safety, unload them, get reloaded with ammo, and off she would go back up to the guns. She also provided a shield for several Marines who were trapped trying to make their way up to the front line. Wounded twice, she didn’t let that stop or slow her down.
What she did in this battle not only earned her the respect of all that served with her, but it got her promoted to Sergeant. Her heroics defined the word “Marine.” She was BELOVED by the Marines. They took care of her better than they took care of themselves – throwing their flak jackets over her to protect her when incoming was heavy, risking their own safety.
She was promoted to the rank of Sergeant while still in Korea on April 10, 1954, and then twice to Staff Sergeant at Camp Pendleton. Her last promotion was by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Randolph McCall Pate.
SSgt Reckless retired on November 10, 1960, and died on May 13, 1968. She was buried with full honors at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA.
Her Military Decorations include 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, all of which she wore proudly on her red and gold blanket, along with a French Fourragere that the 5th Marines earned in WW1.
Other prestigious awards have been the British medal, the PDSA "Dickin Medal," known as "the Victoria Cross for Animals." Reckless was awarded this in July 2016.
On November 14, 2019, SSgt Reckless was awarded the very first "Animals in War and Peace medal of Bravery" on Capitol Hill in a ceremony honoring eight heroic animals that have served our country. These medals were presented by Members of Congress.
Currently, there are five national monuments to Staff Sergeant Reckless around the country: 1) National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico, VA; 2) Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton; 3) Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY; 4) Barrington Hills, IL; 5) National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Ft. Worth, TX. A sixth monument is planned for 2021 at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala,FL.
We are working to get a movie made on this great story.
There has never been a horse like Reckless, and her story deserves every honor and recognition she can receive.
Oorah and Semper Reckless!
If you would like an autographed copy of Robin Hutton's book, "Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse," please visit the Sgt Reckless store at store.sgtreckless.com. There you will find other wonderful merchandise, including the Sgt Reckless Breyer horse, mugs, t-shirts, her challenge coin, and caps. You can also donate to the different causes we have to honor Sgt Reckless and all of the other incredible four-legged and winged heroes.
A PowerPoint presentation on the story of Sgt Reckless by Robin Hutton
Robin Hutton's New York Times bestselling book is a MUST for any horse or animal lover. Robin brings to life never before stories and pictures from the Marines and others that served with Reckless in Korea and Camp Pendleton. There has never been a horse like Reckless - and once you read this book, you will see why!