Sergeant Reckless, An American Hero

Horses have been used in war for centuries, even modern wars have brought horses into our conflicts, this is the story of the brave little horse name Sergeant Reckless. Sergeant Reckless was chestnut coloured with a blaze and three white stockings. She was purchased by members of the United States Marine Corps in October 1952 and believed to be around 3 or 4 years of age, she was small horse at only 14hh (making her a pony), but as the Marines would recognise she had a huge heart.
Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
Her primary function was to carry up to nine of the heavy 24-pound shells needed to supply the recoilless rifles used by the American marines fighting on the front line of the Korean war, originally named Flame the mare would be renamed by the Marines to Reckless as a tribute to the rifle the marines used in combat.




Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
Reckless would be trained for her new duties by Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Latham, she was taught battlefield survival skills such as how not to become entangled in barbed wire and to lie down when under fire. She learned to run for a bunker upon hearing the cry, "incoming!" The platoon called it her "hoof training" and "hoof camp". The horse was initially kept in a pasture near the encampment. Reckless had a gentle disposition and soon developed such a rapport with the troops that she was allowed to freely roam about the camp and entered tents at will, sometimes sleeping inside with the troops, and even lying down next to Latham`s warm tent stove on cold nights. She was fond of a wide variety of foodstuffs, entertaining the platoon by eating scrambled eggs and drinking Coca-Cola and beer. Food could not be left unattended around her. She was known to eat bacon, buttered toast, chocolate bars, hard candy, shredded wheat, peanut butter sandwiches and mashed potatoes. However, Mitchell advised the platoon that she not be given more than two bottles of Coke a day. Her tastes were not confined to foodstuffs; she once ate her horse blanket, and on another occasion ate $30 worth of Latham`s winning poker chips.
Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
Reckless`s baptism under fire came at a place called Hedley`s Crotch, near the villages of Changdan and Kwakchan. Though loaded down with six recoilless rifle shells, she initially "went straight up" and all four feet left the ground the first time the Recoilless Rifle was fired. When she landed she started shaking, but Coleman, her handler, calmed her down. The second time the gun fired she merely snorted, and by the end of the mission that day appeared calm and was seen trying to eat a discarded helmet liner. When learning a new delivery route, Reckless would only need someone to lead her a few times. Afterwards she would make the trips on her own.

Her most significant accomplishment came during the Battle of Panmunjom-Vegas (also known as the Battle of Outpost Vegas/Vegas Hill) over the period March 26-28, 1953, when she made 51 solo trips in a single day, carrying a total of 386 recoilless rounds (over 9,000 pounds, carrying 4 to 8 24-pound shells on each trip) covering over 35 miles that day. The whole Battle of Vegas lasted 3 days. She was wounded twice during the battle: once when she was hit by shrapnel over the left eye and another time on her left flank. For her accomplishments during the Battle of Vegas Hill, Reckless was promoted to corporal, she would also receive a purple heart for her injury.
Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
Randolph M. Pate, then the commander of the 1st Marine Division, gave Reckless a battlefield promotion from corporal to sergeant in a formal ceremony, complete with reviewing stand, on April 10, 1954, several months after the war ended. She was also given a red and gold blanket with insignia. Reckless was promoted again, to staff sergeant (E-6), on August 31, 1959, at Camp Pendleton, California. This promotion was also awarded by Pate, then the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Pate personally presided over the ceremony, and Reckless was honored with a 19-gun salute and a 1,700-man parade of Marines from her wartime unit. She was an early example of an animal holding official rank in a branch of the United States military.
Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
An article in The Saturday Evening Post, published on April 17, 1954, while Reckless was still in Korea, resulted in a campaign by American supporters to get the Marines to bring her to the United States. An executive at Pacific Transport Lines, Stan Coppel, read the article and offered to let Reckless ride free on one of his company`s ships from Yokohama to San Francisco. Prior to her departure for America, a ceremony, including a band, for Reckless` rotation to the United States was held during half time of a football game between the Marine Corps and Army. Reckless left Korea for Japan aboard a 1st Marine Aircraft Wing transport plane. She then sailed from Yokohama on October 22 aboard the SS Pacific Transport, due in San Francisco on November 5, 1954.
She was led off the ship by Lieutenant Pedersen and set foot on American soil in San Francisco on November 10, 1954, Reckless was kept by Pedersen`s family for a brief time before moving to a more permanent home with the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. She made several public appearances, including Art Linkletter`s show House Party, but had to cancel an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show due to the typhoon.

Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
Reckless was well cared for and treated as a VIP during her time at Camp Pendleton. The Marine Corps was also careful not to allow her to be exploited by commercial interests. She produced four foals there: colts Fearless (1957), Dauntless (1959), and Chesty (1964); her last foal, a filly born circa 1965-1966, died a month after birth and was unnamed. Her offspring Chesty was named after Chesty Puller, one of the few Marines ever allowed to ride Reckless. Reckless retired from active service with full military honors at Camp Pendleton on November 10, 1960. She was provided free quarters and feed in lieu of retirement pay, per Marine Corps documents.

Reckless developed arthritis in her back as she aged and injured herself on May 13, 1968, by falling into a barbed wire fence. She died under sedation while her wounds were being treated. At the time of her death, she was estimated to be 19 or 20 years old. There is a plaque and photo commemorating her at the Camp Pendleton stables. The first race at Aqueduct racetrack, New York, was designated "The Sgt Reckless" on November 10, 1989. In 1997, Reckless was listed by LIFE magazine as one of America`s 100 all-time heroes.
Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
A statue by sculptor Jocelyn Russell of Reckless carrying ammunition shells and other combat equipment was unveiled on July 26, 2013, in Semper Fidelis Memorial Park at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, one day before the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. There is a lock of her tail hair in the base of the statue. The statue`s plaque includes a quote from Sergeant Harold Wadley, who served in battle alongside Sergeant Reckless: "The spirit of her loneliness and her loyalty, in spite of the danger, was something else to behold. Hurting. Determined. And alone. That`s the image I have imprinted in my head and heart forever."

A memorial to Sergeant Reckless at Camp Pendleton was dedicated on October 26, 2016. The monument was created by Jocelyn Russell. It is similar to the one located at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

A memorial to Sergeant Reckless at Yeoncheon Gorangpogu History Park (Near Battlefield of Outpost Vegas Battle) was dedicated in 2018.

Sergeant Reckless Korean War Horse Served with Valor
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If you`re a horse lover you`ve probably read lots about horses being used in battle, as this is something that has been done for centuries and horses were the original tanks. You may also have seen the film War Horse that went more into how they were used even as recently as World War I. However, despite all that you may know about war horses and their uses, you`ve probably not heard of Sergeant Reckless, a war horse primarily during the Korean War who showed extreme bravery and made substantial differences on the front.
Sergeant-Reckless
Staff Sergeant Reckless was born in 1948 and died in 1968, having led a long, successful and very decorated career in the military. The Marine Corps bought her in October 1952 by a Korean stable boy, her original name was Ah ChimHai in Korean, which loosely translated to Morning Flame. They believed she was a Mongolian, but also had some Thoroughbred in her as well. Despite her incredible achievements during the Korean War, she stood at only 14 hands, officially making her a pony.

During her time in Korea, her main duties were carrying supplies and ammunition to those fighting on the front, as well as sometimes being used to transport the wounded back to camp. What made her so spectacular over other horses was the fact that she was able to learn routes after just going on them a couple of times, meaning she could do supply and ammunition runs entirely on her own, freeing up the time and abilities of more soldiers. This alone is amazing, but Reckless did more than that.

In March 1953, during the Battle For Outpost Vegas, she made an incredible 51 solo trips to supply units on the front lines, and was wounded twice. Because of this bravery and resilience, she was ranked corporal later that year and promoted to sergeant the next year.

Sergeant-Reckless - War Horse
Sergeant Reckless did amazing things and was probably able to save hundreds of lives. After the ending of the Korean War, she received two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, was included in her unitís Presidential Unit Citations from two different countries, she received the United Nations Korea Medal, a Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars, a National Defense Service medal and even more.

This officially makes her the most decorated war horse of all time and her bravery made a true difference in the war and to her unit and for that America will always be grateful. Sergeant Reckless was brought to the United States after the war for her retirement, where she lived out the rest of her days at the Marine Corps Base of Camp Pendleton in California. This single horseís bravery will never be forgotten.

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Sergeant Reckless, An American Hero




Sergeant Reckless, An American Hero
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