Lt. Eric Pedersen paid $250 of his own money to a young Korean boy, Kim Huk Moon, to buy Reckless. The only reason Kim sold his beloved horse was so he could buy an artificial leg for his older sister, Chung Soon, who lost her leg in a land mine accident. Reckless joined the Marines to carry ammunition to the front lines for the 75mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines. She quickly earned the love and respect of all of the Marines that served with her.
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.
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.
There has never been a horse like Reckless, and her story deserves every honor and recognition she can receive.
She wasn't a horse - She was a Marine!
Reckless is immortalized.
“She wasn’t a horse, she was a Marine,” said Robin Hutton, whose book, “Sgt. Reckless, America’s War Horse,” is now a New York Times Best Seller. “When the Marines got her, they became her herd. She bonded with them and would do anything for them. She’d follow them anywhere and everywhere.”
After the war, Reckless, who was praised by The Saturday Evening Post while still in Korea, made several television appearances, including on the “Art Linkletter Show.” A film was planned, but ultimately did not materialize, Hutton said, and the horse fell from the national conversation. She later retired in 1960 at Camp Pendleton and after dying of natural causes, was buried there with full military honors on May 13, 1968.
Reckless gave birth to three colts — named Fearless, Dauntless and Chesty — and a filly that died one month later. Hutton said it’s “disappointing” that the horse’s line was not carried on, but she hopes Friday’s ceremony will re-ignite interest in Reckless, whom Hutton featured in a screenplay she’s written.
Now some 60 years after carrying wounded soldiers and ammunition during heavy firefights, a decorated Staff Sgt. Reckless is praised as America’s greatest equine soldier during the Korean War is finally being immortalized.
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