Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Horse Named Reckless

This is the true story of a horse who fought in the Korean War with the U.S. Marines.  She served very bravely and when she retired, she had the rank of Staff Sergeant.  But the funny thing is that she did not even start out to be a war horse.  In the beginning, Reckless was named Morning Flame, and she was a race horse.  She belonged to a Korean boy named Kim Huk Moon, who loved her very, very much.  But then Kim's older sister, Chung Soon, lost her leg when a land mine exploded, and the family could not afford to buy her an artificial leg.

Meanwhile, the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines was looking for a horse to carry ammunition to the front lines, and they ended up buying Kim Huk Moon's mare for $250, which they paid with their own money and not the Marine Corps' money.  The men of the platoon gave Flame the new name of Reckless because "Reckless" was what they called the recoilless rifles that she would be carrying.  Then they trained her to carry stuff and also to stay calm and steady during the noise of a battle.

The men loved Reckless, and they let her just wander around their camp without being tied up.  She entertained them with the silly things she did, like eating hats and sticking her head inside their tents to get warmed up by the stove.  They fed her barley, sorghum, hay, and rice, but she also liked some very weird things such as cake, Hershey bars, Coca Cola, and beer.  For breakfast, she liked to eat scrambled eggs, shredded wheat, pancakes, and coffee.  If she thought she wasn't getting enough attention, she would also eat things like blankets and poker chips, or she would rummage around in the men's tents to find any kind of yummy goodies that might be there.

Drinking beer with the guys

But when there was a battle, Reckless got serious, and she was very brave.  In March of 1953, there was a huge battle at Outpost Vegas, and it lasted for five days.  During that time, Reckless made trip after trip from the Ammunition Supply Point to the places where the Marines were firing at the enemy.  She had to cross a "no man's land" of rice paddies and go up steep mountains, and all the time there were bombs and machine guns and all sorts of horrible things happening.

Reckless made most of these trips alone, without a soldier with her.  And by the time the five days of fighting were over, she had carried 386 rounds of ammunition, which adds up to more than 9,000 pounds.  She walked over 35 miles, and she was wounded twice, but that didn't stop her.  And besides that, she shielded several Marines who were trapped when they were trying to get to the front lines.  So that's why, after that battle, Reckless was promoted to Sergeant.

When it got to be time for the Marines to leave Korea, they didn't know what to do about Reckless because they didn't want to leave her behind, but the military didn't have any money for transporting a horse.  But then after an article about Reckless was published in the Saturday Evening Post, a cargo line offered to ship the horse home for free.

Sgt. Reckless arrived in San Francisco on November 10, 1954.  A whole big crowd of people and reporters were there to give her a hero's welcome.  The day she got to America was also the 179th birthday of the Marine Corps, and she was an honored guest at the party.  This meant she got to ride up in an elevator to the 10th floor of a hotel and eat cake with the rest of her unit.

Reckless eating a flower arrangement

After that, Reckless went to live at Camp Pendleton, which is sort of between San Diego and Los Angeles.  She did some publicity for the Marines, and she had four foals.  Two of these were colts, and they were named Dauntless and Fearless.  I don't know what the fillies' names were.

In 1960, Reckless officially retired with the rank of Staff Sergeant.  She was awarded this rank by Gen. Randolph McC Pate, who was the Commandant of the entire Marine Corps.  Which just goes to show how important this little horse was.   She had full military honors and wore a red-and-gold blanket with all her awards on it.

Here's a list of the awards that Staff Sergeant Reckless won:
2 Purple Hearts
Gold Conduct Medal
Presidential Unit Citation with star
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

Reckless was granted full quarters at Camp Pendleton's stable for life.  She never could have anything besides a blanket on her back again.  When her caretaker exercised her, he had to just run alongside her until she got tired.

When she was 19 or 20 years, old in 1968, Reckless suffered a serious injury and had to be put to sleep.  She was buried with full honors behind the stable at Camp Pendleton, but there is no marker where the actual grave is.  On the stable wall, there is a plaque that tells about Reckless.

Sgt. Reckless now has her own website, and a book is being written about her.  Also some people are making a movie about her, and they are trying to raise money to put a memorial marker on her grave.  If they get enough donations, they would also like to have a statue made of Reckless, and maybe it could be part of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.  If it can't go there, another place might be at the Marines Headquarters in Quantico, VA or at Camp Pendleton.

A book was written about Sgt. Reckless before, and it's Reckless, Pride of the Marines, by Andrew Geer.  I think this book is out of print because I only found one copy of it on amazon.com, and it costs $95.  I don't know when the new book and movie will be done, but if you go to the link I gave you in the last paragraph and click on "Movie," you can see a short video about Reckless.  Also if you want to donate to help with the grave marker and the statue, you can do that, too.


  1. Sgt. Reckless:The Angel on the Hill

    Very powerful song and video about Sgt. Reckless
    sung by Sharon Anderson


    1. copy and paste the link into your browsers address bar.

    2. Thanks for the link to this song. It is a very good tribute to Reckless, the brave horse.

  2. One of her fillies was named Chesty the other died before they could name it. What ever happen to her offspring? Are there any descendants of her alive today?

    1. Maybe somebody has the answer to this question, because I would like to know, too!

    2. She had three colts, Fearless (1957), Dauntless (1959) & Chesty (1964). The filly died unnamed within a month of its birth (1965-66).

  3. It's possible since the one was a filly and could have been bred. As for the colts they could have been gelded since neither of them were winners and one was sired by a bucking stallion.