Join me as I salute Sergeant Reckless …


Reckless with her main caretaker, US Marine Sergeant Joseph Latham. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia; USMC photographer

“Reckless” is not the nickname of the fellow in the photo.

In fact, Reckless was not a fellow at all.

She was a pack horse who served in the Korean War, carrying rifles, ammunition, and supplies to Marines.


Sergeant Reckless, a highly decorated US Marine Corps artillery horse in the Korean War, pictured with a 75mm recoilless rifle. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia; Geer, Andrew Clare. Reckless, pride of the Marines, 1955, page 120

Of course, she wasn’t the only horse who helped during the war, but Reckless was special.

Consider, for instance, the Battle of Outpost Vegas in March of 1953 …


Reckless delivered ammo to the recoilless rifle platoon’s firing sites. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; USMC photographer

In one grueling day of the brutal battle, Reckless made 51 trips from the ammunition supply point to the firing sites. She hauled almost five tons of equipment and carried numerous wounded soldiers over 35 miles, through open rice paddies and up steep mountains that were riddled with enemy fire.

And she made nearly every trip by herself.

“Going up the ridge, in and out of view, was this little mare,” recalled retired Marine Sgt. Harold Wadley, who witnessed the horse’s heroism. “I tell you, her silhouette in all the smoke—I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought, ‘Good grief. It’s Reckless!'”


Sergeant Reckless under fire during the Korean War. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia; USMC photographer

The courageous horse also used her body to shield four Marines who became trapped while making their way to the front line, and although she was wounded by shrapnel twice that day, she didn’t waver.

“Reckless was scared; flares were turning night into day,” Sgt. Wadley added. “Surely an angel had to be riding that mare.”

This young Mongolian mare, bought from a local boy for $250, surpassed the troops’ wildest expectations.

“I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps … She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her,” said Lieutenant General Randolph Pate.


Sergeant Reckless with Sgt. Lively’s squad when they challenged the champion horse Native Dancer to race in the “Paddy Derby” at “Upsan Downs.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia; USMC photographer

For her exemplary service to the Marine Corps, Reckless was awarded two Purple Hearts and a slew of other honors (including blankets, ribbons, cakes, and flowers, which she … ate).


Sergeant Reckless was the guest of honor at this Marine Corps birthday banquet. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia; USMC photographer

Reckless was promoted to Staff Sergeant in 1959 and lived out her years in the U.S.


Sergeant Reckless getting promoted to Staff Sergeant in 1959 at Camp Pendleton. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia; USMC photographer

She will not soon be forgotten.

  1. Terry Steinmetz says:

    How extraordinary! And how wonderful a story this is. Thanks MaryJane.

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This mare was a true patriot in every sense of the word! Thank-you for sharing this wonderful story.

    Sitting in New York!! US Airways had plane issues that cost us being able to make our over seas flight !! Trying to get there today if we can work it out. What an exhausting day and we are missing all the start of the tour and fun!

    • MaryJane says:

      I always try to think, “Maybe there’s a reason.” Delayed flights are the norm these days. When I travel and none of my flights are delayed and my baggage arrives, it’s a GOOD day. Maybe find a book store???:)

  3. Kay (Old Cowgirl) Montoya says:

    I love true stories of how our animals save lives through their undying loyalty to man and woman. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if humans could be so loyal to all? Wow, the love that would flow.
    Thanks MaryJane

    • Bobee-Kay Clark says:

      Remember the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary who shielded other people’s children from bullets with their own bodies and lives. Remember the Oklahoma teachers who threw their bodies over their students to shield them from a terrible tornado. Remember. Some humans are so loyal to all. Some of these folks live in your own town. Remember.

  4. Reckless the mare was positively the best definition of hero in every sense of the word I have ever read. I wept when I read about her and looked at the video.

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