Sergeant Reckless DM

b. c. 1948 ? d. 13/05/1968 ?

DATE OF DM ACTION: 1952-1953 Korea.

Sergeant Reckless DM

Sergeant Reckless was chestnut colored with a blaze and three white stockings. Her date of birth and parentage are unconfirmed, but she was estimated to be around three or four years old when she was purchased by members of the United States Marine Corps in October 1952. She was sold to the Marines by her owner, a young Korean stableboy called Kim Huk Moon, though that was not his real name. The horse was originally named Ah Chim Hai in Korean, which translates to “Morning Flame” or “Flame-of-the-Morning”, also reputed to be the name of her dam, a racehorse at the track in Seoul. Moon sold the horse, whom he had nicknamed “Flame”, to Lieutenant Eric Pedersen for $250 in order to buy a leg prosthesis for his sister, who had stepped on a land mine. The horse’s breeding was thought to be primarily Mongolian though she did have some features, particularly the shape of her head, that were similar to horses of Thoroughbred lineage. She was small, standing only 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm) and weighing 900 pounds (410 kg).

n October 1952, Pedersen received permission from Colonel Eustace P. Smoak to purchase a horse for his platoon. Based in mountainous terrain, Pederson needed a pack animal capable of carrying up to nine of the heavy 24-pound shells needed to supply the recoilless rifles used by his unit, the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marine Regiment. The day after he received permission, on October 26, 1952, Pedersen, Sergeant Willard Berry, and Corporal Philip Carter drove a jeep with a trailer to the Seoul racetrack. Pedersen paid for the horse with his own money. Moon was reluctant to sell the horse, though he needed to, and cried when “Flame” departed. The Marines renamed her “Reckless” as a contraction of the name of the Recoilless rifle and a nod to the daredevil attitude associated with those who used the gun.

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. She even appeared to take an interest in the operation of the weapon. 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. There was a standing order not to ride Reckless, but in early December 1952, someone violated that order and took Reckless on a ride that included a sprint through a minefield. She was not injured during the unauthorized ride.

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.

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.

For her exemplary service to the Marine Corps, Reckless was awarded two Purple Hearts (for the wounds received during the Battle of Vegas), a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation with bronze star, the National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Korea Medal, a Navy Unit Commendation, and a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. She would wear these awards on her horse blanket, plus a French Fourragere that the 5th Marines earned in World War I.

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.

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.



For attention to duty, devotion and loyalty to the United States Marine Corps.