Sergeant Reckless, the Military Mare

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By Kathy Smith

Sergeant Reckless was a small Mongolian mare who held official rank in the United States military. She was estimated to be three or four years old when purchased by the United States Marine Corps for $250 in October 1952. She was trained to be a pack horse and used to carry ammunition and supplies for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marine Regiment.

But it wasn’t long before Sergeant Reckless proved herself to be much more than just a pack animal. She quickly learned to navigate the treacherous terrain of the Korean War, carrying supplies and evacuating wounded soldiers to safety without hesitation. She often travelled to deliver supplies on her own, without a handler. In fact, she became so vital to the unit that they renamed themselves the “Reckless Rifle Platoon.”

On one particularly harrowing day, Sergeant Reckless made 51 trips to the front lines, carrying over 9,000 pounds of supplies and ammunition. She was hit by shrapnel twice, but she refused to stop working. She even made the trip up and down the steep and rocky hills with a wounded soldier on her back. 

Sergeant Reckless was also known for her incredible ability to sense danger. On several occasions, she would refuse to move forward when she sensed an incoming enemy attack. Her instincts saved countless lives.

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Sgt Reckless with her primary trainer, US Marine Sergeant Joseph Latham, who taught her 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 of “Incoming!” 

Sergeant Reckless was more than just a loyal and brave animal. She was also a beloved member of the unit. The Marines were very fond of her, feeding her treats like beer, Coca-Cola, and scrambled eggs. They even built her a special tent to sleep in, and she was allowed to roam freely through the camp.

Related: In Memory of a War Horse

After the Korean War, Sergeant Reckless retired to Camp Pendleton, California, where she lived out the rest of her days. She passed away in 1968, but her legacy lived on. She was the first animal to be officially promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, and she received many awards including two Purple Hearts. She was recognized by LIFE Magazine as one of America’s 100 all-time heroes.

Sgt Reckless at pasture in retirement at Camp Pendleton, California. 

In 2013, a bronze statue of Sergeant Reckless was unveiled at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The statue, which was donated by the Semper Fidelis Society, depicts Sergeant Reckless carrying a wounded soldier to safety. It serves as a testament to the incredible bond between humans and animals, and the sacrifices that both are willing to make for each other.

Today, Sergeant Reckless is remembered as a true hero and an inspiration to all those who knew her. She will always be remembered as a symbol of the bond between humans and animals, and the incredible things that can be achieved when we work together.

Related: Bunny, World War 1 Horse Hero

Related: The Real War Horses - Faithful unto Death

Read more by Kathy Smith.

Main Photo: Sgt Reckless, a highly decorated US Marine Corps artillery horse in the Korean War, with a 75mm recoilless rifle. During one battle she was loaded with six recoilless rifle shells and the first time one was fired she went straight up in the air with all four feet off the ground. When she landed she was shaking, but her handler calmed her down. The second time the gun fired she merely snorted. By the end of the day she was calm and even took an interest in the operation of the weapon.