The U.S. Marine Corps awarded a posthumous medal for outstanding bravery in the line of duty during the bloodiest battles of the Korean War to Sergeant Reckless, a horse.
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), an animal charity, awarded Reckless with the Dickin Medal. The animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, this highest British military decoration was awarded to Reckless for her service between 1952 and 1953.
Reckless died in 1968 in Camp Pendleton, California, when she was 20 years old.
U.S. Embassy attaché Lieutenant Colonel Michael Skaggs accepted the award for the mare on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps. A British Army horse stood in for the late Reckless at the ceremony. Skaggs gave a speech during the proceedings.
“The conditions that Reckless found herself in were truly perilous and her bravery and tenacity to push forward was remarkable.”
The Mongolian chestnut mare is the subject of a book by American author Robin Hutton, who spent six years researching the horse’s career with the U.S. Marines. Hutton told ABC News she had nominated Reckless for the British award.
“Her story was erased from the pages of history, and when I heard about the medal, I just knew she had to get it.”
Semper Fi, Sgt. Reckless. Kudos and may you continue to rest in peace…https://t.co/DzV63BgNu0
— HHOA (@HappyHorse95) July 28, 2016
In October of 1952, Lt. Eric Pedersen paid $250 of his own money to a young Korean boy, Kim Huk Moon, to purchase Reckless. The website SgtReckless.com states that Kim was attached to the mare, but reluctantly parted with her so that he could buy an artificial leg for his older sister, Chung Soon, who had been maimed by a land mine.
Reckless was trained as an ammunitions carrier for the Anti-Tank Division of the 5th Marines. The plucky little horse learned battlefield survival skills, such as how not to become entangled in barbed wire, and to lie down when under fire.
During a five-day battle in 1953, Reckless made 51 trips from the Ammunition Supply Point to the firing sites, the PDSA’s statement said.
“She carried 386 rounds of ammunition, weighing over 9,000 pounds…up steep mountains with enemy fire coming in at a rate of 500 rounds per minute.”
The PDSA described how Reckless “would carry wounded soldiers down the mountain to safety, unload them, and get reloaded with ammunition to go back up to the guns. Although wounded twice she didn’t let it stop her or slow her down.”
“There’s no way to account for the number of lives she saved.”
Reckless also served to boost morale off the battlefield. The mare reportedly had a voracious appetite. She loved scrambled eggs and pancakes with her morning cup of coffee. She also loved cake, Hershey bars, candy, and Coca Cola. When things around camp became too dull, and she was searching for attention, she would steal poker chips, blankets, and hats.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 28, 2016
After the war, Reckless retired to the United States and ABC News reported that she died in 1968 at age 20.
Reckless is the 68th recipient of the medal awarded by the PDSA.
Since 1943, the medal has been given in recognition of bravery by animals serving with the military, police, or rescue services.
Not surprisingly, dogs make up nearly half the recipients, including a World War II commando collie who made more than 20 parachute jumps.
The award has been granted to police horses and carrier pigeons. Once it was given to a Royal Navy ship’s cat, which never ceased its rat-catching duty, even while the vessel was under attack in China in 1949.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons United States Marine Corps]