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This monument is dedicated to legendary marine SSgt Reckless, a war horse that served during the Korean War. This site is the official second monument that has been dedicated to the mare. This location especially special because Camp Pendelton is where Reckless lived after she moved to the United States after the Korean War with her fellow Marines. Camp Pendelton is also the location that Reckless is buried.

Official SSgt. Reckless Monument located at Camp Pendleton

Official SSgt. Reckless Monument located at Camp Pendleton

Monument of SSgt. Reckless

Monument of SSgt. Reckless

Reckless carrying communication wire

Reckless carrying communication wire

Joe Latham and Reckless

Joe Latham and Reckless

Reckless with 75 mm recoilless rifle and pack saddle.

Reckless with 75 mm recoilless rifle and pack saddle.

Before she became an American war hero, Reckless was acquired by the United States Marines in October of 1952, during the Korean War.[1] Lt. Eric Pederson purchased Reckless for $250 from a young Korean boy who was searching for money to by his sister an artificial leg.[2] While becoming accustomed to her surroundings after her purchase, Reckless was trained by Technical Sergeant Joe Latham to become familiarized with camp life. Reckless quickly became adored amongst her fellow marines and would become a hero.

Reckless became a trusted and dependable Marine soon after her training. Reckless trained as an ammunition’s carrier for the Anti-Tack Company of the 5th Marines.[3] She endured horrendous battle conditions, regular missions, and rough terrain while transporting essential ammunition and supplies for Marines during numerous battles. Reckless is remembered for her unforgettable ammunition trips, many that she frequented entirely by herself. Reckless's most extraordinary hours came during March 1953, during the Battle of Outpost Vegas, which during this period, was considered one of the most devastating battles in Marine Corps history.[4] It was during this 5-day battle that Reckless persevered, escaping enemy fire and trekking across, “no man’s land” through the rice paddies, and steep trails of the mountains.[5] On one particular day of battle, Reckless carried over 386 rounds of ammunition, which totaled over 9,000 pounds.[6] Reckless carried the rounds of ammunition through perilous terrain and endless gunfire to her fellow marines, making the majority of these trips entirely alone with no rider or handler to guide her. According to author Robin Hutton, Reckless was kept in constant motion, only stopping to catch her breath before continuing her charge up the hill. The Anti-Tack company of the 5th Marines knew they could depend on the mare to make the trips and return, always sure that she was looking out for them. During this battle, Reckless also protected many marines, shielding them from enemy gunfire, and carrying injured marines down the mountain for medical attention. Reckless was also injured twice during this battle but continued to make her desperately needed ammunition trips.[7] Former Marine, Harold Wadley noted in the biography of Reckless, “I looked through the flickering light at the hillside beyond and could hardly believe my eyes. In all that intense fire, in the middle of that chaos, the image of that small, struggling horse-putting everything she had into it, struggling up that ride loaded with 75 mm rounds…it was unbelievable.”[8]

After this dangerous battle, Reckless was officially awarded Two Purple Hearts, one for each wound she received in action. The company commander Captain Andrew W. Kovach formally recognized Reckless's service by promoting her officially to sergeant in 1954.[9] The ceremony included the whole platoon and was attended by high ranking marines. This was an incredible honor that was never bestowed before or since in the history of the United States military.[10] Reckless was also awarded the Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.[11] Reckless was so beloved by her unit when it was finally time for her to travel to the United States to Camp Pendleton, Reckless was given a rotation ceremony to say goodbye her to the unit.

Upon her arrival to the United States, Reckless quickly began a publicity tour. She appeared on talk shows, in magazines and newspapers. She also appeared in parades and different ceremonies for the Marines. At Camp Pendleton, Sergeant Reckless spent her days enjoying all of her favorite snacks and attention from all her handlers. Reckless also foaled three colts while at Pendleton, and the news media documented each pregnancy. Following the birth of her first colt Fearless in 1957, Reckless was again officially promoted by Commander Randolph Pate, to Staff Sergeant Reckless.[12] After living the remainder of her life in comfort Reckless passed away at the age of twenty on May 13, 1968, from injuries sustained from a bad fall into a ravine and was humanely euthanized.[13] Reckless was initially buried behind the stables at Camp Pendleton but was exhumed and reinterred at the stable's front gate with a Black granite marker.[14] In 1997, Life magazine made a special collector’s edition, called “Celebrating our Heroes,” with the heroic Mongolian mare as one of the entries.[15] Breyer Animal Creations also created an incredibly limited edition model of Reckless, which included her red blanket with her staff sergeant chevrons, medals, and her French fourragere. 

There are currently approximately three monuments dedicated to SSGT Reckless, but this entry focuses on the second dedicated monument. The second monument was dedicated at Camp Pendleton on October 26, 2016, near her burial site. The location is at the Pacific Views Event Center near the Oceanside entrance to the base itself.[16] When it came to the design of the sculpture itself, the artist Jocelyn Russell wanted to mold the perfect representation of Reckless. Russell ultimately chose, “A better angle to depict the struggle she had carrying the weight up steep hills. I decided on a simple non-bulky base under her hooves, to form a bit of a 'precipice', as she was truly living on the edge with each step. She carried thousands of pounds of ammunition over the war-torn ground, littered with live and detonated debris from various artillery”.[17] The sculpture depicts Reckless in her shining moment as a hero, heroically delivering essential ammunition while struggling up a steep hill. Jocelyn Russell titled the sculpture of Reckless as “An Uphill Battle”.[18]

Reckless became an iconic member of the United States Marines Corp and was an inspiration to her fellow marines. The image of Reckless in iconic among the Marines, but after the '90s, it was if history forgot about the heroic mare. When author Robin Hutton was researching her biography of Reckless, she began the non-profit corporation that dedicated and designed the current monuments of Reckless, including Camp Pendleton. Hutton is also fundraising for four more dedications to Reckless through her project, “Project Reckless”. The legacy of this historical monument is that it reminds the public about the service of heroic animals, such as Reckless, who became a war hero. Reckless was not only a horse but an actual combat marine, that earned her staff sergeant rank. Reckless's memory and this monument represent heroism, patriotism, and hope.

[1]"Operation Reckless." Last modified 2020. Accessed February 19, 2020. 

[2]"Operation Reckless." 

[3]Robin Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, (Washington: Regnery History, 2014) p. 1.

[4]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, preface.

[5]“About Reckless.” Last Modified, 2020. Accessed March 25, 2020.

[6]“About Reckless.” 

[7]“About Reckless.”  

[8]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 89.

[9]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 139.

[10]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 140.

[11]“About Reckless.”   

[12]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 201.

[13]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 258.

[14]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 258.

[15]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 1.

[16]"Operation Reckless."

[17]"SGT Reckless Project." Last modified 2020. Accessed on February 19, 2020.

[18]Hutton, SGT. Reckless: America's War Horse, p. 267.

Hutton , Robin . Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse. Washington , D.C.. Regnery History , 2014.

Hutton , Robin . "Operation Reckless" , Accessed March 25th 2020.

Russell , Jocelyn . Sgt Reckless Project , Accessed March 25th 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Official Sgt. Reckless Fan Club: Picture Credit Nancy Latham Parkin

Official Sgt. Reckless Fan Club, photo credit: Command Museum, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego

Official Sgt. Reckless Fan Club: Photo Credit: USMC History Division, Quantico, VA