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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Korean War Hero Reckless

Dedication of the Memorial

 
By Natalie Riehl, Editor

 

September 2013 issue  

 

General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, on left, and Sgt. Harold Wadley, on right, at the dedication of the “Sgt Reckless” memorial monument. Photo courtesy U.S. Marine Corps.

 

     RMR’s good friend and contributer, Harold Wadley, attended the dedication and unveiling of the monument to “fellow Marine” Reckless, the legendary Korean War horse, held July 26, 2013, in Triangle, Virginia .

     The monument not only serves as a tribute to the brave horse, but also to the U.S. Marines who fought with her…and to those who gave their lives. The statue is placed in Semper Fidelis Memorial Park , which is adjacent to the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

 

     This sorrel Mongolian horse is dear to Harold’s heart, as he watched her in action at the frontlines of the Korean War during the battle to re-take Outpost Vegas. He begins his horse training book, “Spirit Blending with Foals — Before and After Birth, An Old Way Continued” with praise about Reckless.

     Harold describes the horse as a little more refined than the typical Mongolian “pony.” Born in 1948, she stood just under fourteen hands high and weighed about 900 pounds. She had been a race horse, and had “survived when the North Koreans shot up the race track,” said Harold. She was purchased by Lt. Eric Pederson for $250 from a family whose child needed an artificial leg.

     The mare became “one of the Marines” of the 5th Marine Regiment Anti-tank Company. Their primary weapon was a 75 mm “recoiless rifle,” an anti-tank gun which fired four-inch diameter shells, with each shell weighing 22 pounds. The unit’s nickname was the “Reckless Rifles” and they named the mare Reckless.

 

Reckless packed ammunition for the 75mm Recoiless Rifle. U.S. Marine Corps Photo.

Sgt. Joe Latham, who trained Reckless for combat. U.S. Marine Corps Photo.


    
Two men took care of Reckless — Gunny Joe Latham of Georgia and PFC Monroe Coleman — and put the mare through “Hoof Camp,” the equine version of “Boot Camp.” They trained her to duck under barbed wire, to run for her bunker when shelling started, or to lie flat if they were too far from the bunker.

     Although Harold was in a different Marine unit, he had seen the horse several times before the fateful events of the Outpost Vegas battle. He recalls, “She was riding on a small trailer with no sides that was pulled by a Jeep. There was barely room for her to stand!

     “She was a four-legged Marine. She lived in the bunkers with the men. They cut grass for her to eat. You see, equines and Marines are both herd animals — they both need leadership, discipline and love. It takes all three components to bring out the best! She bonded completely with them!

     “The instinctive nature of horses is to flee from danger, whereas the nature of Marines is to run toward it.”

     Harold was a member of the assault force assigned to re-take Outpost Vegas. His unit was in a dry creek bed and Reckless’s unit was on the hill 1,300 yards behind his unit, on a vantage point, firing rounds over his head at the enemy bunkers and troops.

     “The noise was just a roar,” he remembers. “I don’t remember eating or sleeping. Five hundred rounds per minute were coming in, and our artillery and mortars were firing in return. Rounds would collide in the sky, and I can still see the white hot shrapnel fading to red as it fell on us.”

 

U.S. Marine Corps Photo. U.S. Marine Corps Photo.

 

     Reckless’s job was to cover a steep quarter- to three-quarters of a mile of trail that went from the ammo supply bunker up to the three gunsights. “The ground under her had been shelled and was torn up. She really had to scramble to keep her feet under her.

     “She would pack ammo up the hill, and at the top, they would tie a wounded Marine to her, and she would make the trip back to the bottom. She did it all alone. No one was leading her.

     “One night I looked up in the light from flares and white phosphorus. It was eerie light, and I could see Reckless making her way up the ridge. I thought for sure there had to be an angel riding that mare.”

     Reckless suffered two wounds from shrapnel — one cut above her left eye and one on her left flank — but neither stopped her from continuing. On one night alone, Reckless made 51 trips down the ridge, traveling a total of 35 miles and packing 9,000 pounds of ammo (386 rounds).

 

     The Marines who served with Reckless insisted that she be sent to the States after the war. She arrived in the U.S. in November of 1954 and was stabled at Fort Pendleton . She was cared for by the 5th Marines, and had eventually had four foals. In August 1959, she was promoted to staff sergeant, and in November 1960, she was retired with full military honors.

     She received two Purple Hearts, a Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with Star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with two Stars, United Nations Medal, Republic of South Korea Presidential Unit Citation , and Republic of Korea War Medal . These were worn on her scarlet and gold blanket. In May 1968, she incurred an injury and was put to sleep at age 20.

 

     Robin Hutton was the driving force behind the monument’s creation. Moved by the story of Reckless, she set up a Sgt. Reckless Memorial Fund. She is the president of Angels Without Wings and has dedicated a website to the memory of Reckless called www.sgtreckless.com.

     The monument was sculpted by Jocelyn Russell, of Friday Harbor , WA , and captures Reckless in an uphill stance, carrying a load of ammunition. 

 

Artist Jocelyn Russell & her completed sculpture of Reckless.

 

     Jocelyn said she was contacted in the summer of 2011 by Robin Hutton, and Harold Wadley was brought on board as the technical consultant. She started on the sculpting of Reckless in August 2012.

     She created the horse at fifteen hands, just a little larger than life size. The statue was cast at Art Casting in Loveland , Colorado , and weighs about 1,000 to 1,200 pounds.

     Jocelyn said that she had spoken with Harold numerous times over the phone, but met him for the first time at the dedication ceremony.

     Harold wanted to make sure that all details of the sculpture were historically accurate with the pack equipment used during the Korean War.

     He supplied Jocelyn with a vintage sawbuck pack saddle, and tooking specific care to make sure the rigging was fitted with conways . He lashed shell canisters to the saddle, using authentic, old hemp rope that he had in his barn.

 

            A video of the dedication ceremony and unveiling may be viewed at
www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Sergean.

      

Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

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