When you think of a war hero, you usually think of humans.
I worry that children and teens are not being taught about all the veterans of past wars. They more than likely learned about World War II in history class-they better have! And I hope about the Vietnam War, but I bet the Korean War was a blip in their books. Sadly I bet their parents only know of it through the long running television show “M.A.S.H.” …Often called the forgotten war, we should NEVER forget the brave veterans who fought in it or the 40,000 who died there.
It never fails, I start researching something and end up getting side tracked onto something totally different! That is how I found the story of “Reckless”. I love a good animal story, and when it happens to be true, and historical, even better!!
“Reckless” was a horse who carried ammunition shells during the Korean War.
She began her adult career as a racehorse until bought by a Marine to help carry heavy ammo. Yes, they had jeeps and trucks, but the uneven rocky terrain made the swift movement of men and ammo difficult with those. With love and patience, young men who grew up on farms and ranches trained the little horse to carry a packsaddle and the ammo, including getting her use to all the noise and chaos, even building her, her own bunker. She was a smart and quick learner. She also became part of the unit, often joining them in their tents and sharing their food.
The image that stuck with me from Sgt Reckless, America’s War Horse by Robin Hutton, was the part about experiencing thousands of rounds being shot into the air that were horribly loud, and how it made the whole sky light up into different colors, yet they could see a determined horse, carrying her heavy load, all by herself, walking the dangerous ridge line.
“Reckless continued the heroic eight-round ammo deliveries all day..” (1)
“..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 ridge loaded with 75mm rounds..—it was unbelievable.” (1)
“..I thought surely there was a Marine leading her, but in the flare light all I could see was her alone. She struggled along with her head and neck stretched out to help balance her load..like she knew what she was doing. Indeed she knew.” (1)
Here she was, an animal, in a war not her own, pushing forward to do her one singular job. Loyal and determined, she wasn’t giving up because it was scary around her. She wasn’t giving up because she was tired or hungry. She just pressed on because it was expected of her and she couldn’t disappoint her “herd”. Heavy load after heavy load she delivered across difficult and unforgiving terrain. And on the way back to get more, she carried back wounded men.
Her bravery and her need to stick to her routine of supplying her unit, gave strength to those who were close to falling apart and giving up, the worse thing a solider in battle can do. A little horse carrying a heavy load, ignoring enemy fire and danger to herself persevered on, inspiring the men to do likewise! And as a combat Marine, she was promoted to Staff Sergeant!
I found Hutton’s book to be an enjoyable read. Several sources are pooled together, including many photos to retell the story of Reckless and the men of her Marine Unit during and after the war. The book also details aspects of the Korean War without getting too graphic. Far from as graphic as the fiction story “War Horse” by Michael Morpurgo about horses used during WW1. Yes, Reckless was a war horse and a work horse, but she was loved and cared for by her unit.
For the younger set, or for those of us who love wonderful illustrations, Sergeant Reckless, the True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero by Patricia McCormick and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, is a great companion. (Cover above)
Even better, as a parent, read the adult book by Hutton so when you read the children’s book to your son or daughter, you can sprinkle it with more details, and show the actual photographs of Reckless.
I won’t go into much more detail about this very special war hero horse, because I want you to read about her life yourself. I was inspired, I hope you will be, too.
And please seek out a Korean War Veteran to say thank you, and let him share the stories of his buddies and hear about their bravery under extra ordinary conditions.
For a quick review of the Korean War go here: https://www.history.com/topics/korean-war
“Almost 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded.”
For more on Sgt Reckless check out the videos posted on-line.
Footnote: (1) Sgt Reckless, America’s War Horse by Robin Hutton, published by Regnery History: page 89