She wasn’t just a horse, she was MARINE (An incredible Mongolian horse)


Tuvshinbayar Surenkhorloo

The secret source of power of the Mongolian army in 13th century was small but sturdy, agile and durables horses. Mongolian horses greatly enhanced the Mongol army’s mobility: they could and did travel great distances, often covering 60 to 100 miles in a day. Because of this unheard of mobility, no other army could match them.

An amazing but a real story about descendant of those horses, galloped from Sea of Japan to Central Europe about 800 years ago, has been told over years in USA. There are many stories real and fictional, about heroic animals, animals helped humans and saved children. But there is a one real story which is not just remarkable but unusual.

Here I want to make short a list containing some fascinating facts about Staff Sergeant Reckless, a small Mongolian mare, a decorated warhorse who held official rank in US military and a national HERO of USA during the wartime.

She is the only animal that I am aware of to hold official military ranking in US Military. Animals have had honorary rankings bestowed upon them, but they weren’t officially promoted to rank by the branch of military they served. She promoted to Staff Sergeant (E-6 pay grade below) on 31 August 1959. The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Randolph McPate, pinned the stripes on her blanket himself and Reckless was honored with a 19-gun salute and a 1,700-man parade of Marines from her wartime unit at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Insignia of the USA

She was listed as one of America’s 100 all-time heroes, alongside Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther king and Mother Teresa… just to name a few. (by LIFE magazine)

As far as I know there are 5 books about Sergeant Reckless:

  • Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse by Robin Hutton (a New York Times best seller).
  • Reckless: Pride of the Marines by Andrew Geer.
  • Reckless: The Racehorse who Became a Marine Corps Hero by Tom Clavin.
  • They called her Reckless.
  • A True story of war, love and one extraordinary Horse by Janet Barrett- Sgt Reckless the warhorse.
Book about Reckless

Sergeant Reckless is memorialized in several arts and statues.

Arts about Reckless

During the battle, on one day ALONE she made 51 trips from the Ammunition Supply Point to the firing sites, 95% of the time by HERSELF. She carried 386 rounds of ammunition (over 9,000 pounds – almost FIVE TONS! — of ammunition), walked over 35 miles through open rice paddies and up steep mountains (where unable to use military vehicles) with enemy fire coming. And as she so often did, she would carry wounded soldiers (SAVED COUNTLESS WOUNDED SOLDIERS) down the mountain to safety, unload them, get reloaded with ammo, and off she would go back up to the guns. She also provided a shield for several Marines who were trapped trying to make their way up to the front line. Wounded twice, she didn’t let that stop or slow her down.


Her Military Decorations include two Purple Hearts, 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, all of which she wore proudly on her red and gold blanket, along with a French Fourragere that the 5th Marines earned in WW1.

After the war Reckless was well cared for and treated as a VIP during her time at Camp Pendleton. The Marine Corps was also careful not to allow her to be exploited by commercial interestsReckless retired from active service with full military honors and pension entitlement at Camp Pendleton on November 10, 1960. She was provided free quarters and feed in lieu of retirement pay, per Marine Corps documents.

Reckless, took care

She was BELOVED by the Marines. They took care of her better than they took care of themselves – throwing their flak jackets over her to protect her when incoming was heavy, risking their own safety.

She would eat anything and everything – but especially scrambled eggs and pancakes in the morning with her morning cup of coffee. She also loved cake, Hershey bars, candy from the C rations, and Coca Cola – even poker chips, blankets and hats.

Reckless coca cola

And one of the many funny stories:“One night bunch of us were all standing around in a circle, talking. There was a marine lieutenant there, Lieutenant Louie was his name. And while we were talking Reckless came up behind one soldier and muzzled the back of this guy’s neck and nipped. It scared him half to death and he screamed, ‘what the f—!’ and shouted ‘get that mother—- nag out of here!’

Reckless statue

And Lieutenant Louie exploded on the guy and said, “that horse has done more for the US Marine Corps than you have, or ever will do and besides, she outranks you. If I ever hear you talking to Reckless like that again, I’m going to have you written up and court-martialed.” If you want to know more about this incredible horse you can read books mentioned above and countless articles about her.

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