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Power Players

The real war horse: The life and legend of the Marine Corps’ four-legged staff sergeant

Power Players

On the Radar

In many ways, Staff Sgt. Reckless was no different from the Marines she served beside during the Korean War. She braved enemy fire on many occasions, enjoyed scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast, and her favorite pastime was drinking beer with comrades.

Except Reckless was a horse.

Reckless has long been considered a war hero for her service during the Korean War and was recently honored at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, where a life-sized statue of the horse was unveiled.

Retired Marine Sgt. Harold Wadley, who served side-by-side with Reckless in the Korean War, spoke to “On the Radar” at the installation ceremony of the new Staff Sgt. Reckless statue and told of the horse’s unusual valor in braving enemy fire to bring reinforcement ammunition to her platoon on the front lines.

“The memory that stayed with me forever was the image of her when the flare lights were … coming in, and then she's struggling up the ridge,” Wadley recalled. “And she's in and out of view with the flare light and a lot of smoke...and here comes this little mare just like a shadow and she's heavily loaded with, you know, 75 millimeter rounds.”

Marines who served with Reckless point to the Battle of Outpost Vegas in March 1953 as one of her finest moments. During the battle, she reportedly made 51 trips from the ammunition supply point to the front lines, carrying almost five tons of ammunition and dodging enemy fire of up to 500 rounds per minute. And when Reckless spotted a wounded Marine, she would usher him to safety.

Reckless was purchased by the 75 mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines during the Korean War from a local boy to help carry the platoon’s ammo and equipment, and Sgt. Wadley said he knew she was different from other horses the first time he saw her.

“The recoilless rifle crew had her in a little wagon hooked to a trailer behind the Jeep, pulling her behind the Jeep,” he said. “There weren’t any sideboards on it or anything else; she was right in the Jeep like she had been born there. They had trained her to do that. Most horses wouldn’t do that.”

To learn more about this remarkable horse and the Marines who served with her, check out this episode of “On the Radar.”

ABC's Katherine Faulders, Mike Conte, Dick Norling, and Mark Rabin contributed to this episode.

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