Tri-Service

America's Warhorse Gets Animal VC

Not all war heroes are human ...

Article by Greg Allwood

A U.S. warhorse, Sergeant Reckless, has been posthumously awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

The Dickin Medal, bestowed by the British veterinary charity the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), was introduced in 1943 to honour animals being used by the military in the Second World War.

korean war horse
Reckless serving in Korea

Reckless, America's Warhorse, came to fame while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1950's during the Korean War.

Trained by members of a recoilless rifle platoon, the mare often hauled the weapon for the men.

Korean War horse
Reckless hauling an M20 75mm Recoilless Rifle, designed at the end of WWII, essentially, as a mobile light artillery support weapon that could be carried by infantry

Trained to ignore battle noises, she proved cool under fire and useful in the field.

As well as hauling the platoon's main weapon other tasks included the stringing of telephone wire from reels mounted on her back. Streaming out behind her as she walked Reckless could achieve a work rate equivalent to that of 12 men. 

Reckless was also trained to step over wires, helping her to manoeuvre safely on the battlefield.

The horse gained fame back in the U.S. for her exploits and was a famous cultural icon of the time, much as Lassie had become thanks to a TV series that started in 1954.

Unlike Lassie though, Reckless was a real-life animal hero.

animals in war

According to sgtreckless.com, in one battle, Reckless made 51 trips on a single day from the Ammunition Supply Point to men in the field.

On these trips through the battlefield, most of which of which she completed by herself, she hauled almost five tonnes worth of ammo while walking 35 miles under fire.

No wonder she was beloved by the marines she served with, and became famous with the American public.

korean war horse
Reckless at Camp Pendleton, California

Because the horse had been bought in Korea (for $250 from a Korean stableboy), it took an article in The Saturday Evening Post to catalyse support for her being brought back to the U.S. with her fellow marines.

An executive at Pacific Transport Lines who'd read the article agreed to facilitate the trip across the Pacific.

But her emigration wasn't without obstacles - a fierce storm knocked her out of her stall on the ship and made her seasick, and when she arrived in the U.S. she was held up customs agents who wanted to make sure she didn't carry any dangerous pathogens.

Evidently the wait was too long because Reckless got hungry and ate her blanket.

Thankfully, the marines made her a new one just before she disembarked, arriving in time for the Marine Corps birthday on November 10th, 1954.

She ate both cake and the flower decorations, which were presumably a bit tastier than her blanket had been.

She was kept at Camp Pendleton as a VIP until she died in 1968 but was imortalised with a statue at the Marine Corps Museum in 2013.

More: 'Princess Royal Unveils WWI War Horse Statue'

American's korean war horse
A monument to honour Sergeant Reckless, with sentries, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (Picture: MarkTenally)