5 star rating
Sgt. Reckless:  America’s War Horse
By Robin Hutton
ISBN#  9781621572633

Brought to you by OBS reviewer JoAnne


She might not have been much to look at-a small “Mongolian mare,” they called her-but she came from racing stock, and had the blood of a champion. Much more than that, Reckless became a war hero-in fact, she became a combat Marine, earning staff sergeant’s stripes before her retirement to Camp Pendleton.

This once famous horse, recognized as late as 1997 by Life magazine as one of America’s great heroes-the greatest war horse in American history, in fact-has unfortunately now been largely forgotten. But author Robin Hutton is set to change all that. Not only has she been the force behind recognizing Reckless with a monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and at Camp Pendleton, but she has now put between hard covers the full story, the rousing-sometimes comic, sometimes tragic-life of this four-legged war hero who hauled ammunition to frontline Marines and inspired them with her relentless, and reckless, courage.

Seabiscuit, Misty of Chincoteague, Dan Patch, Man O’War, Secretariat…Reckless belongs in their number as one of America’s most beloved horses. Hers is a story to inspire young and old, military veteran and casual equestrian. Here is the story of the horse they called Reckless.


Reckless began life in Korea just before the war. She was bred as a racehorse, and owned Huk Moon (a pseudonym), the young jockey who rode her. He had owned her dam, Ah-Chim-Hai, or Flame of the Morning. He was given her as a gift for his many acts of bravery and kindness during World War II. Because he loved her so much, when she was finally bred, he named her offspring Flame of the Morning also. But when her mother died suddenly, he wanted nothing to do with the young filly.. So a friend of his took her to be raised by one of his own mares, and it wasn’t until some time later when he saw her playing with other young horses that he realized she was much like her mother and his love for her grew. When war struck in 1950, Kim and his family had to temporarily leave their home, taking Flame with them. When they returned, two years later, there wasn’t much left.

The family did what they could to survive; but one day his sister Chun, working in a rice paddy, was badly hurt. A worker next to her stepped on a landmine, and Chun’s leg was mangled and would have to be removed. It was soon after that, that Kim realized he would have to sell his horse to purchase a prosthetic leg for his sister. This is where the marines stepped in.

I won’t go into a lengthy detail of the recoilless rifle. It is enough to say that it took three or four men to carry it, and more to carry each 75mm shell. It was a powerful gun, and each man could carry no more than two shells, due to the weight. It was backbreaking work. Watching his men run up and down the hill to secure more shells was dangerous work, and Lt. Eric Pedersen, commander of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, knew something needed to be done.

Leave it to say that after searching for a horse, he discovered Reckless. Paying $250 American dollars for her, Kim knew he could now obtain the leg for his sister, heartbroken though he was to lose his precious Flame. Little did he know that she would go on to a greater destiny, one that would more than likely save the lives of many Americans. For it was she, renamed Reckless by the marines, who would be trained to carry the shells to the soldiers.

It was dangerous work. She must be trained carefully. Reckless would travel on her own, up and down the treacherous hills, with anywhere from four to ten rounds strapped to her back, in a specially made pack. She made the journey many times, herself being wounded twice and still continuing on in battle.

I will say no more, except that you need to read this book. Not only did I read the book, I read much of it to my husband, when I came across something particularly striking; and he listened intently, which is an achievement since he really only reads technical manuals or things of that sort. This is how riveting the book is.

There are books that excite us, agitate us, soothe, enamor and make us feel giddy. Only once in a while does a book come along that pulls from our soul. This is one of those books. I dare you to read this book without it bringing tears to your eyes. It did mine, many times. It was a beautiful story, yet heart-wrenching to read. It is beautifully written, and I can only hope that I felt some of what the author felt while she was researching Reckless’s life.

If one can say that a horse lived life to the fullest, then Reckless is that horse. Not only did she work as hard, if not harder, than any marine ever did, she also joined with them in their play. She slept alongside them in their tents when the nights grew cold; she ate what they ate-and that included cookies, pancakes, peanut butter; she drank what they drank, including Coca-Cola and beer. In fact, many of the stories of Reckless are downright humorous; and show what an intelligent being she was.

My regret is that I did not know anything about her before, but due to the generosity of Regnery Press in providing this book for my review, I plan to remedy that. On one of my travels back east I plan to visit her memorial in Triangle, Virginia. However, I am looking forward to it as soon as possible.

Hopefully, this book will renew interest in one of the bravest marines ever – Sgt. Reckless of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon.

Highly recommended for anyone, and especially for everyone.