About a year ago, a statue of Sgt. Reckless was unveiled at Camp Pendleton. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps
About a year ago, a statue of Sgt. Reckless was unveiled at Camp Pendleton. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps

By Rhonda deHaan

In the last issue of The Dispatch, columnist Jan Siegel mentioned that this year is Camp Pendleton’s 75th anniversary.

In honor of the occasion and our local WWII heroes, the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society is hosting a dinner and movie premiere of Bob Kline’s Pendleton at 75: The History of Camp Pendleton on Monday, Sept. 25, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the historic El Adobe de Capistrano.

There is another anniversary and military hero I’d like to tell you about. The old photo featured was taken of a special horse named Reckless. Reckless served with the Marines during the Korean War.

The story goes that in 1952, Lt. Eric Pederson bought the horse from a young Korean boy in Seoul for $250. Soon after, she was trained to carry ammunition for a Recoilless Rifle platoon in the 5th Marines.

But it was in 1953 that Reckless proved she was a true Marine. In March, the Chinese launched an attack that resulted in one of the fiercest battles in Marine history: the Battle for Outpost Vegas.

The battle went on for five days. In one day alone, Reckless carried nearly five tons of ammunition over treacherous terrain, making 51 trips over 35 miles through heavy enemy fire. Although wounded twice, she continued transporting munitions and wounded Marines up and down the steep slopes.

Many owed their lives to that spunky little horse, and she was beloved by all. Some say an angel watched over Reckless that day, and stories of her bravery spread far and wide. She was awarded the Purple Heart, promoted to sergeant and, at the end of the war, she came to Camp Pendleton with her division.

Reckless stayed at Camp Pendleton, and when she passed away in 1968, she was buried there. Nearly a year ago, a life-sized bronze statue of Reckless was unveiled at the base as a tribute to a true Marine hero.

Rhonda deHaan is a resident of San Juan Capistrano who enjoys sharing fun photographic finds as she continues to learn more about this unique town. She is a proud mother of two, a freelance writer, and a member of the SJC Friends of the Library and San Juan Capistrano Historical Society Board of Directors. She is serving her fourth term as a member of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission.

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