Horses Don't Fly: The Memoir of the Cowboy Who Became a World War I Ace

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Overview

From breaking wild horses in Colorado to fighting the Red Baron's squadrons in the skies over France, here in his own words is the true story of a forgotten American hero: the cowboy who became our first ace and the first pilot to fly the American colors over enemy lines.    

Growing up on a ranch in Sterling, Colorado, Frederick Libby mastered the cowboy arts of roping, punching cattle, and taming horses. As a young man he exercised his skills in the mountains and on ...

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Horses Don't Fly: The Memoir of the Cowboy Who Became a World War I Ace

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Overview

From breaking wild horses in Colorado to fighting the Red Baron's squadrons in the skies over France, here in his own words is the true story of a forgotten American hero: the cowboy who became our first ace and the first pilot to fly the American colors over enemy lines.    

Growing up on a ranch in Sterling, Colorado, Frederick Libby mastered the cowboy arts of roping, punching cattle, and taming horses. As a young man he exercised his skills in the mountains and on the ranges of Arizona and New Mexico as well as the Colorado prairie. When World War I broke out, he found himself in Calgary, Alberta, and joined the Canadian army. In France, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an "observer," the gunner in a two-person biplane. Libby shot down an enemy plane on his first day in battle over the Somme, which was also the first day he flew in a plane or fired a machine gun. He went on to become a pilot. He fought against the legendary German aces Oswald Boelcke and Manfred von Richthofen, and became the first American to down five enemy planes. He won the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in action.  

Libby's memoir of his cowboy days in the last years of the Old West evokes a real-life Cormac McCarthy novel. His description of World War I combines a rattling good account of the air war over France with captivating and sometimes poignant depictions of wartime London, the sorrow for friends lost in combat, and the courage and camaraderie of the Royal Flying Corps. Told in charming, straightforward vernacular, Horses Don't Fly is an unforgettable piece of Americana.

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Editorial Reviews

Winston Groom
...fascinating...captures the panorama of the war years...an important piece of previously unpublished history...a gripping and uplifting story to read....
W.E.B. Griffin
...long overdue...a great event...More than a cowboy or a flying ace, Captain Libby was a genuine American hero....
Clayton Reynolds
Frederick Libby has a marvelous capacity for recalling specific details of his life as horseman, aviator, soldier, and consummate citizen of the 20th century....
Library Journal
It is surprising that this remarkable World War I memoir, written shortly after 1918, has remained unpublished for 82 years. Author Libby survived the war and died in 1970, but he left a powerful account of his three years of aerial combat over the trenches in France, first as an observer/gunner and later as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. Libby was an American cowboy from Colorado. By 1914, at age 22, he was in Canada and joined the Canadian Army for the travel and adventure offered by a world war. The first half of the book is Libby's tale of cowpunching and horsebreaking in the last decades of the Old West. Even better, however, is the second half, where he vividly relates his at once hilarious and terrifying experiences as an American flying in a British aircraft against swarms of German fighter planes. Credited with 24 aerial victories, Libby was the first American to be awarded England's Military Cross for valor, presented by King George V himself. By volunteering before America entered the war, Libby lost his citizenship, but he clearly has no regrets. This colorful, stirring memoir leaves no doubt that he made the right decision, and it serves as a grim reminder of the archaic chivalry and cold-blooded nature of early aerial warfare. Strongly recommended for all public libraries.--Col. William D. Bushnell, USMC (ret.), Harpswell, ME Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Libby's memoir of World War I recounts his experiences as a pilot and gunner in the Canadian army, the Royal Flying Corps, and the American army. It begins by describing his youth on a ranch in Colorado, follows him through numerous aviation battles of the First World War, and ends shortly after his return to the United States. Written in 1961, the memoir is now being published for the first time. Included in this volume are eight pages of b&w photographs, an introduction by Winston Groom (author of ), and an afterword by Sally Ann Marsh, Libby's granddaughter. No index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From The Critics
Horses Don't Fly: A Memoir Of World War I is the story of Frederick Libby who went from breaking wild horses in Colorado to fighting the Red Baron's squadrons in the skies over France. When World War I broke out, Libby was in Calgary, Alberta where he joined the Canadian army. In France, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an "observer" the gunner in a twoperson biplane. Libby shot down an enemy plane on his first day in battle over the Somme. This was also the first day he ever flew in a plan or fired a machine gun! He went on to become a fighter pilot and fought against the legendary German aces Oswald Boelcke and Manfred von Richthofen. He became the first American to down five enemy planes and won the Military Cross. When the United States entered the war, Libby became the first person to fly the American colors over German lines. He achieved the rank of captain before being transferred back to the United states. A tremendous and welcome contribution to U.S. military in general, and World War I studies in particular, Horses Don't Fly is Libby's military autobiography written in 1961 and is here published for the first time.
Kirkus Reviews
A reticent yet sharply impressed memoir of a turn-of-the-century cowpuncher who enlisted in the Canadian Royal Flying Corps and was decorated for valor in WWI.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611457100
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/9/2012
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 1,363,729
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick
Libby was born on a ranch in Sterling, Colorado, and became the first American ace of World War I. He passed away in 1970.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Winston Groom ix

Preface xi

Map of Western Front 1914-18 xii

1 Sunrise 1

2 An Antelope, a Rope and a Small Boy 6

3 School and Sis, Wild Horses and the Stinkenest Hog Wallow in the World 13

4 My First Big Battle 21

5 Our Home Ranch and a Man with a Gun 29

6 A Girl, a Jug of Whiskey and Sheepherders 37

7 Wild Horse Roundup for Polo Ponies 42

8 Phoenix, Wild Horses, Wild Steers and a Broken Leg 49

9 Christmas Eve, with Hundreds of Dead Cattle 58

10 Denver, Where I'm Rolled of My Loot by a Pimp 69

11 More Wild Horses and a Big Gray Outlaw 75

12 Fourth of July Celebration, Susie, Cyclone and a Wild Beautiful Brown Stallion 83

13 God's Country-Imperial Valley 94

14 Calgary, Investment in Oil and a Soldier of the King 102

15 Loss of Citizenship, Sergeants Moose and Little Moose and the Motor Transport 111

16 An Operation, an Examination, Mutiny and War 119

17 I Join the Royal Air Force to Get out of the Rain 129

18 First Flight over German Lines, one Enemy Plane Confirmed 140

19 Recommended for my Commission and Trying to Live, I have a Great Idea 151

20 Back to France as an Officer, Where I Meet and Become Friends with the Royal Flying Corps' Greatest Fighting Ace, Lieutenant Albert Ball 160

21 In a Drinking Bout, Price and I Lose a Battle to Our Own Artillery 170

22 Boelcke, the Great German Ace, and his Boys Cause us Our Greatest Loss in Any Single Engagement 179

23 Captain Price Returns to England-I Follow Shortly-We are Both Decorated at Buckingham Palace by his Majesty King George V 189

24 Thank God for America's Ambassador Page and his Military Attaché, Captain Champman 200

25 A Great Major, a Sick Observer and a Forced Landing in our Trenches 213

26 Dinner at the Savoy in London to Honor our Old Commanding Officer-Back to France, Where we Lose Captain Harold Balfour in a Dogfight 226

27 Two Americans who Lost their Citizenship Return to America at General Mitchell's Recommendation 236

28 Two Weeks with my Family in Boston-Then Texas, Where Space Began-A Hospital that was a Morgue 246

29 New York to See a Great Specialist-The Auctioning of the First American Colors to Cross the German Lines 258

30 A Free Man, Lucky Beyond Belief 264

Acknowledgments 269

Afterword Sally Ann Marsh 271

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2013

    Horses Don¿t Fly was a terrific book. I knew I wanted to read a

    Horses Don’t Fly was a terrific book. I knew I wanted to read a memoir of World War I, but I wasn’t sure it would be the kind of book that I would like. So, when this one caught my attention, I wasn’t sure what to think about it, especially since it wasn’t necessarily written to be published. Fred died in 1970, nine years after he wrote down his life stories. I was very amazed at his ability to retell his great and detailed adventures from age 6 t age 25. I was left bored at some point in the beginning because the whole first half is all about his horses and home life even though he had hilarious stories to tell. It was interesting because of his great skill of working with horses. He was almost a horse whisperer. Some people think there is a relation between aerial war skill and horsemen because many great aces worked with horses for years before.
    Frederick kept saying he wanted to travel but I couldn’t see why he would want to leave all that he had known behind, to fight in war. Once he made it into the army the book really started to spark my attention. I liked how he was such a natural and could do anything because he had very little fear. The average number of hours flown by one person in World War I was 10 hours, Frederick flew over 350 hours. His positive attitude and happy-go-lucky spirit got him through several tough situations. Also, this story makes me want to read more memoirs about this era and the challenges over come by men in war. It was crazy to think Fred hadn’t even seen a plane before joining the army. He amazed me at every point I this story, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. This book exceeded my expectations.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    Tigerfeather

    Walks in wearily and drops down on nest.Waterkit sneaks in and curls up beside her mom.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    Fallenstar

    Warrior Den

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2014

    Highly recommend

    The book drags for a short time then becomes an interesting and exciting narrative of the British Air Force in WW1

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Recommended account of World War I

    Told as a first person narrative, the author talks in simple language of his life both as a cowboy that drifted between ranch jobs at the turn of the century, then as an adventure seeking enlistee in the Royal Air Force at the opening of WWI. Much of the story moves between tongue in cheek anecdotes such as his naive enlistment in the Canadian Air Force for some excitement and a roof over his head, to serious moments of lost friendships when this adventure turns into a serious shooting war. Its a common person's account of a distant war just starting in Europe, his introduction to the first crude British biplanes of that era and the struggle to gain design equality with the German Army "machines." Entertaining, an easy read, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a regular guy's viewpoint of period history.

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  • Posted December 15, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    An endearing book that reads like an American Angela's Ashes in

    An endearing book that reads like an American Angela's Ashes in the author's naiveté and headlong approach to any new turn of events thrown his way.  This book provides an excellent first hand account of early 20th century western life as well as life and death at the British aerodromes along the western front.  Great read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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