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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About the Author
Libby was born on a ranch in Sterling, Colorado, and became the first American ace of World War I. He passed away in 1970.
Table of Contents
Introduction Winston Groom ix
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
Afterword Sally Ann Marsh 271
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
One of my favorite places is The Old Rheinbeck Aerodrome in NY State. I love watching the old WW I aircraft fly. This book brings the story of those aircraft to life...
Informative on RAF WWII
What a great read! As an aviator and a history buff I really enjoyed this.
A book every young person who loves adventure should enjoy- even more if you grew up in similar circumstances. A true believer in being oh so independent and yet he became a real team player when necessary.
A gentleman and a class act. Good clean story telling.
The book drags for a short time then becomes an interesting and exciting narrative of the British Air Force in WW1
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.
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!
Walks in wearily and drops down on nest.Waterkit sneaks in and curls up beside her mom.