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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 ropi 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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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 ropi 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    The great war is ended. Democracy, the thing we were told would be preserved by victory, is safe. What our enemies were fighting about, I don’t know but they put up a hell of a battle over something. Horses Don’t Fly is a memoir by Frederick Libby an American Cowboy born in Colorado who became an ace British Fighter Pilot during WW1. The circumstance by which Libby joined the war first as a lorry driver was largely a lark. When he was in Canada for work after the war broke out Libby felt compelle The great war is ended. Democracy, the thing we were told would be preserved by victory, is safe. What our enemies were fighting about, I don’t know but they put up a hell of a battle over something. Horses Don’t Fly is a memoir by Frederick Libby an American Cowboy born in Colorado who became an ace British Fighter Pilot during WW1. The circumstance by which Libby joined the war first as a lorry driver was largely a lark. When he was in Canada for work after the war broke out Libby felt compelled to join up to defeat the Germans. It felt odd to him that the Americans had not joined the war. For the rest of his life he felt a strong kinship with the British. This memoir was written some forty years after the war ended, when Libby was in his sixties. For that reason it almost feels like a contemporary non-fiction work. The first half covers his early cowboy life and may be the better half of the book. There is much more humor and nostalgia concerning his father and brother when they were cowboys in Colorado. Quite a bit of adventure as well in this coming of age tale. Libby’s primary job was to tame wild horses and stray cattle in mountain areas and it was dangerous to say the least. The latter half of the book covers Libby’s time in the service and his pilot and observer exploits that totaled hundreds of flights. Most British pilots were captured or killed after a handful of missions. Libby was well aware that he was living on borrowed time and there was an enormous amount of luck involved. I sensed there was not as much sunlight in this section. Perhaps there were some grizzly situations that he wasn’t ready to talk about. In the afterword we learn that Captain Libby quickly distinguished himself and was ultimately decorated with the Military Cross by the King of England at Buckingham Palace, a rare honor indeed, especially for an American. 4 stars. Well worth the read. The best autobiography that I’ve read by a WW1 pilot although I will grant it is a small universe. And the writing was much better than one could expect from a cowboy-pilot turned writer. The narrative did fade a little at the end and might have benefited from an editor in that regard.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    When I was a lad I used to love being in the presence of men like Libby. There were a lot of them around in the fifties, veterans of both global conflicts and Korea; lumberjacks, cowboys and farmers who signed up to face whatever seemed to be threatening the empire. I even knew a couple of Boer war veterans. Without exception, these chaps signed up voluntarily to go over and do their bit. They were real men with the bark on, tough in a way that comes only from deprivation and toil. Their strengt When I was a lad I used to love being in the presence of men like Libby. There were a lot of them around in the fifties, veterans of both global conflicts and Korea; lumberjacks, cowboys and farmers who signed up to face whatever seemed to be threatening the empire. I even knew a couple of Boer war veterans. Without exception, these chaps signed up voluntarily to go over and do their bit. They were real men with the bark on, tough in a way that comes only from deprivation and toil. Their strength came from hard work, and most would be disdainful of the perfumed poofery and posturing of a modern gym. I loved their stories and I'm afraid I could be a bit of a nuisance in trying to coax more tales out of them. Libby was one of these hard men. He started life as a cowboy in Colorado, and broke tough broncs for top pay, often working alone many miles from the closest neighbor. When he had companions, they would often be fellows who had it in their best interest to avoid towns or any other place that employed a lawman. He cared little for cash and was easily separated from it by folly or friendship. These were the days when friendship was a tangible thing and a fellow could spend from his friends' wallets as freely as he could from his own. Libby ultimately decided to cast his loop further afield. He found himself in Canada and was promptly swindled out of his stake (by an American, I hasten to state), which was one of the contributing factors to joining a transport battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, in spite of the fact that he had never driven anything that didn't have a horse hitched to it. Libby, in effect, declared war on Germany several years before the rest of his homeland. Once overseas, our hero found himself manning a machine-gun as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps. He would eventually become a pilot and rise to the rank of Captain. He was one of the first Americans in action, preceding the exploits of the Lafayette Squadron. Without ruining the book by going into too much detail, I can tell you that this amazing man actually served in the military forces of three sovereign states during the same conflict. His exploits could fill several volumes with no requirement for fluff or filler. This book might not be a great work technically; Libby has a homey style and uses an awkward sentence structure that can be mildly annoying after a while, but he gets full marks for telling a whopping good tale. My biggest beef is that the book could easily have been a little thicker: I would have loved to have coaxed a couple more tales from the good Captain. We owe it to these men to read their memoirs...they are all gone now and it seems like we're not making any more like them.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    Reading Horses Don’t Fly reminded me of listening to a grandfather or perhaps a favorite uncle sharing his stories, weaving you in. I was around the next generation of flyers growing up, but I was also around a few of those whom my father looked up to. Not enough, but then when two or more of the “old school” pilots are gathered, the stories they’ll tell… Libby lived a fascinating life, but he is so humble and real in this memoir, partly because it is so raw in its writing. Don’t let that put yo Reading Horses Don’t Fly reminded me of listening to a grandfather or perhaps a favorite uncle sharing his stories, weaving you in. I was around the next generation of flyers growing up, but I was also around a few of those whom my father looked up to. Not enough, but then when two or more of the “old school” pilots are gathered, the stories they’ll tell… Libby lived a fascinating life, but he is so humble and real in this memoir, partly because it is so raw in its writing. Don’t let that put you off, though. It’s likely I would not have come across this book without reading the review posted by Jim, whose review caught my eye, and to whom I owe my thanks. If you haven’t done so already, hopefully this link will get you there. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...? I loved this book from beginning to end; the only part I disliked was that it had to have an end. I closed the final pages wanting more.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mortensen

    My enjoyment with World War I memoirs attracted me to this book followed by the very eye catching title “Horses Don’t Fly”. Born in 1892 Frederick Libby penned his memoir in 1961, which remained unpublished until 2000. I was further drawn by the fact that during WWI this individual served with the Canadian military, the British Forces as well as the American Expeditionary Forces. As a rugged individual Libby sought and found adventure and throughout this documented life story, his hilarious sens My enjoyment with World War I memoirs attracted me to this book followed by the very eye catching title “Horses Don’t Fly”. Born in 1892 Frederick Libby penned his memoir in 1961, which remained unpublished until 2000. I was further drawn by the fact that during WWI this individual served with the Canadian military, the British Forces as well as the American Expeditionary Forces. As a rugged individual Libby sought and found adventure and throughout this documented life story, his hilarious sense of humor shines through. The 2000 introduction was provided by Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump. Libby was young when his mother passed away, which left his father to raise him on their rural Colorado ranch. During school afternoons Libby donned chaps and spurs along with a rope garnering a reputation for breaking wild horses. The first third of the book captures the atmosphere of a classic Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour western novel, yet this is 100% non-fiction. True to Libby’s comical nature his first pony was called Slowpoke. Thereafter Libby had first choice from the multitude within his craft. As a true cowboy he bonded with his personal horses and he would never part with them for any price. For a brief period he departed from his lifestyle to live with his aunt in Marshfield, Mass. where he continued his high school education and in his spare time indulged in coastal activities including digging a few clams. Upon return to Colorado his horse trade continued to provide both income and friendship contacts throughout other western states. As a dreamer he had visions of traveling away to Tahiti, however once south of the boarder in Mexico he soon found himself north in Canada. The Great War, which began in 1914 showed the rippling effects of becoming a world war. Libby, physically fit in his early 20’s was overcome by curiosity, which propelled him to join the Canadian military destined for Europe and a jaunt further from home. Once committed Libby was informed that the unfortunate hitch was that he had to relinquish is American citizenship. The war atmosphere was certainly not Tahiti. Libby tired of inclement weather and rain was enlightened by an opportunity to join the British Royal Flying Corps, as through his unique thought process he figured fighter planes only fly in sunny weather. His excitement is diminished when he realizes that he is being drawn further into more harrowing combat action. Libby becomes an officer and actively serves with other RFC heroes including Capt. Albert Ball credited with 47 victories. In 1916 Libby had the honor to be issued to Buckingham Palace to be awarded the Military Cross by King George V. The following spring he placed an American flag off the back of his English plane as a streamer to let the Germans know there was an American in the air too. When America entered the war the Signal Corps had an immediate need for U.S. aviators. During the fall of 1917 Col. William “Billy” Mitchell and Ambassador Page requested that Libby meet with officials in Washington, D.C. to regain his American citizenship and join cause with the U.S. aviators. While pondering his decision he noted: “…which to say the least is away from Washington where a politician will give you anything the hen laid, except the egg. These politicians are worse than a pimp. A pimp only takes a gal’s dough. These boys will take everybody’s dough. They damn near own our country.” The choice to part with his close comrades from the RAF was not easy, but he transitioned to wearing the American officer’s uniform. Throughout the lighter reflections within the book a first person historical account has the power fully portray reality. Libby mentioned: “Those who survive will live in a world of their own, isolated in thought from families and others to whom they seem unreal. The few infantrymen who survive the trenches will not be able to talk to anyone other than their own kind. They will always think and remember things no one believes who wasn’t [weren’t] there.” For 27 ½ years I was very close to a man who fit that description.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Relstuart

    Great Story. One more people should read. Very well written with many humorous and interesting anecdotes . Feels authentic without being pretentious or braggadocios. It follows the author from growing up as a cowboy in the American Old West to being one of the first American pilots in WWI. Interesting to note the differences between the British and the Americans on so many different levels. It was enough to make me wish I was born in time to fly in WWI. With the Brits. Make no mistake, the WWI Ai Great Story. One more people should read. Very well written with many humorous and interesting anecdotes . Feels authentic without being pretentious or braggadocios. It follows the author from growing up as a cowboy in the American Old West to being one of the first American pilots in WWI. Interesting to note the differences between the British and the Americans on so many different levels. It was enough to make me wish I was born in time to fly in WWI. With the Brits. Make no mistake, the WWI Air War was tough and the author talks about coming home to empty chairs round empty tables after some missions where there were few survivors. So far my favorite flying memoir from WWI. I'd love to see this one on the Chief of Staff of the Air Force's reading list.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John

    what a great book, that could have been overlooked. I picked this up because of an old interest in everything to do with airplanes. Fred Libby grew up as a rough and tumble cowboy, joined the Canadian Army, went to France in WW I, transfered to the RFC and has a multitude of funny and sad stories about his life. This is the type of guy you could sit and have a beer with and just listen to his great stories. Highly recommended!!!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    I just finished this and it will become one of my most recommended. Fred Libby led a life that is no longer possible in a modern society, he will make you wish could. Fascinating life told with great humor and humility.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    3.5 to 4 stars, "Horses Don't Fly" by Frederick Libby is worth your reading time. This is a rather unique autobiography. The book is written by someone who's about as far from being a professional writer as one could be. It's obvious, yet the book works, maintaining my interest and and enjoyment. Frederick Libby lived a life few of us could even imagine. Born in Colorado in 1891, he was a cowboy, WW l fighter ace, oil drilling wildcatter, founder of Western Airlines, among other things. The book 3.5 to 4 stars, "Horses Don't Fly" by Frederick Libby is worth your reading time. This is a rather unique autobiography. The book is written by someone who's about as far from being a professional writer as one could be. It's obvious, yet the book works, maintaining my interest and and enjoyment. Frederick Libby lived a life few of us could even imagine. Born in Colorado in 1891, he was a cowboy, WW l fighter ace, oil drilling wildcatter, founder of Western Airlines, among other things. The book covers mainly his cowboy and WW l exploits. I won't say more to avoid spoilers. I recommend this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    This is a memoir of a man who lived life and left nothing on the table. He grew up in that time of US history that saw rapid changes to how life was lived, from the introduction of electricity to rise of use of the automobile as a primary means of transportation. He grew up learning how to break horses, and then made his way on his own working various jobs. Eventually he found himself in Calgary when WWI broke out, and joined up with the Canadian Army as a truck driver, even though he had never This is a memoir of a man who lived life and left nothing on the table. He grew up in that time of US history that saw rapid changes to how life was lived, from the introduction of electricity to rise of use of the automobile as a primary means of transportation. He grew up learning how to break horses, and then made his way on his own working various jobs. Eventually he found himself in Calgary when WWI broke out, and joined up with the Canadian Army as a truck driver, even though he had never driven an automobile in his life. Once over in France, he answered the call to be an observer in the Royal Flying Corp, the predecessor to the modern RAF. He excelled in that role, eventually was a recipient of the Military Cross. He flew many sorties over enemy lines both as an observer, and then as a pilot. The writing was narrative in nature, but to the point and didn't dwell on unnecessary details. There were many stories that were quite humorous (roping an antelope at around age 8 - and the lessons learned from that) as well as interesting from a historical point of view (how he improved on the Lewis guns that the observers used). An interesting man during an interesting time of history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Susan Ferguson

    I really enjoyed this. The language seems a little old-fashioned, but parts were absolutely hilarious! The author was born in 1892, in Sterling, Platte Valley in Colorado. His mother died when he was 4 of consumption, so his father was always worried that he might come down with it. But, he turned out to be rather healthy and hardy. He was the youngest - his brother was 12 years older and his sister 13 years older. His father sent his sister to live with relatives after his mother died, but he hi I really enjoyed this. The language seems a little old-fashioned, but parts were absolutely hilarious! The author was born in 1892, in Sterling, Platte Valley in Colorado. His mother died when he was 4 of consumption, so his father was always worried that he might come down with it. But, he turned out to be rather healthy and hardy. He was the youngest - his brother was 12 years older and his sister 13 years older. His father sent his sister to live with relatives after his mother died, but he hired someone to come and cook, etc. for the 3 of them. He turned down all offers of relatives who wanted to take the young boy and raise him. His brother Bud told him his problem was he was too impatient, but he was always getting into unbelievable scrapes (generally from not thinking things through), but he managed to survive and come out ahead. He usually remarked to himself when he screwed up - when will I learn! At 6 when he started school, his father gave him a pony to ride to school. About 2 years later, Bud parted him from the pony, said he was too big for it and gave him a couple of Indian ponies to break and train. He grew up believing in training and breaking with kindness unlike several of his friends. He went on to break his own wild horses, always keeping the first he ever broke as a special pet, a palomino he named Pal. He had quite a few offers, but refused to be parted from him and when he began to travel, left Pal in his brother's care because he knew Bud would never sell him but would keep and take care of Pal. He survived the terrible blizzard that lasted 3 months and wiped out thousands of cattle by himself in a sod hut with his 3 horses in a nearby sod stable. He was supposed to look out for the cattle who normally wintered with no problems, but this year was an exception. Fortunately, he had enough supplies for himself and his horses, the cattle were supposed to winter off the range, but he saw no one for months - until the blizzard ended and there was a thaw. He decided he would go to Tahiti because there was a magazine at the hut with pictures of Tahiti - it was nice and warm there. But somehow, with the friends he kept running into, he made it to Arizona and then ended up in Canada where he was when WWI broke out. He joined up with the Canadian army as a truck driver. After all, the war was supposed to be over before he got there and he would get some money and a free trip. After he reached France with the truck driving squad he saw a notice on the bulletin board for observers for the RFC and decided to get out of the rain. At least, observers didn't fly when it rained. So he earned his observer wings and got his training in combat and came up with the idea for a buttstock for the machine gun the observers were using on the F.E.2bs that they flew. This would give better balance and handling to the observer. So, his pilot thought it was a good idea, and the Major over the squad thought it was a good idea, and the crew chief made one which soon everyone wanted because it worked so much better for the conditions. He made pilot and ace with 14 kills as a pilot and 10 as an observer. Then, Billy Mitchell asked for several of the Americans to return to the US to help train US pilots - which was a total loss as there was great resistance in the US armed forces to the idea of a flying corps, they called it signal corps. An informative book, told in a light amusing style. It was quite fun to read and most of his adventures are told him a tone of voice where he does not aggrandize himself or boast. More often he wonders how he survived. I highly recommend this......

  11. 5 out of 5

    Don Cross

    When Frederick Libby wrote about his early life and exploits, I assumed it would be another memoir self-designed to project his image in the best possible light. It became apparent early on that such is not the case. In his own unvarnished words, he paints an honest and occasionally uncomplimentary picture of his early life in Western territories of the United States at the turn of the century. It is the tale of a lust for life that leads him through a series of cowboy adventures (and misadventu When Frederick Libby wrote about his early life and exploits, I assumed it would be another memoir self-designed to project his image in the best possible light. It became apparent early on that such is not the case. In his own unvarnished words, he paints an honest and occasionally uncomplimentary picture of his early life in Western territories of the United States at the turn of the century. It is the tale of a lust for life that leads him through a series of cowboy adventures (and misadventures), culminating in a chance opportunity to join the Canadian Service as a truck driver, even though he'd never driven a mechanized vehicle in his life. After arriving in France, his unit will never be called to drive into combat, but a long rainy season leaves him spoiling for something else to do. He notices a posting on a bulletin board for volunteers to become aerial observers. He volunteers, and so starts the second half of his memoir. With the same self-effacing tone that has become as comfortable chatting with your own grandfather he traces his way through his experiences in the air, the horror of war in the trenches, and his unsettling experiences with the American military after America joins the war effort. I wish I'd found this book in time to share it with my father. He would have enjoyed it at least as much as I did.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Libby has a marvellous, possibly unique, ability to make the first world war sound relatively cheerful. His voice throughout this memoir is optimistic, self-deprecating, and happy-go-lucky. This makes for a very readable, funny, and entertaining book. It begins with his upbringing as a cowboy (or 'cowpuncher') in the US, then follows the chain of events that result in him flying with the UK air force. This provides a rather beautiful illustration of how happenstance and serendipity shape one's l Libby has a marvellous, possibly unique, ability to make the first world war sound relatively cheerful. His voice throughout this memoir is optimistic, self-deprecating, and happy-go-lucky. This makes for a very readable, funny, and entertaining book. It begins with his upbringing as a cowboy (or 'cowpuncher') in the US, then follows the chain of events that result in him flying with the UK air force. This provides a rather beautiful illustration of how happenstance and serendipity shape one's life, something Libby is very much aware of. After a terrible winter taking care of cows, he decides to head for somewhere hot like Tahiti, but ends up in Canada with a friend, where he is talked into joining the army when war breaks out. At first he's supposed to be driving trucks, despite having no idea how to do so, but then tries for a position as an 'observer' in the air force. He quickly learns that observers are in fact navigators and gunners, in fact they do everything except fly the plane. He experiences of flying form the longest and most gripping part of the book. It seems mind-blowing now how flimsy fighter planes were in the first world war, not to mention the utter lack of training pilots and 'observers' were given. It was a mixture of skill, luck, and (surely) attitude that allowed Libby to survive when so many did not. Despite the terrible attrition rate of the air force, Libby remains adamant that he had it a lot better than the infantry, stuck in the horrors of the trenches. Libby has a real talent for anecdote-telling, both in the case of funny and terrifying happenings. Some incidents encompass both, such as the time when he was piloting a plane, his steering locked up, and he couldn't attract the attention of his inexperienced 'observer'. So he had to undo his safety belt, crawl out of the cockpit, and thwack the unobservant observer around the head. How he managed this without crashing the plane is beyond me. I recommend 'Horses Don't Fly' as an amusing personal memoir, but also as an interesting angle on the first world war, especially America's involvement in it. Although Libby has nothing but kind words for the British military and is largely positive about the Canadians, the US military seem to have treated him consistently badly. His lack of conspicuous patriotism is also notable and refreshing, although I suppose the defensive hyper-patriotism that I tend to associate with the US and its military emerged much later (in the 1950s maybe?). The importance of friendships to Libby is heart-warming, as he finds great people across the Americas and Europe. He was clearly a brave, brilliant man, probably great company, and definitely deserving of remembrance.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Beckett

    Frederick Libby was not a writer. He lived an expansive life and told his story well, however. From his youth in the wilds of the American west where horses were common and electricity was unknown, Libby shares first hand insights into the exploits of a boy with no fear - and the bumps and bruises that come from that all-too-common lack of common sense young boys are known for. Yet adventure is his calling. From the back of a horse, to the plains filled with nothing but open sky, to a winter spe Frederick Libby was not a writer. He lived an expansive life and told his story well, however. From his youth in the wilds of the American west where horses were common and electricity was unknown, Libby shares first hand insights into the exploits of a boy with no fear - and the bumps and bruises that come from that all-too-common lack of common sense young boys are known for. Yet adventure is his calling. From the back of a horse, to the plains filled with nothing but open sky, to a winter spent in the midst of thousands of dead cattle - Libby tells his tale. From Mexico to Canada, then on to Europe in WWI where he became intimately familiar with machines of war that were unknown in his home town. Libby gambles, rambles, drives, and flies from one curious turn of events to the next, always wide eyed with wonder, always willing to accept a new challenge, see new sights, or make a new friend. Without giving the details of his journey away - Horses Don't Fly is a compelling read historically, as well as on basic human terms. Read it. You will cherish the experience.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jannie

    I have to admit this isn't my usual cup of tea when it comes to reading material. My husband passed it along to me after he had finished and said, "You've got to read this." That being said, I actually found myself really enjoying it. Captain Libby writes his story with great charm and whit. You can't help but like him. He had such an adventerous spirit and a zest for life. I was kind of sad when it was finished, because I wanted to find out what kind of adventure he was going to get himself into I have to admit this isn't my usual cup of tea when it comes to reading material. My husband passed it along to me after he had finished and said, "You've got to read this." That being said, I actually found myself really enjoying it. Captain Libby writes his story with great charm and whit. You can't help but like him. He had such an adventerous spirit and a zest for life. I was kind of sad when it was finished, because I wanted to find out what kind of adventure he was going to get himself into next. An Afterward by his granddaughter does give you a little glimpse of what happened to him after the war, which I enjoyed. Captain Libby was like a real John Wayne!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    The Autobiography of Frederick Libby Americas first Ace in WWI is written in a style that is reminiscent of Louis L'amoure. Uncompromising and frank its a very well done Autobiography that I would recommend to almost anyone Well worth the read. The Autobiography of Frederick Libby Americas first Ace in WWI is written in a style that is reminiscent of Louis L'amoure. Uncompromising and frank its a very well done Autobiography that I would recommend to almost anyone Well worth the read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jack Ogg

    Great story by an american aviation pioneer Could not put this down. As a Naval Aviator the historic content was fascinating. The politics of the war department seemed aboutlike the current pentagon. Wonderful book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

    This book is the extraordinary true story of Frederick Libby who went from cowpuncher to World War I flying ace with the Canadian and then British Army. Libby's writing is straightforward and honest, at times hilarious, at other times poignant. One of the laugh-out-loud moments of the book is when he tries to rope an antelope in his Sunday best one morning when he sees them gazing in his yard. He writes: "My beautiful overhand loop has opened directly above and in front, so Mr. Antelope has no p This book is the extraordinary true story of Frederick Libby who went from cowpuncher to World War I flying ace with the Canadian and then British Army. Libby's writing is straightforward and honest, at times hilarious, at other times poignant. One of the laugh-out-loud moments of the book is when he tries to rope an antelope in his Sunday best one morning when he sees them gazing in his yard. He writes: "My beautiful overhand loop has opened directly above and in front, so Mr. Antelope has no place to go. But go he does, straight up, turning in the air toward the wide open spaces. This is possibly the first and only time a small boy has been attached to a jet-propelled antelope." Clearly Mr. Libby was quite a child, being raised by his father, a widower, and his older brother. One time Mr. Libby bets months worth of salary having worked for his brother on one hand in a poker game and loses. He explains that he has to borrow money from his brother: "Without any shame or hesitancy, I ask Bud to loan me twenty bucks. Bud’s hand reaches for his bank roll. “Sure I will and glad you came up. I want to talk to you and a decision has to be made by tomorrow morning. What did you do with your dough, put it in a bank?” When I break the news that I lost the works in a stud poker game in one hand, he looks me over, saying, “How much did you lose?” “Well, Bud,” I reply, “you paid me. You should know.” Because of the loss of the money he ends up working by himself at an outrider camp watching the cattle during the winter. It turns out to be the worst winter in his life. He ends up in the cabin alone for 5 months, snowed in, while cattle die around him. Out of 3500 cattle, only 300 are left alive come spring. At the time he is nineteen years old. He comes away from that experience not liking winter. He ends up drifting up to Canada and he and a buddy promptly lose 90% of their money investing in a "can't miss" oil company and this leads them to enlist in the Canadian army just after World War I starts. He ends up in France driving supply trucks to and from the front, when he volunteers to be an observer in a fighter aircraft. In one day he "qualifies" as an observer and is promptly sent into combat. Needless to say, many observers did not last very long. He eventually becomes a pilot himself and ends up flying 350 combat hours. I could go on and on, but read it for yourself. It's a quick read, and Mr. Libby is an engaging and honest author and his really is an extraordinary life. We find out in the afterward that he became a millionaire after the war working in the oil industry, then went bust when an oilfield he was developing resisted longer than his money did before finally giving up its oil. Amazing guy. Amazing story.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stan Matsui

    I just finished Horses Don't Fly, the autobiography of Captain Frederick Libby. Captain Libby was an American who found himself in the Royal Air Force, serving from 1914 to 1917. His story is an interesting, desultory path from his misadventures as a youth; breaking wild horses; tending cattle; enlisting in the armed forces in Canada; and eventually flying for the RAF. I gained new understanding and respect for the "observer" who flew during WW I; his work was much more than I knew. His writing e I just finished Horses Don't Fly, the autobiography of Captain Frederick Libby. Captain Libby was an American who found himself in the Royal Air Force, serving from 1914 to 1917. His story is an interesting, desultory path from his misadventures as a youth; breaking wild horses; tending cattle; enlisting in the armed forces in Canada; and eventually flying for the RAF. I gained new understanding and respect for the "observer" who flew during WW I; his work was much more than I knew. His writing echos the style of his times (he was born in the 19th century), and has a quaint style and understated quality. An excerpt: “Everything is ready, except Sally to brush my hair and put on the black ribbon tie, when I take a last look out the window. Here is something to gladden the heart of any small boy On our lawn, eating our wonderful green grass, are five of the prettiest antelope I have ever seen. They evidently have just landed, because when I looked out the window before, they were not there. Three of this bunch I have seen before, the two little guys are new. The three largest ones were here in the winter looking for food on a day when there was a big blizzard. Sally fed them some potato peelings and Bud [his long-suffering older brother] put out some hay on top of the snow. Then they were very thin and didn’t look good, but today they are fat and beautiful, with their big bunch of white hair for a tail and their slick coat. They are a sight to see. This is the only time I ever saw antelope this close to town in the summer. In the winter they are a common sight, especially around our house at the edge of town where they seem to know they’re welcome. Ignoring my ponies, I go through the stable to the front of the mangers where there is a runway between the manger and the door opening toward our house. Here hang three saddles, Father's Bud's and mine. But what I am after is a dandy thirty-five-foot rope which Bud uses for front-footing. This is coiled up and hangs on the horn of his saddle. I remove it quickly. Looking out through a crack in the door, I spot my babies all happy with their heads in the grass, the largest of the five not ten feet from the door...”

  19. 5 out of 5

    R.E.J. Burke

    I bought this book thinking it was about flying fighters in WWI. It is that and a lot more. The first half is about the author growing up on a ranch and travelling the west doing varied wrangling jobs. With that unexpected revelation, I'm surprised I didn't toss the book, but the first half is compelling reading. The second half deals with how he got involved in WWI, and the tale of how an American enlists in a war his country had not yet entered, how he ended up in France for more than two years I bought this book thinking it was about flying fighters in WWI. It is that and a lot more. The first half is about the author growing up on a ranch and travelling the west doing varied wrangling jobs. With that unexpected revelation, I'm surprised I didn't toss the book, but the first half is compelling reading. The second half deals with how he got involved in WWI, and the tale of how an American enlists in a war his country had not yet entered, how he ended up in France for more than two years of the most concentrated mayhem man has conceived using tactics that were more stupid than the Union's prosecution of our Civil War. Since it's a memoir, it's easy to read because we know he survived. But for me, a pilot who has been obsessed with airplanes fighting since birth, I was enthralled by the insights of the author into a manner of flying warfare and a detailed feel for the execution of aerial fighting in WWI that I have finally found written by an honest man who actually flew the machines. I highly recommend this memoir to anyone whose interest is piqued by the idea of (1) a Colorado cowboy's world just before WWI; (2) the hysterical death wish of the participant countries and their young men, until they discovered the horror of the new "trench warfare" and its butcher's bill; (3) how an enlisted cowboy survives 300+ hours of aerial combat when the usual average survival of new pilots was about 10 flying hours; (4) and how an American earned a British Military Cross with all pomp at Buckingham Palace. There is a Wikipedia biography of author Frederick Libby, just google his name. Read the book first, for it is an unembellished memoir and far more engrossing than a Wiki bio.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Helen Edwards

    This was one of the best memoirs I have read. It is the story of a man who grows up as a cowboy with horses as his focus. He would prefer to stay on his family farm but is sent to school with an aunt. Once he is grown, he takes off on an adventure with his friend, supposedly to go to the tropics but ends up in Calgary, Alberta in 1914. War has been declared and he and his friend sign up for the Canadian army. The story records their military training and their travels overseas. The first-hand st This was one of the best memoirs I have read. It is the story of a man who grows up as a cowboy with horses as his focus. He would prefer to stay on his family farm but is sent to school with an aunt. Once he is grown, he takes off on an adventure with his friend, supposedly to go to the tropics but ends up in Calgary, Alberta in 1914. War has been declared and he and his friend sign up for the Canadian army. The story records their military training and their travels overseas. The first-hand stories of battle are eye-opening and record the horrors of the battlefront. Once overseas, the writer becomes part of the Royal Flying Corps, starting as an observer. He develops a piece of equipment that makes gunners safer and progresses to become a pilot. His tales of air combat are breathtaking and you feel you are in the air with the flyers. His time after the war is nowhere as exciting but just as meaningful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book as it added to my knowledge of World War I.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Awesome. I was hooked by the concept of flight, interested in how horses would tie into flight, and learned a lot more than I thought I would about a part of WW1. Sometimes I regret an American education. How unfortunate is it that the American politics that existed during those war years have not improved. How embarrassing is that we still treat out soldiers as third rate citizens? These volunteers they give up their young adult lives so lawyers and politicians and activists even today can explo Awesome. I was hooked by the concept of flight, interested in how horses would tie into flight, and learned a lot more than I thought I would about a part of WW1. Sometimes I regret an American education. How unfortunate is it that the American politics that existed during those war years have not improved. How embarrassing is that we still treat out soldiers as third rate citizens? These volunteers they give up their young adult lives so lawyers and politicians and activists even today can exploit the freedom patriots like Captain Libby fought to preserve. If you have never served this book will probably confuse you. If you have never lived in a tent on deployment you will not feel the rain, you will not be able to join Libby in France as he desires more than anything to find a way to stay dry. If you have never experienced being in command or taking full responsibility for you actions and the actions of your crew, read this book and put yourself on the balance. how do you measure up? It made me think about what my memoirs would say about me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James Grubb

    The biography of Frederick Liddy is an truly interesting story of a young American cowboy who joins the Canadian Army in WW1 as a truck driver - never having driven a truck. After arriving in France, Fred, becomes an Observer, Gunner, with the Royal Flying Corps. His training is on the job, in real battles with his German opposition. Once Fred has earned his Observer Wings, he has the opportunity to train as a pilot and becomes a very successful one. Many of Fred's stories are intriguing. He alo The biography of Frederick Liddy is an truly interesting story of a young American cowboy who joins the Canadian Army in WW1 as a truck driver - never having driven a truck. After arriving in France, Fred, becomes an Observer, Gunner, with the Royal Flying Corps. His training is on the job, in real battles with his German opposition. Once Fred has earned his Observer Wings, he has the opportunity to train as a pilot and becomes a very successful one. Many of Fred's stories are intriguing. He along with any other American that went to fight in WW1 lost their American citizenship - at least until America joined the war. Life expectancy for both Observers and Pilots was very short and few who served for the years Fred did, survived. The writing is not brilliant but there is little waffle and Fred pays homage to many and never attempts to paint himself a hero. Apparently written from memory there are inaccuracies with timelines but even so it a good read!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Holly A. Woodruff

    What an amazing story, humbly told I have tried to.learn more about WW I and after reading reviews, I gave this book a try. I was not disappointed. Libby or Cap, as his granddaughter calls him, tells first about his life as a boy and young man working as a cowboy. One thing leads to another and he finds himself in Canada and in their air corps, well before the U.S. enters the war. His writing is down to earth with an old time cadence to it. He was born about the same time as my grandfather, and l What an amazing story, humbly told I have tried to.learn more about WW I and after reading reviews, I gave this book a try. I was not disappointed. Libby or Cap, as his granddaughter calls him, tells first about his life as a boy and young man working as a cowboy. One thing leads to another and he finds himself in Canada and in their air corps, well before the U.S. enters the war. His writing is down to earth with an old time cadence to it. He was born about the same time as my grandfather, and like my grandpa, he was often suckered into losing his money. My grandpa had that same trusting acceptance of life and people, although my grandpa never got further in life than working in a gas station. Cap gives you a different look at WW I, told from the air rather than from the trenches. You won't be disappointed in his memoir. A life well lived indeed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mr A Stevenson

    A thoroughly great book, really enjoyed it. Frederick Libby didn’t so much write his memories for us to read, because it felt more like he was there telling you about his life. His style captured the reader to a point that you must have more. Each part of his life he described one can’t wait for the next episode. The descriptions were simple, yet vivid and the addition of photos made it more personal, not just to Frederick, but it makes the reader feel like a friend, or member of the family. When A thoroughly great book, really enjoyed it. Frederick Libby didn’t so much write his memories for us to read, because it felt more like he was there telling you about his life. His style captured the reader to a point that you must have more. Each part of his life he described one can’t wait for the next episode. The descriptions were simple, yet vivid and the addition of photos made it more personal, not just to Frederick, but it makes the reader feel like a friend, or member of the family. When I came to the end of the book I was very sad, because it was the end and I really didn’t want to put it down. Hats off to Captain Libby (who should really have been a Major).

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mr R bell

    The Cowboy Aviator I loved reading this book from the first page unto the last , with its fateful twists and turns as his life story unfolds, seemingly completely haphazardly, it is quite a rollercoaster ride. If this story had been fiction it would of made a good read but as an autobiography it is a priceless piece of writing and a timely reminder of events that happened around a hundred years ago. I will happily recommend this book to my friends as just about anybody would enjoy this wonderfu The Cowboy Aviator I loved reading this book from the first page unto the last , with its fateful twists and turns as his life story unfolds, seemingly completely haphazardly, it is quite a rollercoaster ride. If this story had been fiction it would of made a good read but as an autobiography it is a priceless piece of writing and a timely reminder of events that happened around a hundred years ago. I will happily recommend this book to my friends as just about anybody would enjoy this wonderful story

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard Harral

    Fantastic book. Tons of fun to read. To compare British treatment of their air man and how the USA is especially interesting. No wonder the RAF could save England from Hitler’s war machine. The writer of this book was truly a real man and hero. The short praise by the book writer’s granddaughter about her grandpa is wonderful too. From a poorly educated wandering cowboy to a WW1 hero is proof that if you want to do something and have the grit you can do it. Read it and have your teenage children Fantastic book. Tons of fun to read. To compare British treatment of their air man and how the USA is especially interesting. No wonder the RAF could save England from Hitler’s war machine. The writer of this book was truly a real man and hero. The short praise by the book writer’s granddaughter about her grandpa is wonderful too. From a poorly educated wandering cowboy to a WW1 hero is proof that if you want to do something and have the grit you can do it. Read it and have your teenage children read it even if you have to take their phone away from them for a week.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert Wilson

    The men who came before us The author's insights into his friends, enemies, lovers, and friend animals were well written with a laconic touch that gave you deep understanding bathed in humor and deep understanding. He was a man to ride the river with; a man you could trust. I am grateful he was there to help form the best in the American persona: we were well represented in war, peace, and honorable interaction with others. Thank you for all you gave us to imulate. The men who came before us The author's insights into his friends, enemies, lovers, and friend animals were well written with a laconic touch that gave you deep understanding bathed in humor and deep understanding. He was a man to ride the river with; a man you could trust. I am grateful he was there to help form the best in the American persona: we were well represented in war, peace, and honorable interaction with others. Thank you for all you gave us to imulate.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Greg Fletcher

    Exceptional biography. Frederick Libby knew that he wasn't perfect, but he had a "Forrest Gump" knack for being at the right place at the right time. He attributed the majority of his life experiences to luck. I believe he was one of those people who wasn't afraid to make a from-the-hip life-changing decision. It could be that his early life growing up on a horse and cow ranch instilled in him a toughness in regards to making those decisions work. I recommend this read. Exceptional biography. Frederick Libby knew that he wasn't perfect, but he had a "Forrest Gump" knack for being at the right place at the right time. He attributed the majority of his life experiences to luck. I believe he was one of those people who wasn't afraid to make a from-the-hip life-changing decision. It could be that his early life growing up on a horse and cow ranch instilled in him a toughness in regards to making those decisions work. I recommend this read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jack Probst

    This was a fantastic read. The memoir brings to life the early years of Fred Libby as he transitions from a cowhand to serving in the RFC during WWI. His experiences shed light on what life was like not just on the wide-open prairies at the turn of the 20th century but also the rigors of day to day life for a soldier and aviator in WWI. Mr. Libby provided a true glimpse into the experiences of the day and what drove decisions and actions that were critical to success and survival.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bhuwan Chand

    Most people spend their whole life struggling with same thing again and again; while some live their one life to the fullest experiencing all kinds of adventures... Frederick Libby truly lived his life; what he achieved in the first 26 years of his life, most of us barely read about it in the books or watch it on the small/ big screen. The thing I loved most in this book is the focus on staying positive. Every hurdle, every struggle, every challenge that the writer faced, he didn't crib about it Most people spend their whole life struggling with same thing again and again; while some live their one life to the fullest experiencing all kinds of adventures... Frederick Libby truly lived his life; what he achieved in the first 26 years of his life, most of us barely read about it in the books or watch it on the small/ big screen. The thing I loved most in this book is the focus on staying positive. Every hurdle, every struggle, every challenge that the writer faced, he didn't crib about it, he embraced it whole-heartedly and used it as a platform to step up in life. Despite the severe hardships (described in a cheerful tone in the book), Frederick Libby had a fun filled life. I wish I could say the same when its time for me to say good bye. This book is truly an inspiration one...

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