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Honouring a WWII Hero who rescued humans and horses


Honouring a WWII Hero who rescued humans and horses

Second Lt. Philip Larimore’s service in World War II was punctuated with remarkable, and sometimes almost unbelievable, acts of bravery on the Southern Front of the European Theatre of Operations — otherwise known as the Forgotten Front.

Larimore’s son Walt Larimore spent sixteen years researching his father’s accomplishments before, during and just after World War II, and he shares his astonishing discoveries in the book, At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse.

Walt Larimore:

“After my father passed away, we found over 450 of his letters. We found his exploits documented in a number of history books and archives. And after over 16 years of research, all that material coalesced into an amazing, almost unbelievable story about a forgotten teenage hero who fought on the Forgotten Front in Europe.”

The youngest-ever graduate of the Army’s Officer Candidate School and one of the most decorated front-line junior officers in the war, Philip Larimore commanded a front-line platoon, shot snipers out of trees from 100 yards away, flew behind enemy lines into Czechoslovakia late in the war, completed a clandestine mission to save the Lipizzaner horses from Hitler’s clutches and became one of the youngest Company Commanders in the war. After VE-Day, he developed a friendship with President Truman and played bridge with General Eisenhower — among many other Forrest Gump-like exploits.

In At First Light, Walt Larimore and co-author Mike Yorkey recount Philip Larimore’s mischievous early years, his banishment to the Gulf Coast Military Academy during adolescence and his astonishing acts of bravery during World War II. Philip Larimore saw 413 days of front-line combat and was awarded three Purple Hearts, including one for losing his right leg in a desperate battle in the last month of the war.

“He never talked about those medals; he never talked about those battles,” Walt Larimore said. “And a lot of the men were like that. They fought for freedom; they fought for liberty. But when they came home, they wanted to live life.”

At First Light recounts Philip Larimore’s heroic post-war battle with the U.S. War Department over its policy of not allowing amputee officers to continue in the Army. The final courtroom testimony, uncovered in the U.S. National Archives, reads like the chilling trial scene between the characters played by Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in the movie, A Few Good Men.

At First Light concludes with Philip Larimore’s heart-warming relationship with a war horse that he saved — and saved him. The details of Philip Larimore’s exceptional military career, including interactions with Winston Churchill, General George Patton and General Lucian Truscott, and his role in a top-secret mission that led to saving the world-famous Lipizzaners, all remained uncovered until the research and publication of At First Light. The book has been praised as being “a riveting story that rivals Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken,” and “a combination of Band of Brothers and War Horse.”

Since the book’s publication, At First Light has been awarded a Silver Medal by the Military Writers Society of America, was named a finalist by the International Page Turner Awards, was featured in the Louisiana Book Festival and led to the 2023 induction of Phil Larimore into the 3rd Infantry Division’s Hall of Fame. Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Army (Ret.) four-star general, former Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and former Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan wrote: “This story is extraordinary: an almost forgotten hero, tough combat, tragic sacrifice, gripping aftermath, a marvelous horse, and an astonishing ending. Don’t miss reading this remarkable book.”

Walt Larimore is an internationally recognized family physician, an award-winning medical journalist, and a bestselling author of over 40 books and over 1,200 articles in professional and lay magazines and journals. He spent more than 16 years traveling to over a dozen archives and military installations in eight U.S. states, England, France and Italy, as well as interviewing many soldiers (and their families) to research, document and write this epic narrative about his father and the countless men and women who fought on “the forgotten front” in southern Europe in World War II.

At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse

Publisher: Knox Press, ISBN-10: ‎ 1642939595, ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1642939590, available from Amazon

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