The review will be formally published in ARMY Magazine (Vol. 72, No. 8, August 2022) in their Book Reviews section that is written by AUSA Staff.
The author, Col. Cole Kingseed, U.S. Army retired, is a former professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a doctorate in history from Ohio State University.
You can read the entire review here or below, but here is his stunning conclusion:
At First Light is a riveting story that rivals Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. We are in Walt Larimore and Yorkey’s debt for making Philip Larimore’s story accessible to the American public.
This wonderful review gave me misty eyes and chill bumps! I’m so grateful Dad’s stories and the “Forgotten Front” are being recognized and remembered.
This is especially true since the magazine circulation is approximately 60,000, along with 99,221 people who like their Facebook page, 5,308 Instagram followers, and 21.2k Twitter followers. You can order hard copy reprints at ausa.org/about-army-magazine.
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SON WRITES OF HIS FATHER’S TRIAL BY FIRE
At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse. Walt Larimore and Mike Yorkey. Knox Press. 480 pages. $35
By Col. Cole Kingseed, U.S. Army retired
Personal stories of “the greatest generation” remind us of the indomitable will of soldiers who stand at the vanguard of freedom. In At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse, authors Walt Larimore and Mike Yorkey recount the heroics of Larimore’s father, a junior officer who served in the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. The book traces the combat odyssey of Lt. Philip Larimore Jr., who fought on World War II’s “forgotten” southern European front.
Walt Larimore and Yorkey are prolific writers. Larimore has 40 books to his credit; Yorkey has authored and co-authored over 110 books in many genres. At First Light is the result of more than 15 years of painstaking research by Larimore to honor “[his] father’s legacy as well as the men he fought with and the women who aided in his recovery,” according to Larimore’s epilogue.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1925, Larimore’s father became an accomplished horseman and later earned the distinction of being the youngest second lieutenant in the Army at 18 years old after he graduated from Officer Candidate School. Transferred overseas, Philip Larimore received his baptism by fire in February 1944 on the Anzio beachhead in Italy, where he served as a platoon leader.
After receiving his first Silver Star on the Italian mainland, he participated in Operation Dragoon—the invasion of southern France—and subsequent advances into the Vosges Mountains and the Colmar Pocket, both in France, and finally, Germany.
On April 3, 1945, Larimore led a secret one-day mission into Czechoslovakia to rescue the famous Lipizzaner horses, prized by European royalty. Five days after, Larimore suffered a severe leg wound and later received his third Purple Heart and second Silver Star. Surgeons subsequently amputated Larimore’s leg above the knee.
Larimore’s postwar legacy is more remarkable than his combat exploits. According to the authors, Larimore was one of the 15,000 American soldiers wounded in action who required a major amputation. Rather than bemoaning his fate, Larimore successfully lobbied the War Department to remain on limited duty. During his therapy, Larimore joined the Atlanta Hunt Club, where he could put his equestrian skills to better use.
A year later, Larimore was reassigned as executive officer of the 2511th Special Ceremonial Detachment at Fort Myer, Virginia. His chief duties encompassed performing ceremonial tasks such as standard and full-honor funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, wreath ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and military reviews in support of senior Army leaders and retiring soldiers.
In 1947, Larimore appeared before the Army Retiring Board and was found permanently incapacitated for active service. Though disappointed that he could not remain on active duty, Larimore was delighted to hear that his second Silver Star had been upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. He was officially discharged from the Army in July 1947. Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he earned a master’s degree from the University of Virginia.
Larimore died on Oct. 31, 2003, and was buried with full military honors at Port Hudson National Cemetery, Louisiana.
Col. Cole Kingseed, U.S. Army retired, a former professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, is a writer and consultant. He holds a doctorate in history from Ohio State University.