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“The combat experiences of Phil Larimore, as captured by his son in this terrific and inspirational book, are a testament to the grit and fortitude of a generation who really knew the meaning of duty and personal sacrifice for the greater good.”
— Flint Whitlock, former U.S. Army captain and editor of WWII Quarterly magazine
Colorado Springs CO, November 15, 2022 — Like many children growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, Walt Larimore wanted his dad to have been a hero.
“I wondered because he had pictures of generals in his office that were personalized and autographed; he had shadow boxes of medals; but he never talked about it,” Walt Larimore said in a recent interview.
His father, Lieutenant Philip Larimore, fought in Southern Europe during World War II. But it wasn’t until he had been married for 45 years and his children were grown that he spoke candidly for the first time about his extraordinary encounters and achievements.
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 up to 100 yards, won a steeplechase with a Nazi officer in Czechoslovakia, completed a clandestine mission to save Lipizzaner horses from Hitler, became one of the youngest Company Commanders in the war, along with developing a friendship with President Truman and playing bridge with then-General Eisenhower — among many other almost Forest-Gump-like exploits.
At First Light: A True World War II Story of a Hero, His Bravery, and an Amazing Horse, by Walt Larimore (with co-author Mike Yorkey), recounts Philip Larimore’s mischievous early years, his banishment to the Gulf Coast Military Academy and his astonishing acts of bravery during World War II. He fought 413 days straight, was wounded seven times and was awarded seven purple hearts, three of which he turned down because he didn’t feel the wounds were significant enough.
“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 concludes with 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.
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.”
“Even in these politically tense times, maybe there’s something we can all camp on, and that’s the fact that our ability to even argue rests upon the liberty and freedom that those men and women won for us in World War II,” Walt Larimore added.
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