BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – You are an infantryman during the Second World War. Your commander comes to you on a secret mission behind enemy lines. You will have to go it alone, and if you are arrested, the United States will deny all information about you. As far as the Army is concerned, you are the AWOL. If you die, your family will not receive any life insurance.
It sounds like a movie plot. But that was the exact question that was posed to Major Philip Larimore in April 1945. The secret mission he accepted led to the rescue of some fairly well-known names. His military career more bizarre than fiction was brought together by his son, Walt, following Philip’s death in 2003.
Like most men who survived the battlefields of World War II, Philip left behind his war stories.
“We know he has a lot of medals in his office,” said Walt. “And he had a bunch of autographed generals like, “To a fighter,” “For the best soldier I ever fought with,” but he never talked about it. that.”
It wasn’t until Philip had been married for 50 years and his children were grown that he began to talk about what happened there.
“The stories, quite frankly, are unbelievable. The story jumps onto the back of a tank to rescue a team. The story of shooting snipers from a tree at 100 meters with a .50 caliber machine gun,” added Walt.
Walt had to find out, so he plunged into his father’s life.
“He was a thug, thug, and thug, so his mom and dad sent him to military school,” Walt joked.
Philip graduated from the Gulf Coast Military Academy and transferred to the Officer Candidate School. He was promoted to second lieutenant on his 18th birthday – the youngest non-commissioned officer ever in the US Army.
From there, she proceeded to the Anzio trench with the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion.
“He went there, he said, ‘to kick Hitler.’ For freedom, and freedom, and fight, warrior and hero. That first night, he realized that he was there for his people,” explains Walt.
Philip’s mission was to supply the men on the front lines. A conversation with a farmer he met led Philip to change the way his troops’ bullets moved for the rest of the war.
“The farmer said that these mules are smarter than a horse. They know where the mines are and they will avoid them. When a fire breaks out, they will lie down and protect your people, and can carry more things than any of your people,” noted Walt.
The 30th Infantry Division liberated Rome, Sicily, and drove the Nazis out of the Vosges Mountains.
“They fought for 513 days nonstop. Dad fought for those 413 days. Psychiatrists tell us that when a frontline soldier reaches his 200th day, that’s when he begins to lose his grasp of reality. These men haven’t broken in hundreds of days,” Walt said.
Philip was wounded seven different times during the skirmish.
“He was awarded seven Purple Hearts. He turned three of them down because he said the injury wasn’t serious enough,” Walt said.
Philip is not finished yet. That conversation with the Italian farmer sets him on a path to a secret mission behind enemy lines.
“This little guy who wants to develop a perfect race also wants to develop a perfect horse for the perfect race,” added Walt.
As it turned out, the perfect horse was a Lipizzan stallion. Rumor has it that Hitler’s veterinarians kept them in Czechoslovakia. The army asks Philip to confirm the existence of the horses and the farm. A pilot took Philp to a small clearing in the Czech woods.
“They have set up a bell tower chase course. So the vet made a bet with him that he couldn’t beat him on the bell tower chase course. Dad’s story is that he won the bell tower chase,” Walt said.
Shortly after Philip’s return, General George Patton authorized Operation Cowboy to rescue the last remaining Lipizzans in the world.
Philip returned to his platoon, where he was shot from the back of a tank as he tried to rescue his team from an ambush. The wound eventually cost him his right leg. After rehab, Quan released him from the hospital.
At that time, he had received every honorary medal awarded by the Army, except the Medal of Honor.
“He never talked about those medals. He never talked about those battles and a lot of people did. They fought for freedom. They fight for freedom but when they come home, they want to live life,” explains Walt.
That’s what Philip did until 2003. He and his wife raised four sons. He put the LSU Cartography Department on the map and established a reputation for producing high-quality maps and graphics.
You can read all about his weirder-than-fictional service in the book by his son, Walt, At First Light: The True Story of World War II about a hero, his courage and an extraordinary horse.
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