Captain Frederick Libby

Born in 1891 in Colorado, Libby worked as a cowboy before joining the Canadian Army when the First World War broke out. He became a medical orderly and was soon on active service in France. By spring 1916 he had seen enough of the trenches, and volunteered to become an observer in the Royal Flying Corps. Vickers FB5s, No. 11 Squadron, 1915

Libby joined No.23 Squadron, flying F.E.2bs out of RFC Le Hameau. On his first operation, on 15 July, 1916, he shot down an Ago CII. In August he was transferred to No.11 Squadron, and between 22 and 25 August he shot down a further four enemy aircraft, making him America’s first ace. In November 1916, with his score at ten enemy aircraft and the award of the Military Cross, he was sent back to the UK for pilot training. De Havilland DH 4, No. 25 Squadron, 1917-18

In April 1917 Libby returned to France, joining No.43 Squadron flying Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters. In July he was promoted to Captain and appointed a Flight Commander, and made two further claims. In August he was transferred again, to No.25 Squadron flying De Havilland D.H.4 bombers. He made two further claims with this unit, before being transferred to the US Air Service in September 1917. Sent back to America, he fell ill and was discharged. He suffered from permanent spinal problems until his death in 1970.

Libby had at least 14 and maybe as many as 24 victories. He was arguably America’s first ace, although as he was an observer at the time and not a pilot, there is some debate over whether he qualifies for this title or not.