France On Fragile Wings

A Libertyman's Adventures 1917-1919 in the 168th Aero Squadron, AEF



… I know that Papa (Frank Buckles) would be pleased that you included one of his favorite anecdotes in the story.



A Delightful Book, June 27, 2013
This review is from: France On Fragile Wings: A Libertyman's Adventures 1917-19 (Paperback)
This is a delightful, profusely illustrated story of American World War I pilot Harold Stine of the 168th Aero Squadron and the journey undertaken by his son and daughter-in-law to retrace his steps in Europe 90 years later. It is not the story of Dogfights-and-Glorious-Death-in-the-Air that appealed to me at age 11 (Stine arrived at his squadron the day before the war ended), but it has a different appeal. Harold Stine flew his DH4 "Liberty plane" all over France and occupied Germany in the aftermath of the war, took pictures, collected postcards, and kept a journal. His son William starts the book with stories from his childhood, including sneaking into the closet containing his father's "pajama box" of WWI memorabilia. His strongest memory is of examining by flashlight the gruesome battlefield photos that his father had never shown him! Decades later, William and Sharon spent weeks in England, France, and Germany following Harold's footsteps with copies of his photos and postcards. They encountered many people with an interest in their own local history from WWI and fleshed out the story of Harold's adventure while enlightening their hosts. France on Fragile Wings will resonate with anyone with an interest in their own family history. The dozens of "then and now" photos will delight anyone who has visited the battlefields in Europe, serving as a reminder of how much remains unchanged from the First World War. Recommended.

--Steve Suddaby - June 27, 2013 (The reviewer is past president of the World War One Historical Association. This review has also been submitted to "World War One" magazine.)


A wonderful historical account of a dedicated WWI Pilot, February 6, 2014 (
"I believe that actual and accurate historical stories are much better than fiction.  This book is a perfect example.  It provides an insight to a time in our country's history that is unique and entertaining.  The innovation, courage and dedication of early WWI pilots was exemplified in the life of Lieutenant Harold B. Stine.  His memoirs were accurately and artfully recreated in a book that demanded I continue reading non stop cover to cover.  France on Fragile Wings is a great read and I highly recommend it."

Robert R.


This review is from
Stand To!, The Journal of the Western Front Association (British), 100th edition, June 2014, page 152.
Note to reader: France on Fragile Wings was reviewed alongside another recent publication, Tim’s Wars: The Psychology of War and Peace Through One Man’s Eyes (Burlington in Hub Press, Eastbourne, Great Britain). I have truncated most of the second review.

Both of these books are family memorials - both high quality paperbacks, both with much to commend them. William and Sharon Stine had the good fortune to work from lovingly stored and saved records, including some 300 pictures and postcards, taken and collected by Harold Stine, William’s father. It is a popular, half-considered (and half-enjoyed) thought of the British that America came into the war late, made only limited contributions to victory and that interest in the US in the Great War is limited. All are, perhaps, to some degree, true. Certainly Harold B. Stine arrived in France only in 1918, saw limited combat in the under estimated role of an observation aircraft pilot. Yet all this matters not a jot.
France on Fragile Wings provides a highly readable, wonderfully illustrated and fascinating account of training, flying and life with the 168th Aero Squadron, AEF. That it is backed by the tale of the authors’ trip to Europe - to trace the places where Harold Stine had been and served and following some of the routes he had flown - is a pleasure. This rare combination of ancient and modern travelers’ tales reminded me of the warmth and eye for detail of the late, and greatly missed, Richard Holmes’ journey by horse following the 1914 retreat from Mons. Stine learned to fly on obsolete aircraft in the US, undertook further flight training in France, and flew US built Liberty-engined versions of the DH4. (The Americans remained dependent upon European built aircraft during the conflict, its artillery similarly dependent on French and British guns.)
Yet in its depiction of service, and its reflections in the authors’ travels, it provides a fresh and well-researched account of early US aviation, aircraft and the bright young men who flew them. Not least, from small embryonic beginnings they kick started the ’air mindedness’ which fed the enthusiasms of the young men who flew and commanded the ‘Mighty Eighth’ and all the other US air forces in the Second World War and heralded the production and design of mighty ‘airplanes’ in America. This is a delightfully affectionate work, one which provides a valuable insight into US flying in the Great War. Recommended.

David Filsell