Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hurd's Navigator


Lieutenant Harold Spire of Los Angeles was the oldest man to pose for Peter Hurd. In the Army Air Forces, a collection of young men, Spire was a gray-beard of 26. He was one of the most modest of his group, always praising a fellow flier for effiecient work or some act of bravery. But none of his fellows was braver than he.

In one of the first raids conducted by Americans in B-17's over France, the pilot and copilot of his plane were hit by German gunfire. Lieut. Spire and the engineer took over the controls, removing the dead copilot from his seat. The seriously wounded pilot gave them directions in operating the plane and and, by some miracle, the two novices brought the complicated bomber back over an English airfield and set her safely on the ground. For his act of heroism, Spire was awarded the Purple Heart.

"Shorty" Spire was painted in his service uniform, wearing his medal ribbon, against a background of windsock and runway. At each sitting, between flights, he kept asking Hurd to finish his portrait quickly so his mother might have a reproduction of it for herself. He must have had a premonition that something would happen for, on an operational raid, with one last sitting due, Shorty Spire and his Fortress were shot down over enemy-occupied France.

Life February 15, 1943

4 comments:

steve ramos said...

A "gray beard at 26" huh? Dang, I'd be considered absolutely geriatric by those standards. Then, as today, young American warriors protected our great nation. So young ... so brave.

De'on Miller said...

yes on all counts.

wasn't his story good. the premonition part. i think aaron knew too.

steve ramos said...

Do you remember when I asked you if you could something different in Aaron's eyes in those pictures taken during Christmas 2003? He knew.

De'on Miller said...

The more I hear and think, really reflect on it, I think so too.

Jerrod talked to him the night before he was killed. He said Aaron sounded different. Aaron was usually up.

It sounds like from Doc that he fought it with everything in him.

Remember the article about him praying for all of the Marines, but didn't pray for himself at the prayer meeting the night before he was killed.

I so wish I could have been with him, Steve. It will always remain a regret for me. I can't imagine not being there, but I was not. On the most important event of his life.