Saturday, January 27, 2007
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