HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY
Harold H. Sayre; no desire but to serve
The following was edited from the book, Memorial Volume of the American Field Service in France, “Friends of France” 1914—1917, published in 1921 by James William Davenport Seymour.
Lieutenant Harold Holden Sayre possessed in no small degree the finest qualities of young American manhood. Clean-cut and manly are perhaps the adjectives which best describe his personality, and underneath an attractive exterior was a sturdy would upheld by the highest of principles. As one of intimate friends has said: “He had principles and stuck to them regardless of all and I loved him for his straightforward ways.”
Harold Sayre was born on February 7, 1895, in Hutchinson, Minnesota, the son of A. Judson and Harriet H. Sayre. Sayre lived in Harvey, North Dakota; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Hollywood, California. He was educated at Western Canada College, Calgary, Harvard Military School, Los Angeles, California; Hollywood High School, and Leland Stanford University, Class of 1919.
A student of Leland Stanford, Jr., University, he enlisted toward the end of his sophomore year, in the American Field Service (June 9, 1917), and with the second Stanford Unit landed at Bordeaux on June 28, 1917. From July to October he was with Section ten in the Balkans, and under the particularly trying conditions of the eastern front he received his initiation into active warfare. The summer of 1917 was spent carrying wounded over the difficult passes and rough roads of the Albanian mountains and in September the Section took part in the successful Albanian offensive.
Returning to Paris on November 18, 1917, he resigned from the Field Service, then being taken over by the American Army, and on December 5th enlisted in aviation. He was trained at Clermont-Ferrand in various schools in southern France, received his commission (June 1, 1918), and was attached to the 11th Aero Bombing Squadron. It was while attending the bombing school at Clermont-Ferrand that he first met Lieutenant Shidler, later his pilot and friend, who has written of him:
“It was not hard after arriving at this field to pick out the most efficient bombers. All records were accessible and Lieutenant Sayre’s was easily among the best. His strong personal character, his clean mode of living, and the high code he set as a standard to live by, make him a prominent figure among the officers at that place, and his good sense of humor made companionship with him most agreeable. He was fond of outdoor exercise and I shall never forget the long walks through the vineyards of southern France and the swimming in the warm rivers while he and I were together. While visiting the cities and resorts he found his pleasure rather in the ancient architecture and the beautiful drives than in the bright lights of the town. His constant desire to learn and his devotion to duty were such that he would often sit under the most adverse circumstances and finish a map of some particular objective, when it was a common habit to let such things slip by as easily as possible and let the responsibility rest upon the one in command.”
As a member of the 11th Aero Bombing Squad, Lieutenant Sayre took part in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel early in September, 1918, and on the morning of September 14th was sent out with his pilot, Lieutenant Shidler, in company with a formation of several planes, to bomb certain objectives near the city of Conflans. The mission accomplished, they were attacked by a superior number of German planes and in the ensuing combat Lieutenant Sayre was killed, although he kept his guns going until life left his body. His pilot, who was severely wounded, was able to land the plane at Rezonville in the German lines, where he was taken prisoner. It was here that Lieutenant Sayre was first buried, but his body was later removed to the American Cemetery at Thiaucourt, Meurthe-et-Moselle, ultimately to be buried in Hollywood, California.
He met death as bravely and squarely as he had faced life, with no thought but for the cause stake and no desire but to serve this cause with the best which he had, even to the final sacrifice.
Harold Sayre’s grave is located in Section 8 not far from the grave of Janet Gayner and near the pond. For a landmark, there is a six-foot flag pole erected on his grave.