Part 8: The 88th Aero Squadron; Harold Loud’s Final Flight, 28 September 1918
On the 28th of September, Harold Loud flew his third operational mission, to observe American troop movements on the ground in the vicinity of Montfacon, France.
On this mission he was attacked by a flight of German aircraft, which set his aircraft on fire. Harold struggled to bring his burning aircraft to a safe landing in friendly territory. His aircraft was rapidly engulfed in flames after the aircraft fuel tank exploded as a result of being hit by an incendiary bullet fired by an attacking German aircraft. In spite of the fact that his aircraft was burning fiercely, he was able to guide it towards an open area immediately behind the lines. His observer, Captain Charles Trickey, who occupied the seat behind Harold, had climbed out of the aircraft to avoid the flames and managed to hang onto the wing wires on the left wing as Harold attempted to land the aircraft. When the aircraft struck the ground, the impact threw Captain Trickey free of the aircraft, and even though the aircraft was moving forward at a relatively high speed, Captain Trickey was able to roll away from the crash with striking any large object on the ground. He survived the experience with only slight burns and an injured hand.
Lieutenant Harold Loud, however, was not so fortunate. Surrounded by flames, he was forced to inhale the fire, severely damaging his lungs. The final impact of the aircraft with the ground caused the aircraft to flip over on its back, and Lieutenant Loud was thrown out of his seat, but not fully clear of the burning wreck. Because he had landed the aircraft behind American lines, soldiers rushed to pull him free of the wreck. In one of the strange coincidences of the war, an army photographer happened to be in the immediate vicinity and took a number of pictures of the burning wreck, thus saving for posterity the few photographs made during the war of a combat aircraft in the final stages of destruction by fire as a result of enemy action. Though hundreds of photographs exist of combat pilots standing by intact aircraft, almost no photographs exist of the final moments of an aircraft consumed by fire.
Photograph of Harold Loud’s burning aircraft.
Harold succumbed to the effects of his fire-singed lungs the following day. He had been with the squadron for less than three weeks, and had flown only three operational missions, but as the letters written by Captain Trickey, Lieutenant Evans, and other members of the squadron show, he was perceived as one of the squadron’s finest officers.
This section begins with a copy of the telegram which notified the Loud family of Harold’s death. Then follow several letters from members of the squadron: first, a letter from the squadron commander and former flight school classmate, Lieutenant Floyd Evans, followed by two letters from Captain Charles Trickey, who was Harold’s observer on his fatal flight. Captain Trickey’s first letter describes the incidents of the final flight, and his second letter provides additional details of the flight, which had been requested by Edward Loud. The next letter in this section is written by a fellow pilot from the 88th Aero Squadron who knew Harold, Lieutenant Sidney Grant, and the final letter is written by George Craig Stewart, a chaplain assigned to the U. S. Air Service in France, who describes the details of the burial. This section concludes with the Gladstone Prayer, a copy of which Chaplain Stewart sent Edward Loud.
Another photograph of the accident.
Washington DC, 3:25 PM,
October 15, 1918
Mr. E. F. Loud,
Deeply regret to inform you that Lieutenant Harold E. Loud 88 Aero Squadron is officially reported as killed in action October 3rd.
Acting the Adj General
88th Aero Squadron
October 16, 1918
My Dear Mr. Loud:
It is with deepest regrets that I write to you in regard to the death of your son, Harold Loud. I am writing to you, not only from the standpoint of a commanding officer, but also as a personal friend of the deceased officer. Harold and I were in the same ground school class at Champaign, Illinois, and went from there to Dayton, Ohio, where we were assigned to the same instructor. After his illness I became separated from him for more than a year, when he was assigned to the squadron which I now command.
Harold at once took his place with all our pilots as one of the best, and in his several flights over the lines instilled complete confidence in his observers. He was known as a very capable and thorough pilot and always eager to do his duty. He was a constant volunteer for missions of hazardous character and never failed to accomplish them. He met his fate as a real American soldier, and the skillful, calm manner in which he brought his observer to the ground will be remembered forever by all who heard the story.
On the fateful trip, Harold was assigned to a mission which necessitated flying very low over the front lines. He was attacked, however, by five enemy pursuit planes before reaching the territory over which he was to work. His observer, Captain Trickey, saw the enemy planes as soon as they began firing upon Lieutenant Loud’s machine, and at once returned the fire. The first burst from the enemy ignited the gas tank. Harold saw there was no hope of continuing the combat and hurriedly began to descend. The flames spread so rapidly that Captain Trickey was forced to climb out upon the wing of the machine. Before the plane could be landed, the flames had surrounded Harold but he nevertheless fought desperately to keep control of the machine, which he did. Captain Trickey was thrown clear of the machine when the wheels first struck the ground and was uninjured. He immediately hastened to assist Harold from the flaming wreck.
Harold was still conscious when taken to the hospital but had inhaled so much gas from the flames that he passed away the next day. His remains were laid to rest in a neat casket, in the Army Graveyard at Souilly, France, over which has been erected a marker by his squadron, in his honor. This marker consists of an airplane propeller, driven far into the ground, and with several feet of it extending above the surface. On this propeller is an aluminum plate with the name of the deceased, date and cause of his death, neatly engraved thereon.
Sad as it is to think of Harold, who has now passed from among us forever, it is consoling to know that his end was met so bravely and heroically.
I shall be very pleased to give you any further information in regard to your son’s death that you may wish for. All his effects have been inventoried and forwarded to the Effects Depot, Base Section #5.
Very truly yours,
Floyd E. Evans,
1st Lt, A.S.U.S.A.
88th Aero Squadron
November 3, 1918
Dear Mr. Loud:
I received your letter yesterday afternoon and will attempt to answer it.
It was September 28th, the third day of the attack. Our troops had been going fine. It was 12:10 PM when we left the field on a mission to find the front line, that is, finding just how far we had advanced. As we got near the line, we noticed four German planes on our left. We went toward the right along our line, then turned around and flew back toward where we had first seen the German planes. By this time the four German planes were going back north behind their lines, so we turned to the right over our front line again and were watching the machines. They were slightly higher than we were but seemed not to notice us. To let the infantry know that you are looking for their front line, we fire a rocket when we are ready to see the small panels which each infantry man displays. Just as I fired the rocket, the four Boche planes started at us.
We turned toward home very fast, but it seemed that they were much faster than our plane. I opened fire on the closest one of the four and then he began shooting at us. I continued shooting and the bullets from my gun seemed to be going well at the Boche. But while I was firing, our gas tank blew up. The whole plane seemed to be a furnace. Luckily we were only about a thousand feet high.
My pilot, Lieutenant Loud, started toward the ground at once, seeing that our only chance was speed. In the meantime, I crawled out of the fuselage onto the left wing. I didn’t know where I was going, but my one idea was to get out of the fire. We got down near the ground very quickly, Lieutenant Loud having perfect control of the machine, although flames were around his neck. I fell off the plane before we got to the ground and rolled for a considerable distance. I cannot see why I was not killed from the fall. When I stopped rolling, I was surprised to find that I could still get up. My first thought was of Harold. The plane had gone about a hundred and fifty yards farther where I fell off. I ran down as fast as possible to where the plane had smashed and was burning fiercely. I found Harold had fallen almost clear of the machine, but the flames were passing over him. He was lying face down as though overcome by the flames which he must have inhaled, or else he hit his head against something when he fell off. His forehead showed a bruise as though he had hit something.
As soon as I got there, I pulled him out of the flames and together with several first-aid men and officers who arrived at the time, we took off his burning clothes. I was only slightly hurt, but we were taken to the hospital together. I asked a Major there to see that he got special care. Of course the doctors saw at once that there was little chance for him, but they gave him something to ease the pain and fixed up the burns as well as possible. I was only slightly wounded and was sent back to the Squadron. Harold was kept at the field hospital until next day, as he was not able to make the trip back to the evacuation hospital then. On the way to the hospital the next day, he died.
Although Harold had been with the squadron only a short time, it seemed that we got to know each other very well and we felt a deep affection for each other. It is impossible for me to tell you just how much Harold was to me. He was a proven man and soldier with a charming personality. Although rank meant nothing to me and I didn’t expect it, Harold always treated me exceedingly courteously, and always called me “Captain.”
The only time he became conscious was just after the accident, while we were at the first aid station. Then he asked “Is the Captain all right?” meaning me. I tried to talk to him, but he said no more. He did not suffer at all as the doctor had given him something to ease the pain.
Believe me to be in full sympathy with you and with his mother. I realize fully what such a son and friend is to his mother and you, and that to lose him is very hard. We can only believe: “God’s will be done” and that we shall see him later where there are no more wars or sorrows. Give my sincere sympathy to his mother. I feel I owe my life to Harold’s steadiness and coolness in such a trying condition. I’ll be only too glad to help you in any way I can, and I am only too glad to write you the conditions pertaining to the accident. I hope to see you and talk to both you and his mother when (if) I return.
Sincerely your friend,
Charles T. Trickey
61st Army Headquarters
November 19, 1918
Dear Mr. Loud and Family:
For the last three weeks I have been on duty here with the 1st Army Headquarters and happening to go back to the 88th [Aero] Squadron for a few minutes, the Commanding Officer showed me your letter of the 13th of October.
Mr. Loud, I hardly know how to write this letter. As I think of it I wonder why I never wrote before. Somehow, over here, we are apt to pay our respects to those of our comrades who fall in battle, in a way we would not think of doing under normal conditions. In this mighty war, our comrades are taken away often and suddenly and our highest tributes could only be paid by going on in the battle, leaving them where they lay, praying that the Almighty might receive their souls into that world where there are no more wars or sufferings. I think that one of the saddest things in war is that we do not have time to pay proper tribute to our fallen comrades. In war, we know full well that many must pay the full price—when it comes, we are sad but what can we do?
You will find comfort, I am sure, in knowing that your son and brother was given an honorable and impressive funeral. I am sorry that I was not able to attend the service, but I was confined to my bed at the time with the grippe and the doctor advised against it, the day being cold and rainy.
Surely the Government will send you a detailed account of the sad accident, but lest it may not do so, I shall endeavor to give you the details to the best of my memory and the record of my diary. Harold joined the 88th Squadron about the middle of September. Everyone grew to like him from the first. As for Harold and myself, it seemed that we became very much attached to each other for such a short acquaintance. It was the custom not to send a new observer out with a new pilot and as I had been with the squadron since last July and was considered an “old” observer, I was assigned to go with Harold when he joined us.
It was September 26th, the morning of the big attack west of Verdun that Harold made his first trip over the lines. I was his observer on that day. It was a great battle that morning, one of the greatest artillery shows ever known. Our duty was to report on and adjust the artillery fire. If I do say it, we performed our duty in accordance with the wishes of the artillery commander, for the next day the General sent the four of us who did the work a telegram of thanks and appreciation. The following day I was in bed with a severe cold and Harold flew with someone else.
On September 28th, the call came for some plane to take a mission and locate our front line troops. Harold and I took the job. We got in our plane, a Salmson make #3, at 11:30. We were to get the location of the line between 12:15 and 12:30. The weather was very rough. After getting to the lines, which were then about three or four kilometers north of Montfaucon, through Cierges and Nantillois, we flew toward the [Meuse] river over Cierges and Nantillois; then turned back to our right over Montfaucon and toward Cierges again. During this time we had noticed four suspicious planes further to the west, but as we turned back over Montfaucon these planes started north toward Germany. As they seemed to be going home, we turned to our right again, over Cierges, toward the river, to call for our front line. As I fired a rocket to our infantry, which to them means “where are you” the four planes started toward us very fast. I told Harold to turn to our right quick. This he did and we started diving very fast but the enemy chasse planes, as they proved to be, were very much faster than our plane and they gained on us rapidly.
The four planes did not stay together but scattered to attack on our flanks. I watched to see which one gained on us the most. One directly in our rear appeared to be getting pretty close and I began to fire on him. He then fired at us. While I was still firing out over the tail of our plane, one of the enemy bullets must have gone through our gas tank. At any event, it blew up with a big noise and jar to our plane. I did not know that the plane was on fire until I felt the heat on my legs. I think that Harold and I realized that the plane was on fire about the same time. Harold started diving at once to make a landing. Most of the fire was coming back toward the cockpit in which I was located, owing to the position of the gas tank which was behind Harold, between us.
My first impulse was to get out of the fire. I took off my belt and in some way got out of the cockpit and held to one of the struts, later getting further out and holding to a wire. In some way I managed to hold on, with the Lord’s help [and] Harold’s steadiness of control of the machine, although the flames were whipping around his neck. Just before the plane landed, I fell off of the wing and to my amazement I was not hurt at all. The plane was about 150 yards further down, turned over and was burning furiously. When I reached the burning plane, I found that Harold had fallen clear of the machine but the main flame was passing over his body as he lay where he must have lost consciousness. I pulled him clear of the flames at once and first aid men helped me to take off his burning clothes. We were taken to a first aid station together at Septsarges. While here he spoke the only words I heard when in a whisper he said: “Is the Captain all right?” I tried to talk to him but he spoke no more.
He was badly burned on his back, back of legs, and face and hands. I think he must have received most of the burns after striking the ground, for he was lying on his stomach with his face toward the fire when I got to him. There was a bruise on his forehead which he must have received as the plane turned over and it is probable too that he inhaled the flames, which hurt him most.
He was given medicine at once to relieve the pain and his burns were dressed as best they could be, while at the first aid station at Septsarges. We were then taken to a field hospital at Cuisy. I was sent back to my squadron s my hurts were few and small, but Harold was kept at the field hospital until the next day as he was not in condition to make the trip back to the evacuation hospital that evening. When I left him the Major in charge of the hospital said we would be notified as to how Harold got along. It was sad news that came to us next day, September 29th, when we were told that Lieutenant Loud had died on his way to the evacuation hospital.
He was buried about four o’clock the next day, September 30th, in the hospital burying ground at Souilly. The place is about ten miles southeast of Verdun. The cemetery is west of Souilly, about three quarters of a mile, just across the railroad, on the side of the hill. The burial place is well protected and Harold’s grave is marked with the usual wooden cross. His Squadron placed by the grave an airplane propeller, buried about half way down, say four feet, with an aluminum plate on it. At the funeral services, conducted by a protestant chaplain, all the officers of the Squadron were present that could be there.
As to Harold’s personal effects, bank account, etc. They were all taken in charge by the Squadron Adjutant and should have reached you long before now. The Government will also notify you of the action taken and I am at your service to give any further information within my power.
I am enclosing a map showing the location of all the points mentioned in this letter. I hope this letter serves you in giving the details concerning our comrade and your son and brother. Permit me to extend my sincere sympathy in the loss of such a loved one. He was a proven man, he died a hero. We can all be justly proud of the manner in which he met his end, but we mourn that it had to be. Harold was a true friend and I admired him from our first meeting. I owe my life to his steadiness of nerve. The greatest consolation I know of is that the Lord watches over all. We know that we shall see him in the other world.
Modern map of the area over which the aircraft of the 88th Aero Squadron flew. The Montfacon/Argonne area is in the top center area. The city of Verdun is right of center.
When I return to the United States I hope to see you all, Mr. Loud, and I shall then answer any questions you may ask and I can tell you just how much Harold was to those who knew him. Hoping this fulfills its purpose, I remain, at your service,
Charles T. Trickey
88th Aero Squadron
September 30, 1918 [not received by the Loud family until December 12, 1918]
My Dear Mr. Loud:
It is my wish to tell you of the wonderful memory of Harold that I cherish. Having known him since he went to Ellington Field, I feel his loss most deeply and can only say that I am proud to have known him.
We laid him away this afternoon in the little valley of Souilly, south[west] from Verdun. The service was very beautiful and most impressive, as his comrades stood under a glorious sun that was peeking through the clouds.
After this war is but history, people will read the name of Harold Loud among the Nation’s heroes. His grit and pluck alone saved the life of his observer, Captain Trickey, who cannot sing his praises loud enough. We all loved him and are all saddened by the loss of a true friend and real man who had made himself very popular, even in the short time he was with us.
A better man will never live to prove himself true to God and his Country.
Most sincerely yours,
Sidney Bradford Grant
2nd Lieut., A.S, U.S.A.
December 18, 1918
My Dear Mr. Loud:
Thank you very much for your letter of December 14th. I am sorry that you have not received my letter written you from France. I have just now received the excellent picture of your son together with the thrilling description of his high act of heroism as given in the Oscoda paper, and I am greatly in your debt for both of them.
When Lieutenant Powers of the 88th Aerial Squadron came to inform me of your son’s death I was inexpressibly shocked, and said to him at once that we would do everything we could to do him honor and to provide a reverent burial. His precious body was brought to the little morgue which I had at Evacuation Hospital #6 (near Souilly, Meuse) and his devoted comrades came over and dressed him in his uniform while my carpenter squad prepared a decent coffin, that is, such a one as we could make out of boards. On the day of his burial—he died, as you know, on the 29th of September and was buried on the 30th—I had a special service for him. His body was taken first to the chapel, of which I hope some day to send you a picture, a chapel which I had arranged in a barracks, and he was tenderly borne to the cemetery where his comrades stood—a considerable number of them from the aerial squadron—at attention while the service was read and the bugler blew Taps. As I remember it a plane was circling above us during the service. His grave is easily distinguishable from all the others because his comrades arranged above it part of the propeller of his plane, and upon this propeller is fixed a special inscription with his name upon it. His grave is also covered with flowers, for, as you know, the French are very tender and thoughtful in their memory of their comrades in arms.
Harold Loud’s grave marker in France. The inscription reads “Lieut Harold Loud, 88th Aero Sq, Sept 28, 1918.”
In that cemetery which I opened and blessed this fall, many hundreds of bodies lie. It is on a little sloping hill just to the south of Evacuation Hospital #6, and from your son’s grave one can see, looking straight east, the tower of the church in Souilly, together with General Pershing’s headquarters of the advance zone, while only a few hundred yards to the southwest of your son’s grave, General Pershing had for weeks his mobile headquarters in a train whose engine had steam all the time.
It was my privilege the evening after the burial of your son to dine with the officers of the 88th Squadron, among whom was Captain Trickey, with his hand still bandaged. Need I say that the officers (and the men whom I met and addressed afterwards in their barracks) were full of tenderness and most affectionate memories of your son who was much beloved by them all.
I omitted to say that the service read at the burial was that of the Episcopal Church. I am enclosing with this the Gladstone Prayer which I used at his burial and which I am sure will be a comfort to you.
Thanking you again for writing me, and assuring you that I consider it a sacred privilege to minister in this way at the burial of so splendid and heroic an officer, and hoping to see you in the not distant future, I am
Very sincerely yours,
George Craig Stewart
George Craig Stewart
The Gladstone Prayer
O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, in whose embrace all creatures live, in whatsoever world or condition they may be: I beseech thee for him whose name and dwelling place and every need Thou knowest. Lord, vouchsafe him light and rest, peace and refreshment, joy and consolation, in paradise, in the companionship of saints, in the presence of Christ, in the ample folds of Thy great love.
Grant that his life, so troubled here, may unfold itself in thy sight and find a sweet employment in the spacious fields of eternity. If he hath ever been hurt or maimed by any unhappy word or deed of mine, I pray Thee, of Thy great pity, to heal and restore him, that he may serve Thee without hindrance.
Tell him, O gracious Lord, if it may be, how much I love him and miss him, and long to see him again; and if there be ways in which he may come, vouchsafe him to me as a guide and guard, and grant me a sense of his nearness in such degree as Thy laws permit. If in aught I can minister to his peace, be pleased of Thy love to let this be; and mercifully keep me from every act which may deprive me of the sight of him as soon as our trial time is over, or mar the fullness of our joy when the end of the days hath come.
Pardon, O gracious Lord and Father, whatsoever is amiss in this my prayer and let Thy will be done, for my will is blind and erring, but Thine is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Final Comment: Lieutenant Floyd Evans, the 88th Aero Squadron Commander, recommended that Harold Loud be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic and selfless actions, but a board of officers denied the request; the board found that “the services of this young officer did not justify the award . . . under the regulations prescribed for its issue.” Instead, Harold Loud was cited for gallantry in action by General John J. Pershing on 4 October. The criteria for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross are:
The Distinguished Service Cross is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the Army, distinguishes himself or herself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor; while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing/foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.
According to these criteria, Harold Loud should have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
In 1919 Edward Loud wrote to a member of congress requesting that Harold Loud be posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, but that request was denied as well. Although the American army awarded fewer medals in World War I than it did in subsequent conflicts, it seems appropriate that the significant sacrifice of Harold Loud should be recognized by the award of an appropriate medal. The American Flying ace pilot, Eddie Rickenbacker, for example, received the Medal of Honor; it was awarded to him well after the war ended. Although the range of medals that could be awarded in combat in World War I was less fully developed than it is in modern times, there were several awards that could have been appropriately awarded for the actions of Harold Loud, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star.
 The date, October 3rd, was the date word was officially received at Air Service Headquarters of Harold Loud’s death, not the date he died.
 Captain Charles Trickey was an experienced observer who flew with the 88th Aero Squadron from May 14, 1918, until the flight with Harold Loud on 28 September. He recovered from the wounds he received.
 Captain Trickey had written to the Loud family on November 3rd, but Edward Loud had not yet received that letter when he wrote to the squadron requesting additional information about Harold’s death.
 Sidney Grant had known Harold Loud from their training days at Ellington Field. He was a pilot in the 88th Aero Squadron from September 17, 1918, until the Armistice.
 Lieutenant Leo F. Powers flew with the 88th Aero Squadron from June 29 through October 27 1918. He had been assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron before coming to the 88th Aero Squadron and served on III Corps staff after leaving the squadron.
 George Craig Stewart was a member of the Episcopalian clergy. He was a U. S. Army chaplain in France during World War I. By December of 1919 he had returned to his position as Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois. He was the Episcopal Bishop of Chicago from 1930 to1940.
 The Gladstone Prayer was written by Sir William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), a devout Anglican as well as one of England’s most influential Prime Ministers, and was read at his memorial service in Westminster Hall, London, May 26, 1898. The prayer is also known as “A Prayer for a Friend Out of Sight,” that is, for someone recently deceased.
 Information found in a copy of a letter from General Peyton C. March, Chief of Staff, U. S. Air Service, Washington, D. C., to the Honorable Charles E. Townsend, U. S. Senate, dated October 27, 1919. A copy of the letter is in the Loud Family files, Bentley Library, University of Michigan. A copy of the Citation by General Pershing is in the Loud Family files in the Bentley Library as well.
 “Distinguished Service Cross (United States): Criteria,” Wikipedia.Org. Information found online, 5 June 2017.
 Information found in a copy of a letter from F. E. Warren, Chair of the U. S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, to the Honorable Charles E. Townsend, U. S. Senate, dated December 1, 1919. A copy of the letter is in the Loud Family files, Bentley Library, University of Michigan.