When the US decided to send troops to Europe, Harold had already joined the Medical Reserve Corps. His active service started in August 1917, and he arrived in France three months later, where Harold was assigned to an advanced dressing station two kilometres behind the front line. By the end of the year, Harold had already been appointed Battalion Medical Officer of the 9th Royal Irish Rifles. In letters recovered after the war, Harold writes how glad he was to be part of a fighting unit, and was therefore not confined to the Base Hospital.
In March 1918, Harold’s unit came under fire during the so-called Kaiser’s Battle, during which almost three entire battalions were lost. Showing great bravery and courage, Harold drummed up a couple of stretcher bearers and went in search of wounded men that had fallen behind in Grand Seraucourt, despite the fact that the enemy had already reached the outskirts of the village. Luckily, the men succeeded on this mission and returned safely.
One month before what would have been Harold’s 29th birthday, the 9th Royal Irish Rifles were caught in battle near Mesen, just over the Belgian border. While Harold was tending to an injured soldier on the battlefield, a grenade exploded close-by, due to which he sustained a leg injury. Moments later a second grenade exploded, which Harold did not survive.
In 1923, two of Harold’s sisters travelled to Europe in search of their brother’s grave, but unfortunately to no avail; Harold’s remains were never found. He left behind a fiancée, Margaret Sanborn.
Although the U.S.A. allowed repatriation of war victims on request of their next of kin, many families wished for their loved ones’ remains to stay in Europe. To accommodate these fallen soldiers, in 1919, the American War Department established eight permanent cemeteries in Europe, one of which lies in Belgium.
Flanders Field American Cemetery counts 368 graves, and can still be visited today.