$$ Her Husband Disappeared 6 Weeks After They Got Married. 70-Years-Later, She Learns The Tragic Truth

 After being apart from him for the good part of seven decades, devoted wife Peggy Harris finally found out why her husband disappeared all those years ago.

Into Thin Air

Despite the lack of resources, Peggy did all she could to trace her newlywed’s whereabouts. After being married for just six weeks, husband Billie Harris would vanish. For many, this would be a deal breaker in one’s relationship. But Peggy loved him so much and knew that he wouldn’t just leave.

wife 1
This Week in History (8/9- 8/15)
This Week in History (8/9- 8/15)
This Week in History (8/9- 8/15)
Top 10 Beautiful Rainforests
Top 10 Beautiful Rainforests
Top 10 Worst Tourist Traps in the US 2021
Top 10 Worst Tourist Traps in the US 2021
Top 10 Reasons Why Saint Petersburg May Be the Most Beautiful City in the World
Top 10 Reasons Why Saint Petersburg May Be the Most Beautiful City in the World
Worst Places for Over Tourism in 2020 | MojoTravels
Worst Places for Over Tourism in 2020 | MojoTravels
Where to Explore in Bangkok | MojoTravels
Where to Explore in Bangkok | MojoTravels
Into Thin Air
ADVERTISEMENT

Where Did He Go?

Something didn’t add up, and Peggy knew that she’d have to go out of her comfort zone in order to get to the bottom of this mystery. The reality was painful, her husband was long gone, and there was no clear information indicating what may have happened. Despite feeling like a hopeless investigation with no clear leads, Peggy never gave up hope that one day, she would unravel the truth of what happened to her dear husband Billie.

wife 2
Where Did He Go?

The Unknown

Peggy and Billie’s story is more than just a mystery. It’s so much more than that. Even without knowing what the future may hold, love will always win. 70 years later, Billie’s wife has been through a lot, naturally. But through all the people who came and went, she never gave up on her one true love. Their story captured the hearts of many: a love story like no other, teaching us that hope for a happy ending is one of the most powerful virtues.

wife 3
The Unknown

Met In An Uncommon Way

Let’s start at the very beginning. Vernon, Texas in the 1920’s. This was the place and era that Peggy Seale grew up in. She was a beautiful 18-year-old and worked at the Altus Oklahoma Air Force Base as an electric instrument mechanic. It wouldn’t be long though before she met Billie Harris. His father was an assistant supervisor at the base and as soon as he met Peggy, he knew she was the one for his son.

wife 4
Met In An Uncommon Way

Unlike Any Other Girl

The beautiful Peggy was special. She was the only female mechanic in the entire base, which was strange. Not many women served in the army at this stage and the field that she worked in was particularly male-dominated. But Peggy stayed true to herself and always went with her heart. Whether her actions were supported or not, she always did what she felt was right. She was a young, independent woman who went against the grain.

wife 5
Unlike Any Other Girl

Match Made In Heaven

Peggy eventually would work alongside Billie’s father, who worked in the propeller department. And it wouldn’t take long before he introduced her to his son. Billie was instantly floored by everything about Peggy. In his mind, she had it all: the looks, the wit, the charisma, the heart. He especially appreciated how confident she was. Unlike other women, who were interested in more material things, Peggy’s heart was set on serving her country. The connection between the two was instant and electric.

wife 6
Match Made In Heaven

Old Fashioned Courting

But before Billie laid his eyes on Peggy, he communicated with her through letters. So technically it wasn’t exactly “love at first sight,” and more like “love at first read.” Funnily, it seems like many have reverted back to this style of courting through online dating. But back in the 1920’s, many would communicate for the first time by writing to one another, especially if they lived far away from each other. Nevertheless, they would meet in person very soon.

wife 7
Old Fashioned Courting

It Was Improper

In Peggy’s words: “There was an opening in the production control office so I took that job. Billie’s father was the assistant manager in the propeller department there. Soon after I came there he wanted me to write to his son who was a student pilot and I let him know that I did not write to men I did not know – particularly service men.” This goes to show that Peggy was a class act, even from an early age.

wife 8
It Was Improper

Taking Control

It wouldn’t take long before Billie’s father informed him about this wonderful young lady and he decided to do something about it. “I began to get letters from Billie,” Peggy said. “I was a little fearful of this man, who had not seen me but he thought I was okay. So when he came on leave (from the army), all of a sudden the door to the airplane opened and there was Billie Harris saying ‘Hello Peggy,’ and that was about it.”

wife 9
Taking Control

Based On Friendship

The pen-pal arrangement made perfect sense, especially because of the distance between the two. Billie lived relatively far from Peggy, in San Antonio, so letters were a great opportunity to get to know each other. With each letter, the relationship got stronger and the more comfortable they were with each other, the more intimate the letters became. But the letters never became inappropriate, the pair simply found a healthy balance and were engaging in the normal act of courting.

wife 10
Based On Friendship

Faceless Man

To interact and establish such a strong connection with someone who you had never met before must have been strange for both Peggy and Billie. “I began to get letters from Billy,” she said. “I was a little fearful of this man that hadn’t seen me but he thought I was OK.” It must’ve been a unique experience, not knowing what someone looked like. But being attracted to that person through just their words was an amazing experience.

husband 44
Faceless Man

Face To Face

Peggy finally had the opportunity to put a face to the name while she was working at the Air Force Base. “When he came on leave, all of a sudden, the door to the airplane opened and there was Billie Harris, saying ‘Hello Peggy,’ and that was about it.” The pair shared one of those mysterious silences that you’d expect from a romantic drama. When each person lays their eyes on one another and the rest is history.

husband 45
Face To Face

Wedding Bells

After Peggy and Billie exchanged many letters, the happy pair decided to take the next step in their relationship. And after meeting Peggy a number of times, Billie took the ultimate leap of faith when he proposed to her. Peggy didn’t have to think about it, she knew he was the one and gave a resounding “yes.”  On September 22, 1943, the couple tied the knot in Florida. But sadly, the newlyweds could not anticipate what was about to happen…

wife 11
Wedding Bells

Utterly Broke

From a financial point of view, Billie and Peggy were in a dire situation. They were so poor that Peggy was forced to use her Vernon High School class ring as her wedding ring. She just didn’t have the money for a real ring. However, the financial troubles didn’t affect Peggy and Billie’s love. As far as they were concerned, they were destined to be together and were proud to call themselves husband and wife. Nothing could change that.

wife 12
Utterly Broke

Tough Start At Life

However, the financial troubles would run deeper than simply whether they’d be able to afford the luxuries in life or not. For example, ever since Peggy and Billie got married, they were excited to start a family. But this wasn’t going to be as simple as they expected because they would need the funds to provide for them and their children. They agreed that Billie would be the one who provided for the family, but this was just the start…

Tough Start At Life

Then The News Came

This would soon be followed by some polarizing news. Although Billie and Peggy were still celebrating after finding the respective loves of their lives, something else happened. Billie completed his pilot training for the U.S. Army Air Corps. His time spent at Brooks Field, San Antonio had paid off. But with this success came more responsibilities and Billie would be ranked as a second lieutenant. The war had come, and it was time for Billie to serve his country…

wife 14
Then The News Came

The Big Blow

It was a devastating blow to the new husband and wife. Their honeymoon was truly over. In one hand the couple had made their vows to one another. But on the other hand, they both swore an oath to the U.S., they promised to protect their land. Unfortunately, the latter trumped the former, and Billie and Peggy were forced to part ways. Their dreams were instantly shattered, no longer able to spend time together or build a family together.

wife 15
The Big Blow

Facing Reality

Peggy watched silently. Her husband packed his bags and bid his emotional farewell. Life seemed so unfair for Billie’s wife. Why, after only meeting recently, would they have to part ways so quickly? But it was Lieutenant Billie’s duty, he had to serve his country, and with pride. Peggy would have to wait for Billie’s return before they could start a family together. The most tragic part was that both knew that they may never see each other again.

wife 16
Facing Reality

Mac’s Thoughts

Before we follow Billie on his heroic journey, let’s take a look at what Texan Republican Representative Mac Thornberry had to say about the incredible story. In an emotional video announcement, he said, “Peggy And Billy Harris’ love for each other, their love for our country and their personal sacrifices are huge. This is a beautiful and inspirational true story of commitment, courage and ordinary people living extraordinary lives. They truly are our greatest generation.”

husband 40
Mac’s Thoughts

No Escape

World War II had begun and Billie was just one of many Americans to be drafted. The best were taken from their homes and utilized because of their exceptional skill sets. But Billie wasn’t shocked when his draft letter arrived. He was sure that his time would come. In an interview on a website that commemorated the 354th Fighter Group, Peggy tried to recall how she dealt with the terrible news, finding out that her husband was walking away from her.

wife 17
No Escape

Women Were Helpless

“His group was all taken to Tallahassee, and the wives were taken there to a huge hotel,” Peggy said. This was followed by more instructions for Billie’s wife: “When the men were called up, the wives were told to go home and not tell anyone that their husbands had been sent overseas until they had arrived there safely.” After just 6 weeks of marriage, they would have to part ways, and there was nothing Peggy or Billie could do about it.

wife 18
Women Were Helpless

Secrets Kept

Only once they arrived at their destination safely were the wives allowed to disclose any information about their husbands. Unfortunately, his arrival in mainland Europe would be the last indication that Peggy knew whether Billie was alive or not. A bureaucratic faux pas on the U.S. Army’s part meant that many worried wives would not hear back from the military about their husband’s whereabouts or well-beings for long periods of time. Billie had completely fallen off Peggy’s radar.

wife 19
Secrets Kept

Chaos

The army sent lies to many wives back in the U.S., and Peggy was one of them. Although the Supreme Headquarters in Allied France informed her that Billie was safe and that there was nothing to worry about, this simply was not true. After this serious breach of trust from the military, Peggy realized that she needed to seek out the truth for herself. Whether it was his voice or a dated photograph, she needed proof that her husband was at the very least, OK.

wife 20
Chaos

Unbelievably Unsystematic

Peggy was in absolute turmoil as a result of this confusion. “A telegram came – the moment I opened it, I went into pieces,” she said. “After a while, I looked at it again, then I went down to the telegraph office and brought with me letters from Billie that were written after the date of the telegram. The telegram said, ‘missing: July 7th’, and I had letters, hand written letters, dated after that. Later, they came up with ‘missing in action: July 17’.”

wife 21
Unbelievably Unsystematic

No Information Given

Whatever information the military sent Peggy, she was ready to act upon it. She wanted to get to the bottom of the problem: “I was told not to be concerned, that no doubt he was being ‘processed.’ Billie’s parents and I chose to believe that he was back in the United States. We were hoping that he was in a hospital somewhere and maybe just didn’t know who he was or had lost his memory. We had heard of cases like that.”

wife 22
No Information Given

Calling On The Red Cross

Unfortunately, Peggy and Billie’s parents couldn’t change the truth: her husband and their son was gone. By March 1945, Billie’s wife knew that he was probably dead. It was a catch-22 situation: Did she want to find out Billie’s fate despite the possibility that he may have perished? Or sit back and hope that one day he would return. Peggy made her decision and chose to take action, contacting the International Red Cross. She desperately wanted answers.

wife 23
Calling On The Red Cross

Useless

Initially, the first time she contacted the Red Cross, Peggy was not rewarded with positive results. In fact, they originally far from helpful. She recalled how the people she called gave an awfully lazy answer and for a moment, she lost considerable hope in philanthropic organizations. According to her, after asking whether they could help her on her search for Billie, they simply said, “we cannot afford to look into this because he will come home before we can get an answer.

husband 42
Useless

Contact Ed

Exhausting all of her options, Peggy tried very hard to get in touch with people in high places; people who could affect change in the shortest amount of time. So she turned to the Texas congressman of the time, Ed Gossett, who served in Congress for 12 years, from 1939 to 1951. “After quite some time I sent that release to Ed Gossett who was our congressman in Washington, DC,” she said. “I asked him to look into and see what happened.”

husband 41
Contact Ed

Small Steps

It was a new chapter in her life and the International Red Cross was an organization that Peggy could eventually trust. Despite the fact that the Red Cross could not make an official search for her husband, Peggy was delighted to receive vital information as result of the Red Cross’s findings. But out of nowhere came some new data that had the potential to unlocking Billie whereabouts. Was Peggy finally going to know the truth? Or would she need to carry on searching?

wife 24
Small Steps

Years Of Sleepless Nights

There was still no definitive answer. Peggy received information that was completely contradictory in nature. While one report read that Billie went missing, the other specified that he was found and was already dead. As the years passed by, Peggy never gave up her search. Many poor leads came her way and she kept bumping into dead ends. It wasn’t over for Billie’s wife until she saw his body, dead or alive. But it wouldn’t be long until her search was over…

wife 25
Years Of Sleepless Nights

Inconsiderate Announcement

Fast forward to 2005 and Billie’s location and fate were still a mystery. Congressman Rep. Thornberry even mentioned Billie in a speech and carelessly declared that he was M.I.A. (missing in action). His speech was ill-informed as his team of researchers failed to give him accurate information on Billie’s situation. Eventually, Thornberry apologized to Peggy for jumping to conclusions in regards to her husband and being so insensitive about an issue that had been going on for over 60 years.

wife 26
Inconsiderate Announcement

Apology Accepted

But Peggy didn’t begrudge Mac for what had transpired. On the contrary, she knew that he was also a victim of journalists who were simply using her and Billie’s story to attack him. “They said ‘it’s our duty as journalists to expose politicians,'” she said. “There’s nothing more I could do…they were putting this out, all over the United States, virtually all over the world. They used me to get at Mac Thornberry, and they got at [him] illegally. It was not right.”

husband collage 2
Apology Accepted

Mishandling Is An Understatement

Despite providing a formal apology for his mishandling of the situation, nothing would change the fact, Billie’s wife still had no closure. After being so faithful to her husband, she deserved an answer. But amazingly, the truth was staring her straight in the face, in the form of Billie’s cousin, Alton Harvey. Many of Billie’s family, like Peggy, searched long and hard for many years, to bring him back home, but to no avail. But then Harvey came along.

wife 27
Mishandling Is An Understatement

Didn’t See It Coming

After looking through the Department of the Army’s database, Harvey discovered something integral to the entire investigation. With this vital information, he had the potential to locate where his relative had been all that time. And Harvey wasn’t the only person to use that database to search for Billie. A foreign French woman had been on record after doing research on the former lieutenant. But what did this mean? Was this an important person in Billie’s life?

wife 28
Didn’t See It Coming

There It Was

It turns out that the French woman actually inquired about the information only half a year before Harvey began his investigation. This perplexed him. He asked himself: why would somebody from France want to learn about a man who has not seen his wife in nearly 7o years? This only fuelled Harvey’s interest and after many years of an unsolved mystery, it seemed like some big revelations were finally coming his way and most importantly, to Peggy.

wife 29
There It Was

The Truth

The information actually revealed that Billie was posted in the United Kingdom. His job was to fly daily across the English Channel in a P-51 Mustang. Ultimately, Billie was awarded a Distinguished Flying Across award as a result of his fantastic work ethic, team work skills, and exceptional piloting abilities. He also received two Air Medals in light of his heroic efforts during his service. Amongst these wonderful accolades was some more good news coming Harvey and Peggy’s way.

wife 30
The Truth

On His Way Home

On July 1944, Billie was granted permission to return home after completing about 100 missions. Elated by the news, he wrote to his beloved wife telling her how much he missed her and informed her that he was finally on his way back after all this time. Unfortunately, fate turned its ugly head and on the day of his planned sail back to the U.S., the army told Billie that he would need to wait for a little longer.

wife 31
On His Way Home

Heartbroken With Disappointment

Billie was completely dejected by the news. He got so excited knowing that he was so close to reuniting with his dear wife. But because the ship was full of wounded troops, Billie narrowly missed out on the opportunity to return home. The next ship that he could get on wouldn’t depart for weeks. After being through so much, Billie and Peggy now had this obstacle to contend with. And ultimately, it would change their lives forever.

wife 32
Heartbroken With Disappointment

It Wasn’t His Time

In order to pass the time while he waited for the next ship back home to his wife, Billie continued to serve the army. He would carry out many more missions during the week ahead. This would include his final mission, which would put his life on the line. As he flew over the northern French town of Les Ventes, soldiers shot him down. Spiraling out of control, Billie only had a few minutes to make the most unthinkable of decisions.

wife 33
It Wasn’t His Time

The Decision That Changed His Life

Despite being hit, Billie used his many years of experience to his advantage. His quickfire mind provided him with two choices. Either, he could eject himself from his plane seat, saving his life in the process. Or, he would have to remain in the crashing plane and turn it away from the innocent French civilians, which would cost him his life. It was the toughest decision he would ever have to make. So what did he do?

wife 34
The Decision That Changed His Life

Identity Revealed

Billie selflessly crashed his plane into a forest. This way, he wouldn’t harm any civilian in the nearby towns. One of those innocent civilians who Billie saved happened to be the French lady who explored his records just half a year before Harvey did. Billie was the reason that the woman, whose name was Valerie Quesnal, was still alive. The reason she was so interested in the first place was that it was nearly the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Les Ventes.

wife 35
Identity Revealed

They Had No Idea Who He Was

The terrible crash took Billie’s life away from him. The people of Les Ventes who saw this pilot divert himself away from them knew he had saved them. So the town has honored Billie’s life ever since. Because the town did not have much information about him, they just assumed Billie was a French Canadian who was saving his fellow Francophones. Despite burying him nearby and honoring him, they didn’t really know him.

wife 36
They Had No Idea Who He Was

Extreme Measures

Ultimately, it did not matter what his nationality was or which side he fought for. At any rate, Billie was a hero, who sacrificed everything he had to live for and at such a young age. He gave up the chance of reuniting with his wife Peggy for people he had never met. He was known for always volunteering first when called upon for missions and being an incredibly selfless person, but surely this was going too far?

wife 37
Extreme Measures

Time To Reunite

When his wife found out about where his body was buried, Peggy jumped on the opportunity and flew to France to visit her long lost love so that she could be close to him. Billie’s remains were buried in a grave at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. He is still spoken of fondly all over Normandy and, according to the people of Les Ventes, his grave to this day is “the most decorated grave in all of Normandy.”

wife 38
Time To Reunite

True Love Conquers All

As far as Billie’s wife is concerned, Peggy is a regular and devoted attendee of his grave. “When people speak of closure, they are people who have never experienced anything like this,” she said in an interview. This story goes to show that miles and time can’t break the love of some married couples. Peggy was always a devoted wife to Billie and would love him forever. She never gave up on him, even after discovering the truth.

wife 39
True Love Conquers All

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.