When we meet someone and fall in love, although we may feel invincible and unstoppable, we never really know what the future holds. Love comes in mysterious ways and so we never truly know how it is going to end up as well. We all want love and we are all looking for love because it is what we all live for. So when we find it, we must make sure to keep it safe and secure. For this lady, there was a great twist in her love life that she could have never thought possible. Peggy Harris married whom she considered the love of her life. After a very brief moment of being together, something happened and her life was never going to be the same again. She had been waiting for 70 years to find an answer, she finally uncovers the real reason as to why he had disappeared out of her life.
For lovers, one of the most important things you need to do is trust each other. Trust should be the basis of any relationship. Peggy knew that this was an important aspect of a marriage. So, there was never an issue about questioning each other’s whereabouts when it comes to this couple’s relationship. You could say Peggy was a very trusting partner or that it was a different time altogether, that she was too in love with Billie because she never once questioned about where he wanders off. It was a little bit suspicious for her husband to just vanish into thin air especially after tying the knot six weeks earlier but she still felt that there was a perfect explanation, but it did feel weird.
Not Losing Hope
For a newly married couple, the first initial months after the wedding is always the best time. Most couples always stay together and can never keep away from each other. To be together as one is a dream for all couples that are truly in love. It was weird for Billie to be absent so poor Peggy would have to thicken her skin and also be up for dirty work in order to find out why Billie was gone without a trace. All her effort for all these years in trying to dig up how his husband disappeared went into vain. She really needed to know the exact reason for all this. But this lady refused to lose hope and continued her search despite no evidence ever popping up that could potentially help her find him.
Their love story proves how when two people are really in love, that even the unknown cannot stop them from being apart. Even though the signs all point towards a dead end, the true love that Peggy felt deep in her heart could not be diminished. She did not want to succumb to the word ‘No’ although she had heard it for so long now. Most of us would have given up and moved on by now but not Peggy, she was a true fighter who absolutely refused to put a stop on her search. She may have lost and gotten hurt plenty of times in her life but it was not going to stop Peggy from looking for Billie. It really is inspiring to see that although Peggy was completely in the dark about where her husband could be, she never gave up.
An Unconventional Meeting
Peggy Seale was just 18 years old when she worked as an electrical instrument mechanic at the Altus Oklahoma Air Force Base. She was born in Vernon, Texas during the 1920s. She had no clue that this would be the place where she would later meet her husband. This could be relatable to many of us as we never really know where we might meet our future spouses. Billie’s dad worked as a supervisor at Peggy’s workplace and that was where they first met. His dad felt like the two would make a great pair because Peggy was smart, beautiful and thoughtful. Since she was hard working and very witty, Billie’s dad felt like she would be the perfect girl for his lovely son.
Not An Ordinary Girl
One thing about Peggy that was really impressive was that she was not just another girl. While we perceive most girls as someone who belongs in the kitchen or doing household chores, Peggy was not one to stay at home and be non-productive. She was way too special to be sitting at home and not doing much. She was infact, well informed and learned enough to work with other people in the air force. Peggy was the only female working at Altus Oklahoma Air Force Base as a mechanic. During those times, it was not however that rare to see females in a typically male dominant workspace. Peggy always made sure that she stayed true to herself not letting any bumps in her life steer her away from herself.
The Perfect Couple
It was almost as if fate intervened because Billie’s father was working in the propeller department. This was where Peggy was working and pretty soon he was became acquainted with Peggy. Since she was a smart woman who was thoughtful and kind, he wanted to introduce his son to her. When they finally met, the two were immediately drawn towards each other. Billie was instantly attracted to who Peggy was, driven and firm. He also made sure his feeling were known. Other women were all engrossed in trying to capture wealthy men for husbands while Peggy was here, feeling content to work and solve complicated mechanical issues. They were the right puzzle piece to each other.
Dating The Old Fashioned Way
So after getting they became acquainted with one another, the two became friendlier and friendlier. The two’s first meeting was not at all the typical kind as it happened at the base where Billie’s dad and Peggy worked. The two slowly grew closer and closer and they were both not really complaining. After meeting, the two of them wanted to learn more and more about each other. But since they were both kept busy with their work, the only thing they could do was to use letters. So Billie and Peggy communicated through the use of letters. Exchanging letters was the common norm back then, as to how people would get to know one another. It would be equivalent to today’s text messaging.
An Improper Act
The way these two met was a very unconventional incident. Both of them had no idea that they were about to fall for each other, let alone meet each other. When asked about the first time they spoke to each other, Peggy would explain it saying: “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 servicemen.” Peggy did not want to be at all offensive to anyone. She was just the kind of girl that kept to herself and minded her own business.
Being In Control
Since she was not one to make the first move when it comes to relationships, Peggy did not follow up with Billie’s father’s request for her to send a letter to Billie. So as so as Billie was informed by his dad about how Peggy was, he took matters into his own hands. He took a chance and started sending a letter to this girl his father had spoken so fondly about. Peggy revisits her memories of the time he made his first move saying,“I began to get letters from Billie. 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.”
A Strong Friendship
Like most lovers are, the two of them were separated by distance. During the time they first started sending each other letter, Billie and Peggy stayed far from each other. The two could not really meet up as Billie was in San Antonio and Peggy was at the base. They both wanted to make things work so they took on the only option they had: letters. So sending letter seemed like a good way to exchange words. Their only was to meet was in the form of words in the letter and they started to look forward to each other’s letters. They began to feel closer to one another, as their friendship blossomed. Their letters began to get a little more flirtatious after each one was sent.
Tying The Knot
The two of them grew closer and closer and got to learn about each other through the use of the letters they would regularly send to each other. They were not rushing into things and both of them remained like a lady and a gentleman. Since they became very close and ultimately fell in love, there was only one thing left to do. However, they were both very conventional in the way they handled their courtship. As they got closer, Billie wanted to marry Peggy, and soon they were engaged. As they got even closer, they made things official on September 22, 1943, in the state of Florida. They had a very nice wedding and both of them were happy to be together. Peggy would have never imagined what was to come…
The couple married very young so there was no way they were able to live a comfortable life. They got married because they were in love and nothing more. They did not prioritize the material possession because staying together was way more important. Since they were extremely poor, Billed ended up giving Peggy his Vernon High School class ring in their wedding ceremony as he was way too broke to buy a legit wedding ring. The two remained very happy although some girls would never stand for a ring-less wedding. Although it started off in a very sad beginning, it did not bother Peggy and Billie. They were content with just being husband and wife and they just wanted to have their own little family.
A Tough Beginning
It is difficult for a couple to start from scratch because when you are a married couple, you have to take decisions together and not just for yourself. So, like most married couples, many questions started to rise up as to how they were going to start anew as wedded unity. Since they were so dirt poor, the thought of starting their own family was a little too soon although they really wanted to. Who can blame them right? After all, we were all put on this earth to reproduce and populate. Peggy had to stay at home and be a homemaker while Billie was going to have to be the sole provider and things were only starting to get more confusing from here. Both of them were unaware of what was about to happen to their fate.
Sad News Came
Billie now had two things to celebrate: he married his one true love and had also been successful in completing his U.S, Army Air Corps pilot training at Brooks Field in San Antonio.They were extremely happy and enjoyed the good luck that was falling upon them during this time. But soon, as all good things come to an end, a very sad news came to them. Billie received a notification that he was now upgraded to the superior rank of a second Lieutenant. This would ultimately mean that It was now time for him to serve his country. He would have to leave his newly wedded wife and their newfound home behind to fight in the ongoing war that is killing so many people.
The Big Blow
Since both of them were working for the air force, both of them had already sworn to work for the land and protect it from any threat. So obviously when or if ever the time comes for them to go out and fight for their country, they would not resist. They had already dedicated and promised their services to the betterment of the country. With that being said, they made a promise to stay together through thick and thin. They already made vows that they nothing would tear them apart, come rain come shine. They were still very new to their married life but now even the thought of having kids was out of the question. How difficult it must have been for them to have to put a hold on their duties as a couple, to serve in the war.
Facing The Truth
So in the end, there was no choice to be made but to accept this order given by the military. Billie did not have an option so he started to pack up to head for the headquarters. Even his wife had no power to change this unwanted service he could not get out of. Peggy could not do anything but just stare speechlessly from across. Since he already made a choice to protect his land, he had to go. The idea of raising kids was going to have to wait until he returned. And like most soldiers that have to serve their country, the question of when he can return to be with his wife was one no one could answer. His return was also now very uncertain and once again they were going to have to spend their time apart.
They got married during the time the war broke out so, in a way, the fact that Billie was called our for service was not all that surprising. WW II went into full swing with young men trying their level best to show their skills and protect their country. Among many of the young lads that had been ordered to go abroad protecting their land, Peggy’s dear husband would be one of them. Billie was anticipating the day he would be called and alas a report from Tallahassee informed home to give his farewells to his loved ones. Peggy in an interview about the 354th Fighter Group spoke about what ran through her mind then. As you may have guessed, it was not a wonderful feeling.
Women Felt Helpless
When she was asked about the time when he was first drafted to serve the country, Peggy had a few words to say. She said in an interview, “His group was all taken to Tallahassee, and the wives were taken there to a huge hotel.” Then further instructions were given to the ladies, as Peggy explained: “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.” It was an incredibly hard time for Peggy as she now had to bid adieu to her husband of just 6 weeks. To get married and be together for just over a month? It was indeed a cruel fate for the couple as distance and work were always getting in between.
Many Secrets Kept
Until their husbands had reached overseas, the wives were instructed not to tell a single person that their husbands had been drafted. This was the formal procedure that all of the wives of these men had to follow. It was probably to ensure the safety and confidentiality of both the men and their wives. For poor Peggy, hearing about how his husband had safely reached the land of Europe through a phone-call would be the final time she ever heard about him. It was the last time she ever got to know where exactly he was and how exactly he was doing. He seemed fine then. The U.S Army did not handle passing all the information well so Billie’s whereabouts were now never heard of.
The army could not find a clear explanation as to where Peggy’s husband had disappeared to. After reaching safely and fighting with the other troops there, the location of Billie slowly began to lose clarity. The army’s Supreme Headquarters in Allied France had already informed her that Billie was on his way home from the war. This would have been a very pleasant news to hear for Peggy except this was all false. Imagine the short-lived excitement that must have ran through Peggy upon hearing about her husband’s return, only to get more confused. She realized the authorities could not be relied upon so she took matters into her own hands as she felt she would need to find him herself.
Peggy was going through the toughest time revealing, “A telegram came – the moment I opened it, I went into pieces. 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, handwritten letters, dated after that. Later, they came up with ‘missing in action: July 17’.”
Not A Single Information
Peggy only had tiny bits of information and she tried to clarify everything herself: “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.”
Seeking The Red Cross’ Help
Billie was gone for good although his parents and wife did their best to trace him. By March 1945, Peggy was sure her husband had passed away and that he was not coming back. She knew it was going to hurt like anything but still needed to find out the reason behind. She went seeking help from the International Red Cross.
Taking Small Steps
Peggy found new hope after seeking help form a new organization to help trace Billie’s fate. Although the Red Cross was not willing to initiate an official search for Billie, it was successful in unveiling little bits of information and gathering details that were missing before. There was a newfound information about Billie that may have been an answer to Peggy’s many questions.
A Devoted Wife
Servicemen usually knock on the door of army wives and families to deliver bad news. Peggy Harris never ever received a knock on the door, a telegraph or any explanation whatsoever about how her husband had disappeared. After seven decades, Peggy never lost hope saying, “Billie was married to me all of his life, and I choose to be married to him all of my life.”
A Woman’s Strength
Just as her role in the Altus Oklahoma Air Force Base, Peggy remained different in her approach towards life. She still maintained her drive and focus that she possessed even as a young mechanic. She showed the same character in her efforts to find her missing husband, Billie.
Countless Sleepless Nights
The information received contradicted each other. In one Billie was found dead and in the other, he was in fact missing. There was no way Peggy was going to raise a white flag. She had gone this far and there was no stopping her.
Rep. Thornberry announced that Billie was one of the missing troops in his speech. Still, in 2005, there was no trace of Billy Harris… Not only did Thornberry have absolutely no idea what he was talking about, but his team flunked out on carrying out proper research, hence insensitively throwing random, baseless assumptions into thin air. He later apologized for speaking about an unclear information.
Mishandling Is An Understatement
Even after admitting how wrong his actions were, it still did not stop Peggy’s heart from searching. She did not realize that his cousin, Alton Harvey had known the truth all along. Of course, all of Billie’s family was committed to finding out whatever happened to him, but after years of seemingly endless digging, the search was over.
Piecing It All Together
Alton also expressed how he needed closure for himself as well. “Didn’t feel it was right that he just went off to war and didn’t come back – end of story.” He continued, You need to know what happened to him.” Alton then asked for Billie’s military record and decided to dig information up.
Harvey found out what happened to his cousin as he read the Department of the Army’s scattered and hidden files. He tried hard to uncover the truth but found that he was not the only one searching for his dear cousin. There was another person who was snooping through Billie’s files – a foreign French woman Harvey knew nothing about.
There It Was
This French lady had asked for the same files, half a year before Harvey did. He became even more curious to know what happens to his cousin when this woman was involved. After decades of uncertainty, finally, there was the truth, staring him blankly in the face.
Lieutenant Billie Harris was indeed posted the United Kingdom. On duty, his role was to fly a P-51 Mustang, supposed allied bombers and fly across the English Channel on a daily basis. His excellence in his craft won him a Distinguished Flying Cross award in addition to two other Air Medals consisting of 11 oak leaf clusters. Billie was a rare, pre-eminent soldier and patriot, but that was not all.
On His Way Home
After over 100 missions Billie was allowed to return home as of July 1944. He was overjoyed to be able to see his wife again and was excitedly on his way home. Sadly, fate had a different idea concerning Billie’s future, and so instead of boarding the ship he was assigned to, he had to be patient and wait for some time.
Heartbroken With Disappointment
Because of too many injured troops, Billie was going to have to show patience and wait a little while longer before he could head home. It was sad as there was no space for poor Billie, with the next ship scheduled to sail after a few weeks only. The ship was too small for everyone to board so Billie gave way and did not join them.
It Wasn’t His Time
Billie went on missions again as there was basically nothing to do before the next cruise. His last flying mission became his last time being alive. Sadly, Billie’s plane was shot down as he was flying over the town of Les Ventes in northern France. Billie was clearly crashing and he had a tough choice to make. He then did an unimaginable thing.
A Fatal Decision
Billie could understand after extensive training that he had been hit. He had to make a decision then and there, quickly. He could either eject himself out of the plane to save himself or divert the plane away from the French townspeople and inevitably plunge towards his death. This would be an impossible feat but Billie made his mind up.
His plane had crashed in the nearby woods of the town but it did not injure anyone. And turns out, the lady who was asking for Billie’s files was from that very same town Billie had saved that resulted in his death. That woman’s name was Valerie Quesnal. They were going to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the town’s liberation.
They Had No Idea Who He Was
Billie met with a lethal plane crash in the town of Les Ventes. They decided that the least it could do was honor his memory which is witnessed to date. However, the town did not have a lot of information about their hero, so they assumed the selfless pilot was a Canadian. They still speak of him fondly.
No matter where he came from, what Billie did was truly commendable. I was amazed that at such a young age Billie sacrificed himself for the sake of others, strangers he knew absolutely nothing about. Billie had always been the type to put other people’s needs before his and worked to keep others safe.
Way Back Home
As soon as she found out where he was she shipped him to her immediately. His remains were moved to a grave in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. His selflessness and act of bravery is something the people talk about admiringly in the French town of Les Ventes to this day. It is “the most decorated grave in all of Normandy” according to CBS News.
The Town Which Does Not Forget
Harvey found that “the citizens of the town snuck around when the Germans weren’t looking and had a little funeral for him and buried him in their cemetery.” His actions remained unforgettable even after all these years. According to CBS News, the townspeople march down the main road, fittingly named Place Billie D. HARRIS, three times a year. Les Ventes commemorated Billie’s grave despite his own wife being unaware.
A National Hero
The people of Les Ventes would help to get Billie’s grave decorated and maintained despite the fact that they were unaware if he had relatives or not. He would always be a memorable soldier that helped protect their town. Peggy would send flowers to the site ten times a year after finding out the location.
After finding of his plane crash, Peggy would regularly visit the site where it crashed. Peggy would make these frequent visits with Guy Surleau, who is the only living witness who saw Billie’s incredible deed. Guy says he could have been more help but Peggy says, “I like to think that he was still conscious enough to know that a friend stood by him,” a sobbing Peggy said. “And that this man is that friend.”
If Alton Harvey had never uncovered Billie’s military documents, Peggy would have never found closure. Although he ended up dying, she at least found out that it was for a noble cause. Peggy never remarried despite searching for her husband for 70 years and only being married for 6 weeks.
Love Conquers All
Peggy makes sure she visits Billie’s grave every day. “When people speak of closure, they are people who have never experienced anything like this,” Peggy explains. This is a true testament to what true love can do. Although her husband was gone for so long, Peggy’s love for him never died and hope was never lost until she found him again.