Like millions of women across America during World War 2, Peggy Harris said goodbye to her husband Billie and prayed he would be safe.
The young couple had been married for just six weeks when Billie left for the war. He was a fighter pilot, and when news and letters from her husband suddenly stopped in July 1944, Peggy feared the worst. Soon, the military told her that her husband was missing in Nazi-occupied France.
Then, they said that Billie was alive and safe. Next they said that he was definitely dead, and buried at one cemetery. News came soon afterwards that he had been moved to another cemetery, but now officials weren't sure if the body was actually Billie's after all.
It was an embarrassing and heartbreaking series of mix-ups that left Peggy unsure what had happened to her husband. For the next six decades she waited, never remarrying and never moving on from her missing husband. “Billie was married to me all of his life," she said, "and I choose to be married to him all of my life."
But on a whim, Peggy's cousin decided to request Billie's military records. Surprisingly, right there in black and white he found the answer Peggy had been waiting 60 years to learn...
In the north of France, there is a tiny village named Les Ventes with an unusual street sign.
Three times each year, the townspeople march down Place Billie D. Harris to visit his grave. It turns out this is where Billie's final mission ended in 1944. He was shot down, but managed to steer himself away from the village, into the nearby woods.
In a visit to Les Ventes a few years ago, Harris was able to meet Guy Surleau, a 91-year-old who was the last surviving witness of her husband's crash. Guy rushed to Billie's side and tried to rescue him, but there was no chance.
"I like to think that he was still conscious enough to know that a friend stood by him," Peggy said during her visit, "and that this man is that friend." Villagers buried Billie in their cemetery and piled flowers onto his grave until they were stacked knee-high.
Later, Billie's body was moved to the American cemetery in Normandy, but the villagers say they "don't forget" their hero. And neither does Peggy. After finally learning Billie's fate, she became the last war widow to regularly visit her husband's grave in the Normandy cemetery, and sent him flowers 10 times a year.
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