Her Husband Disappeared Right After They Got Married, 70 Years Later He Calls
Peggy was not especially worried at first. Her husband was deployed in Europe and had been out of touch for weeks. This was not unusual for those times – war wives would be worried, then receive a telegram or letter to set their minds at ease.
But she never heard – no letter, no phone call, no telegram until one day when the phone rang, and she heard the news.
Meet Peggy Seale
Just before the start of World War II, Peggy Seale graduated high school. It was a difficult time because she had looked forward to starting life, a career, and a family. Those dreams were put on hold when the world was thrown into chaos and fear.
Just as she was ready to begin dating and perhaps find a husband, all of the men were sent abroad to serve in the armed forces. Since she also wanted to help the war effort, she went to work at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. And there she met Billie.
Doing Her Part
Peggy traveled to Oklahoma from her hometown of Vernon, Texas. She was anxious to do what she could to contribute to the U.S. war machine and was glad that she could play a role, however minor, towards victory.
In a unique role for a woman, Peggy had trained as a mechanic and happened to be the only one in the entire base. Being the only mechanic and a woman, she got lots of attention from the soldiers. One of the generals on base liked Peggy and set her up on a date with his son, Billie.
Billie Goes to War
Billie introduced himself to Peggy by way of a letter, which Peggy promptly ignored. But Billie wouldn’t give up. Finally, one day they met by accident on the base, and it did not take long before they fell in love.
A few weeks into their marriage, Billie was called up. Peggy was devastated because the war was at its height, and she knew he’d be in danger every moment. His assignment was to go to France to fight the Nazis. Little did she know that their goodbye would last for many decades.
So Many Secrets
Billie was assigned secret missions in Europe, and Peggy was sworn to secrecy about his location. She had to keep silent about his whereabouts, and on top of that, she missed him terribly.
She knew he’d come home after his important missions. However, at that period in the war, flights returning to the U.S. were filled with injured soldiers; there would have been no room for Billie on the planes. He wrote to her explaining the delay.
Where was Billie?
Peggy expected Billie’s return to be delayed for several weeks. But she waited for months to receive a letter from him. Then a letter from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force stated that he had already come home!
Peggy was stunned to learn that, according to the Army, Billie was already back in the U.S. How could that be? If he was back, why hadn’t he called her? She began to develop a bad feeling about this and just knew something had happened to him after he arrived in the U.S.
Was He Missing in Action?
Peggy’s next step was to contact the Red Cross. Billie’s father accompanied her, hoping they would receive some information as to Billie’s whereabouts. All the Red Cross could tell them was that Billie was being processed. What did that mean?
After weeks of agonizing waiting and worrying, the family received yet another letter from the Army. This one, at least, made sense, as horrific as it was. According to the letter, Billie was Missing in Action (MIA). The letter, however, was dated July 7, which did not make sense to the family.
It Didn’t Make Sense
The letter did not make sense because Peggy’s last letter from Billie was dated after July 7, so the correspondence timing didn’t add up. Peggy knew something was wrong but never gave up looking for him and waiting for his return.
Years passed, and Peggy was an elderly woman now just wanting closure on the fate of her husband. She decided to call Billie’s cousin to help her conduct yet another search using modern-day technology. Surely, with all of the information online, they could find something about what happened to Billie.
Finding Some Information
Everyone was willing to help Peggy dig around for some mention of Billie on the internet. At this point in her life, she had not given up hope but was worn out from the waiting and not knowing about his fate.
The family decided to call the area cemeteries. That was a tedious process because they had to go through the cemetery registries looking for Billie’s name and matching it with the approximate date when he might have died. Finally, they got a match. But that was only the beginning of the rest of the story.
Who Was This Woman?
The cemetery in which they found Billie’s grave confirmed that the person buried there had Billie’s name, and the dates matched, But then they asked Peggy if they could review some documentation and call her back. Peggy was confused but agreed.
The cemetery staff called Peggy back and told her that a French woman from a village in France called Les Ventes had already called them to request a copy of Billie’s records. Both the cemetery administrators and Peggy were confused. Peggy needed to know who this woman was and why she had requested Billie’s records.
The Mysterious Woman
Since the burial record had been pulled recently, it didn’t take the cemetery staff long to find the information. This at least, was a blessing because otherwise, it might have taken months for them to find Billie’s file and data.
Reading over the information from the cemetery, Peggy realized that the person buried there was indeed her Billie. But beside his name were the initials “KIA,” which means “Killed in Action.” This caused further confusion since the Army had told Peggy that Billie was missing in action, not killed. And the identity of the French woman was still a mystery.
Billie in Les Ventes, France
The mystery woman who had asked for Billie’s file turned out to be the Mayor of the village of Les Ventes, France. It seems that Billie Harris was well known in that village. Now Peggy needed to find out why. The mystery deepened.
Peggy and the Mayor had a long discussion, at the end of which the Mayor asked Peggy to come to France and take part in a village parade. Peggy was quite confused at the invitation – why of all things would she travel to France to see a parade? When she asked the Mayor why she should come, the response left Peggy dumbfounded.
He Was a Hero
The Mayor had said that Billie was famous in the village, but what she did not say was that there was a street named after him, Place Billie D. Harris. Of all of the possibilities, Peggy never imagined that Billie had performed such wonderful acts for this village that they considered him a hero.
With tears in her eyes, Peggy asked what Billie did in this village 70 years ago to justify his status as a hero. She began to cry as she listened to the incredible story and realized exactly how much of a hero he had been.
Saving the Village
During the war, the village of Las Ventes was under Nazi occupation. The Allied forces sent planes to France to bomb Nazi airfields and depots, and Billie flew one of those planes.
The Nazi forces attacked Billie’s plane over the village of Les Ventes. Knowing he was going to crash, he looked down and saw the peaceful village. He knew he could not land there, possibly killing hundreds of innocent villagers. He had to decide whether to eject and save himself or divert the plane and crash somewhere else.
Billie decided his only option was to divert the plane, so he crashed into a nearby forest. When the villagers rushed to help him, but it was too late. Billie was already dead when the villagers arrived. They knew he had saved them.
Finally, Peggy had the closure she needed for all those years. The Army sent her a formal letter of apology for their error. They had not properly recorded Billie’s actions in the war nor how he died. Peggy was both proud of her hero husband yet sad that she missed knowing how he died, worrying and wondering for so many decades.