After Almost 70 Years, a Widow Uncovered Her Husband’s Strange Disappearance
There are always those how and why components of stories that keep us guessing and wondering how they ever could have happened in real life. This is one of those stories that truly belongs in a blockbuster movie.
Peggy Harris’ husband disappeared mysteriously. It was said that he died in the war but Harris was determined to get to the bottom of what really happened to the love of her life. It took almost seven decades after she married her husband to unravel the truth behind his disappearance. Read on to see if Peggy did indeed find out where her husband went.
Peggy’s Husband Disappeared Into Thin Air
Peggy and Billie’s love for each other was stronger than any known force in the world. It seemed as if no amount of time (long or short) could stand between them. After only six weeks of marriage, Peggy was surprised to find that her husband disappeared. Little did she know she would never see his face again.
While many would consider this mysterious absence a deal-breaker, Peggy felt it in her bones that something wasn’t right. She would stop at nothing to discover the truth of her husband’s disappearance and why it happened.
She Wouldn’t Give Up Until She Found Him
Given a seemingly impossible task, Peggy knew searching for Billie wouldn’t be a piece of cake. The search would require a lot of hard work, so she had to fully commit, roll up her sleeves, and get down to the most minuscule of details.
Peggy got as much information as she could over the years. She pieced together from different sources what happened to Billie to the best of her ability. It became apparent that the task of finding Billie would not be simple and straightforward. Any and all bits of evidence she could use to give her a clue as to where he might have vanished. Peggy wouldn’t give up when things got tough.
Despite The Challenges, Peggy Braved The Unknown
Many people were inspired by Peggy’s remarkable story and it showed them that true love could conquer all regardless of what’s thrown their way. No situation or circumstance would prevent love from finding a way of surviving.
Peggy’s valiant determination served as a powerful example for thousands of people to deal with what life throws at them. Peggy wouldn’t give up on love and she wouldn’t give up on Billie. People were inspired to not let the harshness of life get the best of them. Peggy taught them that they can prevail, as true love does.
The Way Peggy And Billie Met Was Unusual
Everything has a beginning in life. Peggy and Billie’s love story did, too. She was only 18 years old working as an electrical instrument mechanic at Altus Oklahoma Air Force Base. She met Billie’s father not too long after she started this position. His father worked as an assistant supervisor and he coincidentally worked on the base.
At first glance, Billie’s father knew that his son would be fond of Peggy right away. She was beautiful, talented, and kind, and had that special something most girls didn’t possess.
Peggy Wasn’t Like The Other Girls Her Age
The fact that Peggy was the only female mechanic who worked at the base was already extremely impressive. That field was primarily reserved for males only, so Peggy was certainly unique. Also, her innate knack to follow her heart’s desires made her special.
In the early 1900s, women were commonly relegated to staying at home. Peggy, however, wanted to do something different and more fulfilling, while remaining true to her dreams. She was one of those rare cases of people who knew exactly what they wanted from life.
It Was Love At First Sight For Peggy And Billie
As Peggy kept working her same job, she would soon be introduced to Billie’s father who worked in the base’s propellor department. Shortly after, Peggy would meet Billie where the sparks flying immediately. Peggy didn’t want a wealthy husband like a majority of girls her age.
Her real goal in life was to serve her country as best as she could. Solving complex mechanical problems made her feel satisfied, as well knowing that she was doing important work.
They Got Together Through Some Good Ol’ Fashioned Means Of Communicating
Obviously, the internet didn’t exist back then, nor did social media. Peggy and Billie actually met through written letters to each other, which was highly common in those days. Courting through letters was also fairly common.
Today, it may seem strange to receive letters from a person you haven’t met before. Considering there was no online communication, the only way to get to know somebody who lived far away was through letter writing. Imagine that!
The Entire Situation Wasn’t Proper And Made Peggy Feel Strange
Peggy felt hesitant to keep writing to Billie, a person she didn’t know, even though his father kept asking her to continue it. Since Billie was a student training to be a pilot, his father thought it may be a good idea for Peggy to keep sending him letters for motivation.
Despite what his dad wanted, Peggy didn’t feel comfortable continuing to write Billie letters. So, she conveyed to his father that she doesn’t write to men she hasn’t met in real life.
Billie’s Father Took Matters Into His Own Hands
It seems as though Billie’s father was getting the hint from Peggy that she wasn’t interested in his son, but that didn’t stop him from getting them together. It wouldn’t be long before he took action and began sharing things about Peggy with Billie.
In a short period of time, Peggy began receiving letters from Billie. She even communicated that she was a little scared of him initially because she hadn’t even met him before. However, everything changed when Billie went on leave and went to meet Peggy for the first time. Upon that meeting, their fate was sealed.
Their Relationship Started Out On Friendly Terms
The hard thing about being apart from each other was the distance. Billie resided in San Antonio, Texas which was pretty far away from the base where Peggy was working. So, their only form of communication was through written letters. And, after their first meeting, the letters grew to be more frequent.
Through their correspondence, it was only a matter of time before they became really good friends and created a beautiful friendship. Every new letter that arrived sparked new feelings that continued to grow. Peggy noticed that Billie’s letters became more flirtatious, which led to their courting.
Weddings Bells Were Ringing For The Newly Courted Couple
Everything was done by the book before Billie proposed to Peggy. So, when he asked her to marry him, she obviously accepted. On September 22, 1943, the happy couple tied the knot in Florida without any clue as to what would happen next.
Determined, their love would shine through any obstacle, especially when Billie vanished all of a sudden. How would Peggy go on without her beloved husband and best friend by her side?
They Didn’t Have Much To Fall Back On Financially
Neither Peggy nor Billie had any solid savings since Billie was a student pilot and Peggy was an airplane mechanic. Peggy definitely didn’t have enough money to purchase a traditional wedding ring for Billie, so she did a little improvisation and ended up giving him her high school class ring.
Billie had no problems with that because all that mattered was having Peggy in his life. Naturally, it all would fall into place despite the tough times. With an uncertain future ahead, the only thing that would remain was their undevoted love and devotion to each other. Persistence was key.
The Newlyweds Had A Rough Start
The future heavily weighed on both the minds and hearts of Peggy and Billie, and made the decision to start a family together. Even though they didn’t even have enough money to start their family, they had to come up with a plan that would work for both of them.
Weighing their options, it was decided that Billie would be the breadwinner and Peggy would stay at home. She would be the primary person at home taking care of the kids whenever they were ready to start that next chapter of their lives.
The News That Would Change Everything
No amount of planning could have prepared Peggy and Billie for the devastating news they would receive. This period of time was full of high highs and low lows. Billie was still excited from marrying Peggy and was aptly looking forward to their future together and what was in store for them.
Billie had just graduated piloting school and finished the U.S. Army Air Corps training in San Antonio. These incredible accomplishments were followed by the fateful letter that Billie received: his time was due to serve his country.
Billie And Peggy Were Dealt A Big Blow
Sadly, there was no viable solution for their upsetting and life-changing situation. Both of them swore service to their country, which overshadowed any personal oath that they made to each other.
They were hit harshly by reality and were dealt a big blow to their future plans. The family they had dreamt about having together would have to be put on the back burner. Clearly, they both had important duties to uphold and a commitment to their country, but that wouldn’t prevent them from trying their best to stay strong.
They Faced A Harsh Reality
Helplessly, Peggy watched as her husband got his things and was about to leave. She did her best to put on a positive face, but she had no choice except to watch as he walked out the door. Billie took his vow seriously and knew what he was getting himself into.
Neither one of them knew if they would see each other ever again, or if Billie would make it back home safely. Remaining hopeful, they shared their goodbyes.
There Was No Visible Escape In Sight
World War II was fully active and American males were being recruited each day, specifically those who had demonstrated their potential for the necessary skills that were needed by the military. An exceptional man with many important skill sets, Billie was a shoo-in as a military recruit.
Billie felt that his day was near and there would be no escaping once he was drafted. He had known since he enrolled in piloting school that his destiny was to be in the military. It was his calling.
After Their Husbands Got Drafted, The Women Were Completely Helpless
Peggy had shared once in an interview what she was feeling on that fateful day. She also talked about how her new husband was sent off to Tallahassee while the wives were brought to a hotel. She divulged that while they were waiting at the hotel, they were given further instructions.
Based on their testimony, the wives were sentenced to go home and not talk to anybody else about where their husbands were being shipped. Peggy and the other women uttered their last goodbyes. They didn’t speak a word until they were sure their husbands arrived safely to their destinations. During this final exchange, Billie and Peggy tearfully had to say goodbye to each other after only being wed to each other for six short yet wonderful weeks.
Secrets Were Kept From Peggy
Doing as they were told, the women went home. Each of them began to slowly receive confirmation that their husbands had made it safely to their respective war zones. Although, for Peggy, that proof of her husband’s life was all she got. Since then, she could only hold onto some semblance of hope that Billie would one day return to her.
Throughout the course of the war, that one confirmation was the only thing she ever received about Billie. His whereabouts were a mystery to Peggy, and with the unorganized bureaucratic mess of the U.S. Army Billie was lost.
It Was A Hectic Time
During the chaos of it all, Peggy had attempted to get information on the whereabouts of her husband. She found it hard to believe that he didn’t write to her for such a long time. For years, they had steady correspondence prior to their marriage, so it made no sense that he would stop all of a sudden.
However, the military was in complete disarray at the time. Peggy was sent a message by the Army’s Supreme Headquarters located in France that her husband was on his way home. Unfortunately, that news was very far from the actual truth. She was fed false information about Billie on more than one occasion. She realized that if she ever wanted to hear from him again, she had to get to the bottom of this situation herself.
The Government Was Completely Unsystematic
Peggy’s difficult time and rollercoaster of emotions would only continue as time marched onwards. She received the first telegram stating that Billie had disappeared on July 7. Peggy fell apart, and, after that, began to piece things together. She could feel it in her gut that something was seriously wrong.
Peggy read and reread the telegram message before the realization hit her that it contained false information. She kept handwritten letters from her husband that were dated after the telegram stated he was alive and well, although the government had declared him missing. Trying to get everything patched up, Peggy went to the telegraph office herself. The message she got had the wrong date, that Billie went missing in action on July 17, not July 7. None of this felt right.
Not A Sufficient Amount Of Information Was Given To Peggy
Desperate, Peggy held on tightly to any little piece of information she got. Of course, she wanted to be positive and believe that Billie was stateside, in a hospital somewhere. Even his parents believed he was back and was being processed. Everybody was just holding onto any sliver of hope.
His parents also believed that Billie had been experiencing memory loss which was why he hadn’t come home. Regardless of anything that was said or believed, Peggy knew in her heart that the entire situation was faulty. So, her gut kept telling her to investigate until she saw the unnerving whites of Billie’s eyes.
The Red Cross Was Called In
It was 1945 when Peggy had the unnerving revelation that Billie was deceased. It didn’t matter what she or his parents did when it came to retracing their steps, they were always met with a dead end. They were doing everything that they could possibly do.
With Peggy’s heart heavy, she and his parents reached out to the International Red Cross for any information about Billie. Peggy wouldn’t just give up and have the fatality of war be the excuse for his disappearance. She would stop at nothing until she got answers.
Peggy Took Small Steps To Piece Together The Perplexing Puzzle
All Peggy could do was hold onto hope while she tried to get to the bottom of what really happened to Billie. The Red Cross didn’t initiate any official search for him, but they did provide Peggy with new clues.
More information started to flood in and Peggy began piecing together the real truth behind Billie’s vanishing. It seemed that there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon and that she may finally get some answers.
She Would Remain Hopelessly Devoted To Billie
World War I and II contained some of the most brutal and dark times in our history. Wives and family members would dread whenever they received a telegram that would reveal their loved ones’ fates. Some were even greeted by servicemen who physically handed them the awful news.
Peggy never received one thing. Nobody came to her door or personally gave her a telegram. 70 years had passed and not one bit of news found its way onto Peggy’s doorstep. Regardless, Peggy would always remain Billie’s wife no matter what.
Peggy Proved She Wasn’t An Ordinary Woman
From the very beginning, Peggy made it known to many that she wasn’t like other women. She signed up for the Altus Oklahoma Airforce Base and wouldn’t abandon her morals, beliefs, or values – especially when it came to matters of the heart. That same tenacious spirit stayed with her even after Billie disappeared.
Every ounce of her soul and fiber of her being was dedicated to finding her husband. All of these personality and character traits combined led her to never give up and remain faithful to continuing the search decades after. Despite the silence, she still persevered.
She Endured Years Of Sleepless Nights
As Peggy continually searched and tried to uncover any information about Billie, nothing surfaced. Certain reports stated he was missing and others pronounced he was dead. The search for the truth proved itself to be more strenuous than she could have ever imagined.
It didn’t matter how long it would take or how many more dead ends she would get to, she refused to rest. She couldn’t admit defeat. Her lifelong search had to pay off somehow.
An Inconsiderate And Uninformed Announcement Was Made
2005 had rolled around and Peggy still didn’t know where Billie was, much less if he was even alive. Word spread about her situation, prompting the local congressman, Rep. Thornberry to declare a public announcement. Well, he had no idea what he was talking about.
Rep. Thornberry carelessly mentioned in an interview that Billie was a troop and not a person. He kept making false statements about what was happening. Thornberry’s team blatantly spread false information which was never researched. Ultimately, Thornberry made a public apology to Peggy regarding his role in telling falsities to the public.
Thornberry’s Mishandling Of The Situation Is A Gross Understatement
Thornberry did apologize to Peggy for his mishandling the information and escalated the already difficult situation even further, he didn’t show any signs of genuine remorse. Without any accurate or carefully handled information, Peggy was still beyond desperate to find out what happened to Billie.
Only a little bit more time would go on until the truth would finally be revealed to Peggy. And it was really revealed this time around. It was Billie’s cousin, Alton Harvey, who lit the truth torch.
Peggy Began To Piece Things Together
Not only did Peggy want to know what happened to Billie but so did Alton Harvey. It was beyond a desperate attempt at closure. Ultimately, it was Peggy’s need to solve the mystery. Alton confirmed that Billie would never have just married and then disappeared out of thin air.
Alton also believed that something had happened to Billie. After Billie’s extremely long absence, Alton made the decision to request Billie’s military records, hoping to shine a light on his disappearance. He wanted to lend the peace of mind that Peggy and his family had been longing to receive.
Nobody Could Have Predicted What Would Happen Next
Billie’s cousin made it a priority to shuffle through the Department of the Army’s files in order to gain some insight into Billie’s mysterious disappearance. After Alton gained access to the super top secret and unorganized war files, he discovered that another person was also digging into Billie’s records.
As Alton scoured the records over and over again, he found something intriguing. There was a young French woman who had also been asking about Billie.
Maybe The Woman Held Some Answers
This mysterious French woman who Alton and Peggy knew absolutely nothing about had actually requested to see the same classified files Alton was looking at. However, the woman had requested access to the files about a year and half before Harvey got them.
Of course, questions and suspicions swirled around who the identity of this French woman was and what was her connection to Billie. Alton’s curiosity morphed into obsession and after decades of not receiving unanswered questions, there’s a possibility that the woman held the answers.
More Information About Billie Was Unraveled
Every new piece of information that Alton discovered about Billie was truly mind-blowing. Billie wasn’t just a dedicated U.S. patriot, but he was more than that. He flew the P-51 Mustang and flew the skies of the English Channel every day.
Billie was the epitome of a soldier who had perfected skills, skills that earned him the Distinguished Flying Across Award along with 11 Oak Leaf Clusters and other medals. Billie was way more than solely a patriot and soldier.
Billie Never Made It Home
During the time he was enlisted in the war, Billie completed almost 100 missions. July 1944 was when he was supposed to return home. So, when he got the wonderful news that he was returning home to Peggy, he was over the moon with happiness. Sadly, things took an unexpected turn for Billie.
While he was in preparation for his homecoming, he wrote a letter to Peggy expressing how happy he was to see her again. Billie missed the boat that would bring him home. He got an announcement that the trip would be postponed.
Beyond Heartbroken And Disappointed
The alleged ship that Billie was supposed to get on was full of wounded soldiers, so Billie had to watch as other soldiers began the journey back to the U.S. Unfortunately, the wait was the hardest part.
Getting back would take time and the next ship to bring the other boys back was weeks out. Yet again, Billie was instructed to wait to go home. Weeks flew by and just as he was ready to board the ship, he was informed again that he would have to wait. It was this second time that would alter Billie’s life forever.
It Wasn’t Billie’s Time Clearly
Billie simply could not keep waiting around for the next boat to return home. After all, he had already been bumped twice from returning. Making the most of his time on foreign soil, he got in the skies again and kept doing missions. His fateful choice to return to active duty that would forever change the lives of both him and Peggy.
On his last mission, he was flying over Les Ventes when his plane was shot down. Billie had to make a life changing decision. With only seconds to spare, Billie made the call.
The Split Moment That Changed His Life
The plane Billie was on proved to be in bad shape and quite impossible to maneuver. The townspeople below were shocked with horror as they saw the plane plummeting from the skies above. His training kicked in without notice and he knew deep down what he had to do.
He had two options. The first was that he could either eject himself from the cockpit and let the plane crash into the town below, taking the lives of innocent people. The second option was somehow to veer the plane away from the town and risk his life. It wasn’t even a question of what was the right thing to do.
The French Woman’s Identity Was Revealed
Billie’s plane floated through the sky before it slammed into a forest on the outskirts of the town. The plane crashed immensely hard, but nobody was near to be harmed or killed. Just one life was lost.
It was revealed that the identity of the French woman mentioned earlier was Valerie Quesnal. She happened to be one of the townspeople who survived due to Billie’s fast decision making skills and hard maneuvers to spare the town instead of plummeting into it. Valerie searched for Billie’s files because the Liberation of Les Ventes was on the horizon. She wanted to know about the amazing and fearless man who saved the town.
Billie’s Identity Was Unknown
Even though Billie died from the plane crash, the people of Les Ventes thought they should respectfully honor him and others who sacrificed their lives to save theirs. Well, the townspeople barely had any information on the man who crashed into the forest.
The folks of Les Ventes had assumed the pilot in the crashed plane was Canadian, so they buried him in their sacred grounds. They not only honored him, but others who also served in the war. Still, they had no idea who this man was or his origins.
Lived As A Hero, Died As A Hero
The townspeople didn’t care where Billie came from and if he was Canadian, American, or British, he was a hero in their eyes. Billie demonstrated his heroic nature, something that all soldiers would aspire to be, as well as sacrificing themselves to save others. The people of Les Ventes felt there was truly no higher calling than that.
Billie had always possessed a giving spirit and always volunteered, putting others before himself. On that fateful day, Billie gave up his future with Peggy and his dreams of starting a family with her so that others could continue living. He sacrificed so much, a valiant trait which proved that he was an extraordinary human and soldier.
Peggy Brought Billie Home
Peggy ensured that he would be brought home, after she found out where Billie was buried. She made the arrangements to bring Billie home so that he could be close to her. Billie’s remains were transferred from Les Ventes to Normandy American Cemetery. It was his selfless and extraordinary split second decision that one day which saved many lives.
To this very day, Billie is still considered and spoken of highly, with much fondness and admiration. Billie Harris’ grave, according to CBS, is the most decorated in the entirety of Normandy.
Les Ventes Would Never Forget Billie
Alton Harvey’s pivotal investigation uncovered that the townsfolk of Les Ventes snuck around the Germans to give Billie a proper burial, one that he clearly deserved. Although many, many years had passed, the town will never forget the brave act that saved them from chaos and disaster.
To this very day, the townsfolk still march down Place Billie D. Harris three times each year. While Peggy hadn’t been aware of what truly happened to Billie all that time ago, Les Ventes’ citizens would always hold him fondly in their memories.
Once A Hero, Always A Hero
Considering that the folks of Les Ventes didn’t know if Billie had any family or close relatives who could visit to celebrate this life, they would often adorn his grave. Billie was perceived as a personal hero for many of the people in the town.
The mayor of Les Ventes even gets teary when he talks about Billie Harris. That single moment of decision making where Billie decided to save the town rather than himself, would never be forgotten. Upon learning of where Billie rested, Peggy sent flowers ten times a year to honor his service and the life they could have built together.
Peggy Pays Tribute To Billie Annually
After Peggy found out the real story, she often travels annually to Les Ventes to honor the memory and fearless actions of her husband. She goes to the exact forest where his plane went down, and, each time, she is accompanied by Guy Surleau, the only living witness who recalls that fateful day.
For Guy, he regrets that he didn’t do enough for Billie. Obviously, there was nothing that he could do and Peggy was fully aware of that. She has shared with Guy that she is just happy knowing that Billie wasn’t by himself when he died and that Guy was close by.
Finally Getting Closure After Decades
If Alton Harvey hadn’t requested the military records on Billie, Peggy and Alton would never have uncovered where Billie rested. And, they never would have been able to get the closure they needed for peace of mind. The taxing weight of finally discovering what had happened to Billie was lifted from Peggy’s shoulders at last. It only took seven decades.
There was no doubt (not even for a second) that Billie wasn’t an honorable and remarkable human. His primary mission in life was to help others and that mission further cemented his status as a hero. Despite Peggy and Billie only being married for such a short period of time, she never remarried and never stopped searching for the truth.
Their Story Is A Strong Testament That True Love Conquers All
At last, the strenuous and prolonged search for Billie had come to an end. Although Peggy didn’t get to spend the rest of her life with him, she knows in her heart that he would always be a hero. Every day, she visits Billie’s grave and still remains faithful to him.
It’s a sad ending with no happily ever after or true closure for Peggy and Billie’s family. One thing is beyond certain: Peggy didn’t stop loving Billie for one second. Her unconditional and unwavering love for him kept her going and led her to uncover the actual truth behind his strange disappearance. The best part of the story is that she finally got to bring her other half and love of her life home for good.