WWII Widow Finally Learns The Truth About Her Husband's Death 67 Years Later

November 3, 2017

ww2 widow learns her husband is honored in france
Billie and Peggy Harris / CBS News

Lt. Billie Harris was an American fighter pilot who fought to liberate France from the Nazis. He was shot down and killed in July of 1944 over Nazi-occupied northern France.

Due to a series of miscommunications, that information never got back to his wife Peggy. As far as she knew, Bill was just missing.

She waited, she said, "All of my life."

Peggy might never have known the true story if a relative hadn't looked into his military records a few years ago. She finally got her local congressman to reopen his case in 2011.

She was shocked to learn that a small town in France had been memorializing her husband and his sacrifice for 67 years.

ww2 widow learns her husband is honored in france
Peggy Harris / CBS News

In the town of Les Ventes, the main road is actually called Place Billie D. Harris. It's the same road townspeople have been marching down three times a year for decades -- in part to commemorate his sacrifice.

Billie was able to maintain control of the plane, despite his condition, and avoid the village, 91-year-old Guy Surleau, the only witness still living, said.

At first the town buried Billie in their local cemetery and covered his grave with flowers. After his body was moved to the American cemetery at Normandy, the town continued to take flowers to his grave, assuming he had no living relatives to do so.

Since learning all of this, Peggy has been making an annual pilgrimage to France. She visits the nearby woods where the plane went down, escorted by Surleau.

"I like to think that he was still conscious enough to know that a friend stood by him," Peggy said, standing beside Surleau in the forest. "And that this man is that friend."

Watch the video below.

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