Veteran travels 10,500 miles to visit wartime girlfriend

Old mates reunite on Skype before the trip. Photo / AP
Old mates reunite on Skype before the trip. Photo / AP

• Norwood Thomas, 93, is flying across the globe to reunite with Joyce Morris, 88, the woman he dated while stationed in England during the war
• Thomas, from Norfolk, Virginia, was 21 when he met Morris, then 17, outside of London in the spring of 1944
• Thomas' son and Morris' son set up a Skype call for their parents after she found him in the internet a few months ago
• They organized a flight after hundreds of people donated towards a fund for the trip

A Second World War veteran has embarked on a 10,500-mile journey to visit his wartime girlfriend after more than 70 years apart.

Norwood Thomas, 93, boarded a plane from Norfolk, Virginia, to Australia on Sunday to reunited with Joyce Morris, 88, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Thomas was so excited for his upcoming reunion that he hardly slept the night before the flight.

'I woke up at 2:20 in the morning and never got back to sleep,' the vet told the paper at the airport ahead of the 10,500-mile journey.

'This is a great day,' he said. 'It's finally here.'

They first met in London shortly before D-Day but ended up going their separate ways after the war had ended.

Thomas calls Morris 'the one that got away.'

They recently reconnected via Skype. After their story went public, hundreds of people made donations to help fund Thomas' trip to Australia.

Air New Zealand arranged the flight to send Thomas to his long-lost love.

With local media jockeying to interview the wartime couple, the airline has reserved a room at the airport in Adelaide for Thomas and Morris to reunite in private before greeting the press.

'I'm just looking forward to seeing her smile,' Thomas said, and 'giving her a squeeze.'

'I have no idea if there'll still be romantic feelings. But at the very least, I'll get to spend time with an old friend. Just sitting and reminiscing will be wonderful,' he added.

It will take two days to reach Australia. Thomas says he would rather die traveling there than sit at home wondering 'what if?'

Thomas will reach Australia in time to spend the most romantic day of the year with his long lost love, since Valentine's Day falls on Sunday.

Old mates reunite on Skype before the trip. Photo / AP
Old mates reunite on Skype before the trip. Photo / AP

Morris was 17 years old in the spring of 1944 when she met her 'Tommy' - a 21-year-old American solider stationed outside London.

The two soon fell in love, but became separated after the war and never did have their happily ever after.

The re-connection was sparked after Morris asked her son if it was possible to find people on the internet and the two of them were able to find Thomas on the news because he had gone skydiving at 88-years-old.

Morris' son contacted the reporter who covered the story about Thomas and the two sons were connected - the rest is history.

Morris called Thomas before their sons set up a face to face but when they finally saw each other on the computer screen, the couple couldn't help but giggle like young loves.

'Tell me. Do you see me?' he asked.

'No, I can't see properly, no,' she said.

'Well, I'll tell ya, I'm smiling,' he told her.

'I'm sure you are,' she said, laughing, reports The Washington Post.

Morris told Thomas her son had printed a picture of him from the war that was online and that upon waking she looks at the photo and says 'Good morning, Tommy.'

Thomas told her, 'Just remember I will say good morning back to you.'

'I would love to be there to say in person,' he added.

Thomas told Morris he thought that she had died in a 1996 TWA crash because he read there was a British nurse named Joyce on board. He's delighted to know that she is still alive.

'I was out with a friend, and being young, we had our eyes out for young ladies,' Thomas Told ABC

Thomas took a moment to tell ABC about the first time he set eyes on his first love and how he couldn't shake her from his memory.

'We were on a bridge crossing the Thames when we looked down and saw these two fine, young ladies. We went down, paddled around the Thames in rowboats for a bit, later got some drink and food and Joyce and I just clicked.'

The pair dated for a few months and Thomas remembered falling deeply in love with her,

'I think I fell in love with the way that she smiled,' he said.

'I'd always look at her and think, 'My God, that is one, sweet girl.'

ABC reports that the young lovers were separated in June after Thomas was forced to leave for France for the Battle of Normandy.

'My memory is very dim, but I remember that after the war was over and I went back to the U.S., we corresponded via letters for a little bit, and I did send her a couple of gifts,' Thomas said.

Thomas added that he invited Morris to go to the United States to be his wife but she declined.

'She said she couldn't and that she was just getting into nurse's training, and I realized I had more feelings for her than she did for me,' he said.

'So I thought that if I couldn't have my first choice, I'd have my second.'

Thomas ended up marrying a woman with whom he spent 56 years of life. He described her as being a 'very wonderful, strong woman.'

Sadly, she died of lymphoma at age 75.

After the heartbreak of losing his wife, Thomas began thinking of Morris more and more.

'She had always been on the fringes of my thoughts this whole time,' he said.

'She'd always pop up as a pleasant memory, and it turns out that she'd been thinking of me this whole time too. Her son looked me up on the Internet and contacted me. I found out she'd been living in Australia.'

After their Skype conversation, a fund was set up to raise money and some 300 people donated to the campaign, in addition to others who mailed checks directly to Thomas' house.

The story gained so much publicity that Air New Zealand heard about Thomas' efforts and decided to send the veteran and his caretaker son Steve tickets for the trip.

- Daily Mail

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