A Paratrooper and his Wartime Love Reunite After 70 Years:

On June 5th, 1944, Army paratrooper Norwood Thomas was at an airfield in England boarding a C-47 transport plane. His face was blackened and he wore a hundred pounds of gear. Earlier that day, he met Eisenhower when the General came to visit the airfield. Norwood offered to bring him back a pair of German ears. The C-47 turned on its engines and rolled off into the evening. Norwood and his fellow paratroopers were part of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, heading on the Great Crusade to liberate Europe. As he and his group rode to Normandy, each man was lost in his own thoughts. Thomas was thinking of a girl he had met in London. He spotted her when he and a friend were walking across a bridge. They saw two girls trying to rent a rowboat and Thomas and his friend decided to talk to them. The girls had wanted to rent the boat to get exercise and the Americans suggested they rent two and the girls row them.

paratrooper

Norwood Thomas and Joyce Durant, together again after more than 70 years



The girl in Norwood’s boat was named Joyce Durant. She was 17 and had a smile that could melt a guy. Norwood couldn’t help but ask to meet her again. The two met on weekends, writing to each other until the War called and they had to part.

paratrooper

Norwood Thomas in uniform

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Norwood jumped into the dark Norman countryside. He survived D-Day and the fighting in Normandy. The two were reunited after the 101st Airborne returned to England in July of 1944 but were separated again when Norwood jumped into Holland in September. He didn’t come back to England but stayed in Europe fighting from Holland to France, and Belgium. They met one last time after The Battle of the Bulge, but then he received orders to return to the US.

Norwood returned home a changed man full of turmoil inside. The son of a preacher, he lost his faith in the foxholes of Europe and from witnessing the Nazi concentration camps. He got into fights and couldn’t keep a job. He wrote to Joyce, his goddess, innocent from all the horrors he had seen and done. He asked her to come to the US, but she misunderstood the letter, thinking he was already married and refused. Norwood eventually married and re-enlisted in the Army, serving until the 1970s.

paratrooper

Joyce Durant during WWII

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Virginia Pilot featured an article about Norwood and other men who fought on D-Day. Joyce Durant had never forgotten her wartime love either. She had married, had kids and moved from England to Australia. She kept the picture of the paratrooper who she fell in love with during the war. On a whim, she asked her son to look him up on the internet and they found the article in the paper. Through the Virginia Pilot, Joyce’s son was able to contact Norwood’s son and discovered that Norwood was still alive and single.

After 70 years, the two met on a Skype in a call which lasted more than an hour. Their story made headlines and appeared on television in Australia. Traveling to meet each other was prohibitively expensive for them but through donations from crowd funding, the two were able to reunite in 2016 on Valentine’s Day and spend two happy weeks together, the first they had done for over 70 years. Though their plans for the future are not yet known, they have a long history and romance to rekindle.

Photos Via Steven Thomas and Air New Zealand

For related articles see:

WWII Veteran set to marry his Teenage Sweet Heart 70 years Later

Fact Vs. Fiction: Albert Blithe in Band of Brothers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Past and Present WWII History Posts