As war ravaged World War II Europe, a young American soldier fell in love with an 18-year-old French girl while he was staying in her small hometown.
Seventy five years later, KT Robbins, now 97, has finally been reunited with the woman, now 92, whose picture he treasured for all those years.
Robbins, stationed with the US army in the town of Briey in northeastern France in 1944, fell in love with local girl Jeannine Pierson, 18.
The pair met after Robbins had been looking for someone to wash his clothes, and Pierson’s mother agreed to help.
The couple fell in love but, two months later, Robbins, then 24, was told he had to quickly leave for the Eastern Front.
Later, back in the US, he got married to someone else.
“I told her maybe I’ll come back and take you, but it did not happen like that,” Robbins told French television channel France 24.
“When he left in the truck, I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson said. “I wish after the war he hadn’t returned to America.”
When the war came to an end in 1945, Pierson began learning basic English phrases, hoping Robbins would one day return for her.
Instead Robbins returned to America.
It was there he met and married Lillian, his wife of 70 years. They worked alongside each other in a hardware store in Mississippi for 50 years. She passed away in 2015 at the age of 92.
Pierson also fell in love again. She got married in 1949 and became a mother to five children.
Despite marrying, Robbins kept a black and white photo of his wartime sweetheart.
When he returned to France for this month’s D-Day anniversary commemorations, he was clutching the image, unsure if she was still alive.
He assumed that Pierson had passed away, saying: “For sure I won’t ever get to see her.”
Robbins met some French journalists who helped track her down and organise an emotional reunion.
Robbins and Pierson immediately embraced when they were reunited, gazing into each other’s eyes with adoration and joy.
“I always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson.
“He said he loves me. I understood that much,” Pierson told one of the journalists in French.
Robbins then pulled out the photo of Pierson he had kept for so many decades, telling her: “This is you.”
“Wow,” she exclaimed.
Pierson then asked why Robbins hadn’t come back to see her sooner.
“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” she said. “I wish he had come back.”
“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins replied.
The former sweethearts spent a few hours together before Robbins had to leave for the anniversary celebrations in Normandy.
Robbins and Pierson promised they would meet again.
“Jeannine, I love you girl,” Robbins said as their eyes begin to wet and their lips met, once again, for the first time in 75 years.
This article originally appeared on NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as Wartime lovers reunited after 75 years