Texas rep. apologizes to WWII soldier's widow for "mishandling" info about fate of husband
Peggy Harris of Vernon, Texas. A congressman has apologized for mishandling" information relating to the whereabouts of her husband, a fighter pilot who went missing after a 1944 mission in France. (CBS)
(CBS News) A Texas congressman has apologized to a woman for "mishandling" information relating to the whereabouts of her husband, a fighter pilot who went missing after a 1944 mission in France.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, who was contacted by Peggy Harris back in 2005, said his office "did not do enough to come to a clear, final answer" about what happened to her husband Billie Harris after he was reported missing following a July 17, 1944 mission over Nazi-occupied northern France.
"I have sent her a personal apology for the mishandling of this sensitive matter and for any distress she has suffered as a result," Thornberry wrote on his Facebook page.
Earlier this week, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman told the story of Peggy Harris, a Vernon, Texas woman who never got definitive word of what happened to her husband Billie.
After getting conflicting reports about her husband's fate, Peggy contacted her congressman. Her last letter, in 2005, was directed to Thornberry, who also happens to be vice-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
In his reply, Thornberry said Billie was "still listed as 'missing in action' in the National Archives."
But a few years ago, Billie's cousin Alton Harvey decided to try and get to the bottom of it for Peggy. He started by requesting Billie's military records - and that's all it took. A simple check with the National Archives showed that Billie Harris was killed in action.
Below are Rep. Thornberry's comments:
I would like to share some comments on a recent news story regarding Mrs. Peggy Harris.
My office maintains a strict rule that all constituent communications and correspondence are kept completely confidential. We do not share the actual content of our files or comment on it under any circumstances out of respect for people's privacy and to protect personal information. There are no exceptions. We shared this policy with CBS verbally and sent them a written statement confirming the policy before the broadcast of last night's story. They chose not to include it.
I can only say that in 2005 my office contacted various organizations on Mrs. Harris' behalf, following standard casework procedures. Conflicting information was sent back to Mrs. Harris and we did not do enough to come to a clear, final answer. I have sent her a personal apology for the mishandling of this sensitive matter and for any distress she has suffered as a result.
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