By Lizann Lightfoot
Romantic real-life military love stories that are better than a movie.
Forget Dear John. And Top Gun. And Pearl Harbor. . . they’re cute. Some of the most romantic military love stories come from real life. Reading books and love letters from war-torn couples might be the sappiest thing you can do this Valentine’s Day. We won’t judge you if you grab a box of tissues, because these stories are both heartwarming and tragic.
1. The longest-living Revolutionary War veteran also had the world’s longest marriage
Daniel Bakeman, who fought in the Revolutionary War, lived long enough to see the end of the Civil War. He died at age 109. His wife Susan died a few years earlier, making their marriage 91 years long! Although the dates are debated, the couple appears to have married when he was 12 and she was 14. They had eight children together and endured a variety of hardships. Not only did he serve in a war that lasted 10 years, but they moved several times after surviving house fires on three different occasions. He was described as “a man of wit and spirit… a lover of life.” Susan always remained active. Even though she live to 105, she still rode her horse and buggy to visit family in her final years.
2. This woman crossed enemy lines to care for her wounded soldier
Arabella Barlow was 10 years older than her husband Frank. She was an educated New York literary socialite, and Frank was a lawyer. They were married on April 20, 1861, the same day Frank enlisted in the Union Army to fight in the Civil War. Over the next few years, Frank fought in several battles and was quickly promoted. Arabella volunteered as a nurse and occasionally visited him. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Frank was seriously wounded when he was shot several times in the side and back. A Confederate general found him lying on the battlefield and gave him some water. Barlow told the enemy that his wife was nearby, and he wished to get a message to her. Arabella was escorted through the Confederate lines to Frank. Even though the Confederate doctors didn’t think he would survive, Arabella cared for him and saved his life.
3. Civil War soldier died in his sweetheart’s arms
John Pelham was a Confederate artilleryman whom Gen. Robert E. Lee called “the Gallant Pelham.” During a winter in Fredericksburg, VA, he struck up a friendship with Bessie Shackelford, who lived across the street from the Major’s quarters. He and a friend made a plank bridge across the muddy street so they could visit Bessie and her five sisters. While riding a horse into the nearby skirmish at Kelly’s Ford, an artillery shell wounded Pelham. He was taken back to the Shackelford house, where Bessie washed and dressed the wound to his head. He died later that night.
4. This World War II couple reconnected through the Internet 70 years later
Norwood Thomas was an American stationed near London in World War II. There, he met a British girl, Joyce Durant. They fell in love, exchanging letters and gifts throughout World War II. On D-Day, Thomas parachuted into Normandy with the 101st Airborne. After the war, Thomas returned home and Durant moved to Australia. They lost touch and both married other people. 70 years later, when Durant got a computer, she looked him up and they connected over Skype. Thomas was a widower and Durant was divorced. They just wished they could hug each other again. With help from a GoFundMe page and Air New Zealand, Thomas flew to Australia in 2016 so they could meet in person. . . on Valentine’s Day.
5. The Cold War separated them for 11 years
Woodford McCellan, an American, met Irina in Russia in 1972 when he was visiting with a tourist group. He obtained a temporary visa, and the lovers were married in 1975. They were separated a few months later when McCellan’s visa expired and he had to return to the USA. The couple spent the next 11 years trying to reunite, but Russian policy during the Cold War made it impossible. He was denied permission to visit Russia, and she was denied permission to emigrate to America. Irina was finally allowed to come to America in 1986. She recounted their struggles in her book, Of Love and Russia.