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Nightly News   |  May 28, 2013

Attending their prom, 70 years later

The class of 1943 graduated during World War II, and chose to serve their country instead holding a senior prom. Seven decades later, they reunited for the dance they never got to have. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> on this day after memorial day , we leave you with a big night that was a long time coming, the hill house high school class of 1943 never had a senior prom because so many of the young men shipped off to fight world war ii . now, 70 years later, the class of '43 in connecticut finally got to have their big dance . nbc's rehema ellis has our story.

>> reporter: when it's the senior prom for these seniors it's okay to break tradition.

>> these are my two dates.

>> reporter: 88-year-old tony pegnataro brought a former classmate and his wife. instead of being dropped off by parents, their two daughters were the chauffeurs.

>> have a good time.

>> reporter: the original prom for new haven, connecticut's hill health high school of 1943 was canceled 70 years ago because the country needed young men like tony, the class president , to fight in world war ii .

>> i graduated in june. i was in parris island boot camp in south carolina in july.

>> reporter: marilyn white unger said they did what was expected.

>> it would not have been right to be out dancing and having a good time when our boys were fighting, some of them in our class never came back.

>> reporter: it was a time in america when food was rationed, a dime bought you a loaf of bread and gas was 21 cents a gallon. on sunday, the music was the same as in 1943 , but the moves were different.

>> i'm tired.

>> reporter: it took a year to plan, because the prom committee reached out to classmates the old-fashioned way, by phone calls and letters.

>> i think it's better than the prom. because it's so good to see so many people that survived, 70 years.

>> reporter: by all accounts they've had full lives, but say they simply wanted what they missed 70 years ago, yearbook signatures.

>> reporter: singing the school fight song together one more time. and for johnny hartmann, a chance to get his girlfriend of 16 years to say yes.

>> i keep asking her to marry me but she says, soon.

>> reporter: but at least he got