Nightly News   |  September 22, 2013

WWII soldier’s loving letter reaches daughter nearly 70 years later

Peggy Smith’s dad wrote a three-page letter to her while he was fighting overseas. He never made it back, but his sentiments did. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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>>> finally tonight, an incredible detective story inspired by an irresistible love story . it is about the love of a father ship off to war for the daughter he never met. expressed in a letter she never saw until yesterday. seven decades after it was written. here's nbc's mike taibbi .

>> reporter: two women embrace in a parking lot. strangers until now. overcome by emotion.

>> we'll get through this. we'll get through this.

>> reporter: 69-year-old peggy smith on the right has learned from donna gregory of a three-page letter written to gregory weeks after her death by her soldier father, john farrell eddington. at 25, the missouri man had left his pregnant wife helen to join the italy campaign in world war ii and what did peggy know of him?

>> i had a dad but he was killed. that's it. that's all i knew.

>> reporter: the letter and the purple heart he received after he was killed in action were among several items in a home she was helping to empty 13 years ago. for all those years, she told the crowd in dayton, nevada , she searched relentlessly for peggy or any relatives. her hundreds of messages and phone calls falling short.

>> when i would think i had possibly found a relative, i would end that phone call and i would cry.

>> reporter: another dead end .

>> another dead end .

>> reporter: then in the social media age, she turned to facebook and posted, i did it. i finally found her. connecting one message to a long ago phone call that led to this. a 2,000 mile journey to nevada with a patriot guard escort to finally meet peggy .

>> the letter is dated february 27th .

>> reporter: and her request to read the letter that started it all.

>> your daddy loves you so very much and always will no matter where i am.

>> reporter: tears all around. a doomed soldier's run for the 3-week old daughter he would never meet.

>> i will see you as soon as possible.

>> reporter: in a country of over 300 million, two we will find each other. the one finally permitted to love her father and to feel his love for her.

>> i feel the emotion because i know he loved my mom. and he was so happy about a little girl .

>> reporter: because a stranger did something extraordinarily human. and got the equivalent in return. some story seven decades in the making. mike taibbi , nbc news, dayton, nevada .