At the height of the Second World War, in April 1943, LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt came to Penn Station and captured the sorrowful farewell scenes between young soldiers and their families. These forlorn figures, who were bidding goodbyes, seemed to anxiously fear that they might never have any chance to reunite with their loved ones after this departure.
Here’s how LIFE described the scenes in its February 14, 1944 issue:
They stand in front of the gates leading to the trains, deep in each other’s arms, not caring who sees or what they think.
Each goodbye is a drama complete in itself, which Eisenstaedt’s pictures movingly tell. Sometimes the girl stands with arms around the boys’ waist, hands tightly clasped behind. Another fits her head into the curve of his cheek while tears fall onto his coat. Now and then the boy will take her face between his hands and speak reassuringly. Or if the wait is long they may just stand quietly, not saying anything. The common denominator of all these goodbyes is sadness and tenderness, and complete oblivion for the moment to anything but their own individual heartaches.
Below are 34 black-and-white photographs capture the farewells at the station.