Plane of US WW2 pilot finally found near Bologna

The final resting place of an American Second World War fighter pilot has been found by Italian amateur archaeologists near Bologna.

Plane of US WW2 pilot finally found near Bologna
The P-47 Thunderbolt in action. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The plane, an American P-47 Thunderbolt class fighter, was unearthed on Saturday in front of the dead serviceman's emotional children and grandchildren, who had travelled to Italy to be present at the dig.

The plane once belonged to U.S Air Force pilot Loren Hintz but was shot down by a Nazi anti-aircraft gun trying to protect the German Wehrmacht as they fled from towns around the Italian city of Bologna on April 21st, 1945.

Hintz was killed just eight days before the war in Italy ended, leaving behind his five-month-old daughter, Gretchen, and his wife, who was carrying his unborn son, Martin.

Gretchen and her children were present as the resting place of their relative, who they have only ever seen in black-and-white photographs, was finally located.

“I'm deeply touched by the presence of so many people – Italian friends I never knew I had,” Gretchen Hintz told Corriere during the dig.

Gretchen and other members of the Hintz family had spent the last four years trying to pinpoint the exact spot the plane fell, after coming across the name of the town 'Bagnarola di Budrio' in the US Air Force's report of Loren Hintz's final mission.

The tiny town lies on the outskirts of Bologna. Photo: Google Maps.

In a bid to find the plane, the family enlisted the help of local historian Giampiero Fabbri, who conducted interviews with the few surviving residents of Bagnarola di Budrio who witnessed it fall 71 years ago.

Once Fabbri discovered where the plane lay, he had to apply to the local council to perform a dig in the area.

“We managed to get the all clear from a court in Bologna a few days ago,” he told Corriere. “It is the first time a private association has asked to perform a dig like this.” 

Hintz's children and grandchildren flew over from California to be present at the excavation and looked on sombrely as the wreck of the plane was found.

Before unearthing the plane, the team excavated four vertical meters of soil, which still smelt richly of petrol after more than seven decades.

The archaeologists found an engine cylinder, the cockpit's seat, a metal name tag belonging to Hintz and one of the plane's Browning machine guns.

A video of the dig can be seen below.

Excavations will continue over the coming days in the hope more of the wreckage, or even some human remains can be found and finally put to rest.

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Remains of nine Neanderthals found in Italian cave

The fossil remains of nine Neanderthal men have been found in a cave in Italy, the culture ministry announced Saturday, a major discovery in the study of our ancient cousins.

Neanderthal fossils discovered in Italy

All the individuals found in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, located on the coast between Rome and Naples, are believed to be adults, although one might have been a youth.

Eight of them date to between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, while the oldest could be 90,000 or 100,000 years old, the ministry said in a statement.

“Together with two others found in the past on the site, they bring the total number of individuals present in the Guattari Cave to 11, confirming it as one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man,” the ministry said.

READ ALSO: Ancient Roman home and mosaics unearthed during Italian apartment renovation

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini hailed the find as “an extraordinary discovery which the whole world will be talking about”.

Francesco Di Mario, who led the excavation project, said it represented a Neanderthal population that would have been quite large in the area.

Local director of anthropology Mario Rubini said the discovery will shed “important light on the history of the peopling of Italy”.

“Neanderthal man is a fundamental stage in human evolution, representing the apex of a species and the first human society we can talk about,” he said.

The findings follow new research begun in October 2019 into the Guattari
Cave, which was found by accident by a group of workers in February 1939.

On visiting the site shortly afterwards, paleontologist Albert Carlo Blanc made a stunning find – a well-preserved skull of a Neanderthal man.

The cave had been closed off by an ancient landslide, preserving everything inside as a snapshot in time that is slowly offering up its secrets.

Recent excavations have also found thousands of animal bones, notably those
of hyenas and the prey they are believed to have brought back to the cave to eat or store as food.

There are remains of large mammals including elephant, rhinoceros, giant deer, cave bear, wild horses and aurochs – extinct bovines.

“Many of the bones found show clear signs of gnawing,” the ministry statement said.