Regular WarbirdsNews readers will remember a short piece we ran exactly a year ago HERE, which described the story of one family’s quest to discover the resting place for one of their own, 1st Lt Loren Hintz, who disappeared in his Republic P-47D Thunderbolt on April 21st, 1945 during the final days of WWII in Europe. Lt Hintz flew with the 86th FS/79th FG, and was lost in action over northern Italy during the decisive Battle of Po River Valley, which led to the end of the once-mighty Wehrmacht. Although there must certainly have been an effort to locate his remains for repatriation at war’s end, it obviously failed, and Loren’s body lay where it fell, buried in the wreck of his machine. With the US military’s focus switching to maintaining the peace and re-establishing order in a conquered continental Europe, and with his squadron mates having left for home, it is easy to see how 1st Lt Loren’s whereabouts could have slipped as a priority. Already a father at the time of his death; seventy years on, he has become a grand and great grandfather. Despite their enormous pride in Loren Hintz’s service and sacrifice, it has been difficult for his family to feel closure over his loss, since he had no known grave.
Loren’s grandson, Hans Wronka, working with a dedicated group of passionate Italian aviation enthusiasts, sought to change this situation. Last year, they successfully located and excavated the site where Hintz’s Thunderbolt crashed. The Italian group Archelogici dell’Aria (Archaeologists of the Air) started in 2009 as an online Facebook forum dedicated to the exchange of information concerning WWII aircraft crash sites in Italy. In 2015, the group became a non-profit and more formally organized entity. They have a terrific website now as well.
What the team discovered will surely amaze you. Those lucky enough to attend a special event about the subject organized for Saturday July 22nd, 2017 by the Commemorative Air Force Minnesota Wing, in cooperation with AirCorps Aviation, are sure to have a fascinating experience. Members of Hintz’s family and the Italian team that helped make the amazing recovery possible (including an eye witness to the crash site in 1945), will be on hand to share the story with a short film and power point presentation. Afterwards, they will take questions from the audience. The actual engine and other parts from Hintz’s wrecked razorback Thunderbolt will be on site for all to see, having recently arrived from Italy. Members of AirCorps Aviation, based in Bemidji, Minnesota, and the Commemorative Air Force will be on hand to answer questions about the pieces of Hintz aircraft that will be on display. For event details, please see below.
Commemorative Air Force Minnesota Wing
310 Airport Rd Hangar 3 Fleming Field, South Saint Paul, Minnesota
Schedule of events:
10 a.m. Presentation and slide show given by Hans Wronka
11 a.m. Q&A from Hans, AirCorps Aviation, and the Italian ADA
11:45 a.m. Presentation from AirCorps Aviation