Womans Name on Turret Leads to Identification of B-17 Debris in Italian Lake

Turret at the bottom of Lake Bolsena. (Image Credit: Scuola sub di Bolsena)
Turret at the bottom of Lake Bolsena. (Image Credit: Scuola sub di Bolsena)
Turret at the bottom of Lake Bolsena.
(Image Credit: Scuola sub di Bolsena)

In Viterbo, Italy a long-standing mystery has been solved. A wrecked B-17 bomber that disintegrated upon striking the surface of Lake Bolsena during WWII has been identified after much sleuthing on the part of investigators. Pieces of the plane had first been discovered in 1960, but there were no parts discovered that bore identifiable serial numbers that could establish the identity of the plane or its crew. Recently however a machine gun turret was located by the Submarine School of Bolsena which bore “LOIS ILEEN” hand-painted by a service member upon it which made identifying the plane possible.

Lois Eileen was the key to solving the mystery. (Image Credit: Scuola sub di Bolsena)
Lois Eileen was the key to solving the mystery.
(Image Credit: Scuola sub di Bolsena)

Turret to be displayed at Bolsena Town Museum (Image Credit: Scuola sub di Bolsena)
Turret to be displayed at Bolsena Town Museum
(Image Credit: Scuola sub di Bolsena)

Lois Eileen was the wife of the turret’s gunner, Ralf Truesdale which led to the identification of the plane and connected the story of the disposition of her crew these many years later. The plane had departed Amendola, Italy on a bombing mission to Cartaldo in January of 1944, when it was badly damaged by German anti-aircraft fire and the crew parachuted out of the stricken craft. Five of the men were captured by the Germans, and finished out the war in a POW Camp, while the remaining five managed to make it to American hands, though it took months to accomplish and included hiding for an extended period within the Vatican.

Last week, the machine gun turret was retrieved in a recovery operation performed by the Fire Department of Viterbo, under the direction of the provincial commander Gennaro Tornatore and assisted by the Diving School of Bolsena ( Centro Ricerche SSB). The turret will be displayed at the town’s museum along with other debris recovered from the lake along with a plaque thanking those who risked and sometimes lost their lives to give them their freedom.

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