Loren E. Hintz, the father of Martin Hintz, a Milwaukee County board member of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, is shown working his family’s farm field in the early 1930s near Charles City, Iowa. During World War II, the elder Hintz joined the Army Air Corps as a P-47 fighter pilot. 1st Lt. Hintz was sent to fight in Northern Italy with other service personnel of the 79th Fighter Group.
Based in Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast, he was on his 66th mission when shot down and killed by antiaircraft fire on April 21, 1945. He and his flight mates were attacking German gun emplacements near the farming village of Bagonarola, not far from Bologna.
Some of Hintz’s remains were recovered after the war and buried at the American Military Cemetery in Florence, Italy. However, the actual location of the crash was lost to history, as the field was reclaimed and replanted. Yet as the result of a 10-year search of military records and maps, National Archives and other repositories, and aided by dozens of flying enthusiasts, archaeologists, military and other governmental officials in Italy, Hintz and his family were able to finally pinpoint the site.
Ground penetrating radar also aided a team of recovery experts from Archeologidell’Aria (http://www.archeologidellaria.org) who were subsequently able to unearth Hintz’s P-47 and more of his remains on July 23, 2016. The search was helped by several now-elderly Italian locals who were children during the war. They had witnessed the raid on a row of farm houses sheltering the enemy gunners. They talked about their experiences then with WFBF member Hintz and his sister Gretchen, who were among family members present when the dig took place.
As of late spring, 2017, Hintz’s father’s remains were undergoing DNA testing by the military’s mortuary services at Dover Air Force base in Delaware. They will eventually be buried with full military honors this autumn in the flier’s existing military grave site in Italy. If he had survived, the elder Hintz would have been 100 years old in 2017. A film documentary is being planned on the search and recovery. For more details, check “Finding Loren” on Facebook and the AdA website and others.
In a quirk of history, burning fuel and exploding ammo resulting from Hintz’s crash destroyed a nearby barn in which an elderly farmer was trying to rescue his cattle. The man was killed; yet WFBF’s Hintz was able to meet his grandsons who also visited the dig site. They discussed the terrible war years and the fate that linked those two men and, eventually, their families seven decades later.
For an interesting sidenote, the region around Hintz’s crash has been farmed for more than a thousand years. In Roman times, retired legionnaires received grants of that land for their pensions. Currently, beets, hay and sunflowers are major crops there.