What drives us to seek out the bits of history that didn’t make headlines in the past? What motivates descendants, or even complete strangers, to piece together the lives and deaths of those who have been gone for decades? The meaningful sense of nostalgia around these questions is a big part of why AirCorps Aviation exists. Honoring the past and inspiring future generations are the reasons our customers dedicate time and resources to celebrating the contributions of veterans, dusting off diaries and old manuals, and preserving the aircraft that were a part of so many tales.
Tracing and honoring the past is nothing new – families have been recording births and deaths in inherited Bibles, through oral histories, or as images on a stone walls for centuries. The desire to save and remember people-centric details is part of human nature and is evidenced across time and cultural boundaries. The following examples are just glimpses into a few efforts, at various stages of development, that relate to the WWII era in which we live and breathe at AirCorps.
The response to a somewhat whimsical blog post inquiring about the identities of two ladies – Eva & Edith – was nothing less than astounding. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of communicating with people around the globe who had something to contribute to the search for whomever wrote those two beautifully scripted names inside the wing of a P-47. The next steps will be working toward:
In addition, Chuck Cravens will continue to conduct research about the P-47’s role in the Southwest Pacific theater in general, its service history, and the individuals who may have piloted this particular Thunderbolt during war time. Restoration progress reports are posted monthly so follow us to stay updated!
Thousands of people vicariously joined in last summer as AirCorps Aviation’s Eric Trueblood assisted in telling this remarkable story as it unfolded from the Italian countryside. Eric accompanied the Wronka and Hintz families, descendants of WWII pilot Loren Hintz, to help unearth a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane that had been buried for 71 years. Little did they know what a success it would turn out to be. Click here to learn more about Loren’s life and a timeline of how this fascinating story developed over decades.
Since July of 2016, Hans Wronka and others have been busy letting the world know what was uncovered during the excavation outside Budrio, Italy. Finding the final resting place of Loren Hintz had a profound impact on each of the family members and numerous news outlets have offered in-depth coverage of their stories.
AirCorps’ Eric Trueblood described the feeling when the crowd at the dig site learned that Loren’s dog tags had been recovered: “The sense of joy and excitement was tangible.” Eric didn’t just spectate however, he also assisted with identifying pieces of the P-47 Thunderbolt that had first rolled off the Republic assembly line in 1943. Utilizing AirCorps Library to search and view historic documents, Eric then noted, “My role had forged itself when I could identify a number of parts that came out around the machine guns – steel mounts, solenoids, gun heaters, and ammo parts. It was only amplified as the archaeologists uncovered more.”
There’s more to look forward to in 2017 so keep an eye out for additional news on Finding Loren!
Hans Wronka has continued to make connections with others whose family histories share similar stories. One such individual is Ted Krug, the grandson of 1st Lieutenant Robert (Bob) Orcutt, also a P-47 pilot who was killed in action in Italy at the tail-end of WWII. Ted authored “One More Gun to Silence” as a record of Bob’s time from enlistment through his final mission and all the correspondence and activity that followed. The parallels between the lives of Bob Orcutt and Loren Hintz are shiver-inducing. The book offers a very nicely organized timeline and is rich with photos, personal letters, and details about the grandfather Ted never met.
There may also be more specifics uncovered regarding Bob’s crash site as Piero Fabbri, the Italian pilot and research historian who assisted Hans Wronka’s search, is eager to help with additional exploration.
This Emmy award-winning documentary (now also available on Netflix) covers a military historian’s quest to learn about Augusta Chiwy, a black nurse working tirelessly within the traumas of WWII. Known as the “forgotten angel of Bastogne,” Augusta Chiwy showed incredible compassion to so many desperately in need, despite not always receiving compassionate treatment from those around her. Historian Martin King declares a passion for sharing her heroism and humanity with the world and seems to have succeeded. This film doesn’t have a tie to AirCorps’ activities, but nicely illustrates a determined discovery process.
In his poem “A Lesson in History…”, Joe Fazio raises more questions and inspires the title to this post:
If you tell me of our history, I will learn of the lives of great men and women, who are immortalized in scores of documents and books. What of the millions of others, who are not recorded [in] the ‘Great Books?’ Who will they be remembered by and where will their names be found? Can it be, the sum total of human life, is but their date of death upon a stone?
Our preservation and restoration activities attempt to answer the final question posed in this poem with an assurance that at least some of the everyday heroes of the past will not be forgotten. For that tremendous privilege, we sincerely thank our customers, our community of followers, those who study history, and all those who understand how important it is to simply remember.