First Lt. Loren Hintz died during World War II after his aircraft came under fire by German forces and crashed.

Their father's plane was shot down in WWII. This weekend they finally buried him

Updated 3:01 PM ET, Sun November 17, 2019

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(CNN)Gretchen Wronka and Martin Hintz had spent more than 60 years thinking their father, an Army pilot, was buried in Italy after he died in a plane crash during World War II.

Then a group of Italian archaeologists told them they were going to look for more of their father's remains.
The siblings were shocked and confused. They had never met their father. Wronka was just over a year old when her father passed away April 21, 1945, and Hintz wasn't born until June 1.
As far as they knew their dad, U.S. Army pilot 1st Lt. Loren Hintz, was laid to rest in Italy after his aircraft came under fire by German forces. He crashed at a farm outside Bagnarola, Italy, just south of Florence.
"We always knew our father was buried in the Florence American Cemetery," Wronka, now 75, said. "So the mystery of where he was, we thought he was there."
Gretchen Wronka embraces her grandson after he read a portion of her father's autobiography during the memorial ceremony.
All those years ago, Loren Hintz's partially recovered remains were buried at his family's request with those of nearly 4,400 other American veterans at the cemetery south of Florence. But then, about seven years ago, a group of archaeologists started a journey to find the rest of his remains.
    After years of exploration and excavation, new bones were found -- along with part of Hintz's plane -- in a little Italian farm field.
    Now, 74 years after his death, Loren Hintz's complete remains were finally buried Saturday at the Florence American Cemetery.
    "I have a great sense of peace and fulfillment," Wronka said after the ceremony. "It's been a long journey, and the preparations have been detailed and extraordinary."

    They got to know their father through his belongings

    Loren Hintz grew up on an Iowa farm, Wronka said of her father. He enlisted in 1941, before Pearl Harbor, and was excited to join the Army Air Corps.
    "He had a passion for adventure. He was a young man who wrote poetry," said Wronka, who lives in Minnesota. "He loved to travel. He had a great zest for life, and this came through as children for Martin and me."
    First Lt. Loren Hintz enlisted as a U.S. Army pilot in 1941, before Pearl Harbor.
    Martin Hintz, 73, said that as kids, they would often go up to the attic of their family home and look through their father's chest, which held his uniform, books and other personal items. They tried to get to know their father through the surviving items they had.
    "We knew him, but we never met him," said Martin Hintz, who lives in Wisconsin. "Several years ago, we finally got to meet him when the site was excavated, after many years of searching."

    It took a community to find his remains

    Nearly 20 years ago, the siblings started looking for and asking about their father.