An Italian WWII pilot who died battling US pilots 70 years ago has been found 13 feet underground, his remains still at the controls of a fighter plane armed with machine guns and cannons, Discovery reports. Lt. Guerrino Bortolani went down in a losing battle against Allied planes on March 11, 1944, and hit the ground so hard that he literally vanished into the countryside outside Padua in northern Italy. "The crash site is now a cornfield," says a member of the wreck-hunting crew that found Bortolani. "We were able to find the remains with the help of an elderly man, who on that day witnessed the fighter going into a nosedive and hit the ground."
Bortolani was flying the best Italian fighter plane (the Macchi C.205) in a squadron led by the renowned Italian ace Adriano Visconti. But they went up against a daunting strike by the Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force—which had sent 111 B-17 planes over Padua to drop more than 300 tons of bombs. Allies said the Axis defense was "aggressive," but five German planes and four Italian planes went down. Bortolani was "dutiful until the end," the Week notes, sitting on his closed parachute and wearing a ring given him by a fighter pilot academy. Wreck-hunters found several parts of the plane as well, including the tail wheel, control stick, and pieces of the engine. Bortolani is expected to have a proper burial once relatives are found. (Read about a German U-boat found off North Carolina.)