A World War II wreck retrieved from the bottom of an Italian lake has revealed a forgotten story of love during wartime.

The wreck, a B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber, which crashed in Lake Bolsena 70 years ago, was recovered last year from a depth of 300 feet and identified thanks to a young American's love for a certain "Ileen Lois."

Divers from the Research Center of the Scuba School of Lake Bolsena and the Fire Department of Viterbo identified several pieces of the plane scattered on the bottom of the lake, including the Sperry ball turret -- a spherical capsule that protected the gunner at belly of the bomber.

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The recovered turret, which has been put on display at a local museum last month, featured some intriguing hand-painted words: "Ileen Lois."

"The words were still visible after 70 years underwater on the right and left side of the turret. They allowed us to identify the plane, reconstruct its history and the fate of its crew," Mario Di Sorte, a historian who researched the plane's long-standing mystery, told Discovery News.

With the help of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and its supporters, Di Sorte discovered the words referred to Lois Eileen, the young wife of gunner Sgt. Ralph Truesdale. He was one of the 10-man crew aboard the four-engine aircraft B-17 USAF, serial no. 4124364.

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"Having his wife's name written on the sides of the turret was a gesture of love which made him feel closer to her during the war missions," Di Sorte said.

Writing a lover's name on the plane wasn't just Truesdale's idea. When it came to name their plane, the entire crew agreed to call it "Ethel," after the girlfriend of right waist gunner Anthony Brodniak.

The B-17 aircraft belonged to the 429th Squadron of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), which was operating from Amendola, near Foggia in Puglia. "Ethel" flew for the last time on Jan. 15, 1944.

The B-17's final flight was part of a mission which involved the use of 38 B-17 Flying Fortresses divided into two waves. The primary target was the railroad bridge in the town of Certaldo, south of Florence. The alternate target were marshaling yards at Poggibonsi, near Siena.

Once near Perugia, the group encountered heavy fire from German anti-aircraft. Seven B-17s in the first wave and 18 in the second suffered serious damage. Only for the "Ethel" crew was the mission a total failure. The B-17 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, damaging its two engines. It released six bombs to lighten its load on the shores of Lake Trasimeno.

"The bomber was out of control, so all 10 crewmen were forced to bail out," Di Sorte said.

Ralph Truesdale (R) and his wife Lois Eileen are shown here. Lois is shown holding their five-month-old child.Mario Di Sorte

The plane crashed into Lake Bolsena, the largest volcanic lake in Europe, while all 10 men parachuted. Three of them were captured by the Germans and finished out the war in POW Camps in North Germany. The remaining seven were saved and hidden from the Germans by Italian families.

Pilot William Pedersen landed on an olive tree in front of a farmhouse. Wounded, he remained hidden there until Allied troops arrived on June 10, 1944. Co-pilot Joseph Townsend had a similar fate and remained hidden for five months until the Allied arrival.

The other five men of the crew, including the two romantic souls Truesdale and Brodniak, remained together for just a few days, and decided to continue their escape separately. They were both helped by Italian families.

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"Those wonderful Italians gave us whatever food they could spare, never asking for anything in return.... I found out later that anyone helping Allied airmen, soldiers, escapees, would be put to death and their families as well," upper turret gunner Bernard Scalisi recalled later.

Scalisi escaped with Brodniak. The pair reached Rome and climbed the walls of the Vatican City, where they remained until the arrival of Allies on June 5, 1944.

Truesdale had a more adventurous fate. During his solitary escape, he was captured by the Germans and taken in a Transit Prison Camp not far from Rome.

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In the United States, Lois struggled to know the fate of her husband.

"They hope and wait," wrote the St. Petersburg Times as it published a picture of the woman with her five-month-old child.

After 27 days, Truesdale managed to escape from the POW camp, hiding away for about three months until the arrival of the Allies.

Despite their wartime love story, love did not last for Ralph and Lois. The couple divorced in 1947.