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.
"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.
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.