An ME 109 Messerschmitt. (Image: German Federal Archives)

When 14-year-old Daniel Kristiansen was assigned a World War II project for history class, his father jokingly suggested he look for a German plane that had allegedly crashed at the family farm. Well wouldn’t you know it, he actually found the damned thing—along with the dead airman’s remains. It’s being called one of the most sensational discoveries in recent times.

Armed with metal detectors, father and son descended on the farm near Arabybro in northern Denmark. Years before, the father, Klaus, remembered his grandfather telling him that a plane had crashed there during the war, but that the plane was removed soon afterwards. The pair thought it might be fun if they could find a small bit of metal or two left over from the crash. Well, they found a lot more than that, uncovering thousands of pieces, as well as the remains of the pilot.

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The metal detectors began to beep when they surveyed a patch of boggy ground, so they started to dig. Realizing they needed to dig a bit deeper, they borrowed a neighbor’s excavator. And that’s when bits of the plane began to reveal themselves.

“In the first moment it was not a plane,” said Klaus Kristiansen to the BBC. “It was maybe 2,000 to 5,000 pieces of a plane. And we found a motor...then suddenly we found parts of bones, and parts from [the pilot’s] clothes.”

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Add to that an ME 109 Messershmitt engine, munitions, and some personal items, like the pilot’s wallet with some money still inside and a booklet suspected of being either the Bible or a copy of Mein Kampf. “We didn’t touch it, we just put it in some bags,” said Kristiansen. “A museum is now taking care of it. I think there’s a lot of information in those papers.”

“It was pretty wild to find bones and spine from the dead pilot,” said Daniel in an interview with DRP4.

Smartly, Klaus contacted a pair of WWII historians and the Danish authorities. Local police closed the crash site for the investigation and bomb disposal units were called in to safely remove the munitions. Forensic police are still working to recover the pilot’s remains. There’s hope the dead airman might be identified and given a proper burial in Germany.

Image: Luftartsmuseum

The ME 109 Messerschmitt fighter was considered the “backbone” of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. The plane was highly adaptable, able to to perform tasks such as bomber escort, combined fighter-bomber, ground-attack, and reconnaissance. From 1936 to 1945, the Germans produced 33,984 of these planes, making it the most produced fighter aircraft in history.

No word yet on how Daniel’s project was received at school. It’d be a real shame if he got anything less than a stellar grade.

[BBC, CPH Post]