Daniel Rom Kristiansen’s great-grandfather long maintained that a German warplane crashed onto the family’s farm in Birkelse, Denmark during WWII. Most members of the family dismissed this claim as little more than an elderly man’s tall tale. But when Daniel began studying WWII in school, he set out to find the plane. While poking around on the property, Rebecca Seales reports for the BBC, Daniel and his father recently uncovered the charred remains of a German Messerschmitt—and its pilot.
It was Daniel’s father, Klaus Kristiansen, who suggested that his son look for the fighter plane. For the most part, Klaus was kidding around; he didn’t expect to find anything. "We went out to the field with a metal detector," Klaus told Judith Vonberg of CNN. "I hoped we might find some old plates or something for Daniel to show in school."
Instead of plates, Daniel and his father hit upon metal debris. So they borrowed an excavator from their neighbor and started digging. They turned up piles of dirt filled with metal fragments. When they got seven feet into the ground, they saw bones.
As Daniel and Klaus continued to dig, they uncovered a motor, clothes, a wallet, and money.
Realizing that they had hit upon a significant historical find, Klaus called the authorities. Because ammunition was found in the plane, bomb experts are now working to remove the wreckage safely.
The aircraft is believed to be a Messerschmitt Bf 109, according to Nick Squires of The Independent, and the human remains believed to belong to its pilot. More than 30,000 of these planes were produced during WWII, and they were deployed throughout Europe and North Africa.
The pilot’s remains have been passed on to the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland. Torben Sarauw, curator and head of archaeology at the museum, told CNN’s Vonberg that he uncovered additional items among the pilot’s possessions: two Danish coins, three unused condoms, and food stamps for a canteen at Aalborg, a Danish city that was home to a training base for German pilots. The dead man also had a book in his pocket, which Klaus theorized was “either a little Bible or … Mein Kampf,” according to Seales.
Sarauw believes that the pilot departed from this training base before he crashed onto the Kristiansen family’s farm. Sarauw also told Vonberg that he has found the pilot’s papers, and may soon be able to confirm his identity. “Maybe he can have a proper funeral," he said.
As we wait to learn more about this unfortunate soldier, one thing remains clear: Klaus’ grandfather has been thoroughly vindicated. “He was telling a lot of stories, my grandfather,” Klaus said, according to Seales at the BBC. “Some of them were not true, and some of them were true—but this one was true. Maybe I should have listened to him a bit more when he was alive!"
As for Daniel, he handed in his history homework and plans to update it as more details become available. It’s probably safe to assume that he has an A+ on lock.