Teen's homework leads to discovery of missing WWII plane, pilot

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A story from Denmark tells about a 14-year-old boy who took his school homework very seriously indeed.

In a New York Times report by Dan Bilefsky, he writes: “When Daniel Rom Kristiansen, a 14-year-old student in northern Denmark, was given a homework assignment on World War II, his father had a jokey suggestion.

“Family legend had it that a plane crashed not far from their farm in 1944. 'Go out and find the plane,' the father, Klaus Kristiansen, suggested.

“Much to his surprise, Daniel did.

“What began as a good-natured attempt by a man to make history come alive for his son turned into a headline-grabbing news this week when Daniel, aided by Mr. Kristiansen, discovered the wreckage of a German warplane, along with the remains of a man who might have been its pilot.

“After the discovery Monday, forensics police officers arrived to secure the site, along with bomb disposal experts and a representative from the German Embassy. Soon, the Danish news media descended on the farm, in the remote town of Birkelse in the north of the Jutland peninsula.”

Now it turns out that the father had been told by his late father who lived on the farm that there had been a crash in terms of the final months of World War II right on the family farm. But there had been at that time, no discovery of any wreckage of the plane, and so was written off by many as a myth or a misunderstanding.

But the father remembered this story as his 14-year-old son had this homework assignment on World War II and it turned out that the boy, armed with a metal detector, did find the plane along with the remains of the pilot.

It was buried in a swampy bog on the farm. It turned out that the plane had basically disintegrated upon contact with the earth, but armed with his metal detector the boy was able to find many of the pieces including the engine of the plane, and then they found a jacket and the human remains.

The German government then confirmed that the remnants were of a Messerschmitt BF 109, a very common warplane of Nazi Germany, “An amateur historian from the nearby city of Aalborg told the local news media that a German warplane had taken off on Nov. 27, 1944, from the city, crashed into a swamp and had never been recovered.”

The pilot was believed to have been identified as a young German by the name of Bruno Kruger. The New York Times story concludes, “While there are still many unanswered questions, [the father] told the Danish radio station DR P4 Nordjylland that [his son] Daniel had gotten a day off school to watch the teams examining the wreckage. ‘Luckily, my son has something to write about in his assignment now.’”

This headline news comes to us as the World War II generation is passing from us.

But for a nation like Denmark, this isn’t something that took place far, far away, it was something that took place in this case almost in the backyard.

Perhaps the lesson for parents is this: If you tell your 14-year-old son to go out in the backyard to see if he can find a crashed warplane, he just might do it.

It turns out that sometimes homework isn’t just about history, sometimes it is history.

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, offers a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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