Updated on March 24: The identity of the pilot whose plane was discovered by a Danish school boy was 19-year-old Hans Wunderlich. The remains were examined at the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland by museum curator Torben Sarauw and a team of researchers.
They pieced together his identity by examining bits of his service record found in the rubble. "It was not in one piece, but it was enough to read his name," Sarauw said.
His name was also written on a small calendar book, and initials etched on his watch were the final clue.
Wunderlich's military records showed he was born in Bavaria in 1925. He died unmarried and with no children. German authorities reported that his parents died in 2006, and his only remaining relative, a sister, died around the same time.
A German commission will reclaim Wunderlich's remains and bury him in Germany, but the plane wreckage and his personal belongings will remain in Jutland at the museum.
"We think it's important to keep the findings together," said Sarauw. He noted that the discovery has spurred a renewed interest in World War II history among Danish schoolchildren. He hopes the plane and Wunderlich's belongings will sustain this interest by helping tell the story of the war.
March 9: When 14-year-old Daniel Rom Kristiansen was given a school assignment to do research on World War II, he didn't imagine he would find the skeletal remains of one of its soldiers.
While using a metal detector to search through a field behind his home near Birkelse, Denmark, he stumbled upon the wreckage of a crashed German Messerschmitt fighter plane—with the pilot still in the cockpit.
Klaus Kristiansen, the boy's father, told Danish radio station DR P4 Nordjylland that his grandfather had mentioned seeing a German plane crash into the field behind their farm.
“When my son Daniel was recently given homework about World War II, I jokingly told him to go out and find the plane that is supposed to have crashed out in the field,” the elder Kristiansen told a local paper.
After their metal detectors picked up parts of the plane, the family began excavating, with the help of a trencher. Once they uncovered bits of clothing and bones, they called local police.
Representatives from the German embassy in Denmark and bomb disposal experts soon arrived at the scene to examine the pilot's remains.
The wreckage was sent to the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland, which believes they can soon confirm the man's identity. Torben Sarauw is the curator and head of archaeology at the museum. He told CNN that it is believed the pilot came from a nearby training base in the city of Aalborg.
Along with his suit and hat, the pilot was also found with two Danish coins, food stamps for an on-base canteen, and three unused condoms.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 plane model that was discovered was one of the most commonly used German fighter planes. Upwards of 33,000 were produced from 1936 until its use came to an end at the close of World War II.
Germany invaded Denmark early in the war, on April 9, 1940, in one of the shortest military operations of WWII. Battles were waged there in the air and on land and sea.
“Luckily my son has something to write about in his assignment now," Kristiansen told local reporters. Daniel was given the day off from school to watch the excavation.