War and conflicts still exist until today, even if the two biggest World Wars and the Cold War have ended, with treaties being signed for peace. But many of the mementos from these wars are sources of mystery that baffle historians and scientists everywhere. Most images are from BoredomTherapy.com

In the forests of Papua New Guinea, decades after one of the deadliest wars in history, evidence of the conflict is intact.

In this area, outsiders cannot simply get in. But when they do, they find items that are too mysterious to be forgotten. 

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The background

In the Second World War, early 1942, the United States came into the picture. Their Air Force brought a B-17 Flying Fortress to bomb the Pacific, which was then occupied by the Japanese. Tidbits of history reveal interesting facts that you should know. 

This aircraft signaled empty fuel in mid-air over Papua New Guinea. The crew had to make a crash landing, so the aircraft landed onto the ground, leaving no craft crew injured.

It landed instead into a swamp rather than on the solid ground. 

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If you think this looks like a scene from a movie, you’ll be surprised in the following scenarios.

Local tribesmen in this Pacific island helped the crew escape the crash, leaving the aircraft behind. 

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Scientists over the years, particularly for three decades, wanted to look for this airplane in the middle of an environment with deadly predators and mosquitoes. One initiative succeeded.

The return of the Flying Fortress

A routine Australian military exercise was carried out in 1972 which brought the Flying Fortress back to life. They found the tail protruding from the feral swap, and confirmed it was the same plane that made a crash landing out of empty fuel levels. 

It earned the nickname “Swamp Ghost,” with the local tribesmen making money out of touring people around the site where it crashed. 

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Opening conversations 

It’s very interesting there’s one World War II aircrafts enthusiast Alfred Hagen who would collect aviation artifacts and memorabilia. 

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Supported financially for this project by Dave Tallichet, Hagen was able to move forward with his mission collecting classic aircraft, including the Swamp Ghost. Tallichet is regarded as the “Father of the Theme Restaurant.”

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The two set forth in an expedition to find the legendary aircraft. They got little support from the local authorities, so they had to carry this out on their own. 

The crash site has become a tourist attraction in Papua New Guinea, so Hagen did not waste any time to visit the site. He was accompanied by a team of cameramen and salvagers. Did they find the plane? Yes.

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‘Sorry shape’

The Flying Fortress was not in the best shape and this is expected since it’s stuck here for several decades. The metal hull has decayed and even wild animals made the aircraft their own home. 

Alfred thought—is this a lost cause?

However, he was unfazed. He focused on his objective to rescue the plane and learn several details from it. This project has been known as the “holy grail of military aviation.” Hagen commanded 43 crew members to lift the wreckage out of the swamp and cut this into pieces. 

The crew worked as fast as they could, even renting a Russian military helicopter to raise the heavier wreck, and move them to a barge near the site. 

The big move to the U.S.

They had it lifted and then moved back to where it came from, the United States.

The excavation permit cost them $100,000, but this was nothing compared to more discoveries that unfolded. 

Ownership issues surrounded both Hagen’s team and locals of Papua New Guinea who guarded and took care of the aircraft for several decades. 

Even blogger and aviation enthusiast Justin Taylan believed that this move was a huge blow for the site and its former caretakers. 

However, Hagen was strong about the fact that his objective was not to make money. For them, it’s a “post-dramatic post-war reunion” since the plane is returning to the U.S. 

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School project

During a holiday season, Klaus Kristiansen was making holiday cookies with his grandfather who was a veteran of the Second World War.

Kristiansen was in Birkelse, Denmark when his grandfather told him a story. 

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He listened as his grandfather told about a World War II fighter aircraft that crashed behind their family farm in the 1940s. However, those who were in the field did not support this claim. 

Klaus listened gracefully to appease his grandfather, but said, “He was telling a lot of stories. Some of them were not true, and some of them were true.” About the plane, the guy said they also haven’t seen anything, “not a single bit of metal.”

But he was clearly interested in it.

In 2018, when his 14-year-old son Daniel was tasked to research about the Second World War, his dad remembered his grandfather’s story and made the suggestion for Daniel to find the plane. He immediately agreed. 

Klaus got the metal detector in order to find metals or something that could be of use to his son’s homework, or finally shed light on those stories he heard. 

German plane

They searched the ground and the metal detector beeped. They quickly started digging, using handheld spades, but the depth made them use an excavator they borrowed from their neighbor. Five yards below, they found metal fragments, in various sizes.

They found an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 metal shards that undoubtedly were part of a cockpit of an aircraft. The school project might be one of the biggest in their class. 

Motor of a plane

They also found motors of the plane which belonged to a German aircraft called the Bf 109 Messerschmitt plane. 

Including bones and bodies of a dead pilot, not to mention clothing. They found personal stuff like books and a Bible in the dead pilot’s pocket. It turned out to be too sensitive that they needed to ask for help.

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Historians, scientists came over

The duo placed their findings inside small bags, before Danish authorities, forensic scientists, and war historians set the body aside. The paraphernalia was found to show information about the pilot. 

He was 19-year-old Hans Wunderlich, unmarried, from Bavaria, Lithuania, War History Online reported. They also found Danish coins and food stamps Wunderlich had in a canteen at Aalborg airbase. 

For around seven decades, right at a humble backyard, the man found his resting place. Did Daniel bring it all for his project? No, but their discovery reached the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland.

A+ for the discovery

Apart from the A+ grade he got, Daniel also wrote about the experience, and a bonus—the interview spotlight. The learning? You may have to take your grandparents’ stories seriously next time. 

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