World War II Messerschmitt Fighter Jet Shot Down during Allied Bombing of Sofia Found in Swamp near Bulgaria’s Borovets Ski Resort

Parts from the newly discovered World War II Messerschmitt 109 G6 fighter jet of the Bulgarian Air Force which was shot down by the Allies and crashed near the Borovets ski resort in the Rila Mountain. Photos: bTV

The remnants of German-made Messerschmitt fighter from the Bulgarian Air Force during World War II which was shot down by Allied aircraft during a bombing raid over Sofia has been discovered by chance in a swamp near the Borovets Ski Resort in Southern Bulgaria.

This “Archaeology of World War II" – type discovery is said to be of great value because present-day Bulgaria does not possess a single jet from its World War II Era fighter fleet, and the only surviving Bulgarian fighter from the time, again a German-made Messerschmitt, is kept in a museum in Bulgaria’s neighbor Serbia.

In spite of pro-German government sentiments, at the onset of World War II, the then Tsardom of Bulgaria (also known as the Third Bulgarian Tsardom, a monarchy succeeding the medieval Bulgarian Empire) kept neutrality.

It managed to do so until the spring of 1941 when Nazi Germany demanded that Bulgaria become its ally as Hitler threatened to crush it with his armies based in Romania on their way to attacking Greece and Yugoslavia.

As a result, the Tsardom of Bulgaria reluctantly joined the Tripartite Pact (i.e. the Axis Powers of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan) in March 1941.

In spite of being technically an ally of Nazy Germany and in spite of Hitler’s insistence, Bulgaria led by the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Bogdan Filov (a renowned Bulgarian archaeologist) and by its monarch Tsar Boris III, never declared a war on the Soviet Union and never sent troops to the Eastern Front in spite of Hitler’s demands.

(Subsequently, this did not prevent the USSR from occupying Bulgaria in September 1944 and installing a brutal communist regime.)

What is more, the Bulgarian civil society and Tsar Boris III even managed resist Nazi Germany’s demands for the deportation of Jewish Bulgarians to the Holocaust death camps, a heroic achievement known as the Rescue of the Bulgarian Jews who numbered almost 50,000 at the time.

A restored Messerschmitt 109 G6 fighter jet from World War II – of the same type as the newly found Bulgarian Air Force plane. Photo: Wikipedia

At the same time, however, erroneously believing that this would have no immediate consequences, Bulgaria’s Filov Cabinet yielded to Hitler’s demands and in December 1941 declared war on the Atlantic allies, the USA and Great Britain.

At the time, this was thought of as a “symbolic" declaration of war, and a “symbolic" war to be waged since Bulgaria was in no position to threaten US or British forces, and the Bulgarian government did not really expect any major consequences because the country was far from the operating theater of the Allies.

This declaration of the so called “Symbolic" War to the Atlantic allies, however, led to massive aerial bombardments against Bulgaria in 1943 – 1944, known as the Allied or Anglo-American Bombing of Sofia

At the time, the Bulgarian Air Force, which was vastly outnumbered by the US and British air forces, tried to respond to their attacks with its fleet of German-made Messerschmitt Me-109 G-6 fighters.

A number of the Bulgarian pilots resisted so fiercely that they resorted to suicidal ramming of US bombers – such as Capt. Dimitar Spisarevski, the most famous of them, who took down an American B-24 Liberator bomber.

One of the Messerschmitt fighters of the Bulgarian Air Force during World War II has now been discovered near the mountain resort of Borovets and the town of Maritsa, Samokov Municipality, south of Sofia, reports bTV.

The World War II German-made Messerschmitt fighter has been found in a swamp, with parts from it and ammunition scattered around.

Parts from the newly discovered World War II Messerschmitt 109 G6 fighter jet of the Bulgarian Air Force which was shot down by the Allies and crashed near the Borovets ski resort in the Rila Mountain. Photo: bTV

Machine gun bullets found on the spot of the fighter jet crash have helped experts identify the aircraft even before its extraction from the swamp. Photo: bTV

The plane has been discovered by accident by Iliya, a local man, a tractor driver who was hired by another local to dig a hole in a field near the town in order to drain water from the spot.

“When I saw bullets around, I dug once or twice more, and I didn’t dare dig anymore," the local man is quoted as saying, adding that the engine of the German fighter is on the bottom of the swamp.

The locals from the town of Maritsa had known that a military plane crashed in the area during World War II but none had any idea where it crashed.

The fighter jet found near the Borovets ski resort in Southwest Bulgaria most probably was a German-made Messerschmitt 109 of the G-6 modification, and it was most probably piloted by Second Lieutenant Ivan Bonev, according to Col. Prof. Dimitar Nedyalkov, a professor at the Georgi Rakovski Military Academy in Sofia.

Nedyalkov says there is data that the fighter jet piloted by Ivan Bonev crashed in the area in 1944.

While the pilot managed to eject, he was shot dead while still in the air by American fighter jets.

“We have concluded largely based on the machine gun ammunition, which is caliber 13, that this particular type of airplane crashed in this place," the Military Academy professor explains.

“The air battle occurred on June 11, 1944. The discovered fighter jet may have been piloted by Second Lieutenant Ivan Bonev. At the time, the Bulgarian fighters fought against American fighter jets Mustang. Because they started to run low on fuel and ammunition, the [Bulgarian] fighter jets began to retreat in the direction of Bozhurishte [then a military airport – editor’s note]. The Americans managed to single out Bonev’s plane, and he probably was shot down in this area," Nedyalkov elaborates.

He notes that the existing data indicate that Bonev managed to eject but was shot and killed in the air, after his parachute had opened.

The swamp near the town of Maritsa, in the area of the Borovets ski resort in the Rila Mountain, in Southern Bulgaria where the crashed plane has been discovered. Photo: bTV

Second Lieutenant Ivan Bonev of the Bulgarian Air Force. He is believed to have piloted the Messerschmitt jet which was shot down by the Allied fleet near Sofia on June 11, 1944. Photo: bTV

Nedyalkov deems the World War II Bulgarian Air Force Messerschmitt fighter jet found near the Borovets ski resort in the Rila Mountain to be an exquisite discovery.

That is largely because Bulgaria has not kept a single jet of its World War II fleet as a museum exhibit, not even in the National Museum of Military History in Sofia which has a large collection of aircraft and other military machines.

“The only [surviving] Bulgarian Messerschmitt [fighter jet from World War II] is presently kept at the Belgrade Aviation Museum in Begrade, Serbia," the Military Academy professor says.

A special team is expected to extract the fighter jet’s engine and other parts in the upcoming days.

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