On November 16, 1943 an event during WWII forever linked Mike's family to the tiny town of Konsmo in the hills of southern Norway. On that day the B-17 Bomber his Grandfather was piloting was shot down by the Germans and crashed into the hills but all 9 members of the crew managed to safely parachute to the ground. When we began our bike trip in Europe we had no idea we'd be cycling right through that exact area or meet some of the people who witnessed that event, but due to Mike's Mom's interest in uncovering the details of that day as well as a very enthusiastic group of historians in Konsmo, we were treated to 2 days of a very thorough and personal history lesson.
Though pieces of the story still remain in question, and perhaps forever will, as many of the characters involved have already passed away, the vast majority of it is certain and it was a unique and interesting experience to learn a bit of history from first hand sources. Along with Jorunn, Tom and Liv who hosted us while we were in Konsmo, we met 10 others from the historical group. Every one of them had their manilla folder full of newspaper clippings, photos, pamphlets and books that they've written about the event, eager to share with us their piece of the story. Whether it was that they saw the plane or the parachutes falling from the sky, had visited the plane in the days following the crash, helped to hide some of the Americans from the Germans or had pieces of the plane, they were fanatics about the event and wanted to tell and show us everything.
Some of the group that went to the crash site.
I must say, it was quite exhausting, but interesting nonetheless. We were driven around and shown the approximate locations where each of the members landed, the houses of the Norwegians who took them in and fed them and the barns or sheds in which they were hidden. We got to see, touch and unfold a parachute that one of the crew members used to jump from the plane along with the pack and harness made of heavy canvass. We got to see the door from the plane, a piece of the wing, the compass and pistol from one of the Americans and many other miscellaneous parts that were pulled from the wreckage. We visited the place where the plane landed and though it happened nearly 70 years ago and the forest has covered up most of the wreckage that remained after people took everything they wanted or needed during the war, in the short period of time we spent at the site, we were still able to dig up a fair amount of small pieces from the plane.
A shed where 4 Americans were hidden.
The door of the plane.
A part of a wing.
The compass of one of the crew members.
A pile of rubble we found at the crash site.
Norway was extremely poor and it was difficult for civilians to obtain everyday materials during the war, which made pieces salvaged from the plane wreck very valuable. Bullet casings, bolts and other small pieces were used for such purposes as coat hooks, the bullet-proof seat backing was used as a well cover (and is still in use today), parts of the plane's exterior were used as building materials, the chords from the parachutes were unwoven and used as thread for sewing clothes and one parachute itself was used to make a gown and shirt for a 1944 wedding. I actually got to put on the wedding dress while Jorunn made me a little bouquet of flowers from the back yard and gave me a pair of shoes to wear and had we agreed, this excited group of folks would have liked for me and Mike to get married right then and there.
Cari in the 1944 wedding dress.
Mike's Grandfather was 28 while he was serving in WWII, the same age as Mike is now, and it was a little ironic that they were in the same place on the globe, though in entirely different circumstances, 70 years apart. Though Mike never got to meet him, seeing these places and hearing the stories from that event somehow made us both feel like we knew him, at least a little bit. Many thanks to Jorunn, Tom, Liv and all of the rest of the people in Konsmo who shared their bits of information with us, allowing us to piece together a very special story.