Mummified Body of WW2 Pilot Discovered 60 Years After He Was Shot Down

▪ Pilot was shot down in 1943 during the peak of World War II
▪ His plane crashed into a peat bog that mummified and preserved his body
▪ Wreckage was a time capsule containing a treasure trove of artifacts

One of many documents recovered from Boris Lazarev’s flight bag. This identification booklet reveals his membership in the “Komsomol” or the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League — Membership # 0222461. The Komsomol were very similar to Germany’s Hitler Youth. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

Chupa, Republic of Karelia — Boris Aleksandrovich Lazarev, 22, was a World War II Soviet fighter pilot assigned to the Karelian Front‘s 760th IAP Air Force “Hurricane” squadron. On February 1943, as Nazi Germany tightened its grip around Eastern Europe, Lazarev was tasked with intercepting incoming attacks from the German Luftwaffe.

Profile of a Soviet Hurricane Mk. IIb fighter identical to the one flown by Boris Lazarev and his squadron the day they were shot down. Notice the distinctive Soviet “Red Star” emblem and the double 40mm cannons mounted below the cockpit. Credit: AlternatHistory

However, this fateful day at the peak of the cold Russian winter would be his last. He and his squadron of five Hurricane fighters would never return home alive. And as World War II raged on, their tragic story became lost in the chaos of countless battles and eventually fell into obscurity.

The Grim Discovery

This map marker shows the location of Chupa, Republic of Karelia in Russia’s northwestern territory. Peat bogs are very common to the region’s landscape due to its close proximity to lush wetlands. Credit: Google Maps

It would be close to 60 years later, in 1998, that military historian and researcher Yuriy Rybin found archived documents detailing a chaotic aerial battle between German and Soviet air forces over the skies of Chupa.

Nothing much happens now in this sleepy coastal town of just under 3,000 people. But during World War II, Chupa was a hotbed of military activity. Its location was critical to the Soviet Union’s northern defense of Moscow, and so it was continually in the crosshairs of the German Luftwaffe who used neighboring Finland as a transit point for attacks.

Yuriy Rybin’s initial research hinted as to what may have actually happened to Lazarev and his Hurricane squadron. This would eventually lead to an extensive search, and then a remarkable, grim discovery in an obscure swamp in the outskirts of Chupa — revealing the true nature of the squadron’s fate.

The research team not only discovered the mangled wreckage of Lazarev’s aircraft buried deep inside a peat bog, but they also discovered the well-preserved mummified remains of Lazarev himself — still inside the cockpit. These discoveries helped the researchers piece together the last flight of Boris Lazarev’s Hurricane squadron.

Unraveling the Truth about Lazarev’s Final Flight

A fully restored Messerschmitt Bf-109 identical to the one piloted by German fighter ace Rudolf Muller when he shot down Boris Lazarev. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Kogo

In the early morning of February 21, 1943, Lazarev and his squadron flew from a military air base located in Chupa, Republic of Karelia. They were soon intercepted by a squadron of Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters from the Luftwaffe’s 6 Jagdgeschwader, 5th fighter squadron “Expertenstaffel” led by German fighter ace Oberfeldwebel (sergeant) Rudolf “Rudi” Muller.

Rudolf Muller. Credit: Google / Public Domain

This encounter led to a fierce dogfight between the opposing air forces, with casualties falling on both sides. One such casualty was Lazarev, who is believed to have been shot down by Rudolf Muller himself.

After examining Lazarev’s remains, researchers believe that he made an attempt to escape as his plane plummeted to the ground. His seat belt had been unbuckled like he was trying to vacate the aircraft. The position of his remains also suggests this, as his hands still clung to the straps of his parachute.

Unfortunately, it seems that the altitude was too low for such an escape, with the doomed pilot not having enough time to escape his aircraft before it crashed into the ground.

It was determined that the cause of death was from blunt force trauma to the chest and head caused by the impact of the crash. Additionally, both of Lazarev’s feet were severed from the ankles and later discovered inside the aircraft, also likely due to the violent force of the crash.

Mummified and Perfectly Preserved

Boris Lazarev’s corpse remained well preserved for nearly 60 years due to the unique conditions of the peat bog he and his aircraft sunk into. Bogs like these contain little to no oxygen, steady low temperatures, and highly acidic water which creates the perfect conditions for preserving a human body from decomposition. Researchers also believe that the gasoline and engine oil that leaked into the mangled cockpit also acted as preserving agents.

The mummified, preserved body of Boris Lazarev. He was found inside the mangled cockpit with his hands still clinging onto the parachute straps. The force of the impact to his chest and face most certainly killed him instantly. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

Scroll to the Bottom For the Entire Photo Gallery…

Not only were the mummified remains of Lazarev perfectly preserved, but a number of his personal effects too had survived all these years later. This included a flight bag with an extra uniform still neatly folded, military papers and photo identification card, souvenirs likely taken from slain German troops, and a number of Soviet medals that testified to the bravery and skill of the young pilot.

Finally Laid to Rest

Local government officials, with help from military authorities and genealogists, located some of Boris Lazarev’s living relatives to inform them of the remarkable discovery. He  was subsequently laid to rest with full military honors in Chupa Memorial Cemetery in Chupa, Karelian Republic. Local residents, and those from surrounding towns and across Russia, showed up to pay their final respects.

For many older Russians, Boris Lazarev was a painful link to a chaotic time period in world history many of them had personally lived through. He was a stark, somber reminder of the millions of Russians who died defending the motherland from Hitler’s Third Reich.

Rudolph Muller (left) with fellow Luftwaffe pilots on the day he was taken prisoner by Soviet Army troops after being shot down. Credit: Google / Public Domain

In a strange twist of fate, Rudolph Muller, the Luftwaffe ace pilot responsible for shooting down Lazarev, was himself shot down just two months later on April 19, 1943 by two Soviet fighters.

Rudolph Muller’s Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter after it was shot down by two fighters of the Soviet Air Force. This is most likely the very same plane that shot down Boris Lazarev’s Hurricane fighter. Credit: Google / Public Domain

Muller was imprisoned in a Soviet gulag in Temnikov, Russia, but then shot dead on Oct. 21, 1943 after a failed attempt to escape. And like Boris Lazarev, he too was just 22 years old when he was killed.

The Discovery of Boris Lazarev’s Remains…

1Hoisting The Wreckage From Its Watery Grave…

After months of searching using archived military reports and field maps, researchers used ground penetrating radar and metal detectors to locate an anomaly in the peat bog. They started to dig with shovels to reveal what appeared to be the wreckage of a plane crash. They then hoisted the mangled wreckage from its watery grave. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

2Cut Open the Cockpit But Never Expected This…

They used a chainsaw to cut the aluminum frame of the cockpit. But when they pry open the canopy, they were shocked to find the mummified remains of the pilot himself — still perfectly preserved for nearly 60 years since February 21, 1943. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

3Looks Like He Tried to Escape, But Died On Impact…

Due to the position of his hands, and the fact that he was still clinging onto his parachute straps, researchers believe he was trying to escape the aircraft as it plummeted to the ground. Notice the parachute is still attached to him and never deployed, probably because he was too low in altitude. Once the plane hit the ground, he was killed immediately by blunt force trauma. They found extensive injuries to his chest and face, and his feet were amputated from the ankles down. Both feet were later recovered inside the cockpit. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

4They Continue Digging To Find More Artifacts…

A research team member finds the gun belt for the aircraft’s guns. The Hurricane fighter was designed to eliminate heavy armor like main battle tanks. It was equipped with two 40mm anti-tank guns mounted directly below the cockpit. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

5They Find What Appears to Be a Bag…

The bag turns out to be the pilot’s flight bag. The artifacts found in this bag would be crucial in identifying who this pilot was – his name, rank, and unit he was assigned to. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

6Amazed to Find a Small Treasure Trove Inside…

The pilot’s flight bag was an incredible find, next to the pilot’s mummified remains. The bag contained a treasure trove of artifacts which included a spare field uniform, membership cards, papers, souvenirs, etc. The uniform looks like it was still neatly folded and packed away. Notice the belt buckle with the distinctive Soviet “Red Star” emblem and the iconic Hammer and Sickle. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

7Here’s a Close Up of the Uniform…

The uniform was still in relatively good condition considering that it had been in water for nearly 60 years. This close-up photo shows the shoulder board, rank, and medals still pinned onto the right chest area. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

8They Also Find the Key Piece of Information…

This Komsomol membership booklet identifies who the pilot was — Boris Aleksandrovich Lazarev. The “Komsomol” was the Russian name for the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League similar to the Hitler Youth. This membership booklet revealed his membership number (0222461), first name, last name, date of birth, photo, and signature. The right page of the booklet was a record of his payments towards his membership fees. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

9And More Information…

They also found some duty assignment papers, ruble banknotes, handwritten notes, and of course more 40mm rounds strewn inside the mangled cockpit. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

10Some Items Found Strewn In The Cockpit…

A rusted stop watch, medals, and a gold ring. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

11Souvenirs Taken For Keepsake…

These items appear to be his personal souvenirs — German coins, various necklaces, and a watch. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

12Pocket Knives and Can Openers…

These too appear to be souvenirs — various pocket knives and can openers. Credit: Google / Yuriy Rybin

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