I’m not sure how the Foo Fighters fit into the latest episode of Project Blue Book. True, they did talk to a group of former and maybe retired military pilots who talked about their experiences, but there is no real evidence that anyone at Blue Book ever investigated the Foo Fighters. These retired pilots tales of Foo Fighters did match those told by actual World War Two veterans but that doesn’t get the information into Blue Book.
This episode seemed to focus more on the ancillary issues, that is, what was happening on the home front and with the spies who were monitoring the Hyneks. These side issues don’t have much to do with Blue Book but do move us closer to an X-Files vibe and into the realm of drama. That is not to say this is a bad thing, only that we are moving away from the reality of Blue Book.
Although Project Blue Book (the show and not the investigation) suggested that the Foo Fighters first appeared in the late stages of the war, and it is true the name, Foo Fighters, wasn’t used until 1944, it is also true that the sightings began much earlier than that. On February 26, 1942, just weeks after the American entry into the war, a Dutch sailor in the Timor Sea, near Australia and New Guinea, reported that he had seen a large, illuminated disk that was approaching at what he thought of an incredible speed.
According to what the witness told Australian UFO researcher Peter Norris many years later, “It few in big circles and at the same height… the craft suddenly veered off in a tremendous burst of speed… and disappeared.”
In the European Theater, on March 25, 1942, as a Royal Air Force bomber was flying over the Zuider Zee, Holland, returning from a raid on Essen, Germany, the tail gunner saw a glowing, orange disc or sphere following them. He told the pilot who also saw the object closing in on them. When it was about 100 or 200 yards away, the gunner opened fire. He apparently hit it, but there was no effect. The object finally disappeared.
Paul C. Cerny and Robert Neville, two UFO investigators with the Mutual UFO Network, reported in the July 1983 issue of the MUFON UFO Journal that a sailor with the fleet off Guadalcanal in August 1942 said a disk-shaped object that circled overhead. According to them, “…a chief at the time aboard the U.S.S. Helm… had an excellent observation of an incredible encounter with an unknown, unidentified intruder. At 10:00 a.m. the fleet received a radar report from one of the cruisers and a little later a visual sighting of the object was made from their destroyer.”
Here was one of the first Foo Fighter reports and it began not with a visual sighting but with a radar contact. That object was then seen by the sailors of the fleet, as it approached. Because it was not coming from the correct direction, known then as the radio beam according to the witness, the object was assumed to be hostile. When it was still over a mile away, the fleet opened fire.
According to Cerny and Neville, “The unknown then made a sharp right turn and headed south from an approach heading of 320 degrees. The UFO increased its speed and then circled the entire fleet.”
The witness, who unfortunately refused to let his name be used, said that he had a pair of 7 x 50 binoculars so that he had a chance to see the object quite well. According to him, it was fairly flat, silver in color, with a slight dome in the center of the top.
Having circled the fleet, the object departed to the south. It had been taken under fire but the speed seemed to make it difficult to hit. If it had been struck by any of the antiaircraft fire, it showed no adverse effects to that.
Just days later, with Marines in the South Pacific Ocean, a sergeant with the 1st Marine Division, Stephen J. Brickner, reported another encounter with silver object. He said:
The sighting occurred on August 12, 1942 about 10 in the morning while I was in bivouac with my squad on the island of Tulagi in the southern Solomons [Tulagi being near Guadalcanal … I was cleaning my rifle on the edge of my foxhole, when suddenly the air raid warning was sounded… I immediately slid into my foxhole… I heard the formation before I saw it… It didn’t sound at all like the high-pitched “sewing machine” drone of the Jap formations. A few seconds later I saw the formation of silvery objects directly overhead.
At the time I was in a highly emotional state; it was my fifth day in combat with the Marines. It was quite easy to mistake anything in the air for Jap planes, which is what I thought these objects were. They were flying very high above the clouds, too high for a bombing run on our little island. Someone shouted in a nearby foxhole that they were Jap planes searching for our fleet. I accepted this explanation, but with a few reservations. First, the formation was huge; I would say over 150 objects were in it. Instead of the usual “V” of 25 planes, this formation was in straight lines of 10 or 12 objects, one behind the other. The speed was a little faster than Jap planes, and they were soon out of sight. A few other things puzzled me: I couldn’t seem to make out wings or tails. They seemed to wobble slightly, and every time they wobbled they would shimmer brightly from the sun. Their color was like highly polished silver. No bombs were dropped, of course. All in all, it was the most awe-inspiring and yet frightening spectacle I have seen in my life.
About the same time, on the evening of August 11 and the morning of August 12, bomber crews of the RAF, flying near Aachen half a world away, saw, “a phenomenon described as a bright white light” climbing up from the ground. When it reached about 8,000 feet it leveled off for about two minutes.
While all these sightings are interesting, and they show that some sort of unidentified flying objects were seen over the major areas of conflict starting early in the war, they didn’t spark any real official or high-level interest. Some of the sightings were not reported at the time simply because the flight crews didn’t know what to make of them and they didn’t want others to think they were suffering from war nerves or combat fatigue. Others were noted but not passed on to higher headquarters because there was nothing of intelligence value in them.
These sorts of sightings, some reported at the time and others not mentioned until long after the Kenneth Arnold sighting of June 24, 1947, continued in all theaters of the war. According to Jerome Clark who wrote in his UFO Encyclopedia (second edition) and proving the point to an extent, “Among the relatively rare reports from 1943 is an account from a bombardier who remembered that ‘round, speedy balls of fire’ sometimes followed Allied bombers back from night raids on Tokyo (Wisconsin State Journal [Madison], July 8, 1947).”
Clark also reported on an event on October 14, 1942 as B-17s of the 384th Bomb Group were returning from a mission over Germany. Clark wrote:
“[B-17’s]… spotted a cluster of ‘discs’ in front of them. The objects were moving in their direction, and one pilot attempted to evade what he was certain was an imminent collision. As he later told debriefers, his ‘right wing went directly through a cluster with absolutely no effect on engines or plane surface.’ He and his crew heard one of the objects strike the tail section of the bomber, but no explosion or other effect followed. He also said that 20 feet or so from the disc there was a ‘mass of black debris of varying sizes in clusters of three by four feet.’ The fliers had two subsequent encounters with the discs and accompanying ‘debris.’ [Caidin, Martin. Black Thursday. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1960.]
This sighting and others of a similar nature are important because they were reported in the debriefings and were recorded in official military files. But they are
also important because they show that some of the Foo Fighters were
not solid objects, but were glowing balls of what have called St. Elmo’s fire
though the exact nature of them was never determined.
|Picture of alleged Foo Fighters, showing the glowing ball|
nature of them.
There was official interest in these sightings and British government documents reflect this. On October 12, 1942, Bomber Command, in a memorandum called “Enemy Defenses – Phenomenon,” alerted the headquarters of the eight bomb groups about the sightings. They wrote, “The Operational Research Station at this Headquarters has carried out an investigation into enemy pyrotechnic activity which has recently been experienced over Germany [meaning the glowing balls of light]. The AOC in C [Air Office in charge] has issued instructions that the information contained in this report be brought to the notice of all crews. We would remind you that Consolidated FLO [Flak Liaison Officer] Reports issued by MI14(E) refer to Phenomenon, when reported and given possible explanations.”
They were telling the flight crews that something was going on, though they weren’t sure what, and that they wanted information about the sightings reported. They were also searching for explanations for what was being seen.
British government files reveal that on December 2, 1942, Headquarters of RAF Station, Syerston sent a classified memorandum to Major Mullock, who was the Flight Liaison Officer at the headquarters of the No. 5 Group. This had to do with an object seen by Captain Lever and his crew, members of the 61 Squadron during an attack on Turin on the night of November 28/29, 1942. The file said, in part:
The object referred to about was seen by the entire crew of the above aircraft. They believe it to have been 200 – 300 feet in length and its width is estimated to at 1/5 or 1/6 of its length. The speed was estimated at 500 m.p.h., and it had four pairs of red lights spaced at equal distances along its body. The lights did not appear in any way like exhaust flames; no trace was seen. The object kept a level course.
The crew saw the object twice during the raid, and brief details are given below:
(i) After bombing, time 2240 hours, a/c [aircraft] height 11,000 feet. The aircraft was some 10/15 miles South West of Turin traveling in northwesterly direction. The object was traveling South-East at the same height or slightly below the aircraft.
(ii) After bombing, time 2245 hours, a/c height 14,000 feet. The aircraft was approaching the Alps when the object was seen again traveling West-South-West up a valley in the Alps below the level of the peaks. The lights appeared to go out and the object disappeared from view.
The Captain of the aircraft also reports that he has seen a similar object about three months ago North of Amsterdam. In this instance, it appeared to be on the ground, and later traveling at high speed at a lower level than the heights given along the coast for about two seconds; the lights went out for the same period of time and came back on again, and the object was still seen to be traveling in the same direction.
This sighting is important, not because of what was in it, though that is fascinating, but because of who eventually saw the report about it. It was sent through the normal military channels, but six copies were sent to the U.S. Army Air Forces and six to the U.S. Naval Intelligence.
Leonard Stringfield, a well-respected UFO researcher who eventually had his own sighting of the Foo Fighters, reported that up until December 1942, the majority of the sightings had been over Germany and Holland. A sighting that didn’t get any military attention according to Stringfield and showed that these things could be seen all over Europe came from a submarine patrol craft along the coast of England. The crew spotted strange craft that they said had no wings.
What is important about this sighting is one of the side effects observed. According to the witness, the aircraft intercom began to malfunction as the object neared. The intercom became a “jumbled mess of incoherent squawks,” while the object was close by. No one could determine any means of propulsion for the craft, but what it clear here is that they were not looking at a glowing ball of gas. It was a solid object.
Three years later, just days after the Japanese surrender, Stringfield, at the time an Army intelligence NCO was on an aircraft heading for Tokyo. Three tear-shaped objects, in a tight formation and traveling on a course that was parallel to that of the aircraft on which Stringfield was a passenger, appeared. The sighting would be just one more of those from the Pacific Theater, but then the left engine of the transport began to act up.
A few moments later, the co-pilot left the cockpit and told the passengers that they were in trouble. Both engines were sputtering and the pilot was preparing for an emergency landing.
Stringfield, because of his intelligence training, was familiar with the aircraft in the inventories of the world’s air forces at the time. He knew that these three objects were not jets, and were certainly nothing built by either the Germans or the Japanese. As he watched, the three objects disappeared into a cloud bank. As they vanished, the aircraft’s engines began to function normally. They began to climb again.
In both these cases, neither of which was reported through official channels, the witnesses said that there were some sort of effects on their aircraft. This sort of interference would later be called “electromagnetic effects” and would be reported more frequently after Arnold’s sighting.
In the Pacific Theater, they were dealing with glowing balls of fire. Keith Chester, in his book Strange Company, details these reports of balls of fire. He wrote that he found, in various government files, a document from XXI Bomber Command dated
March 29, 1945, which said,
“Japs Have A Bagful Full of Tricks, But
They Don’t Work! In the European Theater of Operations, the Germans have
experimented with a great variety of ‘secret weapons’ and special antiaircraft
devices. None of these has proved effective against our bombers. It seems that
the Japs – with their usual flare for imitation – have likewise tried a number
of weird weapons against B-29’s of the XXI Bomber Command.”
|Keith Chester, author of Strange Company.|
The intelligence officers, in debriefing the flight crews, heard about the balls of fire. The flight crew mentioned that they had seen two orange-red bursts with tails, or three green balls that appeared to float down, and balls of fire traveling at very high speeds. They also described two large red balls of fire that were apparently attached and that were floating down.
Like their counterparts in Europe, these crews called the lights “flares” in some instances. According to Keith, in his examination of records, one flight crew reported they had seen “three flares” approaching them as if they were radar controlled. The flares turned with and followed the aircraft through a series of maneuvers.
On April 3, 1945 according to the XXI Bomber Command’s Tactical Report, flight crews mentioned “Balls of Fire” as the only enemy opposition. According to Chester, the best of these was from a crew of the 73rd Bombardment Wing. Chester wrote:
According to Lt. Althoff, they had just completed bombing the secondary target and were approaching land’s end. Their altitude was 9,000 feet at the time when he first saw the “ball of fire” coming in on his B-29 at about the five o’clock [position]. It was about 300 yards behind his B-29 and the “ball of fire was about the size of a basketball.” Immediately, evasive action was taken, but the ball of fire cut to the inside of the plane and continued to follow. Lt. Althoff said that it appeared that the ball of fire could not keep up with the B-29’s evasive maneuvers, weaving turns, but when the bomber was flying straight, the ball of fire caught up to them. One of the other crewmen said he saw a “streamer of light behind the ball of fire, which was faint and not steady.” The light faded as it turned with the B-29, but increased in intensity on the straightaway.
Playing cat and mouse, the B-29 and its pursuer were over the Pacific Ocean. Diving to 6,000 feet, the B-29 was able to obtain additional air speed, and the ball of fire fell behind, eventually turned around, and gave up its pursuit, heading back to the coast. Watching the object retreat, Lt. Althoff noticed as “streamer of light,” but then the light “faded abruptly.” The blister gunner thought he had seen a “wing in connection with ball of fire; and it had a navigation light burning on left wing tip.” But now the chase was over. It had followed them for approximately six minutes.
Lt. Schmidt was in another B-29. His plane had departed the target area, which they bombed from 6,100 feet. Gaining another 900 feet, he noticed a ball of fire, emitting a “steady phosphorescent glow,” following him. Immediately the B-29 took evasive action, “gaining and losing 500 ft. and also changing course as much as 35 degrees and varying airspeed from 205 to 250.” Flying into the clouds, they thought the maneuver had worked, but as they emerged, the ball of fire was right on the B-29’s tail. Twice more the pilot steered his bomber into the clouds and twice more when he came out, the ball of fire was right there behind his plane. Then, over Tokyo Bay, the ball of fire “disappeared” not too far behind the fleeing B-29.
These sorts of reports would continue throughout the Pacific Theater and throughout the rest of the war. As had been noticed in Europe, the aircraft were not damaged by the encounters. The aircrews reported them, as they would anything else that they observed that might affect follow on missions. As happened in Europe, intelligence officers and the command staffs were worried about the deployment of a new type of anti-aircraft weapon. They investigated carefully, but they could find nothing to explain these balls of fire or what they might be. Please note that they found nothing to explain what the flight crews had seen.
It wasn’t until late in 1944 that the term “Foo Fighter” was used for the first time. The reports of these objects, in late 1944, were made by members of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron. On November 23, one of the squadron’s aircraft, commanded by Lieutenant (though some sources identify him as a captain) Edward Schluter (though his name is sometimes spelled Schlueter), took off from Dijon, France, for a night patrol. Near Strasbourg, the intelligence officer, Lieutenant F. Ringwald, glanced out of the aircraft and spotted eight to ten balls of red fire moving at what he thought of as a “great velocity.”
Both ground radar and airborne radar showed nothing. In the aircraft, Lieutenant Donald J. Meiers (identified in other sources as Myers) told Schluter that he had no enemy fighters on his radar.
The pilot maneuvered the aircraft toward the lights and they seemed to vanish. A minute or two later, the lights reappeared, but now they were much farther away. They seemed to be reacting to the night fighter and after five or six minutes, they began to glide, leveled out and finally disappeared, this time for good.
During their debriefing, according to one version found in the debriefing records, Meiers (or Myers) called the objects “Foo Fighters” for the lack of a better term. Seeing something like that, and calling them something like that, was not something that would be ignored by their fellow flight crews. Schluter and Meiers began to take all kinds of ribbing, at least until others made similar sightings.
On December 15, 1944, according to an operations report found in the official files, another flight crew reported that they, “Saw a brilliant red light [that appeared to be 4 or 5 times larger than a star] at 2000 feet going at 200 MPH in the vicinity of Ernstein. Due to AI (Air Intercept radar) failure could not pick up contact but followed it by sight until it went out. Could not get close enough to identify object before it went out.”
Another Foo Fighter report was found in the Operations Report for a December 23, 1944 mission. It said, “In vicinity of Hagennau saw 2 lights coming toward A/C from ground. After reaching the altitude of the A/C they leveled off and flew on tail of Beau [their aircraft] for 2 minutes and then peeled up and turned away. 8th mission – sighted 2 orange lights. One light sighted at 10,000 feet the other climbed until it disappeared.”
Because it seemed that the Foo Fighters only showed up over enemy territory in Europe and over the Pacific Ocean in areas that were controlled by neither the Japanese nor the Allies, it suggested to intelligence officers that the Foo Fighters represented some sort of enemy technology. In some of the cases it seemed that these Foo Fighters were new enemy anti-aircraft weapons rather than some sort of advanced fighter, but in most of the cases intelligence officers had no real answers. They assumed that the flight crews, even under the stress of combat missions that lasted for hours, after repeated attacks by enemy fighters, flak over targets, weather that created problems and horrible flying conditions, and equipment failures, would be providing accurate information. They certainly wanted to learn more about these strange lights and weird objects.
What they knew was that the aircrews were reporting some very strange things, and since it was more than one crew, and since it happened with greater regularity as the war continued, it became imperative for them to discover if there was a sudden increase in the enemy technologies.
In 1944 the Allies formed the Combined Intelligence Objectives Committee (CIOS) which met for the first time on September 6. Some of those in attendance who would later figure in the study of UFOs were, Howard Robertson, and the Chief, Air Technical Section, Colonel Howard McCoy, whose name would surface in many other UFO related activites. According to the government files, their mission coordinate intelligence field teams and their handling of reports including those of the Foo Fighters. They referred, at the time, to these as “pirate bodies.” The CIOS had other activities, but it is interesting that one of the main functions was to discover the nature of the Foo Fighters, and that some of those involved would appear in later, other UFO investigations.
Various commands at various levels created various documents and reports about the Foo Fighters and the balls of fire that have been examined in today’s world. Government files suggest, and in fact, a later investigation into UFOs supports this assumption, that thinking about the Foo Fighters went beyond just the enemy and new technologies. In January 1953, the CIA sponsored a review of the material that had been reported to the Air Force Projects Sign, Grudge and Blue Book, which studied UFOs and UFO sightings. Known as the Robertson Panel after the leader, Dr. H. P. Robertson, it would be noted, “If the term ‘flying saucers’ had been popular in 1943 – 1945, these objects would have been so labeled.”
Jerome Clark, in his massive UFO Encyclopedia (second edition), reported that Dr. F. C. Durant, a member of the Robertson Panel, in his Report on the Meetings of Scientific Advisory Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects Convened by Office of Scientific Intelligence, CIA, that:
Instances of “Foo Fighters” were cited. These were unexplained phenomena sighted by aircraft pilots during World War II in both European and Far East theaters of operation wherein “balls of light” would fly near or with the aircraft and maneuver rapidly. They were believed to be electrostatic (similar to St. Elmo’s fire) or electromagnetic phenomena or possibly light reflections from ice crystals in the air, but their exact cause or nature was never defined [emphasis added].
Throughout the war, the Allies in all theaters, were interested in these objects, lights, Foo Fighters and balls of fire because they might represent an advance in the enemy ability to control the air. They were seen as a threat to air operations, though the Foo Fighters didn’t seem to engage in aerial combat and the balls of fire did no damage to Allied aircraft.
In some cases, the Foo Fighters were small “balls of fire,” sometimes referred to as St. Elmo’s fire. The thought being that they were some sort of ionization of the air around the aircraft but that simply doesn’t work. Why were these balls of fire only reported over enemy territory, and why are they not reported today around airports? While there are certainly times when the air is electrified in some fashion in the world today, the area does not glow, and they are extremely rare.
When all of the explanations were considered and applied to the various sightings, there was the small residue left that seemed to be inexplicable. There were sightings, such as one on 19/20 June by a B-29 crew in which the crew shot at the object. According to the official records, the gunners fired on it, but either missed or they hit it with no apparent results it.
In Europe, a B-17 crew flying over the North Sea toward Berlin on the morning of April 7, 1945, saw something very strange. The navigator, Captain Louis Sewell, thought they were being attacked by a German fighter. According to the available records, Sewell said that the fighter dived at them, leveled and then rolled under the B-17. It did not attack and they realized it wasn’t a fighter but something that looked more like a V-2. It was maneuvering intelligently, but it didn’t seem to have any wings.
Importantly, the object, which held its position relative to the B-17 for a short time and then accelerated to “two thousand miles an hour,” was seen by others in the formation. The radio operator in Sewell’s aircraft took several pictures of the object. Once on the ground, the film was taken away and the crew heard nothing more about it, which, according to Sewell, wasn’t all that unusual.
Here, was something that was seen in the daylight, was seen by others in other aircraft and which was photographed. Those photographs disappeared into the great maw of the military machinery.
There is one point that needs to be made. In all the reports, documents and military records available about Foo Fighters and the balls of fire, no one was thinking of the extraterrestrial. All thought was that these things were something that the enemy was developing, and that thought worried everyone. If the Germans, or the Japanese, had developed aircraft or anti-aircraft weapons with the capabilities observed, then that could tilt the war in their direction. It could prolong the fighting. In the end, there was no solution for the Foo Fighters or the balls of fire. It was just one of the strange things that happened during the war.
For those wanting more in-depth information on the Foo Fighters, I recommend Keith Chester’s book, Strange Company available from Anomalist Books and of course, on Amazon. It provides documentation and insight into the investigations of the Foo Fighters. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own, The Government UFO Files, which provides some additional information about the Foo Fighters and is also available at Amazon.