In December 1944, as Hitler’s armies launched their last desperate offensive in Belgium and Luxembourg, US bomber pilots began to notice an eerie phenomenon in the skies over Germany.
The New York Times first reported the bizarre sightings as probable Nazi super weapon: “A new German weapon has made its appearance on the western front, It was disclosed today.
“Airmen of the American Air Force report that they are encountering silver coloured spheres in the air over German territory. The spheres are encountered either singly or in clusters. Sometimes they are semi-translucent.”
Long before Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl stepped out from behind his drum kit to start his own band, the mystery objects were christened “Foo Fighters”
The name Foo Fighter was dreamed up by Donald J. Meiers , a radar operator in the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, who actually called them “F*****g Foo Fighters” but the name was censored before being revealed to the public.
One excerpt from the 415th’s official War Diary reveals why the pilots believed the “Foo Fighters” were being guided by some form of intelligence: “In Rastatt area sighted five or six red and green lights in a T shape which followed [aircraft] through turns and closed to 1,000 feet.
“Lights followed for several miles and then went out.”
Another entry read: “More Foo Fighters were in the air last night – the Ops report says ‘In vicinity of Hagenau saw two lights coming forwards [our aircraft] from the ground.
“They levelled off and flew on tail of Beau [Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter] for two minutes and then peeled off and turned away.”
The Nazis had already used a primitive cruise missile, the V1, and a ballistic missile, the V2, as well as deploying the first operational jet and rocket-powered fighters.
So Allied commanders were perfectly ready to believe that scientists inside the Reich could also have develop some bizarre new form of weapon.
Especially as according to some US bomber crews the “Foo Fighters” had damaged their aircraft during raids over Germany.
However, after the war it became clear that German and Japanese aviators had also been troubled by the mysterious phenomenon. In the Pacific theatre, Foo Fighters were reportedly larger objects, more like a “ball of fire”
Reports of Foo Fighter sightings faded away after January 1945.
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A 1953 scientific inquiry looking into UFO reports concluded that Foo Fighter reports were probably the result of tired, stressed-out air crews seeing ball lightning or other electrostatic phenomena such as St Elmo’s Fire.
However, the Robertson Panel added: “If the term ‘flying saucers’ had been popular in 1943–1945, these objects would have been so labelled.”
Whatever the real cause of the Foo Fighter phenomenon there’s no surprise that it became a major talking point for early UFO conspiracy theorists.
US Air Force investigators, looking into the first wave of UFO reports in the late 1940s, noted that Kenneth Arnold’s descriptions of the “flying saucers” he saw sounded suspiciously similar to some of advanced aircraft being developed for the Luftwaffe by the Horten Brothers in the final days of World War Two.
From there it was a short leap to rumours of Nazi UFOs, powered by ancient occult energies, being housed in a secret base in Antarctica or, in later theories, on the far side of the Moon.
It’s tied together with the idea that the Nazis had their own “Roswell incident” in the early days of World Wars Two and based radical new weapons on what they learned from the crashed UFO.
Nicholas Veronico, an author who has written several books on military aviation history, hopes that one day the truth will be revealed.
“The fantasy is that 100 years after the war, the U.S. or Soviets will release information about what they captured, and it’ll blow all our minds,” he says.
“But I think they would’ve capitalised on it by this point… or weaponised it.”
The truth behind Foo Fighters is far more likely to be an as-yet unknown atmospheric phenomenon – perhaps connected to large formations of aircraft moving through the night sky – but that very real and fascinating mystery remains unsolved.