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Foo-Fighters: Mystery Files

Updated on May 17, 2012
Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters

An encounter with a Foo Fighter

The year is 1944. The second World War is in full swing, and allied bomber aircraft are flying on a night raid over Germany. The dark all-enveloping night outside the cockpit is suddenly pierced by a shining light, a fiery ball which sweeps across in front of the aircraft and seems to settle in formation on it's starboard wing.

The startled pilot tries to take avoiding action by throwing his plane about the skies in a series of aerobatic twists and turns, but the glowing ball sticks to the aircraft like glue, sometimes switching sides, or flashing in front of the plane, but matching it's manoeuvers turn for turn, it appears to be toying with them.

The aircraft gunners manage to get a bead on the object and empty their ammo magazines at it. The bullets have no effect on the fiery globe - it seems to shrug off all assaults - but seemingly sensing that it is no longer welcome, it disappears as quickly as it arrived - and it is gone. The pilot and crew heave a sigh of relief - they have just survived an encounter with a Foo Fighter.

So what was a "Foo fighter"?

"Foo Fighter" was the term used by Second World War Allied pilots to describe encounters with unusual unidentified flying objects (UFO's). The sighting of these strange phenomena were not uncommon, and at the time they were commonly believed to be some sort of Nazi secret weapon.

It was not however a Nazi weapon and German (and Japanese), pilots were just as puzzled by the appearance of these strange object as the allied pilots were.

The reports of Foo Fighter encounters and the description of them and their behaviour was remarkably consistent. They were invariably described as spherical and glowing often described as a silvery or fiery ball, or "like Christmas tree lights". The colour usually described as white, red or an orange colour somewhere between the two.

The reports of the encounters were taken extremely seriously by the military authorities of the time, and case-presentations were made by authoritative scientists of the period such as David Griggs, Luis Alvarez and H.P. Robertson. The phenomenon has never been properly explained, and much government information regarding Foo Fighters remains secret.

Foo Fighters buzzing what are believed to be RAF Westland Lysanders
Foo Fighters buzzing what are believed to be RAF Westland Lysanders
STRANGE COMPANY: Military Encounters with UFOs in World War II
STRANGE COMPANY: Military Encounters with UFOs in World War II

In a startling feat of historical research, Keith Chester's STRANGE COMPANY details an aspect of World War II that has been shrouded in ignorance for more than sixty years. Chester reveals that as the war gripped the world for six years, military personnel reported seeing numerous highly unconventional aircraft in all theaters of operation. These objects had extraordinary flight performance capabilities, came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and were able to travel at extraordinary speeds and avoid radar detection.


The January (1945) edition of Time magazine contained an article entitled "Foo Fighters". The article reported how "Balls of fire" had been following USAAF night-fighters for more than a month. In the article, the pilots explained how the objects closely shadowed their aircraft at high speeds.

Some "Foo Fighter" reports from the Pacific theatre of war were somewhat different in nature to the mainstream reports in as much as one was described as "resembling a large burning sphere which, although it followed some aircraft, mostly "just hung in the sky".

It was even reported that the gunner on a B-29 aircraft actually hit one with gunfire, and far from shrugging off the assault, it broke up into a number of large pieces which fell on buildings below, setting fire to them.

Why "Foo Fighter"?

The term "Foo" became part of popular culture in the 1930s because of a cartoon strip called "Stokey Stover" by cartoonist Bill Holman. The cartoon strip was about the adventures of a hapless fireman (Stokey), who's catch-phrase was "Where there's foo there's fire" ("Foo" is believed to derive from the French "Le Feu" meaning fire).

According to legend, the term "Foo Fighter" was coined in 1944 by pilots of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, when Intelligence officer Fritz Ringwald was debriefing Don Meiers and Ed Schleuter. They reported that they had come into contact with a red fire ball, which subsequently chased them through a series of high-speed manoeuvers

Fritz stated that Don seemed particularly agitated by the experience, and pulled a copy of the "Stokey Stover" comic strip from his pocket, and slapped it onto the desk saying "... it was another one of those fu**in' foo fighters!"

This was regarded as more-or-less the official origin of the term until the airing of a Channel 4 documentary on 23rd of June 2011, in which reporter Nick Cook displayed a report he had discovered in the RAF archives. It was a report by an RAF pilot detailing his UFO encounter with a red ball of fire whilst on a bombing mission over Germany. The report was dated 1942 - some two years before they became public. It was also noted that the term "Foo Fighters" was already in use by radar operatives in 1944, which suggests that the term may actually predate the "official" legend.

 The Phenomenon of Foo Fighters reported in the papers of the time
The Phenomenon of Foo Fighters reported in the papers of the time

Some Foo Fighter sightings

Eighth Air Force Pilot Charles R. Bastien reported an encounter with "Foo Fighters" when flying over the Belgium/Holland area. In his description, he likened them to "two fog lights flying at high rates of speed that could change direction rapidly".

Following the flight, he was debriefed and his intelligence officer let slip that two RAF night fighters had also reported the same incident. The story was subsequently reported in British Newspapers.

Even earlier in September 1941 two sailors aboard the SS.Pulaski -(a Polish merchant ship which was transporting British Troops across the Indian Ocean) made a report about a "strange globe glowing with greenish light, about half the size of the full moon as it appears to us."

They called over a British Officer to witness what they were seeing, and the three of them observer the objects movements for over an hour.

U.S. Air Force pilot Duane Adams encountered "Foo Fighters" twice - Once shortly after the second World war,when he was piloting his B-25 bomber, and again in the early 1960s when Adams was piloting a KC-135 tanker, again at night and over the South Pacific.

Both incidents concerned a bright light which shadowed his plane for half-an-hour or so, before shooting off rapidly into the sky. Both incidents were witnessed by the entire aircrew.

Any Answers?

No definitive answer has been forthcoming to explain the phenomena of "Foo fighters", and many reports relating to them continue to languish secretly in government archives.

The postwar Robertson Panel discussed Foo Fighters, but the best explanation that they could come up with was that they could be due to some electrostatic phenomenon such as St.Elmo's fire, or reflections from light crystals.

In it's report, the panel noted that "If the term "flying saucers" had been popular in 1943-1945, these objects would have been so labeled."


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  • Gaizy profile image

    Gaizy 6 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    Thanks Paradise7, the truth, as they say, is often stranger than fiction.

  • Paradise7 profile image

    Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

    Once again, fascinating! Thanks!

  • nemanjaboskov profile image

    Nemanja Boškov 6 years ago from Serbia

    I can imagine :)

  • Gaizy profile image

    Gaizy 6 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ nemanjaboskov - Thanks, glad you liked it. The research was a nightmare - whenever I Googled the name "Foo fighters", all I got was pages about the Pop group of the same name :)

  • nemanjaboskov profile image

    Nemanja Boškov 6 years ago from Serbia

    Bill, I'm glad you told the story about the famous Foo Fighters - this was always very interesting to me...

    Thanks for another great mystery hub!