CLASSIFIED MESSAGE CENTER
OUTGOING CLASSIFIED MESSAGE
For G-2 from Bissell WDGBI signed Ulio
Press reports red balls of fire accompanying planes in flight termed "Foo Fighters” by air personnel. Desire explanation if available.
Washington, Jan 2–(UP)–Tokyo claimed today that a Japanese-manufactured robot bomb would make its debut soon giving Japan domination of the skies of the Pacific Ocean.
The broadcast beamed to Latin America and recorded by the FCC did not give any weapon, nor did it explain how the Japanese could hope to use them for such distances and against such tiny targets as American Pacific bases offer.
SUBJECT: Night Phenomenon
TO : Commanding General, First Tactical Air Force (Prev),
APO 374, US Army. Attn: A/C of S, A-2
1. The following is quoted from training and tactical information supplied by the 415th Night Fighter Squadron for the month of December 1944:
"We have encountered a phenomenon which we cannot explain; crews have been followed by lights that blink on and off changing colors etc. The lights come very close and fly formation with our planes. They are agitating and keep the crews on edge when they encounter them, mainly because they cannot explain them. It is requested further information be furnished on this subject, such as similar experiences of other night units."
2. Further information is requested.
1. There have been no instances reported as above.
2. Before an investigation can be made it will be necessary to have more complete information, such as colors of the lights, their intensity, size, duration, and at what altitudes seen; also if the lights are observed at any specific hours. Do subject lights cross Allied lines and in what direction are they seen to travel? Also, has it been noted on what part of the aircraft are they carried, i.e. wing, tail, prop; and how close do they approach our aircraft?
For the Assistant Chief of Staff A-2:
Attention is invited to 2nd W/Ind.
1. Forwarded for your information.
2. This headquarters has no further information or explanation in connection with these phenomena.
3. It is believed that further investigation is warranted. Since appropriate technical personnel are not available within the First Tactical Air Force, the matter is forwarded for such further investigation as may be advisable.
#1. - 1st & and 2nd W/Ind, 23 Jan 45
and 30 Jan 45
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
1. Reference to your 3rd Indorsment on the subject of night phenomenon originated by the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, there is no information at this Headquarters which might explain the nature and cause of the lights and other phenomena described by the pilots of this Squadron.
2. The matter is, therefore, being referred to the Air Ministry in order to find out whether any further information can be obtained from that source. It is also hoped to make arrangements for an Air Technical Intelligence Officer from USSTAF to visit the unit concerned.
For the Deputy Supreme Commander
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
1. Attached are copies of papers received from the first Tac. Air Force (Prov). From the number of reports quoted in the 2nd W/Ind from the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, it would seem that there must be something more than mere imagination behind the matter, and in view of the fact that pilots and crews are becoming slightly worried by them, it is considered that everything possible should be done to get to the root of the matter.
2. Copies of the reports have been sent to the Air Ministry for their consideration, and the Scientific Investigation Division of this Headquarters (Mr. Robertson) has also been asked to consider the problem.
3. In the meantime, it is suggested that it might be as well for an Air Technical Intelligence Officer to visit the unit concerned and obtain reports and impressions at first hand from aircrew personnel.
For the Deputy Supreme Commander
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
1. With reference to reports forwarded from the XIIth Tactical Air Command through your Headquarters on the subject of night phenomena (foofighter), and further to this Headquarters' letter of even reference dated 11 February, a reply has now been received from the Air Ministry who say that Bomber Command crews have for some time been reporting similar phenonema.
2. The Air Ministry view is that a few of the alleged aircraft may have been Me.262’s and for the rest, flak rockets are suggested as the most likely explanation.
3. It is regretted that no further, or more definite, information can be given.
For the Deputy Supreme Commander
Flying Disk reports reminded veteran Gerry Dumphy (23 Anyinger Ct., a student at the University of Wisconsin) of reports of mystery fireballs which supposedly attacked big planes on their missions over Japanese Islands in May and June 1945.
The first 'fireball' reported was during a raid against Tokyo on May 23, 1945. Dumphy was a bombardier with the 52d Squadron of the 29th Bombing Group stationed at Guam. He recalls how the 'fireballs' approached planes and followed them out to sea as they returned after dropping their bombs.
He described them as "round, speedy balls of fire, fast as a B-29, but not as maneuverable." Or as "burning warheads suspended from parachutes," or as "molten chunks of steel."
"Often, excited gunners would fire on pursuing 'fireballs' missiles [which] ]would miss their targets and fall into the sea. Reports came in from every B-29 base in the Marianas. As time wore on, the fireballs "became more maneuverable and followed the super forts further out to sea". None were reported seen during daylight hours. One pilot, seeing a fireball, flew into a cloud formation. It was still following when the plane emerged. In this case the fireball was explained as the planet Venus, as its position remained at 9 o'clock.
Just Cause - June, 1992:
FIRST OFFICIAL FOO-FIGHTER RECORDS DISCOVERED
In January 1992, CAUS launched an effort to locate documentation relevant to the Foo-Fighter phenomenon of World War 2. This has led to the first release of unit records giving specifics on these incidents.
For those unfamiliar with what Foo-Fighters were, we will explain. During the later part of World War 2 pilots an both the allied and axis sides reported seeing strange balls of light flying with them while they were engaged in bombing and air defense missions in the European and Pacific theaters. The balls were generally about a foot in diameter, bright, of varying colors and able to maneuver with ease in and about aircraft formations.
Word of the phenomenon leaked to the press in December 1944 and became widely known in America on January 2, 1945, through numerous newspaper reprintings of a wire service story summarizing pilot descriptions of what they saw. In the press coverage it was assumed that the balls were Nazi secret weapons. However, they did not seem to affect aircraft in any way, except to be a nuisance. Reports persisted until the end of January 1945, when the activity abated, though not completely.
Further mention of Foo-Fighters (which in fact was a nickname given to the strange balls by pilots of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, based upon a frequent phrase used in the "Smokey Stover" comic strip of the day) disappeared from the press until December 1945, when the American Legion Magazine carried accounts by pilots of their experiences (see "The Foo Fighter Mystery" by Jo Chamberlin, American Legion Magazine, Dec. 1945).
From then on the Foo-Fighter reports surfaced much after the fact in various UFO publications over the years.
Clues as to the existence of wartime records of the Foo-Fighters appeared in declassified Air Force Intelligence files from 1947 and 1952.
As a result of UFO waves in those years several former bomber crew members had contacted the Air Force to advise them of their experiences with Foo-Fighters in the hope that this would somehow shed light on the flying saucers being sighted.
One record, an April 23, 1952 letter from Lt. Col. W.W. Ottinger of the Directorate of Intelligence's Evaluation Division, said that an evaluation of Foo-Fighters was done at the end of the war. It was concluded that there was nothing to the phenomenon at all, though to this day the study has not been made public.
A majority of the published accounts of Foo-Fighters seemed to emanate from pilots of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron. The 415th's job was to intercept and destroy Nazi aircraft, flying under the cover of night.
The fighters would be directed by Army radar stations which tracked the enemy aircraft. The squadron logged an impressive record of kills through the skill and determination of its pilots.
Knowing that the U.S. Air Force Historical Research Center at Maxwell AFB, Alabama was a storage site for histories of old aircraft units, we had sent a detailed inquiry asking for the location of bombing mission reports, for definitions of acronyms given by witnesses attempting to direct Air Force Intelligence to citations of Foo-Fighter sightings, and of particular interest, the unit history of the 415th NFS.
Unfortunately, after telling us that a researcher would contact us in several months with results, a follow-up informed us that they didn't have the staff or the time to answer questions (some research center!). Nevertheless, we were given the number of a microfilm roll containing the 415th's unit history. Upon receiving it we soon learned that the
Foo-Fighter sightings of the 415th were indeed documented, albeit briefly, by the squadron's historian.
We are concerned with two portions of the history - a unit summary, which gives an overview of the 415th's activities, and the "War Diary," which chronicled the day-by-day events. Both had been classified "Secret." Frame 1515 of the microfilm roll's summary touched upon the Foo-Fighters in this way:
"Another outstanding feature occured late in October. While flying an intruder mission in the Rhine Valley, Capt. Edward Schlueter and Lt. Don Myers experienced contact with the first FooFighters, referred to as such by Lt. Myers for the lack of a better name and because of the eerie feeling it gave the crew. At first these two officers were taunted by their buddies and began to wonder if they had developed combat fatigue. However other crews began to report seeing FooFighters in the Rhine Valley at night, thus the FooFighters were definitely established as an existing phenomena."
A few remarks are needed here. The summary makes reference to Capt. Schlueter and Lt. Myers encountering a Foo Fighter in late October. But as we will see in the War Diary, the first report was in late November 1944 and no incident is listed for October. Also one sees reactions very much reminiscent of later flying saucer stories in that the witnesses were ridiculed and began to doubt themselves until others reported the same thing. The result in this case was that "Foo Fighters were definitely established as an existing phenomena."
On to the War Diary. The 415th operated under what must be regarded as stressful conditions. Certainly the stress from time to time had to be relieved. The 415th was no different than any other unit in this respect. A little insight into their pasttimes is reflected in the War Diary entry for November 24, 1944:
"The Squadron had a dance at the Cafe du Lark. Both WACs (Women's Army Corp, Ed.) and French girls were invited. A gay time was had by all until the WACs left at 1100 hours and then a very gay time was enjoyed."
I hope the reader understands that "gay" had a different connotation then than it does now. Also, were WACs that bad or were French girls that much better?
Frame 1611 begins coverage of the first Foo Fighter incident from an intruder mission out of Longvic Air Rase in France:
November 27 - "The following weird excerpt comes from Lt. Schlueter's report of an intruder mission: 'Upon returning to base saw a red light flying through area about 35 miles ENE of Pt. A. Came in to about 2000 feet off starboard and then it disappeared in a long red streak.'"
Comment: Interestingly, unless the War Diary omitted other incidents in late November, this account is quite different, from the "first incident" reported in American Legion Magazine. This told of Schlueter and "Meiers" encountering eight to ten orange balls moving at terrific speed which disappeared, reappeared, stayed in view five minutes and then once again vanished.
About two weeks passed before the next encounter. This time the 415th had been moved to Ochey Air Base, France. Frame 1613 relates:
December 15 - "The following is an excerpt from the operations report: 'Saw a brilliant red light at 2000 feet going E 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.'"
A few days later there was more:
December 18 - "I quote from the operations report: 'In Rastatt area sighted five or six red and green lights in a 'T' shape which followed A/C thru turns and closed to 1000 feet. Lights followed for several miles and then went out. Our pilots have named these mysterious phenomena which they encounter over Germany at night 'Foo-Fighters.'"
The encounters continue on frame 1614:
December 23 - "More Foo-Fighters were in the air last night. The Ops report says: 'In vicinity of Hagenau 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 (Beaufighter - their aircraft, Ed.) 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.'"
December 24 - "The Foo-Fighters were active again according to the pilot's report: ’Observed a glowing, red object shooting straight up. It changed suddenly to a plan view of an A/C doing a wing-over and going into a dive and disappearing.'"
December 28 - "The Ops report says: '1st patrol saw 2 sets of 3 red and white lights. One appeared on port side, the other on starboard at 1000 to 2000 feet to rear and closing in. Beau peeled off and lights went out. Nothing on GCI scope at the time.' And then again: 'Observed lights suspended in air, moving slowly in no general direction and then disappeared. Lights were orange, and appeared singly and in pairs. These lights were observed 4 or 5 times throughout the period.'"
Comment: We can see how the level of activity escalated to such a point in December that it would be hard to keep a lid on the matter. Thus the leak and press coverage in January. The incidents of December 23-24 do agree with accounts in the American Legion Magazine article to the extent that the author must have seen the Ops report or War Diary without citing one or the other as a source, perhaps for security reasons. However, the aircraft occupants were named in the article but not in the War Diary.
A final entry in the 415th's War Diary appears on frame 1619:
January 30 - "Foo-Fighters were at it again last night. This is the operations report:
'Halfway between Wissenbourg and Langau sighted amber lights at 2000 feet. One light was 20 to 50 feet above the other and of about 30 seconds duration. Lights were about a foot in diameter, 1000 feet away and following Beaus. Lights disappeared when Beaus turned into them.'"
What were Foo-Fighters? Hallucinations? Alien ships? Natural phenomena? The official records do not suggest what they were except that they were no threat to the aircraft of either side.
On February 21, 1952, Air Force Intelligence received a letter from one Albert Rosenthal of Washington, D.C. (In CAUS files):
"During the winter of 1944-45 I was a fighter controller with the 64th Fighter Wing supporting the 7th Army in France and Germany. Flying under our control was the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, flying Beaufighters. When there was no enemy air activities, they would engage in intruder sweeps into southwestern Germany. We repeatedly received reports from the Beaufighter crews of similar phenomena, which they named 'foo-fighters.' At times they seemed to be associated with concentrated flak, and at other times were reported to explode when pursued. It was also asserted that they caused a slight response on A.I. radar."
"We never did solve the problem of what they were. Theories propounded included 'St Elmo's Fire' (a form of static electricity); German barrage balloons; meteors; and gremlins from the Black Forest nearby. And of course we suspected the possibility of some new secret weapon."
A previously unknown account has surfaced. Connecticut resident Louis Kiss has advised CAUS of his own experience with Foo-Fighters.
Kiss, then a Staff Sergeant, was a tall gunner on the "Phyllis Marie," a B-17 bomber of the 390th Bombardment Group, 3rd Division of the 8th Air Force.
In late 1943, while on a daylight mission over central Germany, Kiss observed an odd-looking sphere approach the B-17 from behind and below. He said it was about the size of a basketball and of a shimmery gold color. The ball reached the aircraft and hovered just above one wing after slowly moving from the rear. Soon it passed over the top of the aircraft to the other wing where it again hovered. Sgt. Kiss was tempted to shoot at it with his machine gun but, considering the proximity of the ball to the B-17's gas tank, he thought better of it.
As Kiss watched, the ball moved toward the rear again, became caught in the B-17's backwash and rapidly disappeared into the remainder of the B-17 formation. He never knew if anyone else in the group had seen the ball but he did officially report it to his intelligence officer. Curiously, Kiss had never heard of Foo-Fighters until we had mentioned them to him. His report does parallel several sources. The War Diary of the 415th for December 23 told of Foo-Fighters climbing from below, much the same as Kiss described. And the American Legion Magazine article told of a daylight sighting by a P-47 pilot of a "gold-colored ball with a metallic finish," again something reported by Kiss.
If one has questions about the credibility of Mr Kiss, we have included an extract from the 390th Veterans Association Foundation Newsletter, Fall-Winter 1991, attesting to his excellence as a combat flyer.
The 390th Veterans Association
On an 8 October 1943 raid over Bremen, Germany, SSGT. Louis Kiss established himself among the outstanding gunners of the 390th Bombardment Group by shooting down three enemy planes within five minutes. He accomplished that achievement from his position as a tail gunner on the flying fortress “Phyllis Marie.”
In describing the action, Sergeant Kiss reported, “I never saw the luftwaffe more bloodthirsty. They dove through their own flak to drive home their attacks. I waited until they were within three hundred yards before I fired at them. I couldn't miss.”
Assigned to the 568th Bombardment Squadron, Sergeant Kiss later scored his fourth kill over Emden. When he later returned to the states, he brought with him the distinguished flying cross and the air medal with eight oakleaf clusters for his achievements over the German homeland.
We hope that this is just the beginning of a flow of information on Foo-Fighters. It was a peculiar footnote to World War 2 to say the least and far too little has been available on it.
Based upon the reports we have seen, we are inclined to think that Foo-Fighters were some form of rare electrical phenomenon related to ball lightning. How they form in clear air is not understood. Odd as well is the lack of reports in winters prior to 1944-45, with a few occassional exceptions. Accessing new information from historical files may reveal more reports than we realized existed. Could, for example, have Foo-Fighters been related to possible earthquake activity in southwestern Germany during this period with the balls of electrical energy having been attracted to the large formations of fighters and bombers overflying the territory? Remember the reports of the balls flying up from the ground and the fact that there is no evidence that either side in the war had any such devices in their arsenals?
We will update this story as it develops.
Just Cause - September, 1992:
On September 3, this editor visited the National Archives in Suitland, Maryland in an effort to locate additional records on Foo-Fighters. Fifteen documents were found with fragments of new information.
The focus of the search were the records of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, the same unit responsible for many of the Foo-Fighter sightings of the period. Of particular concern were the "Mission Reports.” These were the source documents of the 415th's Unit History, which we discussed in the June Just Cause. It was thought that perhaps more detail existed in these mission reports, elaborating upon the Unit History.
Archives personnel provided a large cardboard box holding three feet of file folders of the 415th NFS and affiliated bomber groups. The period covered was late September 1944 - April 1945. It was obvious that I would spend at least a full day scanning this bunch. The records were not in the best condition, a fact which should be of great concern to those interested in the contents of old files, not just on this but on any subject. Many of the papers were onion-skin copies, very fragile and yellowing. Other reports were on coarse, brown paper which was very brittle, flakes of which were coming off on my hands. It was no longer surprising why quite often when CAUS would request and receive government files the copies were difficult, and sometimes impossible, to read. We are in a race against time as many government records are literally self-destructing on the shelf. With the millions of copies for which the National Archives is responsible, there is simply not enough staff or resources to take care of it all.
What also became clear is that the staff of the National Archives are not absolute authorities on the records that we have obtained regarding UFOs. The response I had to a request for help in locating a particular Air Force document with an identifying number was, "Good luck, we don't know." Not that they were being fresh but that the Air Force had lost the inventory to that group of documents. I had a new appreciation for the time delays in responding to FOIA requests as well. It took me the best part of a day just to scan one box thoroughly. I was in a room with about thirty to forty people, all of whom had their own agenda and own piles of paper to scan. Factor in mail requests and the demands on the staff must be terrific. I heard a complaint by one of having to pull hundreds of boxes himself to fulfill researchers’ requests just for that day.
The 415th's mission reports tended to be brief in their descriptions of everything. There were reports of aircraft destroyed, buildings bombed, flak, vehicles destroyed; etc. Then, scattered amongst the information, were reports of strange lights in the sky.
The following is an accounting of these reports:
December 14/15, 1944 - Mission 1 - 1735-1915 - Saw light which appeared to be 4 or 5 times larger than a star going about 700 MPH near Erstein. Couldn't get sighting - Poor visibility.
December 16/17, 1944 - Mission 5 - 0040 - Fired at lights in Lichtenau - No results observed. 0130 - Fired at lights in OCS (R-3522) - No results observed.
December 16/17, 1944 - Mission 6 - 0155-0345 - Lichtenau-Buhl area. Saw lights in Neufreistett (R-1407), guns would not fire so returned to base.
December 22/23, 1944 - Mission 1 - 1705-1850 - Put on bogie by Blunder at 1750 hours, had A.I. [air intercept radar -ed.] contact 4 miles range at Q-7372. Overshot and could not pick up contact again. A.I. went out and weather started closing in so returned to base. Observed 2 lights, one of which seemed to be going on and off at Q—2411.
December 22/23, 1944 - Mission 7 - 0350-0730 - Patrolled 10,000 feet Strasbourg - Sarrebourg. At 0600 saw ? lights coming toward a/c from south. Turned away after about 2 minutes when near Hagenau. Saw orange glow and thought it might possibly be jet a/c.
December 22/23, 1944 - Mission 8 - 0535-0750 - Patrol Sarrebourg - R-4559. Saw lights from plane and orange glow. Thought it possible jet a/c.
January 1/2, 1945 - Mission 3 - 1810/2010 - Patrol North and East of base. Was vectored toward Rogey - No contact.
January 1/2, 1945 - Mission 5 - 2045/2145 - Patrol. Saw red flares off port wing 10 miles south of base. A.I. [air intercept radar -ed.] went U/S; so returned to base.
January 1/2, 1945 - Mission 8 - 0230/0600 - Patrol. Vectored on to Bogey when at angels 11. Could not get closer than 7 miles. Lost contact when Bogey entered IAZ.
February 13/14, 1945 - Mission 2 - 1800-2000 - About 1910, between Rastatt and Bishwiller, encountered lights at 3000 feet, two sets of them, turned into them, one set went out and the other went straight up 2-3000 feet, then went out. Turned back to base and looked back and saw lights in their original position again.
February 14/15, 1945 - Mission 2 - 1940-2140 - String of lights north of Freiburg, (1 red one in center, 4 white ones on each side) blinking on and off.
March 14/15, 1945 - Mission 1 - 1845-2030 - Patrolled 7th Army Front from R-1108 to Hagenau - artillery flashes seen. Before leaving, saw floo fire (3 red lights) 3 miles away at 3000 feet stationary.
March 19/20, 1945 - Mission 9 - 0045-0355 - At Speyer saw 2 "Foo" Fighters - 1 orange ball and 1 green one - seemed to be closing in from portside. Evaded them and lost them.
March 26/27, 1945 - Mission 5 - 2230-0130 - Patrol. Patrol Worms area. Saw an orange ball that came up from ground and disappeared before it reached the Beau.
April 23/24, 1945 - Mission 5 - 0105-0320 - P-61 Patrol - Wisenburg-Ludwigsburg Area. At Rhine River, R-9593, observed 4 lights arranged in a square. Lights went out as plane approached.
One frustrating feature of these reports is their brevity. It is difficult to form a hypothesis on the origin of Foo-Fighters when such fragmentary information is available. It is sometimes hard to tell whether reports of "lights" by the pilots were in the air or on the ground so one should exercise caution when reading reports where this is not clear.
The reports involving the 415th rather stretch beyond the time previously thought to encompass all of the known sightings from that unit.
In our June issue, we had indicated that sightings ranged from late October 1944 through the end of January 1945. We can now see that the 415th experienced encounters to nearly the end of the war.
Readers of our previous Foo-Fighter report will note too that the various mission reports cited here are different, less detailed than the "Operations Reports" quoted in the 415th's Unit History. These will be the next target of a records search.
Finally, the document on page 5 is a record found separately from the 415th's reports. This involves the 4th Fighter/Bomber group in France. The pilot reported "100 yellow, semi-transparent balloons" measuring 1 foot in diameter seen during his mission. Nothing more is said. Was this a mass Foo-Fighter invasion, or real balloons, individual descriptions of which rather disturbingly resemble some reported Foo-Fighter incidents?
Much work remains on this issue. Our files contain references to other units whose records have not yet been searched. We expect to obtain more detailed inventories of such records and will proceed to locate them.
Security and Intellegence Division
Sixth Service Command
15 January 1945
Subject : Japanese Balloons
Summary of information:
The following information was obtained from another federal investigative agency:
"On December 28, 1944 Mr Richard Slusser, who has recently been appointed to the military academy at Annapolis, advised the following:
While he was a Naval Cadet at the Chamberlain Municipal Field, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he, in the presence of approximately 15 other cadets observed a situation which was more forcefully brought to his attention with the recent publicity given the Japanese balloon that was discovered in the western part of the country. He went on the say that in July 1943, while at the Field, he and the others referred to above, observed a burst of flame in the sky in the vicinity of the field. He stated that it was his opinion that this happened about three and a half miles from the field and was from 1000 to 2000 feet in the air. At the sight of the burst of flame in the sky, a number of planes were sent out from the field in an effort to ascertain just what had happened. However, this search resulted in negative findings. At the time he observed the flame in the sky he stated it was his opinion it was an airplane that had exploded, but upon reading a recent issue of Time Magazine, he altered his opinion a bit to the extent that it may have been a balloon drifting in that area.
Western Defense Command
4 January 1945
CONFIDENTIAL NOTE TO EDITORS AND BROADCASTERS,
NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST.
ANY BALLOONS APPROACHING THE UNITED STATES FROM OUTSIDE ITS BORDERS CAN BE ENEMY ATTACKS AGAINST THE NATION. SUCH ATTACKS INVOLVE MILITARY SECURITY. INFORMATION THAT THE BALLOONS HAVE REACHED THIS COUNTRY AND PARTICULARY WHAT SECTION THEY HAVE REACHED IS INFORMATION OF VALUE TO THE ENEMY. THE WAR DEPARTMENT IS APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY FOR SUCH INFORMATION. PLEASE DO NOT AID THE ENEMY BY PUBLISHING OR BROADCASTING SUCH INFORMATION WITHOUT APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY.
OFFICE OF CENSORSHIP.
XII Tactical Air Command Intelligence Information Bulletin,
No. 6, January 28, 1945
There have however been several reports of the phenomenon which is described as "silver balls", seen mainly below 10,000 feet; tentative suggestions have been made as to their origin and purpose, but as yet no satisfactory explanation has been found. The bulletin for June 4, 1945, discusses reports from Japan:
DON'T LOOK NOW, BUT --:
Mention has previously been made in these pages to the existence of German airborne controlled missiles Hs.298, Hs.293, X4 and Hs.117. Many reports have been received from Bomber Command crews of flaming missiles being directed at, and sometimes following the aircraft, suggesting the use of remote control and/or homing devices. It is known that the Germans kept their Japanese Allies informed of technical developments and the following report, taken verbatim from Headquarters, U. S. A. F. P. O. A. G.2 Periodic Report No. 67, further suggests that the Japanese are using similar weapons to those reported by our own crews:
"During the course of a raid by Super-Fortresses on the Tachikawa aircraft plant, and the industrial area of Kawasaki, both in the Tokyo area, a number of Super-Fortresses reported having been followed or pursued by "red balls of fire" described as being approximately the size of a basketball with a phosphorescent glow. Some were reported to have tails of blinking light. These "balls" appeared generally out of nowhere, only one having been seen to ascend from a relatively low altitude to the rear of a B-29. No accurate estimate could be reached as to the distance between the balls and the B-29's. No amount of evasion of the most violent nature succeeded in shaking the balls. They succeeded in following the Super-Fortresses through rapid changes of altitude and speed and sharp turns, and held B-29s' courses through clouds. One B-29 reported outdistancing a ball only by accelerating to 295 mph, after which the pursuing ball turned around and headed back to land.
Individual pursuits lasted as long as six minutes, and one ball followed a Super-Fortress 30 miles out to sea. The origin of the balls is not known. Indication points to some form of radio-direction, either from the ground or following enemy aircraft. The apparent objective of the balls, no doubt, is destruction of the Super-Fortresses by contact. Both interception and AA [anti-aircraft] have proved entirely ineffective, the enemy has apparently developed a new weapon with which to attempt countering our thrusts."
(SOURCE: RAF, Fighter Command Intelligence and Operational Summary No. 30, dated 15 May 1945).
A letter from a former Army Air Force Staff Sargeant radar operator in the 96th Bomber Squadron (H), 11th Bomb Group, to the Air Force Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) dated 5 April 1952 related an interesting war time experience. (There are some parts of the microfilm which are blurred and difficult to read.)
"....Below is a report I made in diary form which I did not enter in [the] combat report when I made [sic]of the mission, in the extent that I make it here:
"Feb. 22, 1945; B-24, #501, 98th Bomb group; Night mission with Lt Togner over CHI CHI JIMA. Bomb Load 4x500 M29 Butterfly Bombs. Target: SUSAKI AIRFIELD. 35 bombs observed to hit target area. Radar Approach: 152 degrees form NISHI JIMA. 20 bursts of accurate flack. No Searchlights. A night fighter apparently on our tail. O'Hara saw 2 exhausts. Picked up an indication on our own radar, (SCR 717C). Landed at 0930: no damage to us. Mission at 9300'. Marines having hard time at IWO (JIMA),. We could see flashes coming back.'
"That was my full report. The other reports of that mission you undoubtedly have access to for your own analysis. There are two things that I do not like about this report:
(1) The Iwo Airfields at the time were closed to all Jap flying, because the Marines were on hand.
(2) Susaki was not large enough to [?] anything more than pea-shooters.
(3) BETTY'S (Japanese Mitsubishi G4M bomber) were the only enemy aircraft, to my knowledge, that were ever sighted in that area, that would fit the discription of our own sighting -- and these had not been sighted for a good month and a half before we made this contact. We did have 'pacers' in daytime over Iwo, but never at night, and they never followed us after a mission was over as this one was supposed to have done.
(4) I first saw this 'pip' just outside of our altitude circle, the direct radar return from the ground, after O'Hara spotted it. It never came inside this altitude circle, but followed us for maybe 20 miles after bombs away, then disappeared from the screen as suddenly as it had come. That is why I want to finish out the report that I....[illegible]"
This report is interesting for three reasons. First, it is an early radar-visual report although details are lacking. Second, it is a pre-1947 which was in the Air Force files with a reference that could be used to establish it occurred before 1947. Third, the term "foo-fighter" is not used.
This letter was contained in a Project Blue Book file entitled "Public Response to the April 1952 LIFE magazine article", a catchall file which contained letters received from the public from 1952 to '53. Generally no action was taken on these letters. Dr. Herbert Strentz received this file from ATIC when he was working on his PhD dissertation. Several of the letters report sightings before 1947; they stated that the sightings were also reported or recorded when they were made. The records like the diary cited above included a ship's log, newspapers, observatories, and guard records. Since these letters were not investigated or treated as official reports, Blue Book at the time (1952-3) did not indicate pre-1947 reports in any statistics.
The LIFE magazine file was apparently not made available to the scientists at Battelle Memorial Institute. The Institute's study report of UFOs from 1947 to 1952 in Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14 states the following on page 4:
Sightings alleged to have occurred prior to 1947 were not considered, since they were not reported to official sources until after public interest in 'flying saucers' had been stimulated by the popular press.
However, had the Battelle scientists had access to the letters in this file, the investigators would have recognized that these people were trying to "establish their priority" in the same way that scientists establish their priority when making a new discovery. Scientists often use notebooks, diaries, letters, and reports to other organizations to establish the time of a discovery.
This brings up another problem with previous scientific evaluations of the UFO problem. The Battelle study, the Robertson panel, and the Condon committee, all contractors of the Air Force, were presented data by the Air Force which the Air Force thought was significant. A study of UFOs requires access to all data not just material that some records custodian feels is relevant.
Finally, a number of researchers have written to archives in the United States, Canada, and Britain requesting information on "foo-fighters." The archives' answers almost always state that no information can be found under the foo-fighters heading. Researchers would get the same answer if they requested information on "Charlie" when referring to the Viet Cong. As Jeff Lindell, a long-time investigator of war time night lights found, some operations and intelligence reports might refer to foo-fighters, robombs (robot bombs), baka bombers and balls of light. Most reporters and higher headquarters believed the sightings were the result of enemy secret devices, jets, rockets, or flares. Reports of German or Japan secret weapons sightings are probably what should be investigated. - J.L.A.
An extract from the March 1945 INTELLIGENCE AND OPERATIONS section of the 549th Night Fighter Squadron Unit History:
Combat Air Patrols were flown on the 22nd, 24th, 26th, 28th and 30 March. On 26 March Lieutenant Calvin P. Lamb, Pilot, Lieutenant James G. Holmes, Radar Observer, and Sergeant John W. McIsaac, Gunner, saw what they described as lights on an airborne object. The lights followed them through a few turns but turned away as the crew orbited north of Iwo Jima. A chase was made, with slight radar contact on the airborne set, and then the object pulled out of sight. The similar lighted object was again seen the next night of patrol by Lieutenant William F. Sill, Pilot, Flight Officer George W. Hayden, Radar Observer, and Private First Class William Brasvell, Gunner.
NOTE: There were many reports of Japanese planes which dropped aluminum "windows" (i.e. aluminum foil strips) at night when chased by U.S. aircraft. This foil confused radar signals. However, in some of the chases recounted in this unit history, this does not seem to have been the case. Also, the "bogies" seem to have been able to accelerate to much higher speeds to get away from the night fighters. Most Japanese night flight operations around Iwo Jima seemed to be "lurking" intelligence gathering missions. US Pilots reported aircraft like the "Betty" (Mitsubishi G4M long-range medium bomber) escorting but not firing on bombers making their run on Iwo Jima and the surrounding Islands at night.-- J.L.A.
Louisville, Kentucky, Times - 14 April, 1945
To the editor: Tuesday night at eleven o'clock I walked out on my front porch. Straight ahead, high in the sky, I beheld the most beautiful light I had ever seen. It was straight east and looked as if it were directly over Fisherville, three miles east.
It seemed to be the size of a large cantaloupe and glowed and receded in brilliance like a heart throb. It seemed to be coming straight at our front porch and I suggested to my wife we had better get aside because if it missed the barn I felt sure it would strike the house head on. It cast a light downward like a lamp shade over the earth. First we thought of a plane with some new signal device, but there was just brilliant light and no flame.
After about ten minutes it went out like a snuffed candle. I found one man in Jeffersontown who had seen it and he thinks it was a meteor. No, Mr. Editor, I don't drink a drop. I'm bone dry.
– JAMES L. LANDRY, Jeffersontown, Ky.
17 April 1945
MEMORANDUM FOR GENERAL H.H. ARNOLD:
1. Cameramen from the 18th AF Base Unit exposed 900 feet of black and white and 700 feet of color film during the funeral services of President Roosevelt at Hyde Park. Since the news reels have about ten thousand feet of film there is some doubt if any Air Force material will be included. However, part of the material is being considered for the AAF Weekly Digest.
2. In connection with the "Balls of Fire" observed in the Pacific Ocean Areas, information has been submitted to the Twentieth Air Force of the development by the Signal Corps of the infra red viewer. This device can reproduce a picture of objects illuminated by an infra red source so that the number and placement of heat sources can be determined. A few of these are available for shipment to the XXI Bomber Command for trial.
JAMES P. HODGES,
Major General, U. S. Army
Assistant Chief of Air Staff,
FROM : COMITRITERRON FIVE FOUR NINE 18 April 1945
TO : COMFITERCOM SEVEN
ATTN : A-2
549TH NIGHT FIGHTER SQUADRON MISSION REPORT NUMBER 4-28
1. A. One (1) P-61-B
2. A. None
3. Combat Sortie.
4. PILOT: Lt. F. L. Williams (Laughing Boy Blue 2)
RADAR OBSERVER: Lt. J. H. Richardson
GUNNER: Sgt. S. Forman
TAKE-OFF: 0022   LAND: 0415
On routine patrol until 0300 and then on practice interception when GCI reported possible bogie between Blue 1 and Blue 2 but Blue could not make any contact. A little later GCI gave another vector and possible bogie at Angel 2 and AI contact was made at 7 miles. Bogie made normal target on screen and after chase of 5 minutes lost bogie off starboard side then picked it up at about 4 miles on port side. Held target at about that distance for a few minutes at speed of 200 mph while bogie took mild evasive action. Finally closed to 2.500 feet when bogie faded to starboard and when it was again picked up it was to the port side at about 3 miles and gaining speed. Bogie increased distance and Blue 2 was forced to abandon chase by shortage of gasoline.
5. WEATHER: 6/10 coverage, tops 3,000, base 2,000 : visibility good.
7. No ammo : 750 gallons of gasoline expended
8. At close range bogie appeared on scope as two (2) blips. Gunner saw reddish round light and correctly reported its movements to R/O who was following it on scope. GCI's report of "possible bogie" confusing as to whether he meant he was uncertain as to contact or as to indentity of contact.
1Lt., Air Corps
Asst. Intelligence Officer
USAAF Seventh Bomber Command Mission Reports - 2 MAY, 1945 Fala Island, Truk Atoll, Central Pacific
Map Showing Location of Truk Atoll in the Caroline Islands Archipelago
Fala-Beguets Island, (now known as Fanapanges) in the Truk Atoll,
location of the B-24 UFO sighting.
HEADQUARTERS VII Bomber Command
MISSION REPORT NO. 11-327
DATE: 2 MAY 1945 (GCT).
OBSERVATIONS: The crew of plane #616 over FALA ISLAND, TRUK ATOLL, at 021802Z observed 2 airborne objects at their 11,000 foot altitude changing from a cherry red to an orange, and to a white light which would die out and then become cherry red again. These objects were out on either wing and not within range of caliber .50 machine guns. Both followed the B-24 through all types of evasive action. A B-24 took a course for GUAM and one of the pursuers dropped off at 021900Z after accompanying the B-24 for an hour. The other continued to follow, never approaching closer than 1000 yards and speeding up when the B-24 went thru the clouds to emerge on the other side ahead of the B-24. In daylight it was seen to be bright silver in color. As the B-24 let down at GUAM, the pursuer took a course of 330 degrees at 15,000 feet to 20,000 feet altitude at 022130Z. One B-24 encountered eight intense flames light green in color, one of which burst and hung at 5,000 feet at 021013Z. There was no trail or warning until the actual burst. A B-24 reported 9 to 10 red tracer type trails of fire up to 5,000 feet. They came in pairs and one pair came within 50 to 100 yards of the tail of the B-24 at 021010Z. Source of each pair was at a different location.
Source: Seventh Bomber Command Mission Reports, 742.332 – 8 February-16 May 1945
B-24 Liberator of the 7th Army Air Force 30th Bomb Group
392nd Bomb Squadron Over Truk Atoll, 1944
The first public reference to this sighting appeared in Jo Chamberlin's 1945 article on "Foo Fighters" in the American Legion Magazine.
Hammond, IN, Times - 25 May, 1945
Study Nippon “Balls of Fire”'
New Defense Weapon
Reported by Airmen
GUAM (INS) B-29 intelligence officers today scrutinized returning pilots' testimony the Japs are employing “balls of fire” as a new defensive weapon.
American fliers who saw these bursts of meteor-like flame over the Jap homeland were inclined to believe that they were jet-propelled fighter planes.
Intelligence officers, however, would not confirm this belief.
Some believed the bursts could have been “scare bombs,” such as were used by the Germans in the last stages of the European air war.
NUMBER 40   1 JUNE 1945
RAF LIBERATORS HIT
HEADQUARTERS EASTERN AIR COMMAND SOUTH EAST ASIA
S E C R E T
B-24 SIGHTS "CIRCLES OF LIGHT"
A B-24 of the 11th Bomb Group on a snooper mission over
Truk during the early morning hours of 3 May 1945,
encountered what may prove to be as baffling a
phenomena as the balls of fire seen by the B-29s while
over the Japanese mainland.
(Excerpted From: Hq. AAF, POA, Air Intell. Memo No. 4, 8 May 1945.)
The B-24 first observed two red circles of light approaching the plane from below while still over the Truk atoll. One light was on the right and the other was seen on the left of the B-24. The light on the left side turned back after one and one half hours. The one on right remained with the bomber until the B-24 was only 10 miles from Guam. From the time that the B-24 left the atoll, the light never left its position on the right side. It was reported by the crew members as sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, and sometimes alongside the B-24 and always about 1200 to 1500 yds distant.
At day break, the crew reported that this light climbed to 15,000 ft and stayed in the sun. It was a short time afterward that the B-24 let down and went through a 300 foot undercast and lost sight of the light.
During the flight from Truk to Guam, the light was observed to change from an orange color to a bright yellow or white like electric light. The light was also described as sometimes looking like a phosphorous glow. This sequence of color changes occurred at regular intervals. The light appeared to be about one foot in diameter and the changes in color did not follow a pattern of acceleration or de-coloration.
The light followed the B-24 in dives from 11,000 ft to 3000 ft, through sharp course changes and even brief cloud cover always keeping its same relative position and distance. At one time, the pilot turned into the light and he definitely reports no closure occurring. During the night high cirrus clouds masked the moonlight and no part of object was observed except the light. At daybreak, the light changed to a steady white glow and a possible wing shape with a silver glow was noted by some members of the crew.
Guam radar units reported no bogies plotted at any time that this light was within its range. The crew members reported that the light finally left them when only 10 miles from Guam. The light was never close enough to the bomber to give a single blip on the radar and therefore should have been easily detected. Two blips with IFF were not reported at this time, the B-24 being the only plane on the scope.
The report from the Guam radar units plus the fact that the light was always seen on the right side of the B-24, and that even when the bomber turned into the light, no rate of closure was noted tends to make the possibility of a jet powered or even a conventional type aircraft a doubtful one.
A preliminary evaluation by the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Intelligence gives the following possibilities:
"It is believed the lights observed were those of an unknown type mounted on Japanese aircraft with the capabilities of an Irving on an experimental or observation mission. While certain jet exhaust flame characteristics are apparent, the range and length of light greatly exceed the known capabilities of friendly or enemy jet aircraft. While observations vary considerably from characteristics of "Balls of Fire" recently seen over Japanese homeland, there is great need for intelligence on all air phenomena.
S E C R E T
Extract from Tactical Mission Report, XXI Bomber Command Microfilm #5):
Missions 206-209, 18 June 1945, Honshu and Kyushu night strikes.
Under Part I "ENEMY AIR OPPOSITION
- One crew observed a fluctuating light, round in shape, that changed alternately from bright red to dim orange. The light was first observed near land's end and it trailed the aircraft for a considerable distance (the crew was unable to estimate the distance, but apparently it was over a mile). The object trailed for approximately 43 minutes out to sea, or roughly 125 miles. The crew was of the opinion that the object gained a half-mile during this period. At no time was a wing or fuselage observed in connection with the light. The object finally faded out. Two other crews from the same group made similar observations on leaving the target but, after some time, concluded that the object was a star. The crew making the first report felt very strongly that what they had seen was not a star.
- Another ball of fire which flew a parrallel [sic] course with a B-29 from target for about 60 seconds was reported. It turned away and disappeared.
- Four jet-propelled or 'Baka-type' bombs were reported. Two of these were encountered 40 to 100 miles after land's end. One of these was reported to have attacked the B-29.
- Some single-engine and twin-engine aircraft encountered were using lights. There were 2 cases reported of twin-engine aircraft following 2 B-29's 200 miles and 300 miles out to sea.
Mission 210-212, 20 June 1945, Fukuoka, Shizuoka, and Toyohashi
- One jet-propelled aircraft or bomb was reported. One B-29 was followed for 35 minutes immediately after bombs away. The object was described as an orange streak of flame that flew on the left rear of the B-29 and followed all attempts at evasive action. The object endeavored to pull ahead of the B-29 but was never able to get closer than 600 yards. At the same time a fighter, believed twin-engine, also remained with the B-29 about 2,000 yards out on the right through all evasive action, and sometimes maneuvered to attract attention. Then the jet-propelled aircraft on the left of the B-29 would drop or dive, the flame would grow dull red and small, but on a climb the flame would grow bright orange and stream back 18 to 20 feet. The speed of the B-29 was an indicated 240-290 mph, but it was unable to leave either plane until beyond land's end. During this encounter there was no firing on either side.
. . . .
- One B-29 was followed by a strong light after bombs away. This light never closed nor fell back even when the B-29 increases its speed. The enemy plane was finally lost in a cloud. The crew reporting this believed the plane was a night fighter.
3. Mission No. 211, 73rd and 313th Wings, Fukuoka:
a. 73rd Wing:
. . . .
(2) Two balls of fire were observed just before bombs away. One bright 'ball of fire' approached to within 50 yards of 1 B-29 at 7 o'clock low at a very high speed at an altitude of 9,800 feet. The B-29 took slight evasive actions and fired at the object with no apparent results. After the object passed under the B-29, visual contact was lost. No wing or fuselage was seen in connection therewith. Another object having the appearance of a large tracer with trailing smoke passed approximately 100 feet over 1 B-29. Again, no other distinguishing features were noted. Inasmuch as the lighted objects did not trail the B-29's as in the past and considering the number of ground-to-air rockets reported, it was possible that the reported objects were actually rockets.. . . .
b. 313th Wing:
. . . .
(3) One ball of fire was observed ahead and disappeared into the smoke over the target.
4. Mission 212, 314th Wing, Shizuoka:
. . . .
- One of the Baka type bombs and aerial bombs were believed dropped by a large multi-engine plane. The 3 Baka type bombs made no attacks and only 1 followed a B-29 at 1,000 yards.
WAYNE THOMAS, JR.
P.O. BOX 831
PLANT CITY, FLORIDA
October 3, 1963
Mr. Richard Hall
1536 Connecticut Avenue N.W.
Washington 6, D. C.
Dear Mr. Hall:
Pardon my delay in answering your letter of August 27 requesting information on UFOs seen by B-29 crews during World War II.
I was a group intelligence officer stationed on Tinian, and the cases I recall were all night-time sightings.
These lights, ranging from green to orange and yellow, would appear and move along with the bombers for several minutes at a time before breaking off. The crews were sure they were not reflections on plexi-glass, or stars, or the moon.
I recall of no cases where an aircraft or form was distinguished as such, just lights.
These "Foo-fighters" were so common, that they were discussed in the various unit publications around the island.
I also remember no discussions about the possibility of space-craft, just strange unidentified lights.
It is hoped that this small bit of fragmentary information may be of help.
Very truly yours,
Wayne Thomas, Jr.
PROJECT 1947 Comment: Dr. Robert L. Hall, Head of the Department of Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of Chicago and brother of the late Richard Hall, Assistant Director of NICAP, also served in the Pacific. He, too, heard about many sightings of unusual objects by aircrews including “high altitude, high speed balloons.” While some official documents reporting these objects have been recovered from official files, only the surface has been scratched. For example: we know that the Air Intelligence Weekly Digest for the XX Bomber Command did have information about foo-fighters, but we have only been able to locate Vol. 2 #12 which does not discuss the subject. Additional unit histories refer to as many as 40 sightings on just one mission over Japan. This is an area for further investigation.
Major Paul A. Duich, USAF – Sasebo, Japan, July, 1945
At SAC headquarters in 1958, a group of officers, airmen and missile engineers observed an elongated UFO with satellite objects for about 20 minutes. The case was reported to NICAP by Major Paul A. Duich, USAF (Ret.), one of the witnesses, who was then on active duty.
Major Duich was an Air Force Master Navigator, who accumulated 4000 flying hours and 300 combat hours. During World War II he was one of those who saw "foo-fighters," while a crew member of a B-29 making bomb runs on Japan.
After retiring from the Air Force, Major Duich became a member of NICAP.
Some time ago Robert Swiatek of the Fund for UFO Research purchased a second-hand copy of "Flying Saucers from the Moon" by Harold T. Wilkins which happened to have been once owned by Paul A. Duich (PAD). Tucked into the book was the hand-written note by Major Duich transcribed below.
Summary f(Sat) 11-8-75
H. T. WILKINS: "FLYING SAUCERS FROM THE MOON"
Q. Why don't British date their books?
Purchased Summer 1974, Weinstein
As I told Barbara Barth in my summary of 25 basic books for FS study, this book has probably the best reference in one source for "FOO-FIGHTERS"--WWII aerial phenomena (Chapter II). He concentrated on the ETO scene, but writes about the Pacific Theatre on p. 28, of great interest to me.
My first exposure to something like this occurred during a mission by our B-29 bomber crew on the Japanese city of SASEBO. We were flying at approx. 9000 feet when the "Foo" appeared to join us and "fly formation" abeam our left horizontal stabilizer. Our rear gunner reported it first. It followed us for many miles. Our airplane commander (AC) ordered a burst of gunfire after we were sure it was not another B-29. (This was a single sortie bomber stream type of mission). The tracers were seen to appear to hit the blob of light but nothing happened. Sometime later, the Foo broke formation, swooped under the B-29 and vanished in the distance at approx. the 2 o'clock position which is when I was about to observe it from my position on the right side of the nose sections. (I was the Flight Engineer on the crew.)
It was impossible to estimate accurately the distance separating the FOO and our airplane as there was nothing to compare with in the dark night sky.
---------(To repeat, this is where all this UFO stuff began for me, i.e., en route to SASEBO, July 1945, at 9000 feet)
----------It was a big ball of fuzzy orange-red light and nothing more.
We reported it to Intelligence at our de-briefing next morning.
Not long after the whole crew was sent to rest camp at Hickam Field Hawaii (OAHU) coincidence /or war nerves?
This book is an excellent compendium of early sightings and contains a lot of detail long forgotten by current waves of sightings and speculation.
PAD (Sat) 11-8-75
PROJECT 1947 Comment: Compare Major Duich's sighting with this 1952 report from Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico.
No Earlier Than (NET) 2 July, 1945, No Later Than (NLT) 6 August, 1945
(Hiroshima atom bomb, see context below), before Japanese
surrender in World War II, Northern Okinawa
William A. Mandel of Los Angeles, responded to the Civilian Saucer Investigations of Los Angeles after the LIFE magazine article of April 1952, "Have We Visitors from Space?" with this letter of his sighting:
"During the summer of 1945, I was stationed in northern Okinawa. I was an artillery captain on duty with the military government. I do not know the exact date.
"Our bivouac was situated on a bluff facing the China Sea and overlooking a narrow stretch of beach. On a clear moonlight [sic] evening I was gazing seaward when I suddenly saw a bright speck of light approaching form the south paralleling the coast.
"The light proved to be issuing from the after end of a cigar-shaped object which I could see quite clearly. It gave out no light except from the tail. It passed me at a distance of not more than 500 yards and must have been considerably closer. I judged its speed at from 200 to 300 miles per hour (definitely not jet or rocket speed) at an elevation (altitude) of not over 400 feet–probably less since it seemed to pass me at eye level, and I stood no more than 200 feet above sea level.
"The object had no wings or other protuberance nor were there any ports or windows visible. The object moved smoothly and silently at a constant speed along the coast until it disappeared from sight. I judged the object to be 30 to 40 feet long with a diameter of six to eight feet..."
Later Mandel wrote and spoke with Dr. J. Allen Hynek and elaborated on several points.
"...almost all of my training and experience had been in artillery–mainly antiaircraft–so that I was highly trained in the recognition of both friendly and enemy aircraft.
"The most interesting point to be considered, I think, is that not until several years later did I first hear of the terms "flying saucer" and "UFO", nor was I aware that others before me had recorded similar sightings. It certainly did not occur to me at the time that I might be witnessing the passage of an interplantary vehicle. I assumed as a matter of course that it was a totally new invention (based perhaps on magnetism, I reasoned), and fervently hoped that the inventors were our own people for this was still prior to V. J. [Victory over Japan] day.
"Time went by: V.J. Day, service in the military government of Korea, back to school (UCLA) for a teacher credential, and finally a career in teaching. (My first college work, by the way was taken at Northwestern 1932-33). During all this time, I frequently watched the skies in hopes of another view of the object I had seen. I made up my mind that I would tell no one of my sighting until the news became public. I had diplomatically asked a number of my officers and men if they had witnessed anything unusual that day. Their replies were all negative at the time without giving them cause to doubt the sanity of their C.O.
"Finally, after I had just about given up hope and was beginning to believe that I must have suffered some kind of rare hallucination, I open a copy of Life Magazine and there spread before me was a dramatic display of "flying saucers" including the cigar shaped vehicle which I had seen. The thought that this might have [been] an extra-terrestrial voyage did not occur to me until I read the Life magazine article. Now no other position seems tenable. Now I knew that I had truly seen something – something seen by others as well. I related the story of my sighting to others, including my wife. Up to that time I considered the story too unbelievable even for her. Others whom I told treated me with tolerance but disbelief.
"...The UFO whose flight I witnessed so long ago was cigar-shaped, metallic and without markings or visible openings of any kind except at the after end. I judged it to be somewhere between 35 and 50 feet in length. It passed me at a distance of but a few hundred yards in clear daylight and must have been in view for five minutes. When I first sighted the object approaching along the coast of the China Sea, I took it to be a Navy Corsair returning to Kadena Airfield before sundown as was their custom. Realizing that it might have been a Japanese Zero, I continued to watch carefully. I was standing on a high precipitous cliff directly above the beach. The UFO was scarcely a hundred feet higher than I, and it followed the coastline, eventually disappearing in the direction opposite to its appearance.
"Its speed, which, seemed to remain constant, could hardly have been much over one hundred miles per hour, and its altitude (a few hundred feet) and direction did not change perceptably. I was too excited to leave my post to get field glasses or camera or to find someone else to share my experience. (As this would have taken several minutes to do, it is probably just as well that I didn't attempt it) I realize that this lack of evidence is most damaging to my report, but the sighting happened so suddenly, and my reactions at the time were guided by the military situation (repeated guerrilla attack) than by the scientific possibilities involved. Furthermore, I should soon see more of them, I thought.
"That night, as I lay in my sleeping bag, I prayed that the 'new invention' was ours, for I felt that whoever had it would most certainly be the eventual victor in the war. Shortly thereafter the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima so I didn't have to speculate much longer along that line.
"Why do I write to you, Dr. Hynek? I am not sure. My action is triggered of course by your excellent article in the Post, but the reason must be attributed to intense curiosity about what I saw combined with the frustration of having learned virtually nothing during the last twenty years. I used to be quite sure I would find out some; now I am not sure. Time flies by ever more swiftly. Sometimes I almost wish I had never seen my 'saucer' as it is far easier to be a smug doubting Thomas than a frustrated I-know-better whom no one will believe..."
PROJECT 1947 comment: Once again during the sighting we have Hynek's "escalation of hypotheses." After a realization that it was something out of the ordinary, but possibly a US or Japanese secret weapon, the witness decided to keep quiet until the device was announced publicly. See the somewhat similar reaction in this April, 1943 incident:
Ada, Oklahoma Weekly News - 5 July, 1945
B-29's Strike Oil Resources
"Won't Have To Go Back"
To One Refinery, Airmen
Say After Maruzen Raid
By LEIF ERICKSON
GUAM, July 3. (AP)—Superfortresses struck at Japan's dwindling oil resources today for the third time in a week, blasting the Maruzen oil refinery with such precision returning airmen said “we won't have to go back there again.”
Fifty precision-bombing B-29s hit the oil center 35 miles from Osaka before dawn today in a quick follow up of yesterday’s record 600-plane fire raid on four cities, while other allied air forces wrecked shipping and military installations from Nippon to Malaya. Two B-29s were lost in yesterday’s 600 plane raid, but all but two crew members were rescued.
Black smoke which rose 10,000 feet above the important Maruben (sic) oil plant could be seen for 30 miles in the night sky.
Anti-aircraft fire was light and the few Japanese interceptors that took to the air “just seemed to want to play." said Cpl. W. H. Power of Carrollton, Ga.
“Our bombs looked like they went into the target areas," said Lt. Chester C. Gibbens of Hayward, Calif., riding in the newly commissioned Superfort named “Fleet Admiral Nimitz."
“Fire Ball" Missed Plane
Cpl. Andy Sevick of (Route 4) Bethel, Kan., whose crewmates claim that at 34 he’s the oldest and best tail gunner in the business, watched a “fireball” come up through the clouds and tail the “Chicago Queen” for a seeming eternity of seven minutes before it dove through the clouds and out of sight.
Twenty-first bomber command headquarters announced, meanwhile, that 117 square miles of Japanese urban industrial area had been laid waste by B-29 strikes, not counting yesterday’s record raid.
Reconnaissance photographs of firebomb strikes June 29 against Moji, Sasebo, Shimonoseki and Nobeoka showed approximately two square miles burned out.
The refinery hit today at Shimotsu, 25 wiles southwest of Osaka on Honshu Island, was the third oil center struck within a week. It had produced fuel and lubricating oil and aviation gasoline. It likewise was a storage center with many large fuel tanks in the target area.
Dallas, Texas, Times-Herald - 10 July, 1947
DISCS SEEN IN GERMANY, FORMER TAIL GUNNER SAYS
Flying discs are old stuff to a Dallas Army Air Forces veteran, S/Sgt Smith.
In a letter to the Times-Herald, ex S/Sgt. C. A. Smith, 4327 Frank street, reported seeing clusters of discs on two separate bombing missions over Germany during the War.
“These disc-shaped objects would be in clusters until they reached a certain altitude and then would break up and attach themselves to bomber formations as if a metallic force drew them toward the bombers,” the former tail gunner with the 598th Bomber Group wrote.
“I saw these disc-shaped objects only twice during my tour of duty, but both times we drew an unbelievable flak. . .into our formation, which accounted for several bombers.”
Smith said the action of the discs led them to believe they were some German radio-controlled radar devices.
“It was useless to try to lose them by a sudden burst of speed, or by evasive actions, because when attached to your formation you couldn't shake them until the bombs were away. Then they would disappear at incredible speed.”
Smith said the discs he saw appeared to be five or six feet in diameter and two or three feet thick. He suggested that the discs reported recently in the U.S. might be radio-controlled range-finders developed by the Army.
Dothan, Alabama Eagle - 8 Nov., 1945
Lt. Col. Lewis Tells of Mysterious Red
Fireballs Pursuing Planes After Nip Raids
BY NAT C. FAULK
The Japanese threw everything in the book – and some things that weren't – in their efforts to defend the home islands against Superfortress “burn-out” raids. So says Cyrus Roys Lewis, who made 13 missions in B-29s against the Japs before the Nipponese called it quits last August.
Now home and practicing law, where he left off on July 22, 1941 to volunteer for active duty with the Army, Lewis can recall those raids without wondering whether he and his crew will get back to their home base at Tinian island. "That was the thought of everyone after we reached our objective, and had it not been for that," he said, “we might have enjoyed the fireworks display.”
The displays, which were not staged for pyrotechnical purposes, had everything. “There were searchlights – and the Japs had some good ones – tracer bullets, streamers, flak shells, rockets, fighter planes with blue lights in the cockpits, and strange red balls of fire,” he said, adding that some pilots reported the ghostlike balls followed them for many miles.
“We never learned for sure what those balls of fire were,” he said. "Too many said the balls followed them to doubt their story." He added that he encountered two of these balls on one mission, a ball a few hundred yards from each wing. “I started diving and outran them,” he said, “but some pilots said the balls followed them a long way when they started home.”
THE AMERICAN LEGION MAGAZINE - December, 1945
The Foo Fighter Mystery
DURING THE last months of the war the crews of many B-29s over Japan saw what they described as "balls of fire" which followed them, occasionally came up and almost sat on their tails, changed color from orange to red to white and back again, and yet never closed in to attack or crash, suicide-style.
One B-29 made evasive maneuvers inside a cloud, but when the B-29 emerged from it, the ball of fire was following in the same relative position. It seemed 500 yards off, three feet in diameter, and had a phosphorescent orange glow. No wing or fuselage suggesting an aerial bomb or plane was seen. The ball of fire followed the B-29 for several miles and then disappeared just as mysteriously as it had appeared in the dawn light over Fujiyama. Some B-29 crews said they could readily lose the ball of fire by evasive maneuvers, even though the ball kept up with them at top speed on a straight course; other B-29 crews reported just the opposite. Nobody could figure it out. Far to the south, a B-24 Liberator was at 11,000 feet over Truk lagoon, when two red lights rose rapidly from below, and followed the B-24. After an hour, one light turned back. The other kept on – sometimes behind, sometimes alongside, sometimes ahead about 1,000 yards, until daybreak when it climbed to 15,000 feet and stayed in the sun, like a Jap fighter seeking game, but never came down. During the flight, the light changed from red to orange, then white, and back to orange, and appeared to be the size of a basketball. No wing or fuselage was observed. The B-24 radioed island radar stations to see if there were any enemy planes in the sky.
The answer was: "None."
A curious business, and one for which many solutions have been advanced, before the war was over, and since. None of them stand up. The important point is: No B-29 was harmed by the balls of fire, although what the future held, no one knew. The Japanese were desperately trying to bolster up their defense in every way possible against air attack, but without success. Our B-29s continued to rain destruction on Japanese military targets, and finally dropped the atomic bomb.
Naturally, U. S. Army authorities in Japan will endeavor to find the secret — but it may be hidden as well as it appears to be in Europe. The balls of fire continue to be a mystery — just as they were when first observed on the other side of the world — over eastern Germany.
This is the way they began.
At ten o'clock of a November evening, in late 1944, Lt. Ed Schlueter took off in his night fighter from Dijon, France, on what he thought would be a routine mission for the 415th Night Fighter Squadron.
Lt. Schlueter is a tall, competent young pilot from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, whose hazardous job was to search the night sky for German planes and shoot them down. He had done just this several times and had been decorated for it. As one of our best night fighters, he was used to handling all sorts of emergencies. With him as radar observer was Lt. Donald J. Meiers, and Lt. Fred Ringwald, intelligence officer of the 415th, who flew as an observer.
The trio began their search pattern, roaming the night skies on either side of the Rhine River north of Strasbourg – for centuries the abode of sirens, dwarfs, gnomes, and other supernatural characters that appealed strongly to the dramatic sense of the late A. Hitler. However, at this stage of the European war, the Rhine was no stage but a grim battleground, where the Germans were making their last great stand.
The night was reasonably clear, with some clouds and a quarter moon. There was fair visibility.
In some respects, a night fighter plane operates like a champion boxer whose eyesight isn't very good; he must rely on other senses to guide him to his opponent. The U. S. Army has ground radar stations, which track all planes across the sky, and tell the night fighter the whereabouts of any plane. The night fighter flies there, closes in by means of his own radar until usually he can see the enemy, and if the plane doesn't identify itself as friendly, he shoots it down.
Or, gets shot down himself, for the Germans operate their aircraft in much same way we did, and so did the Japanese.
Lt. Schlueter was flying low enough that he could detect the white steam of a blacked-out locomotive or the sinister bulk of a motor convoy, but he had to avoid smokestacks, barrage balloons, enemy searchlights, and flak batteries. He and Ringwald were on the alert, for there were mountains nearby. The inside of the plane was dark, for good night vision.
Lt. Ringwald said, "I wonder what those lights are, over there in the hills."
"Probably stars," said Schlueter, knowing from long experience that the size and character of lights are hard to estimate at night.
"No, I don't think so."
"Are you sure it's no reflection from us?"
Then Ringwald remembered – there weren't any hills over there. Yet the "lights" were still glowing – eight or ten of them in a row – orange balls of fire moving through the air at a terrific speed.
Then Schlueter saw them far off his left wing. Were enemy fighters pursuing him? He immediately checked by radio with Allied ground radar stations.
"Nobody up there but yourself," they reported. "Are you crazy?"
And no enemy plane showed in Lt. Meiers' radar.
Lt. Schlueter didn't know what he was facing – possibly some new and lethal German weapon – but he turned into the lights, ready for action. The lights disappeared – then reappeared far off. Five minutes later they went into a flat glide and vanished.
The puzzled airmen continued on their mission, and destroyed seven freight trains behind German lines. When they landed back at Dijon, they decided to do what any other prudent soldier would do – keep quiet for the moment. If you tried to explain everything strange that happened in a war, you'd do nothing else. Further, Schlueter and Meiers had nearly completed their required missions, and didn't want to chance being grounded by some skeptical flight surgeon for "combat fatigue."
Maybe they had been "seeing things."
But a few nights later, Lt. Henry Giblin, of Santa Rosa, California, pilot, and Lt. Walter Cleary, of Worcester, Massachusetts, radar-observer, were flying at 1,000 feet altitude when they saw a huge red light 1,000 feet above them, moving at 200 miles per hour. As the observation was made on an early winter evening, the men decided that perhaps they had eaten something at chow that didn't agree with them and did not rush to report their experience.
On December 22-23, 1944, another 415th night fighter squadron pilot and radar-observer were flying at 10,000 feet altitude near Hagenau. "At 0600 hours we saw two lights climbing toward us from the ground. Upon reaching our altitude, they leveled off and stayed on my tail. The lights appeared to be large orange glows. After staying with the plane for two minutes, they peeled off and turned away, flying under perfect control, and then went out."
The next night the same two men, flying at 10,000 feet, observed a single red flame. Lt. David L. McFalls, of Cliffside, N. C., pilot, and Lt. Ned Baker of Hemat, California, radar-observer, also saw: "A glowing red object shooting straight up, which suddenly changed to a view of an aircraft doing a wing-over, going into a dive and disappearing." This was the first and only suggestion of a controlled flying device.
By this time, the lights were reported by all members of the 415th who saw them. Most men poked fun at the observers, until they saw for themselves. Although confronted with a baffling situation, and one with lethal potentialities, the 415th continued its remarkable combat record. When the writer of this article visited and talked with them in Germany, he was impressed with the obvious fact that the 415th fliers were very normal airmen, whose primary interest was combat, and after that came pin-up girls, poker, doughnuts, and the derivatives of the grape.
The 415th had a splendid record.
The whole outfit took the mysterious lights or balls of fire with a sense of humor. Their reports were received in some higher quarters with smiles: "Sure, you must have seen something, and have you been getting enough sleep?" One day at chow a 415th pilot suggested that they give the lights a name. A reader of the comic strip "Smokey Stover" suggested that they be called "foo-fighters," since it was frequently and irrefutably stated in that strip that "Where there's foo, there's fire."
The name stuck.
What the 415th saw at night was borne out in part by day. West of Neustadt, a P-47 pilot saw "a gold-colored ball, with a metallic finish, which appeared to be moving slowly through the air. As the sun was low, it was impossible to tell whether the sun reflected off it, or the light came from within." Another P-47 pilot reported "a phosphorescent golden sphere, 3 to 5 feet in diameter, flying at 2,000 feet,"
Meanwhile, official reports of the "foo-fighters" had gone to group headquarters and were "noted." Now in the Army, when you "note" anything it means that you neither agree nor disagree, nor do you intend to do anything about it. It covers everything. Various explanations were offered for the phenomena – none of them satisfactory, and most of them irritating to the 415th.
It was said that the foo-fighters might be a new kind of flare.
A flare, said the 415th, does not dive, peel off, or turn.
Were they to frighten or confuse Allied pilots?
Well, if so, they were not succeeding – and yet the lights continued to appear.
Eighth Air Force bomber crews had reported seeing silver-colored spheres resembling huge Christmas tree ornaments in the sky – what about them?
Well, the silver spheres usually floated, and never followed a plane. They were presumably some idea the Germans tried in the unsuccessful effort to confuse our pilots or hinder our radar bombing devices.
What about jet planes?
No, the Germans had jet planes all right, but they didn't have an exhaust flame visible at any distance.
Could they be flying bombs of some sort, either with or without a pilot? Presumably not – with but one exception no one thought he observed a wing or fuselage.
No, the 415th was well aware of their behavior. They ascended almost vertically, and eventually burst.
Could the lights or balls of fire be the red, blue, and orange colored flak bursts that Eighth Air Force bomber crews had reported?
It was a nice idea, said the 415th, but there was no correlation between the foo-fighters they observed and the flak they encountered. And night flak was usually directed by German radar, not visually.
In short, no explanation stood up.
On Dec. 31, 1944, AP reporter Bob Wilson, was with the 415th and heard about the foo-fighters. He questioned the men until 4 a.m. in the best newspaper tradition until he got all the facts. His story passed the censors, and appeared in American newspapers on January 1, 1945, just in time to meet the customary crop of annual hangovers.
Some scientists in New York decided, apparently by remote control, that what the airmen had seen in Germany was St. Elmo's light – a well-known electrical phenomenon appearing like light or flame during stormy weather at the tips of church steeples, ships' masts, and tall trees. Being in the nature of an electrical discharge, St. Elmo's fire is reddish when positive, and blueish when negative.
The 415th blew up. It was thoroughly acquainted with St. Elmo's fire. The men snorted, "Just let the sons come over and fly a mission with us. We'll show em."
Through January, 1945, the 415th continued to see the "foo-fighters," and their conduct became increasingly mysterious. One aircrew observed lights, moving both singly and in pairs. On another occasion, three sets of lights, this time red and white in color, followed a plane, and when the plane suddenly pulled up, the lights continued on in the same direction, as though caught napping, and then sheepishly pulled up to follow.
The pilot checked with ground radar – he was alone in the sky.
This was true in every instance foo-fighters were observed.
The first real clue came with the last appearance of the exasperating and potentially deadly lights. They never kept 415th from fulfilling its missions, but they certainly were unnerving. The last time the foo-fighters appeared, the pilot turned into them at the earliest possible moment – and the lights disappeared. The pilot was sure that he felt prop wash, but when he checked with ground radar, there was no other airplane.
The pilot continued on his way, perturbed, even angry – when he noticed lights far to the rear. The night was clear and the pilot was approaching a huge cloud. Once in the cloud, he dropped down two thousand feet and made a 30 degree left turn. Just a few seconds later be emerged from the cloud – with his eye peeled to rear. Sure enough, coming out of the cloud in the same relative position was the foo-fighter, as though to thumb its nose at the pilot, and then disappear.
This was the last time the foo-fighters were seen in Germany, although it would have seemed fitting, if the lights had made one last gesture, grouping themselves so as to spell "Guess What" in the sky, and vanishing forever.
But they didn't.
The foo-fighters simply disappeared when Allied ground forces captured the area East of the Rhine. This was known to be the location of many German experimental stations. Since V-E day our Intelligence officers have put many such installations under guard. From them we hope to get valuable research information – including the solution to the foo-fighter mystery, but it has not appeared yet. It may be successfully hidden for years to come, possibly forever.
The members of the 415th hope Army Intelligence will find the answer. If it turns out that the Germans never had anything airborne in the area, they say, "We'll be all set for Section Eight psychiatric discharges."
Meanwhile, the foo-fighter mystery continues unsolved. The lights, or balls of fire, appeared and disappeared on the other side of the world, over Japan – and your guess as to what they were is just as good as mine, for nobody really knows.
PROJECT 1947 Comments: The author of "The Foo Fighter Mystery", Lieutenant Colonel Jo Chamberlin was an aide to one of the most powerful military men in World War II, Commanding General of the U. S. Army Air Forces, Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold.
In the spring of 1945 he traveled to Europe on an open special assignment. Among other duties, Lt. Col. Chamberlin wrote speeches for Gen. Arnold and fulfilled assorted public relations commitments. He wrote for various magazines on air power and the war, donating any monies he received from his articles to charities for war widows and orphans.
When Chamberlin arrived in Europe, the authorities issued him a .45 caliber pistol and a jeep with a driver. One of the first places he visited was the 415th Night Fighter Squadron (NFS). Nothing in Chamberlin's notes nor in an incomplete search of General Arnold's papers indicate that he was directed by Arnold to go to the 415th NFS. However, at about the same time General Arnold had assigned his scientific advisor, Dr. David T. Griggs, to investigate "foo-fighters" in Europe, the Pacific and elsewhere. It is a good possibility that one of Chamberlin's first stops, the 415th NFS, was ordered by General Arnold.
Chamberlin interviewed the 415th aircrews and obtained documents and reports about their "foo-fighter" encounters. He found that both Robert Wilson, Associated Press war correspondent and Sgt. Ed Clark, reporter for the military newspaper circulated to the troops overseas, The Stars and Stripes, had also met with and interviewed the aircrews who had witnessed the mysterious foo-fighters.
All three of these men based their writings on foo-fighters on direct contact with the witnesses, not press releases, secondhand accounts, or rumors.
Chamberlin encountered aircrews from other units who had also seen foo-fighters or had other daylight sightings of unknown objects.
On his return to the US, he asked for and was supplied with intelligence reports on foo-fighters, especially from the Pacific Theatre. His papers do not contain a written formal report to General Arnold on foo fighters, unlike Dr. Griggs who did make such a report – which is yet to be located. Chamberlin's ready access to Arnold might have allowed him to discuss the foo fighter issue informally without committing his ideas to paper.
He organized the material supplied by General Arnold's intelligence officers, and combined it with notes and documents he had obtained in Europe into an article on foo fighters.
Air Force Intelligence required three steps before allowing publication: the article had to undergo an intelligence review, he could not use his rank nor his position in connection with how he came to gather his information.
After the review, Chamberlin rewrote the article to its present form and submitted it to Major Harold Augspurger, commander of the 415th NFS for his comments. Later he sold his article to the American Legion magazine and once again donated his payment to charity.
With the huge post-World War II drawdown involving millions of military personnel returning to civilian life, Lt. Col. Chamberlin seemed to have been lost from the Air Force's institutional memory. As public reports and official interest in "flying saucers" took hold, Chamberlin's article on mysterious flying objects being seen by trained air crews during World War II was forgotten. No one brought it to the attention of the Project SIGN personnel nor to Capt Edward Ruppelt of Project Blue Book when he was scouring Air Force Intelligence records for every scrap of information about UFOs.
In 1952, World War II intelligence documents at Air Force headquarters were packed up and sent to Maxwell Air Force Base where they were unavailable to Ruppelt. This is probably why he talked about foo-fighters as being known only through witness accounts and not through official documents. The British author, Harold T. Wilkins, rediscovered Chamberlin's article and made it publicly known.
Chamberlin's USAAF papers are part of General Arnold's collection at the Library of Congress.
THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN MAGAZINE - OCT 30, 1966
Joe Thompson and the Foo-Fighters
Nashville's Joe Thompson in the cockpit of a photo
reconnaissance plane in World War II
IT WASN'T until 1947, when the stories about flying saucers hit page one, that Nashville's Joe Thompson Jr. gave much thought to those strange objects he saw in World War II.
Now an insurance man, Thompson was a photo reconnaissance pilot in the war.
He and his wing man were on a mission over the Rhine Valley, photographing German troop movements, when he saw them.
"We had made some pictures, and I was looking ahead to our next photo target," Thompson recalls, "when my wing man broke radio silence and said, 'Bogeys at 9 o'clock!'"
(A bogey, in air force parlance, is an unidentified flying object — UFO — which could turn out to be either friendly or hostile.)
"Off my wing. a little below us, in the direction of Cologne, I saw four or five objects that looked like silvery footballs," he says.
"They didn't seem to be moving. but they must have been, for they stayed even with us
"It flashed through my mind that they were something the Germans had put up there.
"I watched to see what they would do, but they didn't do anything.
"As we turned away, I thought they must not be of much value to the Germans.
"That's the last I saw of them. I turned my attention to the next photo target, where the Germans were already sending up flak to let us know they were waiting for us."
It wasn't until later that Thompson learned that captured intelligence reports said the Germans had seen the objects, too – and thought they were put up there by the Americans!
Thompson wasn't the first U.S. pilot to see the strange objects over the Rhine Valley.
They were first spotted by the pilots of Black Widow night fighters, who said they glowed in the dark. The night fighters shot at them a few times, but the fire was never returned.
He believes the night fighters gave the UFOs the nickname that stuck: "Foo-Fighters," a term picked up from the Smokey Stover comic strip that still runs in several newspapers.
At the time, Thompson was a major in the 109th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. He commanded approximately 45 pilots who flew P-51 Mustangs equipped with powerful aerial cameras and four 50-caliber machine guns.
Most of the sightings of Foo-Fighters took place between December, 1944, and March, 1945.
"When the weather was too bad for flying, I'd go around and talk with the pilots, asking them about the things they had seen on their missions," Thompson recalls.
Ever so often, some one would say he had seen "some of those Foo-Fighters."
What did they look like?
A Californian, Capt Frank Robinson, said they resembled "a smashed beer can." Others said a tennis ball or a football – only much larger. The descriptions were of shape, not size. Captain Robinson – who said he saw them rising up as from the ground – called them "Kraut balls." Everybody thought they were German.
There was speculation about their purpose.
"At first, we thought they might be attached to wires, like barrage balloons, Thompson says. "But they were moving, and they were too high."
"Then we got the idea that the Germans might be using them to detect the altitude of our planes so they could place their anti-aircraft fire more accurately."
Then Thompson saw them for himself that day over the Rhine Valley.
"They didn't look like what Captain Robinson had said — a smashed beer can," he remembers.
How big were they?
"I really couldn't tell," he says. "It would put depend on how far away they were. They may have been as close as 1500 feet, in which event they would be no bigger than an open umbrella. But they could have been two miles away in which case they would be quite large. They looked as though they were made of aluminum."
What were they?
"I don't really know," he says. "I saw something — I still don't know what it was."
He reported the sighting to the squadron intelligence officer when he returned from the mission, and let it drop.
The men of the 109th never tried to pursue the objects, Thompson says, because they were not bothering us."
Today, it is difficult to understand why wartime pilots were not more excited about these Foo-Fighters so many of them saw over Germany. In retrospect, they seem prophetic of the "flying saucer" reports that began to come in profusion after the war.
The wartime lack of excitement is easier to understand in light of the conditions under which Thompson and his fellow pilots flew.
The Foo-Fighters just didn't seem important, he explains. What was important was to complete the mission and stay alive, with so many people on the ground and in the air dedicated to your destruction.
For example, Thompson came back from a mission with 150 holes in his plane — flak. There was even a hole in his camera. Just as he touched ground, the engine quit.
There were several other such examples in the squadron, which lost more planes to flak than to enemy planes — and more planes to weather than to flak and enemy planes combined.
The squadron flew first from England and then, after the invasion, from an air strip in Normandy and, still later, in Belgium. It was from the tiny Belgian village of Gosselies that they went on missions when they saw the Foo-Fighters.
(Two years ago, Thompson took his wife, Martha, to Gosselies for a sentimental visit. He saw several people he had known there during the war.)
"From Gosselies it was a 20 or 30-minute flight to the Rhine Valley," he says. "We would cruise around for a couple of hours. We were looking for patterns of troop movement, trucks, tanks on the move – anything that might be of use to intelligence. Our bombers might knock out a bridge. They would send us in to see how much damage was done."
The first missions went out with the first light, hoping to catch the enemy still on the move from the night before. The last missions were out at dusk. Perhaps an over-eager enemy would start the next night's journey early.
The pilots flew in twos, changing altitude all the time, trying to make a difficult target for enemy guns. Survival meant spotting an enemy plane before he spotted you. Their eyes made Ms [sic] scanning the skies for anything that wasn't friendly. They learned to know instantly if a dot on the horizon was friend or foe.
Across the Rhine, Thompson sometimes saw a sobering sight.
If you were in the right place at the right time, you could see what looked like a telephone pole taking off into the sky," he says. "You could follow the trail until it disappeared up and out of sight. This was the V-2 rocket.
"I spent a five-day leave in London and saw these rockets landing in Hyde Park. They made holes three stories deep."
After the war, when flying saucers became the rage, Thompson developed into something of a buff on the subject, reading everything he could find. Sometimes he spoke at civic clubs.
Afterwards people would come up and wonder excitedly if the Foo-Fighters could have been sent from somewhere in space to observe the war in Europe, and, possibly, to gauge the threat of V-2 weapons to their own world.
"The whole problem is to separate fact from fiction," he says of UFOs. "How much of it is imagination? How much is hallucination?" Most of these sightings can be explained. Some can't. A lot of authors could explain some of the incidents they write about, but if they did, their books wouldn't sell as well.
"It is encouraging that scientists are beginning to study the phenomenon. I think the time has come when they can study flying saucers without being suspected of lunacy.
"There are three general groups of people who are concerned with UFOs.
"The first group are those whom we might describe as the insecure, the neurotics. Certainly the things they see are colored by their own troubles and exaggerated speculations.
"The second group are the skeptics who recognize that something must have caused such a multitude of sightings, but they demand unequivocal evidence.
"And then there is a third and growing group of people who, while they do not present any final answer, are willing to state they have seen these objects and have carefully examined the plausible record of other confirmed sightings and feel there must be some sensible explanation.
"The federal government just granted $300,000 to the University of Colorado to investigate, along with some other universities, the sources of unexplained phenomena. I would hope that this amount of money is not being spent just to quiet the fears of the neurotic fringe.
"I think we will have the answer to UFOs within 10 years.
"We have been flying on this planet only 63 years," Thompson says, "and we are now planning to send an astronaut to the moon. This is a long way to go in 63 years, but we still don't know all the answers."
Burnie, Tasmania Advocate - 7 August, 1948
PUBLIC OPINION - Letters to the Editor
BALL OF FIRE
Sir. – "The Advocate" (July 30) reported from Wellington (NZ) the sighting of a "mysterious ball of fire." I recalled a similar experience in Bass Strait while travelling by ship from Devonport to Melbourne in December, 1945. The night was clear but there was no moon. The bright object appeared directly to the east, and at first sight resembled a large meteor, but when the light began bouncing like a rubber ball this theory was discounted. It appeared to hit the water and bounce to a tremendous height. After four or five bounces the light seemed to come to rest on the water and this continued about five minutes, the light going dimmer at each "rest". It was concluded that the object must have been a fireball. – M. NICHOLLS (Devenport)
Important Foo Fighter Articles
British researcher and author Andy Roberts has written extensively about the history of "Foo fighters":
In Foo Fighters: The Story So Far, Andy Roberts examines the history of the "foo fighter" phenomenon.
In WW II Document Research: In search of "Foo-Fighters" Andy investigates the often-quoted World War II "foo fighter" encounter during an allied bombing raid over Schweinfurt, Germany, in October of 1943.
UFOlogy's most often-quoted World War II "foo fighter" encounter occurred during an allied bombing raid over Schweinfurt, Germany, in October of 1943. Andy Roberts located official documentation that confirms the "flying disks" sighting and offers new information as to its possible origins in Schweinfurt – A Mystery Solved?
Barry Greenwood Foo-Fighter Documents
The Foo Fighters - The RAF Experience
By Dr. David Clarke & Andy Roberts
Originally published in UFO Magazine (UK) January 2003
Another important web site regarding Foo-fighters is:
A Historical and Physiological Perspective of the Foo Fighters
of World War Two.
By Jeffery A. Lindell