Foo fighter

Foo fighter

The term foo fighter was used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over the European and Pacific theatres. [William Yenne, “Foo Fighters,” "Secret Weapons of World War II: The Techno-Military Breakthroughs That Changed History" (New York: Berkley Books, 2003), 280-281.] Witnesses often assumed that the foo fighters were secret weapons employed by the enemy, but they still remained unidentified post-war. Despite these fears, there are no reports of injuries resulting from actions of foo fighters.

Though usually thought of as smaller blobs of light or fire, several different types of reported phenomena, including large structured objects, were classified as "foo fighters".


"Foo fighter" was supposedly used initially as a semi-derogatory reference to Japanese fighter pilots (known for erratic flying and extreme maneuvering), but it became a catch-all term for fast moving, erratically flying objects. There were several other terms used to describe these objects, such as "Kraut fireballs", but "foo fighter" seems to have been the most popular.

The term is generally thought to have been borrowed from the often surrealist comic strip "Smokey Stover". Smokey, a firefighter, was fond of saying, "Where there's foo there's fire." (This "foo" may have come from "feu", the French word for "fire", or "Feuer" the German word for "fire", or from Smokey's mispronunciation of the word "fuel".) A Big Little Book titled "Smokey Stover the Foo Fighter" was published in 1938. Foo may alternatively have come from either of the French words "faux" meaning "fake", or "fou" meaning "mad."

Some have thought that the term refers to Kung fu ("kong foo") fighting, because of the reported wild, erratic movements of these aerial objects. The term "Kung fu" was, however, unknown in the English language until the late 1960s when it became popular because of the Hong Kong films and the later "Kung Fu" TV series; before that it was referred to primarily as "Chinese boxing".


Foo fighters were reported on many occasions from around the world; a few examples are noted below.

*Sighting from September, 1941 in the Indian Ocean was similar to some later Foo Fighter reports. From the deck of the S.S. "Pułaski" (a Polish merchant vessel transporting British troops), two sailors reported a "strange globe glowing with greenish light, about half the size of the full moon as it appears to us." [Clark 1998 p 230] They alerted a British officer, who watched the object's movements with them for over an hour.

*On February 28, 1942, just prior to its participation in the Battle of the Java Sea, the USS "Houston" reportedly saw a large number of strange, unexplained yellow flares and lights which illuminated the sea for miles around.

*A report was made from the Solomon Islands in 1942 by United States Marine Stephen J. Brickner. Following an air raid alarm, Brickner and others witnessed about 150 objects grouped in lines of 10 or 12 objects each. The objects seemed to "wobble" as they moved; Brickner reported that they resembled polished silver and seemed to move a little faster than common Japanese aircraft. He described the sighting, saying "All in all, it was the most awe-inspiring and yet frightening spectacle I have seen in my life." [ [] ]

*In the summer of 1942, a Royal Australian Air Force plane patrolling off the Tasman Peninsula was approached by "a singular airfoil of glistening bronze color", about 150 feet in length and 50 feet in diameter, with what seemed like a dome on top. It paced the plane for a few minutes, then turned away "at a hell of pace", turned again and dived into the ocean. [Good (2007), p. 18]

*Several UK Ministry of Defence documents, declassified in the 1990s, relate sightings of unusual aircraft by RAF crews in 1942. One, dated 3 December 1942, related that the crew refused to be shaken in their story despite ridicule. During a raid on Turin the night of November 28/29, they twice spotted an object an estimated 200-300 feet in length, 1/5 to 1/6 that in diameter, and traveling at an estimated 500 miles an hour. It had four equally spaced red lights along its length. The pilot, Captain Lever, said he saw a similar object about three months before north of Amsterdam. [Good (2007), pp. 18-19, 32 (document copy)]

*On the night of 26/27 May 1943, during a raid on Essen, Germany, the crew of an RAF bomber reported a large cylindrical object similar to the one reported earlier near Turin. There were a number of "portholes" evenly spaced along its length. It was much larger than their aircraft with an "incredible" speed estimated to be in the "thousands of mph". [ Good (2007), pp. 19-20 ]

*Ufologist Leonard H. Stringfield related a near-fatal encounter he had at the end of the war when he was a USAF intelligence officer. On 28 August 1945, as they approached Iwo Jima in a Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando, they encountered three teardrop-shaped objects, brilliantly white, closing and on a parallel course. Their magnetic navigation-instrument needles went wild and their left engine suddenly failed. Losing altitude, crew and passengers were told to prepare for a ditch. Then the objects departed and the engine restarted. [Good (2007), 25; Leonard Stringfield, "Situation Red", 1977, pp. 25-26.]

*Career U.S. Air Force pilot Duane Adams often related that he had witnessed two occurrences of a bright light which paced his aircraft for about half an hour and then rapidly ascended into the sky. Both incidents occurred at night, both over the South Pacific, and both were witnessed by the entire aircraft crew. The first sighting occurred shortly after the end of World War II while Adams piloted a B-25 bomber. The second sighting occurred in the early 1960's when Adams was piloting a KC-135 tanker.

*Foo fighter reports were mentioned in the mass media. A 1945 "Time" story stated, "If it was not a hoax or an optical illusion, it was certainly the most puzzling secret weapon that Allied fighters have yet encountered. Last week U.S. night fighter pilots based in France told a strange story of balls of fire which for more than a month have been following their planes at night over Germany. No one seemed to know what, if anything, the fireballs were supposed to accomplish. Pilots, guessing it was a new psychological weapon, named it the "foo-fighter" ... Their descriptions of the apparition varied, but they agree that the mysterious flares stuck close to their planes and appeared to follow them at high speed for miles. One pilot said that a foo fighter, appearing as red balls off his wing tips, stuck with him until he dove at 360 miles an hour [580 km/h] ; then the balls zoomed up into the sky." [ [ PROJECT 1947 - UFO REPORTS 1945 ] ]

*The Robertson Panel cited foo fighter reports, noting that their behavior did not appear to be threatening. Interestingly, the Robertson Panel's report noted that many foo fighters were described as metallic and disc-shaped, and suggested that, "If the term "flying saucers" had been popular in 1943-1945, these objects would have been so labeled." [ [ REPORT OF SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY PANEL ON UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS CONVENED BY OFFICE OF SCIENTIFIC INTELLIGENCE, CIA January 14 - 18, 1953 ] ]

Explanations and theories

*The phenomenon could be based on the misinterpretation of the Luftwaffe's standard operating procedure of having selected anti-aircraft batteries near German airfields fire colored flare patterns at regular intervals to aid their night fighters with visual navigation. However, this would not explain sightings at locations where German forces were not deployed or based, such as the Pacific theatre.

*Some suggest that some sightings of foo fighters may have been night-sightings of the German Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet rocket-plane. However, the Me 163 was completely unsuitable for nocturnal operations since it had only a few minutes of fuel, totally insufficient to make contact with an enemy at night, carried no airborne interception radar, and lacked all night-flying equipment which would have been vital to make its characteristic engine-out glider-style deadstick landing at night.

*Proponents of the extraterrestrial hypothesis have suggested that foo fighters are evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth.

*A type of electrical discharge from airplanes' wings (see St. Elmo's Fire) has been suggested as an explanation.

*Another theory suggests that pilots may have seen ball lightning.

*A similar explanation to those proposed for Min Min light in Australia.

*Reports of strange lights in the night are common throughout history, with explanations ranging from elves and Wild Hunt to UFO. It seems to be another example of the common, although still not fully explained, phenomenon.

*The phenomenon could have been the sightings of a secret World War II disk-shaped aircraft produced by the Germans. However, the few known prototypes never became airworthy. [ [] ]

*Multiple internal reflections of bright ground objects from the curved plastic canopy of an aircraft can be perceived as images above the horizon, a phenomenon that has been identified with some UFO sightings from aircraft.

Foo Fighters in fiction

*The Canadian animated film "Heavy Metal (1981)" features a green ball known as the Loc-Nar, an artifact over which people are killing each other and is the sum of all evil. The Loc-Nar is similar to ball lightning, and the film also shows how the Loc-Nar follows a B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II.

*The 2002 Mini-series "Taken" featured numerous balls of light in the first episode as Capt. Russel Keys flies a B-17 bomber above France during the Second World War.

*In the anime "Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu", Kana Iriya pilots the Black Manta, a fighter based on technology reverse-engineered from a crashed UFO and is capable of sudden and erratic maneuvers. Kunihiro Suizenji calls it a Foo Fighter because of its maneuverability.

*In the 1956 movie "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers", one of the main characters refers to floating balls of light (later found to be alien observers, as "foo lights"

*In the "" video game, the Hierarchy, an alien race invading Earth in order to completely stripmine it, utilizes flying vehicles called Saucers (which look like actual flying saucers) that employ foo fighters to either damage enemy forces or repair Hierarchy mechanical units. These foo fighters appear as large glowing yellow orbs in damage mode and blue in repair mode.

*In the "Area 51" series of novels, Foo Fighters are described as small alien craft used as flying battering rams under the control of a larger alien computer (despite the fact that historically, no ill effects were ever reported from encounters with "actual" foo fighters).


* Jerome Clark, "The Ufo Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial", Visible Ink, 1998, ISBN 1-57859-029-9
* Timothy Good, "Need to Know: UFOs, the Military, and Intelligence", Pegasus Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1-933648-38-5

External links

* [ Foo Fighter Documents]
* [ Skeptic World Article]
* [ The Foo Fighter Mystery] (pdf, 2004), explaining the phenomenon as the result of setting up an electric field directed radially to or from a central axis; previous physics paper describing the 'thunderball' (foo fighter) electrostatic phenomenon::* [ The Thunderball - an Electrostatic Phenomenon'] (1983), Inst. Phys. Conf. Ser. No. 66: Session VI, Electrostatics 1983, Oxford, pp. 179-184.

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