The Foo Fighters of World War II
strange, orange, glowing disc seemed to keep pace with Major
Leet's B-17. Was it a German secret weapon? (Copyright
Lee Krystek, 2012)
December 22, 1944: The pilot of the Allied
plane was nervous. He was at 10,000 feet, over enemy territory.
Somewhere hidden in the black sky there was sure to be German
fighter aircraft. He scanned the darkness looking for trouble.
Suddenly he saw two large, orange glowing balls approaching him.
His radio operator saw them too. They didn't look like enemy fighters,
but neither did they look like anything he'd ever seen.
The balls suddenly leveled off and started following
the plane. The pilot decided to try and lose them with evasive
maneuvers. He put his plane into a steep dive. The objects immediately
followed. Next he tried a sharply banked turn. The objects stayed
with him. For several more minutes the pilot used his best tricks
to lose his pursuers and failed. When he was about to give up
suddenly the objects were gone, disappearing suddenly into the
night. During he whole incident not a shot was fired.
The above is a typical example of an encounter
with a "foo fighter." Toward the end of World War II pilots began
reporting seeing UFOs - Unidentified Flying Objects - in the shape
of strange glowing balls flying around their aircraft at night.
The objects seemed to maneuver with great speed and the Allies
began to worry that the German's had developed a new weapon with
Fighters and Kraut FireBalls
The objects were dubbed "foo fighters" because of
a popular comic strip at the time, Smoky Stover drawn by
cartoonist Bill Holman. The character of Smoky was fond of saying
"Where there's foo there's fire" and the objects seem to be fiery,
rounded shapes. By 1944, the term "foo fighter" was used by radar
operators to describe a return on the radar screen of an object
that might or might not actually exist. Soon air crews were also
using the term to describe the strange objects they were seeing.
Occasionally, in the European War Theater, they also employed
the expression "kraut fireballs."
Another encounter was described by Army Air Major
William D. Leet:
"My B-17 crew and I were kept company by a 'foo-fighter,'
a small disc, all the way from Klagenfurt Austria, to the Adriatic
Sea. This occurred on a 'lone wolf' mission at night, as I recall,
in December 1944..." Major Leet goes on to note that the intelligence
officer that debriefed him and his crew "stated that it was a
new German fighter, but could not explain why it did not fire
at us, or if it was reporting our heading, altitude and airspeed,
why we did not receive anti-aircraft fire."
Such incidents weren't limited to Europe, either.
In 1944, over the Indian Ocean, the co-pilot of a U.S. Army Air
Force B-29 Superfortress reported an encounter with a peculiar
image, shot during WWII, supposedly shows two unexplained
UFOs near military aircraft. (US Air Force)
"A strange object was pacing us about 500 yards
(475 m) off the starboard wing. At that distance it appeared as
a spherical object, probably five or six feet in diameter, of
a very bright and intense red or orange... it seemed to have a
"My gunner reported it coming in from about a 5
o'clock position (right rear) at our level. It seemed to throb
or vibrate constantly. Assuming it was some kind of radio-controlled
object sent to pace us, I went into evasive action, changing direction
constantly, as much as 90 degrees and altitude of about 2,000
feet (600 m). It followed our every maneuver for about eight minutes,
always holding a position about 500 yards (475m) out and about
2 o'clock in relation to the plane. When it left, it made an abrupt
90 degree turn, accelerating rapidly, and disappeared into the
Not often, but sometimes the objects would also
appear on radar. On December 22nd a pilot with the 415 Night Fighter
Squadron reported two "large orange glows" which climbed rapidly
toward his plane as he flew over Hagenau, Germany. On the ground
the radar operator also got a reading on the objects.
"Upon reaching our altitude," the pilot related,
the foo fighters "leveled off and stayed on my tail." He executed
steep dives, banks, and other evasive maneuvers but the UFOs matched
him turn after turn. "After staying with the plane for two minutes,"
he testified, "they peeled off and turned away, flying under perfect
control, and then went out."
In another incident, radar operator as Andrew V.
most of the time radar operators didn't see the foo fighters
on their screen, on a least a few occasions they were able
to confirm their existence.
"I had frequently picked up a target on the radar
screen that appeared to be a conventional aircraft," he said.
"But... upon being tracked [it] would accelerate to a fantastic
speed, which made it impossible to set a rate on and even more
difficult to identify. So we referred to them as 'ghosts'... I
have always been puzzled by the occurrence of these sightings
I have personally made on radar."
More encounters with the strange spherical UFOs
were reported, but none of the objects ever seemed to take any
aggressive action, so the idea that they were an advanced enemy
weapon was dropped. After the war was over it was learned that
German and Japanese pilots had also been seeing the same things
and Axis military authorities had feared an Allied secret weapon.
Secret Weapons of World War II
After the war Rudolf Lusar, who had been a major
in a German army technical unit, wrote a book called German
Secret Weapons of World War II . Lusar's book covered many
of the known inventions like the V1 and V2 rockets, but also included
a chapter on "Wonder Weapons." In the chapter Lusar claimed that
the Germans had developed small automated, unconventional aircraft.
One version was called the Feuerball while the other was
referred to as the Kugelblitz. According the story, these
craft were automatically guided and jet-propelled. These devices,
according to Lusar, were supposed to use electrostatic discharges
from the klystron tubes they carried to interfere with the electrical
systems of the bombers' engines.
Lusar's description of the Feuerball/Kugelblitz
device seems very close to the "foo-fighters" observed by Allied
pilots. Despite this, it seems unlikely that this is the real
explanation for the UFOs/foo fighters that pilots observed. No
Allied plane ever reported being attacked or disabled by a foo-fighter
and it is likely that if the Germans had invented a device capable
of tracking planes as well as the foo-fighters apparently did,
they would have soon armed it with more effective weapon than
a klystron tube.
So what were these UFOs? The military decided they
might be an unusual electrical or optical effect that might be
related to ball lightning
or St Elmo's fire. St. Elmo's fire is known to form as an electrical
glow around the wing tips of planes, but is not known to form
into the shape of a sphere. Ball lightning is spherical and has
been observed near aircraft, but it is short-lived and is not
known to fly in formation with planes.
military aircraft, like this P-38 Lightning, observed the
Another possibility authorities explored was that
crew might have been seeing the afterimages of bright flashes
from flak explosions nearby (like the bright spot left on in your
vision when a camera flash goes off in your face). This seems
an unlikely explanation, however, for the many cases of foo fighters
that took place when the aircraft was not receiving anti-aircraft
Finally they also considered the possibility that
the whole thing was in the imaginations of the plane crews who
were justifiably nervous under the pressure of flying dangerous
war time missions.
Despite all these speculations no conclusive explanation
for the foo fighters has ever been found.
Copyright Lee Krystek
1996-2012. All Rights Reserved.