Foo fighter

Foo fighter

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The term foo fighter was used by Allied
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 pilots in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to describe various UFOs
Unidentified flying object
A term originally coined by the military, an unidentified flying object is an unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object...

 or mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over both the European
European Theater of Operations
The European Theater of Operations, United States Army was a United States Army formation which directed U.S. Army operations in parts of Europe from 1942 to 1945. It referred to Army Ground Forces, United States Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces operations north of Italy and the...

 and Pacific Theater of Operations
Pacific Theater of Operations
The Pacific Theater of Operations was the World War II area of military activity in the Pacific Ocean and the countries bordering it, a geographic scope that reflected the operational and administrative command structures of the American forces during that period...

.

Though "foo fighter" initially described a type of UFO reported and named by the U.S. 415th Night Fighter Squadron
415th Night Fighter Squadron
The 415th Tactical Fighter Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with 49th Fighter Wing stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico...

, the term was also commonly used to mean any UFO sighting from that period.

Formally reported from November 1944 onwards, witnesses often assumed that the foo fighters were secret weapons employed by the enemy, but they remained unidentified post-war and were reported by both Allied and Axis forces. Michael D. Swords
Michael D. Swords
Michael D. Swords is an American scientist.In 1962 Swords graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.S.. He studied biochemistry at Iowa State University , and at Case Western Reserve University Michael D. Swords is an American scientist.In 1962 Swords graduated from the University of...

 writes,

Etymology



The nonsense word
Nonsense word
A nonsense word, unlike a sememe, may have no definition. If it can be pronounced according to a language's phonotactics, it is a logatome. Nonsense words are used in literature for poetic or humorous effect. Proper names of real or fictional entities are sometimes nonsense words.-See...

 "foo
Foobar
The terms foobar /ˈfʊːbɑː/, fubar, or foo, bar, baz and qux are sometimes used as placeholder names in computer programming or computer-related documentation...

" emerged in popular culture during the early 1930s, it was first used by cartoonist Bill Holman
Bill Holman (cartoonist)
Bill Holman was an American cartoonist who drew the classic comic strip Smokey Stover from 1935 until he retired in 1973. Distributed through the Chicago Tribune, it had the longest run of any strip in the screwball genre...

 who peppered his Smokey Stover
Smokey Stover
Smokey Stover is an American comic strip written and drawn by cartoonist Bill Holman, from 1935 until he retired in 1973. Distributed through the Chicago Tribune, it features the wacky misadventures of the titular fireman, and had the longest run of any comic strip in the "screwball comics"...

fireman cartoon strips with "foo" signs and puns. Holman claimed to have found the word on the bottom of a Chinese figurine. It was part of service culture by World War II and is thought to have led to the backronym
Backronym
A backronym or bacronym is a phrase constructed purposely, such that an acronym can be formed to a specific desired word. Backronyms may be invented with serious or humorous intent, or may be a type of false or folk etymology....

 FUBAR
FUBAR
FUBAR is an acronym that commonly means "fucked up beyond all recognition/any repair/all reason".-Etymology and history:The Oxford English Dictionary lists Yank, the Army Weekly magazine as its earliest citation: "The FUBAR Squadron.....

. By 1944, the term "foo fighter" was used by radar operators to describe a spurious or dubious trace.

The term foo was borrowed from Bill Holman's Smokey Stover by a radar operator in the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, Donald J. Meiers, who it is agreed by most 415th members gave the foo fighters their name. Don was from Chicago and was an avid reader of Bill Holman's strip which was run daily in the Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" , it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is...

. Smokey Stover's catch phrase was "where there's foo, there's fire" and this was possibly derived from the French word for fire, "le feu". In a mission debriefing on the evening November 27, 1944, Fritz Ringwald, the unit's S-2 Intelligence Officer, stated that Don Meiers and Ed Schleuter had sighted a red ball of fire that appeared to chase them through a variety of high-speed maneuvers. Fritz said that Don was extremely agitated and had a copy of the comic strip tucked in his back pocket. He pulled it out and slammed it down on Fritz's desk and said, "... it was another one of those fuckin' foo fighters!" and stormed out of the debriefing room. However, in a Channel 4 documentary aired 3rd June 2011, reporter Nick Cook
Nick Cook
Nick Cook is a British aviation journalist and author of fiction and non-fiction works and has won four Aerospace Journalist of the Year Awards from the Royal Aeronautical Society.-Journalism:...

 showed an RAF pilot's report, obtained from RAF archives, reporting a UFO incident with a similar red ball of fire on a bombing mission over Germany, but dated 1942 and taken with fact that the term was already in use by radar operators in 1944, must raise some query as to the origin of the term

According to Fritz Ringwald, because of the lack of a better name, it stuck. And this was originally what the men of the 415th started calling these incidents: "Fuckin' Foo Fighters." In December 1944, a press correspondent from the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 in Paris, Bob Wilson, was sent to the 415th at their base outside of Dijon, France to investigate this story. It was at this time that the term was cleaned up to just foo fighters. The unit commander, Capt. Harold Augsperger, also decided to shorten the term to foo fighters in the unit's historical data.

History


The first sightings occurred in November 1944, when pilots flying over Germany by night reported seeing fast-moving round glowing objects following their aircraft. The objects were variously described as fiery, and glowing red, white, or orange. Some pilots described them as resembling Christmas tree lights and reported that they seemed to toy with the aircraft, making wild turns before simply vanishing. Pilots and aircrew reported that the objects flew formation with their aircraft and behaved as if under intelligent control, but never displayed hostile behavior. However, they could not be outmaneuvered or shot down. The phenomenon was so widespread that the lights earned a name - in the European Theater of Operations they were often called "kraut fireballs" but for the most part called "foo-fighters". The military took the sightings seriously, suspecting that the mysterious sightings might be secret German weapons, but further investigation revealed that German and Japanese pilots had reported similar sightings.

In its 15 January 1945 edition Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine carried a story entitled "Foo-Fighter", in which it reported that the "balls of fire" had been following USAAF night fighters for over a month, and that the pilots had named it the "foo-fighter". According to Time, descriptions of the phenomena varied, but the pilots agreed that the mysterious lights followed their aircraft closely at high speed. Some scientists at the time rationalized the sightings as an illusion probably caused by afterimages of dazzle caused by flak bursts, while others suggested St. Elmo's Fire
St. Elmo's fire
St. Elmo's fire is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a grounded object in an electric field in the atmosphere St. Elmo's fire is named after St. Erasmus of Formiae St. Elmo's fire (also St. Elmo's light) is a weather phenomenon in which luminous...

 as an explanation.

The "balls of fire" phenomenon reported from the Pacific Theater of Operations differed somewhat from the foo fighters reported from Europe; the "ball of fire" resembled a large burning sphere which "just hung in the sky", though it was reported to sometimes follow aircraft. On one occasion, the gunner of a B-29 aircraft managed to hit one with gunfire, causing it to break up into several large pieces which fell on buildings below and set them on fire. As with the European foo fighters, no aircraft was reported as having been attacked by a "ball of fire"

The postwar Robertson Panel
Robertson Panel
The Robertson Panel was a committee commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1952 in response to widespread reports of unidentified flying objects, especially in the Washington, D.C. area. The panel was briefed on U.S...

 cited foo fighter reports, noting that their behavior did not appear to be threatening, and mentioned possible explanations, for instance that they were electrostatic phenomena similar to St. Elmo's fire
St. Elmo's fire
St. Elmo's fire is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a grounded object in an electric field in the atmosphere St. Elmo's fire is named after St. Erasmus of Formiae St. Elmo's fire (also St. Elmo's light) is a weather phenomenon in which luminous...

, electromagnetic
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

 phenomena, or simply reflections of light from ice crystals. The Panel's report suggested that "If the term "flying saucers" had been popular in 1943-1945, these objects would have been so labeled."

Sightings


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
    Indian Ocean
    The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

     was similar to some later Foo Fighter reports. From the deck of the S.S. Pułaski (a Polish
    Poland
    Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

     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." They alerted a British officer, who watched the object's movements with them for over an hour.

  • Charles R. Bastien of the Eighth Air Force
    Eighth Air Force
    The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

     reported one of the first encounters with foo fighters over the Belgium/Holland area; he described them as "two fog lights flying at high rates of speed that could change direction rapidly". During debriefing, his intelligence officer told him that two RAF night fighters had reported the same thing, and it was later reported in British newspapers.

  • 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 1960s when Adams was piloting a KC-135 tanker.

Explanations and theories

  • Author Renato Vesco revived the wartime theory that the foo fighters were a new Nazi secret weapon in his non-fiction work 'Intercept UFO', reprinted in a revised English edition as 'Man-Made UFOs: 50 Years Of Suppression' in 1994. Vesco alleges that the foo fighters were in fact a form of ground-launched automatically guided jet-propelled flak mine called the Feuerball (Fireball). The device, operated by special SS units, apparently resembled a tortoise
    Tortoise
    Tortoises are a family of land-dwelling reptiles of the order of turtles . Like their marine cousins, the sea turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise...

     shell in shape, and flew by means of gas jets that spun like a Catherine wheel
    Catherine wheel (firework)
    The Catherine wheel is a type of firework consisting of a powder-filled spiral tube, or an angled rocket mounted with a pin through its centre...

     around the fuselage. Miniature klystron
    Klystron
    A klystron is a specialized linear-beam vacuum tube . Klystrons are used as amplifiers at microwave and radio frequencies to produce both low-power reference signals for superheterodyne radar receivers and to produce high-power carrier waves for communications and the driving force for modern...

     tubes inside the device, in combination with the gas jets, created the foo fighters' characteristic glowing spheroid appearance. A crude form of collision avoidance radar ensured the craft would not crash into another airborne object, and an onboard sensor mechanism would even instruct the machine to depart swiftly if it was fired upon. The purpose of the Feuerball, according to Vesco, was two-fold. The appearance of this weird device inside a bomber stream would (and indeed did) have a distracting and disruptive effect on the bomber pilots; and Vesco alleges that the devices were also intended to have an offensive capability. Electrostatic discharges from the klystron tubes would, he states, interfere with the ignition systems of the bombers' engines, causing the planes to crash. Although there is no hard evidence to support the reality of the Feuerball drone, this theory has been taken up by other aviation/ufology authors, and has even been cited as the most likely explanation for the phenomena in at least one recent television documentary on Nazi secret weapons.

  • A type of electrical discharge from airplanes' wings (see St. Elmo's Fire
    St. Elmo's fire
    St. Elmo's fire is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a grounded object in an electric field in the atmosphere St. Elmo's fire is named after St. Erasmus of Formiae St. Elmo's fire (also St. Elmo's light) is a weather phenomenon in which luminous...

    ) has been suggested as an explanation, since it has been known to appear at the wingtips of aircraft.

  • It has been pointed out that some of the descriptions of foo fighters closely resemble those of ball lightning
    Ball lightning
    Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from pea-sized to several metres in diameter. It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a...

    .

  • During April 1945, the US Navy began to experiment on visual illusions as experienced by night time aviators. This work began the US Navy's Bureau of Medicine (BUMED) project X-148-AV-4-3. This project pioneered the study of aviators' vertigo
    Vertigo
    Vertigo is a form of dizziness.Vertigo may also refer to:* Vertigo , a 1958 film by Alfred Hitchcock**Vertigo , its soundtrack** Vertigo effect, or Dolly zoom, a special effect in film, named after the movie...

     and was initiated because a wide variety of anomalous events were being reported by night time aviators. Dr. Edgar Vinacke, who was the premier flight psychologist on this project, summarized the need for a cohesive and systemic outline of the epidemiology of aviator's vertigo as,

"Pilots do not have sufficient information about phenomena of disorientation, and, as a corollary, are given considerable disorganized, incomplete, and inaccurate information. They are largely dependent upon their own experience, which must supplement and interpret the traditions about 'vertigo' which are passed on to them. When a concept thus grows out of anecdotes cemented together with practical necessity, it is bound to acquire elements of mystery. So far as 'vertigo' is concerned, no one really knows more than a small part of the facts, but a great deal of the peril. Since aviators are not skilled observers of human behavior, they usually have only the vaguest understanding of their own feelings. Like other naive persons, therefore, they have simply adopted a term to cover a multitude of otherwise inexplicable events."

See also

  • Ghost rockets
    Ghost rockets
    Ghost Rockets Danish Spøgelsesraketter were mysterious rocket- or missile-shaped unidentified flying objects sighted in 1946, mostly in Sweden and nearby countries....

  • Will-o'-the-wisp
    Will-o'-the-wisp
    A will-o'-the-wisp or ignis fatuus , also called a "will-o'-wisp", "jack-o'-lantern" , "hinkypunk", "corpse candle", "ghost-light", "spook-light", "fairy light", "friar's lantern", "hobby lantern", "ghost orb", or simply "wisp", is a ghostly light or lights sometimes seen at night or twilight over...

  • List of UFO sightings
  • UFO
  • Nazi UFOs
    Nazi UFOs
    In science fiction, conspiracy theory, and underground comic books, stories or claims circulate linking UFOs to Nazi Germany. These German UFO theories describe supposedly successful attempts to develop advanced aircraft or spacecraft prior to and during World War II, and further claim the...


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