In my last two posts, I have reported on the search by Melbourne based researcher Paul Dean and I, for potential "Foo-Fighter" sightings from Australia, following the recent interest in this topic generated by long term Boston researcher Barry Greenwood.
While typing up these posts the thought passed through my mind as to whether or not, there were any newspaper articles published in Australia, about this topic during the years of World War II?
I therefore looked at the TROVE digitised newspaper collection, held by the National Library of Australia. Indeed there are such newspaper articles. I located six in all, so far.
(1) Newcastle Sun (New South Wales) 3 January 1945 page 8.
"Foo fighters are latest
Our special representative
Washington - Tuesday
Pilots flying over Germany at night report that strange balls of fire are following them around on their missions. They have christened these strange phenomena "Foo fighters."
One pilot reported "A Foo Fighter picked me up recently at 700 feet and chased me down the Rhone Valley. I turned to starboard and two red balls of fire turned with me. I turned to port and they turned too. I was doing 260 miles an hour and they kept up with me. I had a horrible thought that the Germans on the ground would press a button and explode them, but they don't explode or attack - they merely follow us like will of the wisps."
Physicists suggest that what was seen was St Elmo's Fire, which, in stormy weather, sometimes appears at the mastheads of ships and on land at the tops of trees and steeples.
It is a sort of electrical discharge, red when positive and blue when negative.
Another suggestion is that they might be gaseous balls of fire controlled by radio from the ground and designed to interfere with radar signals."
(2) Argus (Melbourne) 3 January 1945 page 1.
|Image courtesy of National Library of Australia|
"Germans using fireballs against allied planes
From our correspondent in New York
American pilots are encountering fireballs that race alongside the wings of the American fighter planes over the Reich says American Associated Press correspondent at a US night fighter base. Named "Foo Fighters," these balls keep pace with the planes. There are three varieties - those that fly alongside, others which fly in front of the plane and a third kind seen at a distance in groups of 15.
The Americans believe they are meant to have a psychological effect. They do not attack planes, but follow like will-o-the-wisps."
(3) Barrier Miner (Broken Hill) 4 January 1945 page 7.
"Germans use fireballs
American pilots are encountering fireballs that race alongside the wings of the American fighter planes over the Reich says American Associated Press correspondent at a US night fighter base. Named "Foo Fighters" these balls keep pace with the planes. There are three varieties, the ones which fly alongside, other which fly in front of the plane and a third kind seen at a distance in groups of 15. The Americans believe they are meant to have a psychological effect. They do not attack planes , but follow like will-o-the-wisps."
(4) Army News (Darwin) 9 January 1945 page 3.
|Image courtesy National Library of Australia|
"Balls of fire chased fighters
Same text as (1) above.
(5) The Uralla Times (New South Wales) 15 March 1945 page 4.
"Balls of fire race alongside allied planes
A US night fighter base, France Jan 2
The Nazis have thrown something new into the sky over Germany - the weird, mysterious "foo fighter", balls of fire which race alongside the wings of American Beaufighters flying intruder missions over the Reich.
US pilots have been encountering the eerie "foo fighters" for more than a month in their night flights. No one apparently knows exactly what this sky weapon is.
The balls of fire appear suddenly and accompanying the planes for miles. They appear to be radio controlled from the ground and manage to keep up with planes flying 300 miles an hour, official intelligence reports disclose.
'There are three kinds of these lights we call "foo fighters" said Lieut Donald Meiers, of Chicago. "One is red balls of fire which appear off aircraft wing tips and fly along with us, the second is a vertical row of three balls of fire, which fly in front of us and the third is a group of about 15 lights which appear off in the distance - like a Christmas tree up in the air - and flicker on and off."
The pilots of this night fighter squadron - in operations since September 1944 - find these fiery balls the weirdest thing they have as yet encountered. They are convinced that the 'foo fighter' is designed to be a psychological weapon as well as military although it it not the nature of the fireballs to attack planes.
"A 'foo fighter' picked me up recently at 700 feet and chased me 20 miles down the Rhone Valley," Lieut Meiers said. "I turned to starboard and two balls of fire turned with me. I turned to the port side and they turned with me. We were going 260 miles an hour and the balls were keeping right up with us."
"On another occasion when a 'foo fighter' picked us up I dived at 300 miles an hour. It kept right on our wingtips for a while and then zoomed up into the sky.
"When I first saw the things off my wing tips I had the horrible thought that a German on the ground was ready to press a button and explode them. But they didn't explode or attack us. They just seem to follow us like will-o-the-wisps."
An Associated Press report from Paris Dec. 13 said the Germans had thrown silvery balls into the air against day raiders. Pilots then reported they had seen these objects, both individually and in clusters during foreys over the Reich.
Foo Fighters that dog fliers in Europe partly explained
New York Jan 3
The Descriptions of the new German foo fighters, or balls of fire, fit into several well known electrical phenomena.
These are induction, ball lightning and have some, though not all the aspects of St Elmo's Fire. If they are electrical, they are something created in the air close to the planes, rather than anything shot like artillery shells or anything floating in the air and wait for a plane.
Induction is suggested by the report that the foo fighters keep up with the plane's speed, changes in speed, or changes in direction.
Electrical induction of some sort would explain such movement synchronization. Nothing else that is well known would explain such perfect timings. Radio control from the ground does not explain the timing, unless radio control is meant to describe a beam which is part of the automatic induction.
Induction, however, fails completely to describe what happens when a fireball zooms upward leaving its plane. Apparently the balls fly paths thousands of feet away from the planes.
The common experience that resembles this trick is ball lightning. How anyone could produce ball lighting is unknown. Exactly what ball lighting may be is also unknown. But it is a quite harmless thing even as the German foo-balls are reported to be. A lightning ball can explode in your front yard, making a loud bang but doing little or no damage.
St Elmos' Fire is a brush discharge of static electricity, which streams off some solid object with brilliant intensity. Aviators are familiar with brush discharges and would recognise them, so that the foo-balls are probably not ordinary St Elmo's Fire. The deep purple color of brush discharge static would explain the reports that the foo-balls are red. The shade of red has not been reported. Ball lighting has been reported in slightly red shades.
A reason for the foo-balls, again based on experience, is interference with radar, radio or perhaps with a plane's ignition. Ignition interference would stop a plane in the air. It was a real project in Italy before the wat, and how to do it is well known in theory in the United States. All you needed then to stop a plane five or more miles away, was a power plant equal to Niagara Falls.
A guess can be made that the foo-balls are evidence that German natural scientists have found some way to get around part of the power trouble in interference, the fact that they are using them, and so disclosing their secrets to the Allies, would indicate that they do not hope to attain to ignition interference power."
(6) Northern Times (Carnarvon, Western Australia) 29 June 1945 page 2.
"If it was not a hoax or an optical illusion, it was certainly the most puzzling secret weapon that allied fighters have yet encountered.
Recently, night fighter pilots based in France told a strange story of balls of fire which for more than a month had been following their planes at night over Germany. No one seemed to know what, if anything, the fireballs were supposed to accomplish.
Pilots, guessing that it was a new psychological weapon, named it the 'Foo Fighter.' Their description of the apparition varied, but they agreed 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 of fire off his wing, stuck with him until he dived at 360 miles an hour; then the balls zoomed into the sky.
Sceptical scientists baffled by the whole affair, were inclined to dismiss the fireballs as an illusion, perhaps an after-image of light, which remained in the pilot's eyes after they had been dazzled by flak bursts. But front-line correspondents and arm-chair experts had a field day. They solemnly guessed -
(1) that the balls of fire were radio-controlled (an obvious absurdity, since they could not be synchronized with a plane's movements by remote control;
(2) that they were created by "electrical induction of some sort,"
(3) that they were attracted to a plane by magnetism.
The correspondents guessed that foo fighters were initiated -
(1) to dazzle pilots;
(2) to serve as aiming points for anti-aircraft gunners;
(3) to interfere with a plane's radar;
(4) to cut a plane's ignition, thus stop its engine in mid-air.
Some scientists suggested another possibility, that the foo-balls were nothing more than St Elmo's Fire, a reddish, brush-like discharge of atmospheric electricity which has often been seen near the tips of church steeples, ships' masts and yardarms."
1. These articles, even though they are spread across January to June 1945, seem to come from one primary source. The Uralla Times article provides the lengthiest reporting, derived, it says from a US night fighter base in France, and cites a date of 2 January 1945.
2. It is noted that none of the six articles, mentions,whether or not, any similar reports were appearing in the Pacific region of the war.
3. I also note that many of the documents in the National Archives of Australia's files, which have bee referenced in my earlier two blog posts about this subject, have been marked "secret." Thus in early 1945 it is unlikely that anyone outside of the Australian Department of Defence, would have been aware of any similar sightings by RAAF crews flying in the Pacific war arena.
The search, by Melbourne based researcher Paul Dean and I, for additional similar sightings by RAAF aircrews, will continue.