Post by Graveyardbride on Aug 17, 2018 8:04:06 GMT -5
The Glowing UFOs of World War II
The end of World War II was near, but for the airmen of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, it felt more like the beginning of War of the Worlds. Lt. Fred Ringwald was the first to see it. He was observer in a night fighter piloted by Lt. Ed Schlueter with Lt. Donald J. Meiers on radar. It was a late November evening in 1944, partly cloudy with a quarter moon. They were roaming the Rhine Valley just north of Strasbourg on the French-German border when, according to American Legion Magazine, Ringwald said, “I wonder what those lights are over there in the hills.” There were eight or 10 of them in a row, glowing fiery orange. Then Schlueter saw them off his right wing. Allied ground radar registered nothing. Thinking the lights could be some sort of German air weapon, Schlueter prepared for a confrontation, but the lights vanished. Fearing their credibility would be questioned, the three men kept the encounter to themselves, but then others began seeing the same thing and the unexplained sightings spread through the unit.
More crews, more sightings. On December 17, 1944, near Breisach, Germany, a pilot was flying at approximately 800 feet when he saw “5 or 6 flashing red and green lights in ‘T’ shape.” The lights seemed to follow him, closing in “to about 8 o’clock and 1,000 ft.” before vanishing as inexplicably as they had appeared.
Five days later on December 22, two more flight crews saw the lights. One crew, near Hagenau, reported two lights they described as a large orange glow which seemed to rise from the earth to 10,000 feet tailing the fighter “for approximately two minutes.” Then, as reported by Keith Chester in Strange Company: Military Encounters with UFOs in World War II, the lights “peel off and turn away, fly along level for a few minutes and then go out. They appear to be under perfect control at all times.”
And then there was Lt. Samuel A. Krasney’s experience with a wingless glowing red cigar-shape object just a few yards off his plane’s wingtip. Krasney, justifiably spooked, instructed the pilot to attempt evasive maneuvers, but the glowing object remained right next to the aircraft for several minutes before it “flew off and disappeared.”
Eventually, the airmen dubbed the lights “foo fighters,” inspired by the comic strip Smokey Stover, in which Smokey (a firefighter) would often declare, “Where there’s foo, there’s fire.”
The ‘combat fatigue’ explanation. On January 1, 1945, an Associated Press reporter broke news of the foo-fighter sightings and theories as to their origins quickly abounded: The sightings were flares, or weather balloons or St. Elmo’s Fire – a phenomenon wherein a light appears on the tips of objects in stormy weather. But members of the 415th rejected all these theories. Flares and weather balloons can’t track planes the way these objects did and they’d seen St. Elmo’s fire and could distinguish between the two.
Then there were those who claimed the airmen were suffering from “combat fatigue,” a polite way of saying the stress of war was driving them insane. But there was scant evidence to suggest collective psychosis: The 415th had an otherwise excellent record and when a reporter for American Legion Magazine reported on the squadron, he described its members as “very normal airmen, whose primary interest was combat, and after that came pin-up girls, poker, doughnuts and the derivatives of the grape.”
Keith Krasney, Lt. Krasney’s son, insisted his late father didn’t fit the stereotypical profile of a UFO theorizer. In fact, he never even suggested the glowing wingless cigar-like object that flew next to his plane was extraterrestrial in origin. “He was very level-headed, very analytical,” Keith said of the older Krasney, adding that he kept a notebook where he wrote about (and drew) his foo-fighter sighting. But although he never seemed prone to conspiracy theories, Keith Krasney admits his father was open to such: “He entertained the idea that it could be late-breaking German technology. He did express the view that there were a lot of things during the war that were kept quiet.”
Was it the work of Nazi astrophysicists? Blaming Nazi Germany for the flying, glowing orbs isn’t too farfetched. For one thing, the sightings took place over Nazi-occupied Europe at a time when Germany’s Luftwaffe was making tremendous strides. Then there’s the fact the sightings stopped once the German army was defeated.
But the most compelling link to the foo fighters might be Wernher von Braun, a 32-year-old wunderkind rocket engineer. Von Braun helped the Nazis develop the V-2 rocket: a long-range guided ballistic missile that Hitler was using in 1944 against Belgium and other parts of Allied Europe. It’s not too difficult to imagine pilots – unfamiliar with long-range ballistics – might compare these rockets to a cigar-like wingless planes. The V-2 could even explain the glow because its tail emitted a long burning plume.
However, Nicholas Veronico, an author who has written several books on military aviation history, claimed the explanation comes up short. “The V-2 rocket doesn’t have the maneuverability,” he explained. “It couldn’t turn on a dime and change its acceleration pattern. Once it started burning, it burned and produced thrust at one rating.” Nothing in Nazi Germany’s military-aviation arsenal can explain the foo-fighter description. One airman’s observation from the time – that the foo fighters follow the fighters so closely as to seem almost magnetized to them – is particularly confounding, given “there just wasn’t the propulsion or metallurgical technology that could enable something like that.”
Still, von Braun’s career after World War II is worth considering. Following the collapse of the Third Reich, the engineer was recruited as part of Operation Paperclip, a clandestine U.S. military program that prevented the prosecution of 1,600 Nazi scientists for war crimes, instead bringing them into the American military, where their pasts were whitewashed.
By 1952, von Braun had reinvented himself as a space-flight advocate, writing a piece that year in Collier’s Magazine declaring that “within the next 10 or 15 years, the earth will have a new companion in the skies, a man-made satellite that could be either the greatest force for peace ever devised, or one of the most terrible weapons of war – depending on who makes and controls it.” His prediction proved overly conservative: The Soviets launched Sputnik I just five years later. Von Braun helped the U.S. Army launch Explorer I shortly thereafter. By 1960, he was working for NASA, where he became the chief architect on Saturn V – the rocket that sent Neil Armstrong and the Apollo II crew to the moon.
As von Braun recast himself as an American patriot, his career in the Nazi party shadowed him, an ambiguous secret at which reporters would playfully poke. At one press conference before an Apollo launch, a reporter asked von Braun to assure the press the rocket wouldn’t hit London. But no one could ever prove his involvement until 1985 – several years after von Braun’s death – that CNN broke news of the full extent of the aerospace engineer’s Nazi past, more than 40 years after the fact.
Veronico hopes the foo-fighter narrative will follow a similar trajectory: “The fantasy is that 100 years after the war, the U.S. or Soviets will release information about what they captured and it’ll blow all our minds. But I think they would’ve capitalized on it by this point,” the historian opined. “Or weaponized it.”
Source: Adam Janos, History, August 15, 2018.
Photo: ‘Foo-fighter’ observed by a German pilot in May 1945.