Flightlines

“Here’s why” of the week

Taking our “Here’s Why” from the paper to the blog. An explanation for why something is the way it is in the Air Force/military.

When you hear “foo fighter,” most may think of the rock band. But a “foo fighter” has its origins way back during World War II. Why?

415th Night Fighter Squadron’s emblem via www.afhra.af.mil

The term was used by Allied aircraft pilots who had seen unidentified flying objects as they traveled through German airspace, with some occurrences in the Pacific theater.

According to Jo Chamberlin, author of “The Foo Fighter Mystery” they were “described as ‘balls of fire’ which followed them, [and] occasionally came up and almost sat on their tails, [changing] color from orange to red to white and back again.”

They just seemed to hang in the air, with some of the first sightings as early as 1941. Named by the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, “they reportedly seemed to ‘toy’ with the Allied pilots, mirroring maneuvers, making wild turns and circling around bombers before completely disappearing. And when the foo fighters were shot at, nothing was ever hit. It was also reported that bombers occasionally went right through them,” according to an article from Examiner.com.

Dr. Edgar Vinacke, who worked on the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine (BUMED) project in 1945, thought that it was nothing more than the pilots hallucinating, and “adopted the term to cover a multitude of otherwise inexplicable events.”

The unexplained events even made it into Time’s Jan. 15, 1945, edition with a story entitled “Foo-Fighter.” Even today, some have fiddled with this phenomenon, but have only justified it with medical explanations like Vertigo, or weather phenomena like  St. Elmo’s Fire/Light.

Chamberlin writes, “The foo-fighter mystery continues unsolved…and your guess as to what they were is just as good as mine, for nobody really knows.”

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