Not the band! or the kids show… But the Phenomenon.

In World War II the pilotes of Allied aircraft described lights or strange things in the sky as foo fighter. Originally it was termed for the UFO sighting by the US 415th Night Figher Squadron but took on the name from there for all unexplained objects in the sky. The original assumption was that the lights or objects might be enemy craft, secret weapons etc but they were reported by both sides.

The term foo was taken from Bill Holman’s Smokey Stover by Donald J Meiers from 415th Night Fighter Squadron.  However a RAF Pilot’s report from a bombing mission over Germany in 1942 also contains the term so there is no confirmation about where it really began to be used.

Pilots described objects that were glowing red, white or orange. Some said they came across the sky like Christmas lights and that they circled around like they toyed with the aircraft before they vanished. The other common factor is that they seemingly flew with intelligence but never seemed to act in a hostile manner. They were also known as “kraut fireballs” and the military did seem to take them seriously, strangely enough both German and Japanese pilots were reporting a similar thing. A rationale for the sightings was a possibility of afterimages from flak bursts, or perhaps St Elmo’s fire.

On one occasion a gunner of a B-29 hit one and it was said that it fell in large pieces setting buildings on fire. Again people still unable to confirm this report state that they feel it is still more likely to be an electrostatic phenomena like St Elmo’s fire.

So what is St Elmo’s fire? It’s a weather blip if you like, named after St. Erasmus of Formiae who is the patron saint of sailors. It is bright blue or violet and has at times been confused with ball lightning. The fire is a mix of gas and plasma, and they are often witnessed during thunderstorms as the right conditions are met to ignite them.

Various legends for the beautiful natural event and some have been named. Welsh Mariners called them Spirit Candles, and the Chinese Goddess Mazu is believed to create a fire on top of a ships mast to bless lost sailors.

St Elmo’s fire was also reported to have been seen in 1453, at the Seige of Constantiniple by the Ottoman Empire. It was reported to be on the top of the Hippodrome and the Byzantines said it was a sign that the Christian God would come to destroy the Muslim army. It then disappeared just days before Constantinople fell and ended the Byzantine Empire.

Ball Lightning

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