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ALSACAT:

As its name suggests, ALSACAT is my comprehensive catalog of UFO sighting reports in Alsace, the region is the North-East of France, whether they are "explained" or "unexplained".

The ALSACAT catalog is made of case files with a case number, summary, quantitative information (date, location, number of witnesses...), classifications, all sources mentioning the case with their references, a discussion of the case in order to evaluate its causes, and a history of the changes made to the file. A general index and thematic sub-catalogs give access to these Alsatian case files.

Case of the area of Saverne, November 23, 1944:

Case number:

ALSACAT-1944-11-23-SAVERNE-1

Summary:

The first widely published Alsatian sighting of what is quickly called the "Foo-Fighters" took place in November 23, 1944, at about 10 p.m.

A night fighter Bristol Beaufighter Squadron of the 415th Night Fighter of the 8th Air Army of the US Army had left their base in Dijon, France. The pilot was Lieutenant Edward Schlueter, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA, already decorated for night hunting missions. The operator of the aircraft's radar was Lieutenant Donald J. Meiers. With them was Lt. Fred Ringwald B., 33, of St. Louis, Missouri, USA, intelligence officer of the unit, who flew as an observer.

The British-built Bristol Beaufighter plane was exploring both sides of the Rhine north of Strasbourg, with good visibility, a fairly clear night, with a few clouds and a quarter moon. Lt. Schlueter was flying pretty low, seeking the white steam of a locomotive with no lights or the silhouette of a motorized convoy, but he had to avoid chimneys, barrage balloons, the spotlight of the enemy, and AA guns. He and Ringwald were on the alert, because there were mountains nearby. The lighting of the cockpit had been extinguished for good night vision.

At one point, Ringwald expressed his interrogation about "lights", off their plane and on the right. Schlueter replied that it was probably the lights on the hills; he knew from long experience that the size and nature of lights are difficult to estimate at night.

Ringwald expressed doubts.

He had looked in this direction for a few minutes, and then to indicate that the lights were approaching joked to the attention of Schlueter "Well, this hill is much closer to us now."

Schlueter then suggested to him that this could be a reflection of their plane or inside the plane, but Ringwald thought not. He then recalled that there were no hills where the lights were.

The lights were eight or ten in a row, orange balls of fire moving through the air at "terrific speed."

Then Schlueter saw them off his left wing. To check if they were enemy fighters in pursuit, he immediately radioed the radar ground station, who told him he was the only one flying in the area. Airborne radar Lieutenant Meiers either showed no detection.

Schlueter did not know what he was dealing, suspecting a new weapon of the Germans, and headed toward the lights, ready for action. She then disappeared and then reappeared in the distance. Five minutes later, they flew off and disappeared.

The crew continued its mission, destroying seven freight trains behind German lines. When they asked again in Dijon, they decided to say nothing about the lights, not wanting to risk being laid off by a doctor of the Army for "tired of fighting."

Only after other crews of the unit have reported the observation of anomalous lights in the night sky that this observation has been known Robert C. Wilson, a journalist came to interview witnesses with serious drivers of this observation and subsequent observations, and it is these interviews that form the basis of the story of this observation. It was mentioned in the press, and became ufologists when she was found in the famous article in December 1945 by Jo Chamberlin on "Foo-Fighters."

The observation had no certain explanation of the Army at the time and still has no convincing trivial explanation. The Army considered that overall, Foo-Fighters stories are caused by illusions, lights of St. Elmo, lights on the ground, or planes to German jet Messerschmitt Me-262 aircraft or rocket Messerschmitt Me-163. In the decades that followed, the story of the observation was taken from books and websites on UFOs, with varying degrees of accuracy. Some believed that the plane was a P-61, another speaks of "flashing spheres," yet another puts Strasbourg in Germany etc.

It was later interpreted as either extraterrestrial craft, Nazi more or less likely secret weapons, Saint Elmo fire, plasma, ball lightning, illusion due to "vertigo of the aviator", etc.

Data:

Temporal data:

Date: November 23, 1944
Time: ~10:00 p.m.
Duration: Several minutes or more.
First known report date: January 2, 1945
Reporting delay: 2 months.

Geographical data:

Department: Bas-Rhin
City: Saverne
Place: From a Bristol Beaufighter night fighter plane north of Strasbourg, UFO in the sky.
Latitude: 48.741
Longitude: 7.360
Uncertainty ratio: 100 km

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 3
Number of known witnesses: 3
Number of named witnesses: 3
Witness(es) ages: 33, adults.
Witness(es) types: A military pilot, a plane radar operator, an Intelligence officer and pilot.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Article by Jo Chamberlin.
Type of location: From a Bristol Beaufighter night fighter plane in flight, UFO in the sky.
Visibility conditions: Night.
UFO observed: Yes
UFO arrival observed: ?
UFO departure observed: Yes
Entities: No
Photographs: No.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): No.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): No.
Witness(es) feelings: Puzzled.
Witnesses interpretation: Unknown, maybe new German weapon.

Classifications:

Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Unidentified.

Sources:

[Ref. pd1:] "POST DISPATCH" NEWSPAPER:

Mysterious "Foo Fighters," Balls Of Fire, Trail U.S. Night Flyers

Thought at First to Be Explosive, but None as Yet Has Damaged a Plane

A UNITED STATES NIGHT FIGHTER BASE, France, Jan. 2 (AP). -– American fighter pilots engaged in night missions over Germany report the Nazis have come up with a new "secret weapon" - mysterious balls of fire which race along beside their planes for miles.

Yank pilots have dubbed them "foo fighters," and at first thought they might explode, but so far there is no indication that any planes have been damaged by them.

Some pilots have expressed belief that the "foo fighter" was designed strictly as a psychological weapon. Intelligence reports seem to indicate that it is radio-controlled and can keep pace with planes flying 300 miles an hour.

Lt. Donald Meiers of Chicago, said there are three types of "foo fighters" – red balls of fire that fly along at wing tip; a vertical row of three balls of fire which fly in front of the planes, and 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 Beaufighter squadron – in operation since September, 1943 – find these fiery balls the weirdest thing they have as yet encountered.

"A ‘foo fighter’ picked me up recently at 700 feet and chased me 20 miles down the Rhine Valley," 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 360 miles an hour. It kept right off our wing tips for a while and then zoomed into the sky."

"When I first saw the things, 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."

Lt. Wallace Gould of Silver Creek, N. Y., said the lights followed his wing tips for a while and then, in a few seconds, zoomed 20,000 feet into the air and out of sight.

Numerous Over Big Cities

The pilots agreed that the balls of fire were more numerous over large German cities.

Of his first experience with them, Gould said, "I thought it was some new form of jet propulsion plane after us. But we were very close to them and none of us saw any structure on the fire balls."

Capt. Fritz Ringwald, staff officer from East St. Louis, Ill., went along on a flight after hearing the numerous reports of the "foo-fighters."

"I saw lights off the right and told the pilot, who said, ‘Oh, those are lights on a hill’", Ringwald reported, adding, "I looked in that direction a few minutes later and then told him, ‘Well, that hill is considerably closer to us now.’"

‘Foo-Fighter’ Seen by East St. Louisan

Among those reporting the appearance of the "foo fighter" was Capt. Fred B Ringwald, 33-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs A. F. Ringwald, Woodcrest, East St. Louis.

A staff officer of the "Night Fighters," a volunteer group of the Army Air Corps organized to carry out bombing raids on Germany, Ringwald wrote his parents last week he was operating from a French air base. He was a private pilot before joining the army in September, 1943, and operator of the Crescent Service Station, Tenth and State streets.

He took part in the African invasion and has spent a total of 21 months fighting in the European theater.

His wife, Mrs Emily Ringwald, joined the Waves last September and is stationed at Stillwater, Ok.

FIRE BALLS that fly with American night raiders over Germany, believed to be a new German psychological weapon have been reported by Capt. Fred B. Ringwald, (above) son of Mr and Mrs A. F. Ringwald, Woodcrest, East St. Louis.

[Ref. jc1:] JO CHAMBERLIN:

[... Other cases ...]

At ten o'clock of a November evening, in late 1944, Lt. Ed Schlueter took off in his night fighter from Dijon, France, on what he thought would be a routine mission for the 415th Night Fighter Squadron.

Lt. Schlueter is a tall, competent young pilot from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, whose hazardous job was to search the night sky for German planes and shoot them down. He had done just this several times and had been decorated for it. As one of our best night fighters, he was used to handling all sorts of emergencies. With him as radar observer was Lt. Donald J. Meiers, and Lt. Fred Ringwald, intelligence officer of the 415th, who flew as an observer.

The trio began their search pattern, roaming the night skies on either side of the Rhine River north of Strasbourg – for centuries the abode of sirens, dwarfs, gnomes, and other supernatural characters that appealed strongly to the dramatic sense of the late A. Hitler. However, at this stage of the European war, the Rhine was no stage but a grim battleground, where the Germans were making their last great stand.

The night was reasonably clear, with some clouds and a quarter moon. There was fair visibility.

In some respects, a night fighter plane operates like a champion boxer whose eyesight isn't very good; he must rely on other senses to guide him to his opponent. The U. S. Army has ground radar stations, which track all planes across the sky, and tell the night fighter the whereabouts of any plane. The night fighter flies there, closes in by means of his own radar until usually he can see the enemy, and if the plane doesn't identify itself as friendly, he shoots it down.

Or, gets shot down himself, for the Germans operate their aircraft in much same way we did, and so did the Japanese.

Lt. Schlueter was flying low enough that he could detect the white steam of a blacked-out locomotive or the sinister bulk of a motor convoy, but he had to avoid smokestacks, barrage balloons, enemy searchlights, and flak batteries. He and Ringwald were on the alert, for there were mountains nearby. The inside of the plane was dark, for good night vision.

Lt. Ringwald said, "I wonder what those lights are, over there in the hills."

"Probably stars," said Schlueter, knowing from long experience that the size and character of lights are hard to estimate at night.

"No, I don't think so."

"Are you sure it's no reflection from us?"

"I'm positive."

Then Ringwald remembered – there weren't any hills over there. Yet the "lights" were still glowing – eight or ten of them in a row – orange balls of fire moving through the air at a terrific speed.

Then Schlueter saw them far off his left wing. Were enemy fighters pursuing him? He immediately checked by radio with Allied ground radar stations.

"Nobody up there but yourself," they reported. "Are you crazy?"

And no enemy plane showed in Lt. Meiers' radar.

Lt. Schlueter didn't know what he was facing – possibly some new and lethal German weapon – but he turned into the lights, ready for action. The lights disappeared – then reappeared far off. Five minutes later they went into a flat glide and vanished.

The puzzled airmen continued on their mission, and destroyed seven freight trains behind German lines. When they landed back at Dijon, they decided to do what any other prudent soldier would do – keep quiet for the moment. If you tried to explain everything strange that happened in a war, you'd do nothing else. Further, Schlueter and Meiers had nearly completed their required missions, and didn't want to chance being grounded by some skeptical flight surgeon for "combat fatigue."

Maybe they had been "seeing things."

But a few nights later, [... Other cases ...]

[Ref. ht1:] HAROLD T. WILKINS:

[... Other cases ...]

One pilot, chatting in a mess of the 415th U.S. Night Fighter squadron, stationed at Dijon, France, spoke to other pilots who had met these balls, and had been derided by Intelligence after their reports had been made. This pilot had a brain wave.

"Let's call the so and so's Foo Fighters!" he said. This nickname was taken up and stuck. It appears that it was suggested by a comic strip in a New York newspaper, at the time. One 'Smokey Stover said: "Yeah, if there's foo there's me." Probably the slang word foo is a corruption of the French feu, or fire.

The Foo Fighters seem first to have been met with by night pilots flying over the Rhine, north of Strasbourg, and in 1944 and 1945. It will be observed that they were encountered in the sector of the war-time front between Haguenau and Neustadt. Haguenau is in Alsace-Lorraine, 35 miles north of Strasbourg, while Neustadt is in the Bavarian Palatinate, 55 miles due north of Strasbourg.. Both places are west of the Rhine.

It was at 10 P.M. on November 23, 1944, when Lieutenant Edward Schlüter, pilot of the U.S. 415th Night Fighter squadron, at Dijon, in south-central France, took off on a routine patrol to intercept German planes in the skies, west of the Rhine, between Strasbourg and Mannheim. As the crow flies he had to go 150 miles on a patrol that would take him 'east over the Vosges mountains, a very lonely and grim and isolated range buttressing the western approaches to the Rhine. Schlüter is a finely built man, the last word in aeronautical efficiency, and a very experienced night fighter pilot of the second World War. He is a native of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

With him in the darkened cockpit were the radar observer, Lieut. Donald J. Meiers, and an Intelligence officer, Lieut. F. Ringwald. Nothing happened till their plane had crossed the Vosges, and they had sighted the shining waters of the Rhine rolling rapidly toward Mainz.

The sky, that night, was clear, with light clouds, visibility was good, and the moon was in the first quarter. U.S. radar stations covering all U.S. pilots in that area, had not noticed them of [or] any other plane in the sky. Some way to the east Schlüter could see the white steam jetted from the smokestack of a German freight locomotive, running in blackout conditions with fire-box door clamped up, and blinded, on one of the strategic railroads, constructed, many years ago, on both banks of the Rhine, by order of the famous Graf von Bismarck the old grim Iron Chancellor of the old German Reich. (I know this region well, myself, having more than once traveled there, on newspaper’s assignments.)

At this time, in 1944, Germany stood at bay, and the Allies were closing in on her. Some 20 miles north of Strasbourg, Lieut. Ringwald, the U.S. Intelligence officer, glanced to the west and noticed eight or ten balls of red me, moving at a~ amazing velocity. They seemed to be in formation and they could be seen clearly from the cockpit of the U.S. night fighter plane, because the cockpit was unilluminated, to get rid of dazzle.

"Say," said Ringwald to Schlüter, "look over there at the bright lights on those hills, yonder. What are they?

Schlüter: "Hell, buddy, there are no hills over there! I should say they were stars. You don't need me to tell you that it is not easy to guess at the nature of lights you see on night flights ...not when they are distant, as these are."

Ringwald: "Stars, you say? I don't reckon they are stars. Why, their speed is terrific".

Schlüter: "Maybe they are just reflections from our own plane, as we are going pretty fast."

Ringwald: "I am certain, absolutely sure, that those lights are not reflected from us."

Schlüter, now, gazed hard at the lights. They were, at that moment, off his port wing. He got into radio phone contact with one of the ground radar stations.

"There are about ten Heinie night fighters around here, in the sky. Looks as if they are chasing us, and their speed is high."

U.S. radar station: "You guys must be nuts! Nobody is up there but your own plane. Aren't seein' things, are you?"

Meiers, in the plane, glanced at the radarscope: "Sure, no enemy planes showed up on the screen!" Schlüter now maneuvered the plane for action; and made towards the lights They were blazing red. But they seemed to vanish into invisibility! Two minutes later, they reappeared, but now a long way off. It looked as if they were aware that they were being chased for attack, Six minutes later, the balls did a glide, levelled out, and vanished.

None of the occupants of the U.S. nightfighter plane could make out what on earth those red balls were. Schluter guessed they might be some German experimental devices, like the red, green, blue, and white and yellow rockets that flashed up amid the fIak of anti-aircraft batteries when an enemy night bomber raid was on n big scale. and could be heard approaching some way off, I have, myself, seen such rockets when on night patrol in the edge of London, or the Thameside dockyards, in 1942, and 1943. The Germans appear to have had these mystery devices, as had the British; but I have never been able to find out what purpose they served.

But the bewildered night fighter pilots of the 415th U.S. Air Force did not let this mystery spoil their stroke. Lieut. Schlüter, that night, heavily bombed eight fast German freight trains on the Rhine railroads.

But, back at the base at Dijon, knowing that they would not be believed by Intelligence higher-ups, and might be charged with hallucinations and war neurosis, Schlüter and the other two did not discuss the matter. They did not wish to be grounded, and taken off combat duties. So they made no report to base at Dijon.

[... Other cases ...]

[Ref. gc1:] GORDON CREIGHTON:


Wilkins then goes on to describe in detail the first sighting of the "Foo Fighters" by American night-pilots flying over the Rhine, in the area north of Strasbourg, and particularly over the sector of the Allied invasion front between Haguenau and Neustadt, Both these places lie to the west of the Rhine.

It seems that the first encounter occurred at 10 p.m. on November 23, 1944, over the Rhine, near Mainz, when Lieut. Edward Schluter, a fighter-pilot of the U.S. 415th Night-Fighter Squadron based at Dijon, noticed some eight or ten balls of fire, flying in formation at immense speed. The sky was clear, with light clouds, the moon was in its first quarter, and visibility was good. Schluter and his companions, Radar Officer Lieut. Donald J. Meiers and Intelligence Officer Lieut. F. Ringwald, were able to see them with



the greatest ease, particularly as they themselves were flying with their cockpit darkened in order to eliminate dazzle. Getting in touch at once with one of the American ground radar stations, Schluter reported that he seemed to have about ten German night-fighter chasing him. But the U.S. radar post replied: "You guys must be nuts! Nobody is up there but your own plane. 'Ain't seein' things, are you?"

Lieut. Schluter and his companions realized that their story would not be believed but would be attributed to hallucinations or neurosis, and so they made no official report about the matter on their return to their base at Dijon.

[Ref. gl1:] GORDON LORE AND HAROLD DENNEAULT:

THE "FOO-FIGHTERS"

ONE NIGHT IN November, 1944, a Lieutenant Ed Schlueter, his radar observer, Lieutenant Donald J. Meiers, and Lieutenant Fred Ringwald, an intelligence officer, all members of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, cruised the Rhine River area north of Strasbourg in search of Nazi planes. Cruising low enough to detect enemy convoys or blacked-out troop trains, they paid special attention to the mountains ahead.

Not long after their takeoff at 10 P.M., the intelligence officer peered through the darkened cockpit, completely baffled. In the distance, several lights seemed to be moving through the air. He alerted the pilot.

The objects, eight to ten of them, were glowing bright orange. They checked for reflections in the cockpit. It was no illusion. Moments later, Schlueter sighted them far off his left wing, unable to estimate their size and distance. The "balls of fire" raced across the sky at tremendous speed.

Schlueter notified his radar operator and the ground radar. There was not a sign of the strange objects on ground scopes or the aircraft radar. Schlueter banked into the lights, anticipating a dogfight. In a split second, they vanished completely, reappearing seconds later farther away. The puzzling display continued. Five minutes later the row of lights swept into a flat glide and disappeared.

The "balls of fire" were not seen again that evening, and Schlueter and his crew completed their mission behind German lines, knocking out seven freight trains. Back at Dijon, their base in east central France, the fliers kept silent about the experience, fearing they would be grounded for combat fatigue. Convincing their superiors that a formation of ghostly globes of light had been seen would take some tall talking.

[Ref. hd1:] "HENRI DURRANT":

- November 23, 1944 -22 pm: Another story of "Kraut-Bolids". Lieutenant pilot Edward Schluter, of the 415th squadron of night fighters of the US Air Force based in England, observed a real formation of a dozen luminous disks moving together at a frightening speed. The formation, reported from the ground was followed by radar by radar operator Lt. Donald J. Meiers, and onboard by the radar officer of the intelligence service F. Ringwald, observer. These "ghost hunters" have often manifested during the last war between Haguenau (Alsace) and Neustadt an der Weinstrasse (Rhineland). Allied pilots called them the "foo fighters" or "Kraut-bolids"; American bombers, operating over the Japanese archipelago, also saw and reported them.

[Ref. cf1:] JEROME CLARK AND LUCIUS FARISH:

About eight or 10 bright orange lights startled the crew of an American aircraft connected with the 415th Night Fighter Squadron as the plane cruised the Rhine River area north of Strasbourg one November night. Curiously, the lights, which were moving across the sky at tremendous speed, did not show up on either ground or aircraft radar. The pilot, Lt. Ed Schlueter, banked into them expecting a dogfight, but much to his astonishment the objects completely disappeared, only to reappear seconds later. After five minutes the lights were gone.

[Ref. mb1:] MICHEL BOUGARD:

The author indicates that on December 23, 1944, Lieutenant Edward Schlüter, pilot of the 415th Fighter Squadron of the US Air Force stationed in Dijon, took off for a routine mission over the Vosges. He was a native of Okosch in Wisconsin and had experience of these night flights.

There was with him in the cockpit Lieutenant Donald J. Meiers, radar controller, and an intelligence officer, Lieutenant F. Ringwald.

The sky was pure and the American radars had not detected any enemy presence in the sky of the Vosges that they were flying over for the moment.

Approximately 30 kilometers from Strasbourg, Ringwald sighted towards the west a linear formation of 8 or 10 red fireballs which moved at high speed.

[Ref. ld1:] "LUMIERES DANS LA NUIT" MAGAZINE:

23.11.44 north of Strasbourg (France)

An American night fighter from the 415th Night Fighter Squadron patrols, at about 10 pm, some thirty kilometers north of Strasbourg.

It took off from Dijon-Longvic, and the crew consists of lieutenants Edward Schlüter (pilot), Donald Meiers (radar) and F. Ringwald (this aircraft was probably a P 70, the 415th NFS having received its first P-61 than 4 months later in Saint-Dizier).

Looking towards the west, Ringwald noticed a number of light sources that he could not identify. He pointed out their presence at Schluter and Meiers, and a conversation began between them concerning the nature of these lights.

By radio, the pilot asks the radar station on the ground if it has an echo of the phenomenon. The answer is negative, and Meiers gets no echo either on the scope of the on-board radar.

The plane turns to get closer to the phenomenon and the crew can distinguish more and more distinctly those luminous globes whose pulsating phosphorescence is completely incomprehensible. It approaches them very quickly, when the phenomenon suddenly goes out, to reappear a few moments later, in a completely different direction, before finally disappearing.

[Ref. dw1:] DOMINIQUE WEINSTEIN:

DATE TIME COUNTRY LOCATION TYPE OF PLANE AND WITNESSES UFO DESCRIPTION Radar CODES SOURCES
G X E
44.11.23 22:00 France 30 km northeast of Strasbourg M a USAAF P-70 fighter (415th NFS) crew several luminous spheres with pulsating lights 303/352/357 405/03
03/352/357

The sources codes seem to point at:

[Ref. rs1:] RONALD STORY:

The earliest reliable report of the specter-like apparitions came from a pilot and crew belonging to the 415th Night Fighter Squadron based at Dijon, France. The 415th patrolled both sides of the Rhine River, north of Strasbourg, in Eastern Germany, seeking out any German planes in the area with the aid of U.S. Army ground-based radar stations. Lieutenant Ed Schlueter (pilot), Lieutenant Donald J. Meiers (radar observer) were on such a mission on the night of November 23, 1944, when Ringwald first spotted what appeared to be stars off at a distance. within a few minutes, the star-like points became orange balls of light (eight or ten of them) "moving through the air at terrific speed". The "objects" could not be picked up by radar, either ground-based or from the plane. The lights then disappeared, reappeared farther off, and within minutes vanished from view.

[Ref. nc1] NICK COOK:

History doesn't relate the mood of the crewmembers of the Northrop P-61 Black Widow patrolling the sky above the Rhineland that night, but the available clues suggest that they were none too happy. A night-fighter crew was about as close-knit a unit as you could find among the frontline squadrons ranged against Germany in late 1944. Success—their very survival when it came down to it—depended on a high level of trust, intense training, the reliability of a piece of hardware then still in its infancy—radar—and undiluted concentration.

The last thing U.S. Army Air Forces Lieutenant Ed Schlueter would have needed that night was a passenger. Worse, Ringwald wasn't even aircrew, but an intelligence officer.

Lieutenant Fred Ringwald was sitting behind and above Schlueter, the P-61's pilot, in the position normally occupied by the gunner. Schlueter's unit, the 415th Night Fighter Squadron of the U.S. 9th Army Air Force, had recently upgraded from their British-made Bristol Beaufighters to the Black Widow. They had also just transferred from the Italian theater of operations to England and from there across the Channel, deploying eastward in short hops across northwest France as the Allies pushed the Nazis toward the Rhine and back into Germany itself.

Schlueter flew his aircraft south along the Rhine, looking for "trade." The Black Widow was a heavy fighter; bigger than the Beaufighter and considerably more menacing in appearance. While its primary targets were the German night fighters sent up to intercept British bomber streams heading to and from Germany, there was always the chance, provided Schlueter was sharp-eyed enough, of hitting a Nazi train or a vehicle convoy, especially as the Germans were moving men and materiel under cover of darkness due to the Allies' overwhelming daytime air superiority. This had been pretty much indisputable since the D-Day landings five months earlier.

But night strafing operations brought their own hazards. Over the uncertain territory of the Rhineland, sandwiched between the bluffs of the wide and winding river and the rugged uplands of the Black Forest, there was a better than even chance you could follow your own cannonfire into the ground.

There was no official record as to why the intelligence officer Ringwald was along for the ride, but knowing something of the way in which spooks had a habit of ring-fencing intelligence from the people who needed it most, I had a feeling that Schlueter and his radar operator would have been left just as much in the dark.

In the black skies above the Rhineland, after a long period of routine activity, it was Ringwald who broke the silence. "What the hell are those lights over there?" he asked over the RT. "Probably stars," Schlueter said, concentrating on his instruments. "I don't think so," Ringwald replied. "They're coming straight for us."

Now, Schlueter looked up and out of the cockpit. In the pitch-black of his surroundings, the formation of aircraft off his starboard wing stood out like a constellation of tiny brilliant suns. Instinctively, he twisted the control column, bringing the Black Widow's four cannon and four .50 cal machine guns into line with them. At the same time, he called ground radar.

The ground station was supposed to be Schlueter's eyes and ears at all times, but if each pulsating point of light represented the exhaust plumes of a German night fighter, there were anything up to ten aircraft closing on him and he hadn't heard a whisper out of them. Somebody had screwed up. Later, he would be angry. Now, he was simply frightened and confused. He urgently requested information. "Negative," the reply came back. "There are no bogies in your sector. You're on your own."

Schlueter's radar operator, Lieutenant Don Meiers, who was crouched over the scope of the SCR540 airborne intercept (AI) radar in a well behind Ringwald, told him the same thing. The sky ahead of them was empty of any air activity.

But the lights were still there and they kept coming. Instead of running, Schlueter boosted the throttles and pointed the nose of the Black Widow at the lead aircraft of the formation.

As the twin air-cooled radial engines powered up either side of him, the glow from his opponents' exhausts dimmed; and then they winked out.

Puzzled and alarmed at having lost the contacts, and with no help from Meiers on the Black Widow's own radar, Schlueter held the aircraft steady and the crew braced themselves for the engagement.

Schlueter eased the night fighter into the blacked-out bowl of sky where he had last seen the contacts. He craned his neck for a glimpse of something—anything—that signaled the presence of another aircraft, jinking the plane left and right to check his blind spots.

Still nothing.

It was only when he started to execute a turn back to base that Ringwald told him the lights were back again.

Schlueter followed the line indicated by Ringwald and saw them a long way off. Impossibly far, in fact, but still within radar range. He called out to Meiers, but the radar operator was now having technical problems with his AI set.

Schlueter again prepared to engage the enemy, but the lights had already begun to glide away to the northeast, eventually retreating deep into the German lines and disappearing altogether.

Nobody said anything until shortly before the Black Widow landed. Although Schlueter and Meiers were agreed that the Germans must have been experimenting with some new kind of secret weapon, neither wanted to hazard a guess as to what this weapon might have been. There was nothing they knew of in their own inventory that approached the weird, darting performance characteristics of the aircraft they'd just seen.

Fearful they would become the target of unwelcome squadron humor—along predictable lines they were "losing it"—they decided not to report the incident. And Ringwald, the spook, went along with it.

Reports of this incident exist in a number of UFO books—books I'd not encountered before because to someone steeped in the dry reportage of nuts-and-bolts technical journalism, they'd never entered my orbit. The incident showed that almost three years before Twining wrote his memo to General Schulgen unconventional aerial objects had appeared in German skies prior to their manifestation across the U.S.A. in 1947.

On odd days off work and at weekends, I'd begun trawling public archives for corroborating evidence of this sighting. What I found were details on the 415th Night Fighter Squadron and the aircraft Schlueter had flown at the time of the encounter; details that allowed me to fill in the gaps of the published account and to visualize the sense of bewilderment and fear that Schlueter and his crew would have experienced that night. But along the way, I discovered that Schlueter's sighting was far from unique. All that winter of 1944-45, Allied aircrew reported small, ball-shaped aircraft glowing orange, red and white over the territory of the Third Reich. While some attributed the lights to natural phenomena such as ball lightning or St. Elmo's fire, others could not dismiss the sightings so easily. The devices appeared to be able to home in on Allied aircraft as if guided to them remotely or by some built-in control system.

[Ref. ni1:] "THE NICAP WEBSITE":

Nov. 1944; France

415th Night Fighter Squadron pilot saw formation of round objects. (NICAP UFO Evidence, 1964, Hall, III)

[Ref. lc1:] LUC CHASTAN - "BASE OVNI FRANCE":

Saverne (67) on 23 November 1944

General features

Num Base: 1205
Department: Bas Rhin (67)
Place of observation: Saverne
Latitude: 48.733
Longitude: +7.366
Date of observation: 23 November 1944
Hour: 22:00 hours
Duration (HH:MM:SS): N.C.
Weather: No weather indication
Type of observation: Visual: close distance
Nbr of witness(es): 1
Official investigation: No

Features of the object

Nbr of object: undetermined number
Type of object: Sphere
Size: Not specified
Color: not defined
Luminosity: Brilliant
Visual characteristics: blinking fires
Speed: not defined
Movement/Displacement: Not specified
Object on the ground: No
Instantaneous disappearance: No

Observation

The engineer of a USAAF P70 Fighter observed several luminous spheres with pulsating lights.

Sources

UNIDENTIFIED AERIAL PHENOMENA EIGHTY YEARS OF PILO [sic] by Weinstein Dominique

[Ref. jb1:] JEROME BEAU:

November - undefined 23 Lieutenant Ed Schluter, young, tall and competent pilot from Oshkosh (Wisconsin), took off in his fighter plane from Dijon (France) for a routine mission of the 415th Nocturnal Fighter Squadron: to scrutinize the sky for German planes to shoot down (he had already done this a few times and was decorated for that). With him is Lt. Donald J. Meiers radar observer, and Lieutenant Fred Ringwald, intelligence officer of the squadron, flying as an observer. The trio star[ts] their search, browsing the night sky partly cloudy with only a few clouds and a quarter moon, from each side of the Rhine north of Strasbourg. At one point Ringwald said, "I wonder what those lights down there over the hills are." "Probably stars" Schlueter answers. "No, I do not think so", answers Ringwald. Are you sure this is not a reflection of us? Absolutely." Ringwald Remembers -- there are no hills in this area. But the "lights" still shine - 8 or 10 in a row - orange balls of fire crossing the air at an amazing speed. Schlueter then sees them far off his left wing. He immediately checked the Allied radar stations by radio. "There is nobody else there but you" they answer. "Are you crazy?" And no ennemy Pla [sic "plane"] is no visible either on the radar of Meiers. Schlueter veers toward the lights, ready for action. They disappear and reappear further away. 5 minutes later they seem to thin and disappear for good. The airmen continue their mission, destroying seven freight trains behind the German lines. When they return to Dijon, they decided to keep the story to them for the moment. A typical observation of foo fighters.

The source is indicated as "McClure, K.: Fortean Studies 7, 2001".

[Ref. jr1:] JOHN B. RINGER:

Strange lights dog our pilots.

One typical report of balls of light came from the crew of a B-29 bomber belonging to the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, based at Dijon, France. On November 23, 1944, lieutenants Ed Schlueter, pilot; Donald J. Meiers, radar observer; and Fred Ringwald, intelligence officer, saw what looked to be stars, but these stars soon became orange balls of light. "There were eight to ten moving through the air at a great speed." These objects could not be picked up by radar, either ground-based or from the plane. The lights then disappeared, only to reappear further off.

The source is indicated as "Story, Ronald D. (Editor), The Encyclopedia of UFOs. Dolphin Books – Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY. 1980.

[Ref. su1:] "SATURDAY NIGHT UFORIA" WEBSITE:

It was later that month that an air crew would have the 415th's first sighting of 'foo fighters' according to the December, 1945 piece by Jo Chamberlin. The flight had consisted of Lt. Ed Schlueter, pilot, Lt. Donald J. Meiers, radar operator, and Lt. Fred Ringwald, intelligence officer of the 415th, who flew as an observer...

Lt. Schlueter was flying low enough that he could detect the white steam of a blacked-out locomotive or the sinister bulk of a motor convoy, but he had to avoid smokestacks, barrage balloons, enemy searchlights, and flak batteries. He and Ringwald were on the alert, for there were mountains nearby. The inside of the plane was dark, for good night vision.

Lt. Ringwald said, "I wonder what those lights are, over there in the hills."

"Probably stars," said Schlueter, knowing from long experience that the size and character of lights are hard to estimate at night.

"No, I don't think so."

"Are you sure it's no reflection from us?"

"I'm positive."

Then Ringwald remembered -- there weren't any hills over there. Yet the "lights" were still glowing -- eight or ten of them in a row -- orange balls of fire moving through the air at a terrific speed.

Then Schlueter saw them far off his left wing. Were enemy fighters pursuing him? He immediately checked by radio with Allied ground radar stations.

"Nobody up there but yourself." they reported. "Are you crazy?"

And no enemy plane showed in Lt. Meiers' radar.

Chamberlin's version varied slightly from the original January, 1945 reporting by Robert C. Wilson, which indicated it was Lt. Schlueter who had thought the lights were over a hill. From the January 2, 1945 edition of the Dixon, Illinois Evening Telegraph...

"I saw lights off the right and told the pilot, who said, 'Oh, those are lights on a hill,'" Ringwald reported. He added: "I looked in that direction a few minutes later and then, told him, 'Well, that hill is considerably closer to us now'."

[Ref. cc1:] CHRISTOPHE CANIONI:

The author says that on November 23, 1944, Lieutenant Edward Chluter [sic] of the 415th night fighters squadron of the US Air Force based in England observes a formation of about ten luminous discs moving according to his words at a terrifying speed, and that this formation was followed from the ground by the radar operator Donald Meiers.

[Ref. cv2:] CHRISTIAN VALENTIN:

Former journalist Christian Valentin published in 2012 a very interesting book telling the story of UFO sightings, flying saucers sightings, in Alsace, from the beginning to 1980.

In this book, he wrote a chapter about the "Foo Fighters" with a general presentation of the topic followed by a chronology of cases.

He says that from the end of September to the end of November 1944, the US 415th Night Fighter Squadron was based on the Dijon Longvic air base, before moving to the old Toul air base on the plate of Ochey, rebuilt by the US military with an artificial landing strip.

A first reported observation was on November 23, 1944, at about 10:00 p.m., and he quotes:

In the North of Strasbourg, a patrol consisting of Lieutenants Schlüter, Meyer and Ringwald flies above the Rhine systematically searching each bank with the eyes. The visibility is good, with a relatively clear night, a few scattered clouds and a quarter moon.

It is Lt. Ringwald who first sees an alignment of a dozen glowing lights, resembling fireballs. Lt Schlüter see them move off his left wing, at a very high speed. Despite his experience, the crew is not able to identify the phenomenon. Ground radar detects nothing and Lt Meyer has no echo on his radar. The patrol therefore flies towards these strange lights, which suddenly disappear at their approach and reappear further, before definitely disappearing.

He says this comes from a translated summary of Jo Chamberlin: the Foo Fighter Mystery - The American Legion Magazine - December 1945.

[Ref. ta1:] "THINK ABOUT IT" WEBSITE:

Date: Late November (possibly 28-30), 1944

Location: Strasbourg, Germany

Time:

Summary: Eight to ten lights in a row, glowing orange, and moving at terrific speed.

Source:

[Ref. sp4:] SPICA UFOLOGY GROUP:

City Date and hour of observation General shape
Identification
General color
Hypothesis
Conclusion
SAVERNE Thursday 23 November 1944 at 10:00 p.m. ball, balloon or melon (3D)
Unidentified
information not communicated
None
Unsolved -lack of info

Discussion:

Jacket badge of the US 415th Night Fighters Squadron,
showing the British Bristol Beaufighter plane
they used at that time.

Crews of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Force reported their nocturnal observations of what they called "Foo Fighters" above the Rhine valley then occupied by the Germans, between November 1944 and April 1945, as their base was in Dijon and Ochey in France.

Their reports apparently ceased when the Germans lost Alsace.

A 415th NFS Bristol Beaufighter.

The place or places are poorly defined. In the various sources, it is Saverne, or North of Strasbourg, or on the west of the Rhine Valley. As a first observation of "Foo-Fighters", it was apparently silenced by the crew until others reported further observations, it seems to appear in no official report. One can consider that it took place in the area shown by the map below. The border with Germany is the yellow line, the eastern border runs along the Rhine river.

Nick Cook [Ref. nc1] and LDLN [Ref. ld1] are wrong when they claim the crew was flying on a P-61 Black Widow during this operation. The 415th NFS was equipped with its first P-61 only on March 20, 1945. Thus one may smile at Nick Cook's entirely imaginative description of the position of Ringwald behind and above the pilot, correct for a P-61, but not for a Beaufighter.

Intelligence Officer Ringwald, one of the witnesses of these sighting, would play an essential role in the Foo-Fighters affair, as he will from then on collect and record the next sighting reports by other crews of the 415th NFS.

It was retired major Donald Keyhoe of the US Marines who was the first ufologist to see a link between the foo fighters and the question of UFOs or flying saucers as it arose after 1947. The "Foo Fighters" are now variously considered: either they would be "real UFOs" with the diverse explanations they are given (extraterrestrial, misinterpretations, or they are believed to be (fantasy) "secret aircraft" of the Luftwaffe, a thesis that is promoted in conspiracy and neo-Nazi circles since decades. In 1944 and 1945, there was no notion of extraterrestrial craft considered as explanations of the Foo Fighters, they were interpreted as some new German weapon, though it was noted that its "effectiveness" seemed completely nil, since no allied aircraft had ever been shot down by any "Foo Fighter" as far as it was known.

The "Robertson Panel" set up in January 1953 by the CIA to give a definitive explanation for UFO sightings, speculated that Foo fighters may be a natural electrostatic phenomenon similar to the Saint Elmo fires, or some unspecified natural electromagnetic phenomenon, or just reflections of light on ice crystal clouds. Many "skeptics" say that they were misunderstandings caused by Venus, for example.

I reaily admit that in most "Foo Fighters" sighting reports, strangeness is rather moderate, or almost absent; there is generally no "impossible maneuvers", there is generally no description other than that of "luminous balls". For some of these cases in Alsace, I did consider for a time, as the US Army had done at the time, that the pilots saw German aircraft, but hardly "secrets": for example Messerschmitt Me-163 "Komet", a rocket plane, designed late by the Germans and with little operational success, which could well visually produce the appearance of a "luminous ball".

For example, this report:

"Observed a glowing red object shooting straight up. It changed suddenly to a plan view of an A/C [aircraft] doing a wing-over and going into a dive and disappearing."

But in other cases, an ennemy Me-163 seems less likely:

"1st patrol saw 2 sets of 3 red and white lights. One appeared on port side, the other on starboard at 1,000 to 2,000 feet to rear and closing in. Beau [The pilot's Bristol Beaufighter aircraft] peeled off and lights went out, nothing on GCI [ground radar station] at the time."

(Quotes from the War Diary of the 415th NFS, pages 1 and 2 for December 1944, in the National Archives, USA, found by Barry Greenwood and published on the web by the CUFON (Computer UFO Network), Seattle Washington, USA.)

The reason for this file is that the case appears to have occured in Alsace, so it integrates this Alsatian catalog. But it goes without saying that there were other reports of "Foo Fighters", more or less similar, in the same period, on the other side of the Rhine, outside Alsace, and elsewhere in the world. Therefore, my comments on Alsatian cases such as this one can not be interpreted as comments on the issue of "Foo-Fighters" in their totality. I comment and evaluate as much as it is possible to me, here, one of the cases, and do not intend to proclaim a general explanation.

Messerschmitt Me-163 "Komet", designed by Alexander Lippisch, was the only operational rocket-plane during the WWII. It made its first flight on August 13, 1941, but was only operational from May 1944 to February 1945, officially at least. It was able to reach 960 km/h, with an ascent rate of 3666 meters per minute, but with a very small range, and a flight time of only 8 minutes. Its operational record was slim: it shot 16 US bombers, but more Me-163 were destroyed in accidents - it was particularly dangerous to use, its fuel made from hydrogen peroxide made it explosive. It was also corrosive, causing severe burns and deaths of pilots and maintenance man. Its high speed made it practically invulnerable, but was also a handicap: it was going so fast that it did not really let time to aim at its targets, American bombers. The allied fighter planes were waiting for the extinction of its rocket engine and its gliding return flight, slower though still fast, to attack it.

Heinkel He-162 "Volksjäger" or "Salamander" had its first flight on December 6, 1944. 320 units were built. It was a jet engine with a BMW 003E-1 or E-2 turbojet (which will inspire the French SNECMA Atar jet engine), a single-seater, whose maximum speed of 840 km/h outperformed that of its opponents. It was designed to be piloted by inexperienced pilots, it could take off from the German highways. A few units were equipped, but only in April 1945. Its operational record was zero: not a single allied aircraft was shot down by this aircraft.

Other "candidates" can be cited, and generally eliminated, including:

There is therefore no lack of more or less successful projects of German flying craft which by their reactor or rocket could be suspected to be seen as a "ball of light", or even intrigue by their performances, but we see that in practice almost none would have been likely to be in operation at night along the Rhine on the border between Alsace and Germany.

For all these craft, the questions to ask are: did they fly there at this time? Did they fly at night? What was the color of the flame of their rocket or jet engine? Did the US Army Air Force services considered, denied, or confirmed any of these aircraft as an explanation for any of these observations?

In the 1950s, various authors with often unverified or even usurped titles, often German, or Italian, had written about far more advanced devices, real "saucers", such as "V-7", "Vril", "Haunebu" and so on. None of this has existed. This is not the place to prove it, but one or the other of my critical essays can be referred to about it.

For the Me-163, the 2nd Jagdgeschwader (JG) 400 Squadron, the first and only combat unit using the Me-163, was based on the Venlo airfield in Holland and carried out little action before it was moved to Brandis, near Leipzig in July 1944. At Brandis, the JG 400 experienced its strongest operational activity on September 28, 1944, when it was able to take off 9 Me-163 to intercept American bombers. It was daylight, and the story shows that there seems to have been no test of this airplane at night. The only Luftwaffe night test field was Estelle Retime.

Mano Ziegler, test pilot and then pilot of Me-163 at the JG 400 had been questioned about the possibility of night flights of the Me-163 and had replied: "Trying to land at night would put you in small pieces over the whole country!" (Ziegler p.113) In fact, the "Komet" has no landing light, which is equivalent, given its characteristics, to sure death in the case of an attempt to land at night.

In addition, the Me-163's range was only 25 miles under good conditions, so the JG 400 flew only in the Leipzig region.

A "less worse candidate" German night fighter plane would be the Me-262 "Schwalbe" in its night fighter version, equipped with a "Neptun" radar, two-seater derived from the two-seater training version of the Me-262. It was evoked by the US Army as possible explanation of the "Foo-Fighters":


SECRET

AIR STAFF SUPREME HEADQUARTERS
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

REF: - SHAEF/A/TS.37153/A.2.

18 March 1945

SUB: - Night Phenomena.

TO: - First Tactical Air Force (Prov.), APO 374, US ARMY.

1. With reference to reports forwarded from the XIIth Tactical Air Command through your Headquarters on the subject of night phenomena (foofighter), and further to this Headquarters' letter of even reference dated 11 February, a reply has now been received from the Air Ministry who say that Bomber Command crews have for some time been reporting similar phenonema.

2. The Air Ministry view is that a few of the alleged aircraft may have been Me.262’s and for the rest, flak rockets are suggested as the most likely explanation.

3. It is regretted that no further, or more definite, information can be given.

For the Deputy Supreme Commander

[Signed]

C.M. GRIERSON,
Air Commodore
A.C. of S., A-2

SECRET

But there are several problems with this explanation. I watched a number of Me-262 flights footage taken in wartime or later, and it appears that the gas turbines did not emit any noticeable light. I think there was definitely a very faint white-bluish glow visible exactly in the axis and close to the turbine, certainly not red or orange. At best visible from the back in the axis of the plane, the possible glow can in no way show a group of Me-262 approaching observers as orange or red balls of light.

There would also be no sense in several Me-262 in operation, approaching guided by their Neptun radar from a target as easy to them as a Beaufighter is, to not open fire.

10 / NJG11 (10th Gruppe) began itss career as Kommando Welter as the evaluation unit of Me-262 in the role of "Nachtjäger", night fighter. But, from November 1944, the just-trained unit operated from the base of Lärz over the Berlin area, defending the city against the attacks of "Mosquitos". It remained there until the end of January 1945. There is not the slightest trace of night operations of the Me-262 in the French Rhine unit.

(Kommando Nowotny and its Me-262s based in north-western Germany can be discarded: their aircraft did not fly at night and did not operate in the French Rhine valley).

Me-262 night fighter version

Evaluation:

Unidentified.

Sources references:

* = Source is available to me.
? = Source I am told about but could not get so far. Help needed.

File history:

Authoring:

Main author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross March 24, 2017 Creation, [pd1], [rw1], [jo1], [ht1], [mb1], [gc1], [gl1], [hd1], [cf1], [jp1], [jc1], [dw1], [rs1], [km1], [nc1], [ni1], [lc1], [jr1], [jb1], [su1], [cc1], [cv21], [ta1], [sp4].
1.0 Patrick Gross March 24, 2017 First published.

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