by Chris Parsons, aka Chris Without the Hat
Smokey Stover was a 1930s Chicago Tribune comic strip character whose nonsense word ‘foo’ evolved into the term ‘foo fighter’ during World War II. Foo fighter was a term that was used to describe the often unexplained red balls of fire sighted by World War II aircraft pilots. Pilots would describe seeing distracting, bright lights in the sky that appeared to be launched from the ground.
Smokey Stover, who had created the catch phrase, “where there’s foo, there’s fire” (possibly deriving from the French word for fire, “le feu”), was instrumental in cementing the term foo fighter in popular culture. Radar operators in World War II liked Smokey’s ‘fire’ analogy and the term foo fighter came to refer to a spurious or dubious trace.
Here is one documented account of the foo fighter phenomena from 1944.
In a mission debriefing on November 27, 1944, Fritz Ringwald, a 415th Night Fighter Squadron S-2 Intelligence Officer, stated that Don Meiers (who was from Chicago and an avid reader of the Smokey Stover comic strip) and Ed Schleuter had sighted a red ball of fire that appeared to chase them through a variety of high-speed maneuvers. Fritz said that Don was extremely agitated after this particular mission and in recounting the event pulled out a copy of a Smokey Stover comic strip that he had tucked into his back pocket. Recounting the experience, he pulled out the comic, slammed it down on Fritz’s desk and said, “…it was another one of those (expletive) foo fighters!”
Author Renato Vesco who published Man-Made UFOs: 50 Years Of Suppression in 1994 claims that the foo fighters were a Nazi secret weapon called a feuerball (fireball), which was launched from the ground with the intent of distracting enemy pilots.
If in fact these crazy lights in the sky were created to distract pilots, by all accounts they seemed to have worked.