The Band Foo Fighters Named Themselves After This Strange War Mystery

Photo Credits: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images (Left) / Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images (Right)
Photo Credits: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images (Left) / Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images (Right)

Have you ever wondered what the Foo Fighter’s band name actually means? For such a famous band, the answer is surprisingly mysterious. Created by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl in 1994, Foo Fighters have spent the past thirty years bathing in success, selling 30 million albums and winning 12 Grammy Awards.

However, while not as well understood, the band’s name is certainly just as interesting as the band itself and is actually one of the biggest military mysteries from WWII, involving pilots, aircraft and UFOs.

Foo fighters

Foo Fighters Perform Live
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 01: Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters perform on stage during Lollapalooza 2021 at Grant Park on August 01, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

“Foo fighter” was a term first used during World War II as a nickname for unidentified flying objects (UFOs). It came into widespread use in 1944, but pilot encounters with UFOs were not new at this point in time, with reports of similar incidents being made all around the world.

Sightings had already been documented from the Indian and the Pacific Ocean, as well as an encounter over Belgium.

These reports detailed fast-moving, brightly glowing, and sometimes fiery objects that would seemingly follow their aircraft at will, often moving in ways that were impossible for aircraft at the time. After the show, the lights would then simply disappear.

Sometimes they would fly alongside the aircraft, while other times they would move around it as if investigating the machine or crew. However, the objects could never be shot down and proved impossible to out-maneuver or catch.

In 1944, the 415th Night Fighter Squadron was based in the German-occupied Rhine Valley. While flying missions from here, many crews began witnessing these mysterious lights.

One report described the activity as “Eight to 10 bright orange lights off the left wing … flying through the air at high speed.” Although the crew was clearly watching something, the objects didn’t appear on radar. They disappeared from sight, but “Later they appeared farther away. The display continued for several minutes and then disappeared.”

The name “foo fighter” was given to these lights by Donald J. Meiers, a radio operator in the 415th Night Fighter Squadron who had also witnessed them. When he had returned to base after an encounter, Meiers carried out his debriefing with an intelligence officer. During the debriefing, Meiers referred to the strange lights as another one of those “foo fighters!”

The word “foo” came from the Smokey Stover comic strips, something Meiers was a fan of. From then on, “foo fighters” would be the nickname for these unidentified aircraft, mostly for a lack of a better term.


The VLA (Very Large Array Observatorium) in one of New Mexico’s observatory where scientists are seeking extraterrestrial life in the universe with the help of radio waves, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, Socorro county, central New Mexico. (Photo by plus49/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)

Reports of foo fighters in all different colors continued to come in from Allied aircrew, many of whom assumed it was a secret German technology. Even military officials began suspecting some more serious was at play, having spent most of the war believing that the sightings were a symptom of combat fatigue. Because of this, they launched an official investigation into the matter, which returned few definitive answers.

The idea that it was enemy technology was also debunked when the Allies discovered both the Germans and Japanese were just as confused about the sightings as they were.

Many theories have been thrown around since then, like advanced enemy technologies, strange weather, structureless lights, and aliens, which is probably the most popular and romanticized idea.

The link between alien UFOs and foo fighters was so strong that they became synonymous with each other.

The lights continued even after WWII had ended, prompting the CIA to launch an investigation in the 1950s to establish what these lights truly were and if they posed a threat. Once again, this investigation was fruitless.

To this day, there is no proven explanation for the lights witnessed by so many pilots.

Today, the name lives on in stories from the war, and with the band Foo Fighters, who chose to be associated with these unexplainable events.

Jesse Beckett

Jesse Beckett is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE