Unsolved Mysteries from WWII: Foo Fighters to Missing Gold Trains

Photo Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock / Getty Images

We all love a mystery and the World War II provided plenty. The sheer scale of the conflict and scorched earth tactics involved meant people went missing and many advanced technologies became lost to time. Answers to these questions died with the only ones who knew them, and solving these mysteries has been one of the most pursued avenues of research since the war.

Here are some of the most interesting unsolved mysteries from the conflict.

The Battle of Los Angeles

Newspaper clipping from the Los Angeles Times
Newspaper clipping from the Los Angeles Times following the Battle of Los Angeles. (Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

One of the most unusual battles of WWII is without a doubt the Battle of Los Angeles. Why? Because it never actually happened. At the time, California was worried about an attack by the Japanese. This wasn’t help by rumors about their proximity to the US mainland.

The “battle” occurred following the bombardment of Ellwood and was prompted by a warning from the Office of Naval Intelligence, which stated California should expect an attack within the next 10 hours. On the morning of February 25, 1942, radar picked up what appeared to be enemy activity 120 miles west of Los Angeles, prompting the air raid sirens to sound.

Over the next few hours, the 37th Coastal Artillery Brigade fired 1,400 shells into the air, and in the direct aftermath people claimed to have seen Japanese aircraft, paratroopers and even UFOs in the sky. In the end, there was never a threat to the city and the Navy chalked the hysteria up to nerves. Despite this, many feel there’s never been an explanation that fully explains the incident.

Foo fighters

Three US Navy dive bombers flying in formation
Three US Navy dive bombers flying in formation. (Photo Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock / Getty Images)

Unidentified flying objects are a favorite among those interested in mysteries, and WWII was host to many weird aerial sightings.

Strange objects were encountered in the skies by pilots during the conflict. These came in different sizes, shapes and colors, and even behaved differently, but were collectively known as “foo fighters.” To begin with, military officials believed these sightings to be the result of combat fatigue, tiredness or atmospheric phenomena, but after reports kept coming in an official investigation was launched to try and figure out what they were.

There were fears these objects were a secret enemy technology, but their seemingly friendly nature made this explanation unlikely. Investigations were unable to find any answers, and the mystery of the foo fighters remains unsolved.

We’re not saying it’s aliens, but…

Hitler’s globe

Hitler's Globe
Hitler’s Globe, photographed by a Soviet cameraman visiting the Reich Chancellery, 1945 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Public Domain)

Hitler was known to like large things – just look at the tanks he approved during the later years of the war. However, none are as shrouded in mystery as his giant globe. It was built specifically for him by a Berlin-based company in the 1930s, and remained in his office for most of its life. It came to symbolize Hitler’s despotic ambitions, but, following the war, its location has been a mystery.

A few similar globes were built around the same time, while more have come up for sale over the decades, but none are confirmed to be Hitler’s personal one. It may have been destroyed in the chaos of WWII’s final days or looted by a soldier who has kept it hidden ever since.

As a side note, historian Wolfram Wolfram Pobanz suggests he was not a fan of the globe, as he was never photographed with it.

List of names at Auschwitz

Entrance to Auschwitz
Entrance to Auschwitz. (Photo Credit: xiquinhosilva / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

In 2009, a historian discovered a list of 17 names at Auschwitz while conducting routine preservation work at the site. All of the names were British and written on a piece of white celluloid. Eight of them had a tick by them, so the list was certainly used to check something off, but for what is a complete mystery.

In addition to the names, the list also contains a string of numbers and a few common German words with their English translations, such as “since then”, “never” and “now.” Some explanations suggest the names were a list of British spies or even a list of British troops who defected to Germany.

The Nazi gold train

Underground city of Riese
The mysterious underground city of Riese, where it’s alleged the legendary Nazi gold train is hidden. (Photo Credit: Adam Guz / Getty Images Poland / Getty Images)

Another German-related mystery, the Nazi gold train is one of the greatest WWII mysteries of them all.

While the exact story varies, many believe the Germans loaded up a train with gold, art, treasure and other valuables when all hope of winning the war had vanished. The train was then hidden, likely in a sealed-off tunnel, and has never been found. If true, the haul could be worth millions of dollars on its own, before accounting for the incredible history attached to it.

The story has essentially become an urban legend, but has been taken seriously by many. The Polish military hunted for the train after the war, but the search was unsuccessful. No evidence has been found to suggest it ever existed, but a few years ago the hunt was reignited by two Polish men who claimed to have received a deathbed confession of its whereabouts.

Once again, no train was found.