Schweinfurt - A Mystery Solved?
Andy Roberts

In 1990 I wrote an article entitled W.W.II Document Research - In Search of Foo-Fighters, which primarily dealt with the 'UFOs' allegedly seen in the 14th October 1943 Schweinfurt raid. [1] This has since been posted on the Project 1947 website [2] and now forms the background to the present article.

        The tone of my 1990 piece was very sceptical of the case because, despite having gone to great lengths, I had been unable to track the source of the case down. The source was an alleged UK government document quoted in author Martin Caidin's Black Thursday, a book which dealt with the events of the bombing raid of Thursday 14th October 1943.[3]

        Having done quite a bit of research into foo-fighters, and having a general interest in W.W.II, I have been quite obsessed by the story over the years. All avenues of enquiry seemed to lead nowhere, and in 1999 I went to the Public Records Office (PRO) at Kew and searched many files connected to the Schweinfurt raid. At that time I found nothing at all relating to Caidin's claims and this only strengthened my feelings it was a fabrication. However...

        In July 2000 I spent another few of days at the PRO and this time hit pay-dirt. Besides finding several hitherto unseen references to what would later be termed 'foo-fighters', much new material on ghost rockets and 1950s UK government UFO research, I again went through all the available Schweinfurt related files and came across something of great relevance. But first here is how Martin Caidin reported the incident in Black Thursday.

"As the bombers of the 384th Group swung into the final bomb run after passing the Initial Point, the fighter attacks fell off. This point is vital, and pilots were queried extensively, as were other crew members, as to the position at that time of the German fighter planes. Every man interrogated was firm in his statement that "at the time there were no enemy aircraft above." At this moment the pilots and top turret gunners, as well as several crewmen in the Plexiglas noses of the bombers, reported a cluster of discs in the path of the 384th's formation and closing with the bombers. The startled exclamations focused attention on the phenomenon, and the crews talked back and forth, discussing and confirming the astonishing sight before them.

    The discs in the cluster were agreed upon as being silver colored, about one inch thick and three inches in diameter. They were easily seen by the B-17 crewmen, gliding down slowly in a very uniform cluster.

    And then the "impossible" happened. B-17 Number 026 closed rapidly with a cluster of discs; the pilot attempted to evade an imminent collision with the objects, but was unsuccessful in this manoeuvre. He reported at the intelligence debriefing that his "right wing went directly through a cluster with absolutely no effect on engines or plane surface."

    The intelligence officers pressed their questioning, and the pilot stated further that one of the discs was heard to strike the tail assembly of his B-17, but that neither he nor any member of the crew heard or witnessed an explosion.

    He further explained that about twenty feet from the discs the pilots sighted a mass of black debris of varying sizes in clusters of three by four feet.

    The SECRET report added: "Also observed two other A/C flying through silver discs with no apparent damage. Observed discs and debris two other times but could not determine where it came from."

    No further information on this baffling incident has been uncovered, with the exception that such discs were observed by pilots and crew members prior to, and after, Mission 115 of October 14, 1943.

    Memorandum of October 24 1943, from Major E.R.T. Holmes, F.L.O., 1St Bombardment Division, Reference FLO/1BW/REP/126, to M.I. 15, War Office, Bombardment Division, London, S.W. (copy to Colonel E.W. Thompson, A-2, Pinetree)" [4]

        Caidin's account of this event via the alleged UK document has existed in UFO legend for forty years without proof. Now I can reveal that the document exists and is almost as Caidin records it.

        The document, which Caidin obviously based his account on, reads as follows. All spelling and punctuation is in the original. The file in which the document can be found is: AIR 40/464

        At the top right of the document is a rubber stamp giving details of circulation to:

1. Col Kingman Douglas
2. A.I.3. ? (W/Cdr Smith)
3. A.I.2. ? (W/Cdr Heath)
(Author note: the ? refers to a squiggle or letter I cannot decipher, although it could well be 'to'. Also the background of the stamp on which the above was written says:

Received 17 Oct 1943
Copies sent to A.I.8 (USA)

The rest of the document is as follows:

EKG.           TELEGRAM EN CLAIR       4112
                      Recd. AMCS. 171129a hrs Oct.43


From - OIPNT


8 BC 0-1079-E
Annex to Intelligence Report Mission Schweinfurt 16 October 1943

              306 Group report a partially unexploded 20mm
shell imbedded above the panel in the cockpit of A/C number
412 bearing the following figures 19K43.     The Group Ordnance
Officer believes the steel composing the shell is of
inferior grade.     348th Group reports a cluster of
disks observed in the path of the formation near Schweinfurt,
at the time there were no E/A above.     Discs were described
as silver coloured - one inch thick and three inches   in
diameter.     They were gliding slowly down in very uniform
cluster.   A/C 026 was unable to avoid them and his right
wing went directly through a cluster with absolutely no
effect on engines or plane surface.     One of the discs was
heard striking tail assembly but no explosion was observed.
About 20 feet from these discs a mass of black debris of
varying sizes in clusters of 3 by 4 feet.     Also observed 2
other A/C flying through silver discs with no apparent
damage.     Observed discs and debris 2 other times but could
not determine where it came from.

Copies to:-

P.R. & A.I.6.
War Room
A.I.3. (USA) (Action 2 copies)

View Document


        Presumably Caidin must have seen a copy of this document from one of the American recipients. The following points seem relevant:

  I have tried to check the reference Caidin gives three times now at the PRO, once by using a professional researcher. It does not exist. However the AIR files were all re-numbered at some point prior to them being located at the PRO and it is possible the reference refers to the files' original designation.

  It is also possible the reference pertains to the accompanying letter when it was sent to the USA. This is unlikely however, as the memo is stated to have been sent from one UK source to another and then on to the USA. The Rubber stamp clearly states it was received on 17 October, pre-dating Caidin's reference by seven days. But the sheer number of channels through which documents went could be the reason for this confusion, and now the original document has been located I don't think we need get hung up on the original reference any more.

  I have found no record of most of the personnel listed. However a Squadron Leader Heath was involved in the UK's investigations of the Scandinavian 'ghost rockets' in 1946.

  Besides the above, other than some possibly excusable authorial hype, Caidin has recorded the incident more or less as the document states.


        At least we now know Caidin's reference exists! Besides that there is little to say really. The objects reported are intriguing but not completely mystifying. There were many types of flak being used by the Germans in W.W.II and several files in the PRO refer to coloured flak, flak which threw off unusual fragments, and so on. This explanation is made more likely by the fact that the 'F.L.O.' in Caidin's reference stands for 'Flak Liaison Officer', at least suggesting that the Air Ministry were treating it within a flak context.

        The objects could also have been some kind of 'window' dropped by the Germans in an attempt to disrupt radar or radio communication among air crew. The explanation as to what the small objects were is now more of a task for the air historian than it is for the ufologist. What is clear from the original account is that the discs, whilst unusual, were clearly not any type of 'craft', under intelligent or purposeful control or dangerous to the air craft or crew.

        In my opinion these objects do not belong in the category of sightings referred to as 'foo-fighters', both by their physical description and by their behaviour and characteristics. Although often lumped in with foo-fighter reports they are clearly different. This story has been a staple of UFO writers for the past three-four decades. Now we have further clarification and I believe that this particular mystery is more or less laid to rest. - © 2000 Andy Roberts


1. UFO Brigantia July 1990   -   Return to article
2.  -   Return to article
3. Caidin, Martin. Black Thursday, Dell 1960  -  Return to article
4. ibid   -   Return to article


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