Weird History: Foo Fighters

When you hear the name Foo Fighters, the first thing that probably pops into your head is bearded front man (and would-be shampoo hair model) Dave Grohl, veteran of Nirvana. In 1994, post-Cobain, Grohl went on to recruit two members of Sunny Day Real Estate and a touring guitarist from Nirvana in order to form the foo. I’ve never been a terribly big fan of their music, and even remember scoffing when I first realized that they were an offshoot of the 90’s grunge band, which had written the 90’s anthem, forevermore defining an entire decade of angst and discontent: “Smells like Teen Spirit.

I’ve heard their name for years and never thought anything of it–two words which, when put together, sounded like stupid nonsense. But there’s more to their name then that. I’m not going to dig up articles of them explaining their choice, but I will note where the term “foo fighter” comes from.

In 1944, as the war was progressing and Nazi Germany was becoming more desperate, rumours ran rampant that Hitler had authorized any number of super weapons–due in part to the sudden emergence and somewhat success of the V2 rocket. One such project, which was actually on the books and authorized, was a kind of death ray that would utilize a great mirror shield in space. This mirror would purportedly focus a super-heated beam onto the earth, obliterating anything within an area by raising the temperature to 10,000 degrees (equivalent to the sun’s atmosphere).

But in this case, what the allied forces encountered wasn’t a space-bound Archimedes weapon–they were ships in the sky that moved like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Mostly glimpsed as glowing lights, pilots reported seeing the craft pull insane maneuvers, hover, and even zip away at unfathomable speeds. What was taken to be some kind of new Nazi ship, would later be logged into popular culture as unidentified flying objects–UFO’s. They didn’t have that term immediately available, though. Instead, the first pilots who spotted them in 1944, still thinking that these things were Nazis, referred to them as foo fighters–“foo” being a kind of slang for something absurd. Funny thing was, German and Japanese pilots around this same time also reported sighting foo fighters.

In the Pacific, foo fighters manifested slightly differently. Here they lazily hung out in the sky, only occasionally following aircraft. They never became aggressive or attacked, but rather seemed to be observing what was taking place. Later attempts to explain the objects pegged them as atmospheric anomalies like St. Elmo’s Fire, or electromagnetic discharge–which didn’t stop pilot sightings from pouring in, straight through to modern day.

Anyways, that’s the shortened story of foo fights. I still don’t like the band, but I do have a new respect for their moniker.

Featured image credit: Pinterest


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