Man-Made UFOs:

World War II’s Secret Legacy

In the latter stages of the Second World War, Allied fighter pilots and, particularly, bomber crews reported encounters with glowing balls of light that flew around their formations and sometimes interfered with their on-board instruments. These objects became known as Foo Fighters and are, undoubtedly, the most well-known UFO phenomena of that turbulent era.

Born in 1924, Renato Vesco was a young Italian aircraft engineer during the war and after the conflict ended, he became interested in UFO sightings and was convinced that they were derived from purely earthly sources, probably of German origin. In 1994, Man-Made UFOs – 1944-1994, 50 Years of Suppression, was released. It was edited and contributed to by David Hatcher Childress and comprised a great deal of Vesco’s earlier works. Vesco died in 1999 in Genoa, Italy.

Now re-released as Man-Made UFOs: World War II’s Secret Legacy, we can look again at the strides the Nazis made in aeronautical engineering and how those remarkable machines and design concepts influenced modern-day and, perhaps, future aircraft.

Firstly, Vesco makes it absolutely clear in the book that he has no time whatsoever for ufology. He believes firmly that what people are seeing are entirely man-made aircraft. Remarkable, yes, but completely earthly in origin. He makes numerous disparaging remarks about ufology and this may out off some readers, but stick with it, because it is a fascinating volume of information.

While German scientists were making huge discoveries before the war about aircraft design, it was only as the Allies invaded Europe in 1944 that the urge to produce machines capable of turning the tide of the war in Hitler’s favour was increasingly, indeed feverishly, fostered.

Many companies fell under the watchful eyes of Himmler’s SS divisions and numerous, top-secret, underground facilities were hewn into Alpine rock. If it seemed that Germany would fall, the Nazi leadership would fall back to this Alpine Redoubt and produce the fantastic flying machines that would finally provide them with air superiority over Europe and snatch victory from the hands of defeat.

Huge research and manufacturing centres were constructed using slaves drawn from the Nazi death camps. There were even covered runways, designed to blend into the natural environment and completely invisible from the air, so that these new aircraft could take off and land.

One of the most successful of the Nazi projects was the Feuerball. Vesco claims that this was the Foo Fighter that had plagued American and British flight crews. He describes it thus:

“It was circular and armoured, more or less resembling the shell of a tortoise, and was powered by a special turbojet engine, also flat and circular,… which generated halo of luminous flames. Hence it was named Feuerball (Fireball). \it was unarmed and pilotless. Radio-controlled at the moment of take-off, it then automatically followed enemy aircraft, attracted by their exhaust flames, and approached close enough without collision to wreck their radar gear.” [pp. 85-86]

During the day, the Feuerball looked like a spinning, silver disc, but at night, it took on the form of a glowing ball.

The success of the Feuerball led the Nazis to investigate the possibility of developing a fighter plane that required no pilot. Flown remotely from the ground and fitted with a television camera, the Krache (Crack) and Donner (Thunder) aircraft resembled the Me-163 jet fighter, the Krache being armed with rocket projectiles and the Donner with rapid-fire cannon. During testing, the planes were found to be incredibly manoeuvrable, but the pilot on the ground could not react fast enough to the images on the small television screen he was looking at. As soon as a target appeared on the screen, it would just as quickly vanish because of the motion of the aircraft.

It was decided that some form of automatic firing mechanism was required. As the war drew to a close, and too late for the Nazis, they developed fuses that would allow their unmanned planes to automatically lock on either visually to a target or by detecting the target’s electromagnetic signature.

Vesco describes the most incredible aircraft the Germans built, the Kugelblitz (Ball Lightning):

“…the principle of the symmetrical circular aircraft was combined with direct gyroscopic stabilization; synthetic fire-damp was combined with the multiple-batteried blower cannon; a gelatinous organic metallic hypercombustible was combined with the total reaction turbine; television-controlled flying was combined with vertical take-off and landing; armour that was sensitive to small-calibre projectiles and radio-control that was free of enemy jamming were combined with the active blinding of enemy radar; infrared search ‘eyes’ were combined with electrostatic weapon firing. This marked the rapid development of the Feuerball, which finally became a weapon. 

“Even if ufologists do not know it or refuse to admit it, the Kugelblitz, older brother of the Feuerball antiradar device, is the second authentic antecedent of the present-day flying saucers and it is with them – and with the other German devices of the same family (spinning bombs, lenticular bombs, ramming fighters and flying spheres) – that the true history or, if you like, the ‘prehistory’ of the UFO question begins.”

Bold words indeed. It must be noted that the Nazis had developed the Kugelblitz self-propelled, anti-aircraft Panzer tank. While this was allegedly still in development when the war ended, it is thought that some may have been deployed in the battle for Berlin in the spring of 1945.

After the war, the Allies carved up Europe and hurried to grab whatever technical materials they could. The Americans famously used their Operation Paperclip to nab the likes of Wernher Von Braun, who would go on to become an American hero for his work for the US space program. Needless to say, it is also likely that the Allied powers got their hands on some of the remarkable German technology.

The United States transported many V2 rockets back to New Mexico, while the Soviets also acquired a number of the Nazi missiles. Thus the race began to conquer space.

The Americans also got hold of the Horton flying wing, a jet-engined fighter bomber that could attain speeds approaching Mach 1. It has been suggested that what Kenneth Arnold saw in 1947 was a variant of the Horton, possibly improved to achieve a speed greater than that of sound, yet seen in flight months before Chuck Yeager’s historic Bell X-1 flight of October, 1947.

Did the Allies also grab the German ‘flying saucers’? Vesco believed so and notes various UFO sightings as evidence for their operation. While the public were wowed by reports of the Canadian Avrocar, the flying saucer-shaped vehicle that appeared little more than a hover craft, secret tests of so-called ‘suction aircraft’ began. Developed by British and Canadian scientists, the circular aircraft utilised nozzles in the leading edges of the airframe to reduce the boundary layer that formed when the plane flew at speed. The lower the boundary layer, the less drag is experienced. Vesco claimed that what Kenneth Arnold saw in June, 1947, was a squadron of circular suction aircraft on a test flight from Canada. This may sound reasonable, but Arnold described the objects he saw as crescent-shaped. Maybe the Hortons were adapted to include suction technology and thus increase their overall speed.

So, according to Vesco, the modern age of ufology was born from a sighting of a squadron of top secret aircraft from Canada, built with British money and flown over Washington State to show off to the Americans!

The book closes with a chapter about a secret base in the Venezuelan jungles, built by electronics genius, Guglielmo Marconi. After faking his death in 1937, Marconi, along with a number of other European boffins, constructed a high-tech city in the caldera of an extinct volcano, where they experimented with solar energy, anti-gravity and other exotic fields. There is even talk of trips to the Moon and Mars. Fantastic stuff and completely at odds with the rest of the book, but fascinating anyway.

UFO Data Magazine contacted the book’s co-author, David Hatcher Childress, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Thanks for taking the time out to speak to us, David. 'Man-Made UFOs: World War II's Secret Legacy', written with Italian engineer, Renato Vesco, has been re-released, following its initial publication in 1994. Unfortunately, he died in 1999, so is unable to see this new edition hit the bookshelves. How did you become involved with Renato?

Many years ago he sent me a rare hardback copy of Intercept—But Don’t Shoot and said that we should keep it in print. So, we republished it and added some illustrations and other material.

The Nazis made some amazing technological developments during the final stages of the war. Do you think that some of this technology is still around today? Vesco certainly believed that many (if not all) modern UFO reports were actually craft developed from German 'flying discs'.

Well, of course. And greatly improved upon as well. As Vesco would say, “Look at the UFOs of the 1940s and 1950s—they look like flying saucers from the 40s or 50s, just like cars and trucks from that era look like they are from that era. Look at UFOs today: much sleeker and Sci-Fi. Now, they finally “look” like they are from other planets! Flying Saucers are a military secret then as now because they use a different type of propulsion than the mundane civilian world commonly hears about.

In the book, Renato seemed pretty adamant that UFOs were definitely a man-made phenomena and he made some pretty scathing remarks about ufology, in particular the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis (ETH). What are your views on this facet of the subject?

Well, I think like many UFO researchers, I see the whole mystery as one with a broad explanation and non-exclusive “theories” including the ET Hypothesis, Interdimensional Weirdness, Time Travel, hoaxing, and Man-Made UFOs. Certain UFO incidents, to me, clearly indicate that ETs were involved and I believe that there are ET bases on the Moon, Mars and other planets or their moons. See my book Extraterrestrial Archaeology for more on that. Vesco certainly believed that ETs would not crash their saucers at military bases, and thought that stories associated with crashed ET saucers was military disinformation. If the military does have its own UFOs, it would make more sense that it is their flying saucers crashing at military bases—or nearby—rather than craft that have navigated the far reaches of space. 

There are many, many fascinating photographs and diagrams in the book. How were they obtained?

Vesco’s original book was utterly without any illustrations. I began doing some research into German stuff and WWII secret weapons. I paid several researchers as well. Certain previously secret photos and diagrams came out in the 80s and early 90s as well, some of it from Germany and Austria. It was an odd-ball of collection of illustrations, and I wanted to include anything that I could that might be relevant, including Tesla, Marconi, Foo Fighters, Vril Craft, Schauberger and all that.

With the Allied powers grabbing all the Nazi technology and scientists they could after the war (Von Braun, to name but one, who went on to become an American hero!), how do you think the public would react to the knowledge that these strides were made, in part, to the suffering of millions of innocent people. The Nazis used slave labour for their huge building projects where much of this stuff was developed, after all.

Yes, it is terrible that slave labor was often used in Germany’s advanced aerospace projects. Most high-tech inventions are military-driven, especially aerospace. Anti-German feeling understandably ran very high in Britain after the war, and it was unthinkable that Britain would hire a bunch of former Nazi scientists to come and live in the UK and head their projects. But in the U.S. that was all possible, and Operation Paperclip could import German scientists and even give them new identities. Today, so much time has gone by that probably no one cares. It is old news.

Renato Vesco has come under criticism for some of the things he has said in his books, with some quarters pointing out that some of the projects he mentions had nothing to do with aerial craft - the Kugelblitz, for instance, which was an anti-aircraft gun mounted on an unmanned Panzer tank. Where did he get his information from and what do you think of the criticism?

The cover-up by the military on man-made UFOs was so effective that information was difficult to obtain in the 50s and 60s, and I think Vesco would have been amazed at all the things that have come out since he first wrote his book. He was more on the right track than he even knew. In fact, the truth was ultimately more incredible than he ever realized. Still, there is a lot of disinformation out there—from many directions—so it pays to be cautious. Vesco did not know everything—but he had grabbed on to a major piece of the puzzle. It is fair to criticize him, and he probably got many things wrong. The military cover-up is so complete that most people think it is far more credible that aliens from other galaxies are flying around than our military ever thinking up such an idea and technology. The disinformation campaign includes movies, television documentaries, conferences, “experts” and everything else. It is masterfully done. Vesco was a thorn in their side.

This year, 2007, is the sixtieth anniversary of the famed Roswell Incident and also of Kenneth Arnold's sighting. It has been mooted that what was seen in Washington State and what crashed in New Mexico were variations of the German Horton flying wing aircraft. What do you think about this?

Certainly, what Kenneth Arnold saw in 1947 was a flying boomerang-type craft that was virtually identical to the Horton XVIII flying wing that was being built in 1945. While Arnold coined the term “saucers” as in “saucers skipping through the sky” what he actually saw was a flying wing. The new edition of the book has photos of the Horton XVIII and Arnold holding his own drawing of what he saw—they are the same craft. As for the Roswell crash, I’m not sure if this craft was a flying wing or not, but it was probably a man-made craft, and probably made in Germany. Many of these craft must have crashed, in both Europe and the United States (after the war). One has to remember that Roswell is not just some town out in the New Mexico desert, it is a military base town (the main economy, in fact) as well as the secret center for atomic weapons, their testing, and a spot where many captured or hired German scientists were relocated. So… when there is some crash during a test flight, the military covers it up both ways: one that it was nothing more than a weather balloon, or conversely, it was extraterrestrials who had made it across the universe but couldn’t get across New Mexico without crashing. Never is the man-made UFO theory even talked about as a possibility. That is how complete the military disinformation campaign and cover-up is concerning man-made UFOs. Flying wings are interesting to consider as well: we know they were being built and tested by the Germans in the mid-1940s, but for 50 years we didn’t hear about them until they unveiled the B-2 Bomber in the early 1990s. This shows how many years they have had to test and improve this technology—over 50 years since the end of WWII!

Finally, with Vesco being so adamant that UFOs were of an earthly, human origin, do you know if he had any opinion about other phenomena connected with UFOs: abductions, for instance? What are your views on these subjects?

Vesco was an aerospace engineer and a very practical person. Though he had read about some of the early abduction stories, like Betty and Barney Hill, or others, he was able to see beyond the standard dualist explanations for these events: either they were imaginary (but believed by the persons telling the story) or true in the sense that extraterrestrials had to be involved, as the UFO occupants themselves may actually have explained to the abductees. Many of the 50s and 60s UFO incidents often involved flying saucer craft that had landed on a road or someone’s back yard in a remote area—but the occupants were perfectly normal humans, often wearing jumpsuits or overalls, or even some sort of uniform, and asking for mundane things like a pitcher of water or speaking to them in English (sometimes with a German accent) telling the witness that “they will not remember this night very well.” Then there is a flash of light or something and the witness experiences missing time and suddenly finds themselves back inside their car or something. Vesco was sure that much of this was the military itself, and that some incidents were military disinformation to promote the ET hypothesis, which was the most popular among UFO investigators, anyway. Vesco believed, as do many UFO researchers, that the US military—and others—were fully capable of having flying saucer craft, abducting people, beaming them up into craft by some levitation beam, and erasing their memory and giving them false memories, even to the point of dressing up like aliens or creating their own “cloned” organic robotoids that looked and acted like extraterrestrials, but were actually “made” on earth. Still, while Vesco may have had an early insight into the military-origin of many UFO incidents, I don’t think it is an explanation for all UFO or abduction incidents. I believe, as I said earlier, that ETs have been watching this planet for millennia. Also, some of the genetic programs indicated by some of the abduction stories may be a time-travel event as well, where our future “selves” are using time-travel technology to come back to this time for genetic reasons that we don’t fully understand yet. To me, there is no single answer to the enduring enigma of UFOs.

Thank you again for taking the time out to speak with us at UFO Data Magazine. 'Man-Made UFOs: World War II's Secret Legacy' is a fascinating book and well worth reading. We wish you all the best with this new edition.

© Steve Johnson 2007

(Article originally appeared in the November/December 2007 issue of UFO Data Magazine)


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Updated 16th August, 2012