War is confusing. It’s loud, it’s messy, and things are never quite as cut and dried as they may seem. As a result, certain wartime occurrences can go unexplained for years or even decades. In this article, we’ll share 10 mysteries from wartime, some of which still haven’t been solved. Some are creepy, some are weird, and some are just ridiculous.
No, not the band. World War II had a tremendous amount of unexplained phenomena, but one of the most common was “foo fighters.” These inexplicable colored lights appeared to literally hundreds of Allied fighter pilots over the course of the war, first in 1944. They were described as blazing ovals of white, red and orange fire that moved erratically at airplane heights, often flying alongside planes before suddenly curving off. They were taken very seriously by the Allied command, who feared that they were some kind of Axis secret weapon. Although several theories were floated, none were proven, and they remain a mystery to this day.
The Crash of the L-8
The Axis’ heavy use of submarines to sink sea traffic was one of the most effective tactics of World War II, so it’s not surprising that the Allies invented ways to nip it in the bud. One of them was employing “spotter blimps,” dirigible airships staffed by crews who could spot subs from high up in the air and report them to the Navy for sinking. When the naval blimp L-8 took off from San Francisco Bay in 1942, it seemed like business as usual. But their last radio message, indicating that they were investigating an oil slick in the Pacific, sparked a very strange mystery. Almost three hours later, the L-8 drifted in from the ocean and crashed. Responders on the scene rushed to rescue the crew, only to find them all missing without a trace. Aside from the damage from the crash, the blimp was in perfect shape, but none of the crew members were ever seen again.
Erwin Rommel, aka the Desert Fox, was one of the most famous German field commanders of World War II. His exploits are legendary, but near the end of his career, he took an action that has captivated treasure-seekers for half a century. As the Allies closed in, Rommel took six steel ammunition boxes and buried a priceless German treasure in them consisting of jewels, gold and silver worth millions. Allegedly, it’s in an underwater cave off the shore of Corsica, but hundreds of treasure hunters have tried to find it with no success.
The Battle of Los Angeles
All-out warfare never made it to the continental United States during World War II. Or did it? The Battle of Los Angeles happened on Feb. 24, 1942, but it’s still a mystery whether it was the work of Axis forces or something else. Beginning at 3 a.m., the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade started shelling targets in the sky, but no enemy units were ever identified. Three people were killed by friendly fire, and many buildings were leveled. The Army at the time attributed the attack to “war nerves,” but there are tons of conspiracy theories around the battle, including some alleging that UFOs prompted the attack.
Glowing Wounds of the Civil War
This is one that actually has been explained by modern science, but when it happened, it really freaked people out. After the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War, some of the nearly 30,000 soldiers wounded during the conflict reported that their injuries glowed with a bizarre light and healed faster than the soldiers who didn’t glow. Needless to say, lots of supernatural speculation was raised, and it wasn’t until 2001 that the mystery was solved by a high-school student. Bill Martin’s mother, a microbiologist, had been studying luminescent bacteria and discovered one that not only glowed, but also killed other, harmful bacteria. It normally can’t live in the human body, but temperatures were low enough that the soldiers developed hypothermia, making their flesh cold enough to support the glowing guests.
The Disappearance of Flight 19
This strange story actually takes place just a few months after the end of hostilities during World War II, but it’s bizarre enough (and involves military personnel and hardware) that it deserves a place on the list. In December of 1945, Lieutenant Charles Taylor led a flight of five Navy planes on a training exercise out of Fort Lauderdale. Radio broadcasts from Taylor reveal that none of their compasses were working and the entire fleet got lost, never to be seen again. The planes were never recovered and their disappearance helped bolster the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.
UFOs Over Korea
During the spring of 1951, PFC Francis Wall had a very strange experience on the battlefield in Korea. One April evening in the region known as the Iron Triangle near Chorwon, Wall and his division sighted a strange, metallic object floating over a hillside. It looked like no craft either army had ever fielded, and seemed immune to artillery fire. However, rifle bullets seemed to damage it, and it before flying away, it bathed the American troops with a strange ray that made them feel like their bodies were on fire. Everybody shot by the ray suffered bizarre physical effects -- including elevated white-blood-cell counts -- and had to be evacuated from the battlefield. Many still have symptoms to this day.
Royal Norfolk Regiment Vanishes
In 1915, a variety of Allied forces were stationed at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. A coalition made up of British, New Zealand and Australian forces were preparing for an attack on the Turks. Most of them made it through, but for the members of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, it would be their last days on Earth, without a single shot even being fired. The company was ordered to take a hillside near Suvla Bay that was enveloped in a fog. All 266 men charged up the hill and simply disappeared, with hundreds of other men as witnesses. Their bodies were never found, and it remains one of the most perplexing mysteries of war to this day.
Where is the Amber Room?
Sometimes called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Amber Room was a set of panels carved from lustrous amber and decorated with gold leaf that was commissioned by the king of Prussia in 1701 and given to Tsar Peter The Great of Russia. It was made from more than six tons of amber and covered more than 55 square meters of space, a massive, opulent creation in every way. During World War II, the Germans took it back from Russia, relocating the fragile panels to Konigsberg Castle. From there, the mystery begins. After 1944, the Amber Room was never seen again. Dozens of expeditions have been mounted to find the relic, but only tiny fragments have ever been found, despite the staggering size of the amber panels.
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The Nazi A-Bomb
Considering that many of the scientists behind the American nuclear program were sourced from Germany, it’s kind of perplexing that Hitler didn’t invent the A-bomb first. Fission was first discovered in Berlin, and Hitler had a huge passion for futuristic weaponry. If he had developed the bomb, it would have completely changed the course of the war, but extensive Allied intelligence never found any evidence that the Nazis had weaponized atomic technology. However, there’s the testimony of German woman Claire Werner, who claims to have witnessed a bomb test in the mountains outside of Thuringen. Did Hitler have the bomb and never get to use it? We may never know.