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Barely a year after the "foo fighter" episodes, the second wave of UFO sightings began, this time in Scandinavia.

On the night of June 9, 1946, a brilliant light streaked over Helsinki, Finland, with a smoke trail and the sound of thunder; its luminous trail persisted for ten minutes. Had this not been repeated the next night, it would have been written off as an unusually large meteor. The second one, according to news reports, turned and went back in the direction from which it had come.

On June 12, the Swedish Defense Staff asked military personnel to report their sightings through official channels, admitting that they had been aware of the phenomenon since May. On July 9 alone, more than 200 reports were received, many of them describing tubular or "spindle-shaped" objects flying low and slowly, with little or no sound.

A week after the establishment of a special "ghost rocket" committee by the Swedish Government, American Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, travelled to Stockholm to meet with the Swedish Secretary of War. According to a secret FBI memo of August 19, 1947, "the 'high brass' of the War Department exerted tremendous pressure on the (Army) Air Force's Intelligence to conduct research and collect information in an effort to identify the sightings."

On August 11, 1946, more than 300 reports of strange sightings were observed in just the Stockholm area. On August 20, General Jimmy Doolittle (in Stockholm on business for the Shell Oil Company) met with the head of the Swedish Air Force. This led to wide speculation in the Swedish press, as well as The New York Times, that "ghost rockets" were the subject of the meeting. In the 1980s, however, in an interview with UFO researchers, General Doolittle denied that his Swedish trip was officially connected with the "ghost rockets," although it is certainly likely that the subject came up in casual conversation.

Soon thereafter, Swedish newspapers began censoring most reports of "ghost rockets." However, reports appeared in other Scandinavian countries. According to a British Air Ministry Intelligence Report of September 1946:

"A large number of visual observations have been obtained from Scandinavia. Some of the best came from Norway. An analysis suggests the most notable characteristics of the projectiles to be: a) great speed; b) intense light frequently associated with missile; c) lack of sound; d) approximate horizontal flight... Thus, if the phenomena now observed are of natural origin, they are unusual; sufficiently unusual to make possible the alternative explanation that at least some are missiles. If this is so, they must be of Russian origin."28

There was a concerted effort on the part of the Swedish Government to blame many of the sightings on Soviet tests of captured German rockets. The Soviet Union had occupied Peenemünde, the secret German test site across the Baltic Sea, where the V1 and V2 missiles were developed. Years later it was learned that the captured German equipment was immediately moved to Poland. There were no Soviet tests at Peenemünde, and thus the "official" explanation for the "ghost rockets" proved impossible.

As reports from Scandinavia began to taper off in September 1946, they were replaced by reports of similar sightings from Hungary, Greece, Morocco and Portugal. In 1984, when the Swedish Government finally opened its "ghost rocket" files, researchers found more than 1,500 reports had been secretly collected from 1946 on. One of the few official American reactions to the "ghost rockets" came in the January 9, 1947 issue of the Defense Department's Intelligence Review (classified "Secret" until 1978). This four-page summary of the "ghost rocket" events suggests that some of the sightings may have been of Soviet test missiles or jet airplanes (although no jets are known to have been in or near Scandinavia at the time).29

One sighting, detailed in the FBI report cited above, suggests there may have been more to it:

"On 14, August (1946) at 10 a.m. [a Swedish Air Force pilot]... was flying at 650 feet [200 m.] over central Sweden when he saw a dark, cigar-shaped object about 50 feet [15 m.] above and approximately 6,500 feet [2 km.] away from him travelling at an estimated 400 mph [650 km./hr.]. The missile had no visible wings, rudder or other projecting part; and there was no indication of any fuel exhaust (flame or light), as had been reported in the majority of other sightings.

"The missile was maintaining a constant altitude over the ground and, consequently, was following the large features of the terrain. This statement casts doubt on the reliability of the entire report because a missile, without wings, is unable to maintain a constant altitude over hilly terrain."

Many years later, sophisticated cruise missiles, with tiny wings that would be invisible at such a distance, would be able to achieve "terrain-following" flight as a matter of routine. In 1946, this was far beyond the capability of any existing technology.

Perhaps the lingering mystery of the "ghost rockets" was best expressed by Air Engineer Eric Malmberg, once secretary of Sweden's Defence Staff committee on the matter, who was interviewed forty years later. Mr. Malmberg stated:

"I would like to say that everyone on the committee, as well as the chairman himself, was sure that the observed phenomena didn't originate from the Soviet Union. Nothing pointed to that solution.

"On the other hand, if the observations are correct, many details suggest that it was some kind of a cruise missile that was fired on Sweden. But nobody had that kind of sophisticated technology in 1946."



28. British Air Ministry Report, "Investigation of Reported Missile Activity Over Scandinavia," September 9, 1946.

29. Intelligence Review, Number 49, January 9, 1947, "Ghost Rockets Over Scandinavia."

30. FBI Report, ibid

31. Liljegren, Anders & Svahn, Clas, "Ghost Rockets and Phantom Aircraft," paper in the anthology Phenomenon - Forty Years of Flying Saucers, Avon Books, 1989.