At 11:00 p.m. on January 18, 1946, as an American C-54 transport plane was passing over rural France at 7,000 feet, the pilot observed what he took to be a brilliant meteor at 35° above the eastern horizon. The object fell and was lost to view—but only momentarily. To the witness’ astonishment, the “meteor” ascended, then “described a tiny hyperbola of perhaps one degree altitude and then fell again from sight.” Whatever the phenomenon was, it clearly had not been a meteor. Soon Europeans and others would call such phenomena “ghost rockets” and ascribe them to secret Soviet experiments with captured German V-2 missiles. Many of the “rockets” would be meteors, but none, so history attests, were missiles from Russia, which then possessed only a primitive missile technology.
The majority of ghost rockets were witnessed in 1946 over the Scandinavian countries, where in many cases witnesses reported seeing the objects crash both on land and in water. Debris was recovered in some instances, with results that were either ambiguous or quickly subjected to secrecy. For their part, the Soviets were vehemently denying any responsibility for the sightings, charging that such accusations were an “anti-Soviet slander.” In fact, almost all the captured German rocket technology and rocket experts had gone to the United States.