It seems very strange to consider that the events of war time stories have a component of the paranormal involved in them. Strange inexplicable events seem to point to a spiritual realm not far removed form the physical reality of violence and death that permeate battle grounds, the high seas, and the very air space above us where desperate fighting goes on. Chilling accounts of soldiers who seem to be re-enacting the very battle scenes where they lost their lives seem to replay again and again as witnesses look on in stunned silence.
A preface to the unthinkable
Lieutenant General, Jerry Boykin, a highly decorated veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm believes that war is a very spiritual event as many give their lives for a cause they believe in and pass on to the next world by the hundreds if not thousands in major battles. Often times they leave a calling card for the living once they have fallen in the field of honor. Prior to many an engagement soldiers pray fervently to their maker before pushing forward into the meat grinder.
Gettysburg, one of the bloodiest single battles in US history has left a signature from the past for the living to stumble upon. Often tourists visiting the battle field that has been preserved as a national treasure have heard the cries of Union and Confederate soldiers as though the battle were in progress. Several excellent videos have been recorded showing the bizarre silhouette of soldiers moving among the brush and trees at night on the very perimeter of the night vision camera lens. One can definitely make out the figures of Civil War era troops moving under cover of the topography in seeming ground maneuvers!
Consequences of atrocity
In World War I as the British and French fought a horrid contest of attrition against the Germans in bloody trench warfare that proved to be a demoralizing form of stalemate. A weird phenomenon settled over the most hotly contested real estate paid for with the blood of young men by both sides. On battlefields in Belgium, northern France, and in the Forests of the Ardennes a mystery emerged. Dark zones were noted where casualties were the worst. Where the light of day seemed blotted out by something overhead was noted and reported by infantrymen and their officers. It was not perpetual cloudiness or the smoke from gunfire caught in a thermal inversion. The oppressive darkness seemed to linger over the areas of the worst fighting. Soldiers reported it as oppressive and hellish, that it could not be rationalized any other way. It was as though the unspeakable acts of war invoked the darkness. Only as hostilities ceased and moved on did the strange atmosphere of darkness finally dissipate.
During World War II many unexplained tales of the supernatural popped up out of the woodwork and made soldiers, airmen, and sailors scratch their heads once the unknown came calling. The well known label of "Gremlins" also known as Demons in other cultures became the much maligned source for mechanical failure by 8th US Army Air Corps Units flying their B-17 Flying Fortresses or the B-25 Liberators who dared bomb the German homeland in broad daylight as anti-aircraft batteries and Me-109 fighter aircraft pounded US bombing formations attempting to take the war to the Nazi homeland. US airmen suffered 250 thousand casualties over the German territory as 88 millimeter artillery blasted away at the bombers who were attempting precision bombing at 30,000 feet in the freezing upper atmosphere using the Nordin Bomb site, a primitive computer to maximize the accuracy of target destruction.
Only a single bomber crew survived 25 missions during the course of the war! Either these dedicated men were shot down in flames or they bailed out of stricken aircraft too shot up to fly back home! The emotional stress suffered by bomber aircrews was well documented and many times caused some crews to fly to off course to seek asylum in countries like Iceland or Sweden due to shell shock or war nerves as many called it. Yet, there were some B-17's that flew home without the crew to pilot them! They were called "ghost planes". In some cases there was not a crew member on the plane and yet the B-17 apparently flew itself home and crash landed on the US Air Force fields back in Britain. Eerily in some cases under the intense bombardment of flak and enemy fighter aircraft some planes made it home with the entire crew shot dead or the aircraft completely abandoned. Experts reasoned that in some cases when a plane seemed destined to lose altitude and crash once the crew bailed out, an engine restarted itself, but that does not explain how a plane even on auto-pilot could find its way back home!
Who or What?
Gremlins constituted the next greatest fear of a US bomber crew whether it was the B-17 or the B-24. After being shot down was the next worst scenario-the mechanical failure of an essential component such as engine failure, navigational instrument failure, or perhaps even a the accidental detonation in the bombay of the payload intended to be dropped over Germany if not the landing gear making it impossible for an aircrew to survive once they had successfully dropped their bomb load and flown home! The possibilities were endless and all aircrews feared the consequences. So, the name, "Gremlin" became ingrained in the mind of the pilots when shrugging off the frightening possibility of mechanical failure. "Oh, the Gremlins did it!"
Yet, with the staggering losses suffered by the 8th Air Force and other units ordered to harass the Germany fatherland by day, it provided a convenient scapegoat for nervous aircrews approaching heavy flak and determined fighter squadrons made up of Me-109's as well as the feared Fock Wulfe 190 an even more formidable fighter than the Mischerschmitt! In some cases American bomber crews in their terrible post traumatic stress would actually visualize Gremlins crawling over the equipment sabotaging the aircraft! What began as a joke turned into paranoia and hallucinated threats, or were they?
The Shadow Knows
From the 1930's all the way to 1954, Walter B. Gibson, creator of the famous "Shadow Mystery Radio Program" entertained countless American families at night in their homes during the golden age of radio. Without the miracle of TV yet to come, American families settled into to evenings spent listening to radio plays. Stories became as real as life itself as adults and children alike materialized what they heard through the radio into their vivid imaginations as radio actors recited scripted lines, special sound effects added realism, while the listening audience entered the realm of fantasy! Yet, for Walter B. Gibson, reality he found might be created by intense concentration to the point where the imagined could transform into concrete reality.
When thought becomes reality
The Buddhists have a word for this known as "Tulpas". When Gibson died and his house in Hollywood was sold the new owners reported an ominous shadow on the walls that overcame broad daylight and manifested itself regardless of the absence of night! It seems Walter B. Gibson's intense concentration on his stories materialized them into solid existence! And so it was with B-17 and B-24 bomber crews who became convinced that their superstitions had become real and the Gremlin was more than just a joke to blame mechanical failure on! The prospect of life or death does much to clarify the lines between the spirit world and our material world. Sometimes the lines between fantasy and the grim prospects of life as we know it manifest a bizarre situation that defies our norms even under the duress of war.
In fate Magazine in the late 1980's the editors dedicated the publication as it has been intended since 1947 and the report made by Kenneth Arnold, a bush pilot in Washington State, who spotted 9 nine silvery objects he called flying saucers. Fate was a fascinating collection of real live stories concerning the paranormal from Bigfoot to ghosts, from UFO's to haunted houses, the magazine had earned a faithful audience of readers. Several articles spoke of the wives of deceased pilots shot down in World War II who never came back. Even after grudgingly remarrying later on they would suddenly feel the presence of the young husband KIA (Killed in Action) or perhaps MIA (Missing in Action). One woman reported the loving presence of her husband because she smelled the leather of his bomber jacket and the scent of aviation flight fuel of the time! Other women reported old love letters unexpectedly showing up out of nowhere, clocks that oddly reset to the time the pilot was reported KIA. These were not coincident's these women once married to brave pilots remarked. These were messages from beyond the grave. Several women reported feeling the presence of their former lover just before his apparition appeared to them, smiling as if to say she was still loved and that he was okay from the realm he now existed in.
During the hotly contested Allied retaking of Europe from Hitler's forces American GI's, an abbreviation for General Infantry began to discover intuitive capabilities that far exceeded what any sane person could have imagined. Among the horrific aspects of frontal assault, and heavy artillery bombardment came the strange ability of the human mind to overcome the impossible. As German artillery often heavily cratered US Allied positions and tore men to pieces as the shells landed sometimes the outcome was different. Many a GI reported that he heard a voice telling him to jump out of his foxhole because a shell was about to land there! Many US infantrymen reported that a voice, sometimes like the voice of Jesus, or perhaps a beloved deceased family member called out to them telling them to exit their hastily dug in entrenchment seconds before the artillery shell disintegrated the earth it was part of! This was a common syndrome that doctors could not explain.
In Part II we shall explore further the inexplicable realm of the paranormal during warfare!