Baron: Manfred Freiherr Von Richthofen
During the First World War soldiers and civilians reported a string of paranormal phenomena that historians and UFO experts have struggled to explain.
Some of these spectacular sightings feature in a new book, UFOs of the First World War, by Nigel Watson.
The most famous flyer of the First World War was the German pilot Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron.
No human pilot could match his skills in the air - and apparently neither could aliens.
He supposedly spotted an UFO that looked like an upside down silver saucer with orange lights during an early morning mission in the clear blue skies above Belgium in the spring of 1917.
Fellow German Air Force ace Peter Waitzrick, who reportedly witnessed the dogfight, said: “We were terrified because we’d never seen anything like it before. The Baron immediately opened fire and the thing went down like a rock, shearing off tree limbs as it crashed into the woods.”
Two occupants allegedly survived the crash and clambered from the wreck before running into the trees.
Waitzrick and his squadron initially thought the UFO was a secret US aircraft, until he read reports about flying saucers and then had no doubt that was what he saw.
However, he did not share the story until 80 years after the event, when he was 105 years-old, and the headline appeared in the Weekly World News in August 1999.
Waitzrick said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that the Baron shot down some kind of spacecraft from another planet and those little guys who ran off into the woods were space aliens of some kind.”
However, historians have questioned the story, pointing out that the Fokker triplanes the squadron were allegedly flying were not put into operation service until August 1917, several months after the encounter.