MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Every day weather affects every person around the world. Picnics are canceled for rain, school is delayed for severe weather, and roads are closed due to snow. So, what happens when weather takes a turn for the worst during times of war?
From strong winds to snow storms, weather has always affected military operations.
“Well weather has certainly played a factor just in the survivability of a lot of forces, all the way back to Valley Forge. You remember how cold it was when they wintered there.”
Snow and freezing temperatures were big problems, especially for the Polar Bears who fought in Russia during World War I and troops in the Korean War.
However, winter weather is not the only weather that affects military operations, especially in the past when we did not have the technology we have today.
On June 6, 1944, Allied forces stormed Normandy during World War II. This event is known as D-Day. Most people know about this historic day and what happened, but did you know that weather forecasting played a key role in the planning and the ultimate success of this operation?
“Absolutely, when you look at the geographic position of Normandy, and English Channel, any westerly winds were going to have a huge role as far as the waves and even pushing some of the tide action higher. And so from the 5th into the 6th it was significantly windy and there were a lot of high waves and actually the conditions when the troops came to show early on the 6th were not ideal by any means. But, fortunately by mid day on the 6th, the skies did begin to clear and the weather did improve dramatically, which the forecasters were hoping for. And, that led to a better outcome than if the weather conditions would have remained as poor as they were on the 5th into the early part of the 6th.”
The Allied forces required moonlight and clear skies for optimal visibility, and low tides and calm seas for transport by water. This left a three day window in early June for the troops to travel safely. The operation had to take place sometime between June 5th-7th or they would have to delay D-Day for a few weeks. Thankfully, there was a window of improvement in the weather forecasted for June 6.
This was an advantage for the Allies because they forecasted this improvement in weather, but it seems like the Axis’ meteorologists did not. The Axis believed the weather to be too treacherous for Allies to attempt the operation. The winds on during this time were strong and it would be difficult to navigate air and sea under the conditions. This gave Allies the upper hand since no one was expecting them.
These past meteorologists were incredible because technology during World War 2 was not as advanced as it is now. Back then, they had to make forecasts based off of a few weather observations and patterns of past weather.
“We have to also remember back in that time we didn’t have access to weather radar networks or satellites and things like that. Most of the forecasting was basically based off of well this is the typical type of weather that happens on this day in years past and there’s a very rudimentary observation network where they were getting some observations and comparing them with what they think might be going on. So, definitely much more challenging trying to forecast back in the 1940s than what it is today.”
Thanks to meteorologists, D-Day’s outcome was a lot brighter than it could have been. With their limited resources, these forecasters made decisions that saved lives and helped to create a major turning point in World War II.