Most Important Weather Forecast in History

  “Group Capt. Stagg and his colleagues (were) under almost unimaginable pressure and conflict… with the fate of the war and perhaps the world hanging in the balance.”

 

Group Captain J M Stagg, Chief Meteorological Officer with the Royal Air Force, responsible for forecasting weather conditions for D Day. CH 14235 Part of AIR MINISTRY SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION Royal Air Force official photographer
Group Captain J M Stagg, Chief Meteorological Officer with the Royal Air Force, responsible for forecasting weather conditions for D Day. 
Photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum, AIR MINISTRY SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION. Royal Air Force official photographer

Comments Charles McCain: Stagg was the considered the top weather forecaster in Great Britain. He was a civilian but during the war he was given the rank of Group Captain and made Chief Meteorological Officer of the RAF.

 

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Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower aboard the HMS Apollo, a mine layer, on a visit to a beachhead along French coast, June 7, 1944.
(photo courtesy of Eisenhower Foundation)

“OK, let’s go.”

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, giving the final order for D-day, the assault on Nazi-occupied France, June 5, 1944

The greatest invasion force in the history of warfare stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was the beginning of a campaign of liberation to eliminate Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and its commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, called it “The Great Crusade.”

Eisenhower gave the final order that put the vast operation in motion in the early morning hours of June 5, as meteorologists predicted a temporary break in the stormy weather. Hours later he wrote this note, in case the operation were to fail. In the statement, he praised the men he commanded and accepted total responsibility for the failure the next day could bring. The only apparent hint of nerves on his part is his error in dating the note “July 5” instead of June 5.

(courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Presidential Papers, Principal File: Butcher Diary 1942-1945). Harry Butcher was Eisenhower’s naval aide.

 

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US Army troops heading for the beaches at Normandy 6 June 1944

(photo courtesy of USA Today)

 

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As this Coast Guard LCI noses into a French Invasion beach to debark it’s load of American troops, a Nazi mine explodes close off its port bow. Exposed to enemy fire in the beach dashes, Coast Guard Coxswain and Gun Crew felt the first fury of German shell and machine gun fire, as well as the blasts of hidden mines. From the Records of the U.S. Coast Guard (RG 26).

“To go or not to go?”

 The Most Important Weather Forecast in History:

Gen. Eisenhower’s chief meteorologist, Group Capt. James Martin Stagg, made one of the most important weather forecasts of all time. Defying his colleagues, he advised Ike to postpone the invasion of Normandy by one day from June 5, 1944, to June 6, because of uncertain weather conditions….

Stagg — who was actually a geophysicist by training — and his fellow British and American meteorologists were operating without any of the technology and equipment that today’s forecasters take for granted, such as satellites, weather radar, computer modeling and instant communications.

Predicting the exact timing, track and strength of these storms put Group Capt. Stagg and his colleagues under almost unimaginable pressure and conflict… with the fate of the war and perhaps the world hanging in the balance.

Years later, during their ride to the Capitol for his inauguration, President-elect John F. Kennedy asked President Eisenhower why the Normandy invasion had been so successful.

Ike’s answer: “Because we had better meteorologists than the Germans!”

 

sources: USA Today and The Forecast for D-day: And the Weatherman behind Ike’s Greatest Gamble, by John Ross

 

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D-Day 6 June 1944. A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company E became casualties.

(Photo by USCG Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

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June 6, 1944
A paratrooper loads for take off in England in preparation to leave for invasion

Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)