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How a weather forecast impacted D-Day, altering the course of history

1 month 1 week 11 hours ago Thursday, June 06 2024 Jun 6, 2024 June 06, 2024 7:55 PM June 06, 2024 in Weather news
Source: The Storm Station

The courage of around 160,000 Allied troops was displayed during the D-Day invasion on June 6th, 1944, as they overtook the heavily-fortified French coastline occupied by Nazi Germany.

Lots of planning went into the immense and world-altering task, and the weather was one important consideration. Without taking weather into account, history might have taken a different course.

June 5th was the original target date for the massive invasion, set by Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, specific criteria needed to be met for ideal landing conditions. It had to occur within a few days of a Full Moon. This was to ensure that there was enough moonlight for pilots and paratroopers along with low enough of a tide at dawn for the first set of forces on the ground.

Light winds, calm seas, and clear skies were also necessary criteria surrounding the invasion date. This is where a team of Allied meteorologists came into the picture.

Based on measurements of temperature, pressure, and humidity, forecasters were able to map out the position of various weather fronts nearby. It soon became clear to the British meteorologists that low clouds and stormy weather were likely on June 5th. Eisenhower was convinced at the eleventh hour to postpone the operation by the Chief Meteorological Officer, Captain James Martin Stagg.

The Allied meteorologists were also trying to determine whether there would be a window of opportunity on June 6th. Meteorology was in its infancy at the time. The technology that is commonplace today, like satellites, did not exist back then.

After analyzing the subtle clues available, the team of meteorologists concluded there would be a period of time that would make the invasion possible. Operation Overlord on June 6th was a go.

The invasion didn’t come without its challenges. The first set of paratroopers and ground forces still had to face cloud cover, high wind, and choppy seas. But soon skies cleared, just as the meteorologists predicted. The Germans were also caught off guard. They were tracking the weather also, but came to a different conclusion. Not only would it be stormy on June 6th, but the Germans predicted adverse conditions would last for at least another week. They were confident in this forecast, so much so that some soldiers were allowed to leave their posts.

It's impossible to know what the world might look like if D-Day actually happened one day earlier, but the weather definitely played an important role. Many years later when former president John F. Kennedy asked Eisenhower why the invasion was successful, he responded “because we had better meteorologists than the Germans!”


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