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Thread: Weather flights 5 june 1944

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    Default Weather flights 5 june 1944

    Evening all,
    I would like to know if weather flights were flown on 5 june 1944, the day before D Day by 517, 518 Sqns RAF and 652 HW Sqn USAAF with times and any other details, please. i know that 517 Sqn lost a Halifax on the 6th.
    Many thanks and regards to all.
    Tony K

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    Tony,

    Yes, and one of the Met Air Observers who flew that day is a friend and old work colleague, 'Tiny' Mentz.

    517 Sqn: Brawdy to approx 45N 15W and return. T/O 0557 (I assume GMT), landed 1634. A/c L517, Pilot F/O W H Jones.

    518 Sqn: Tiree - 52.6N 25.5W and return. T/O 0115, landed 1200. A/c P/518, Pilot P/O N Turner
    518 Sqn: Tiree - 57.3N 23.6W - 62N 14.5W - Tiree. T/O 0550, landed 1530. A/c M/518, Pilot F/O W Butler.

    652 Heavy Weather Sqn, USAAF: North Pickenham - Trevose Head - 48.5N 22W and return. Two overlapping sorties: first take-off approximately 0430, returning at about 1930. Pilot and aircraft details not available.
    Second sortie: take off 1641, landed approximately 0740 on 6 June. Fortress B17G 42-2102676, Pilot 2nd Lt Nudelman.

    Above details mostly from "Even the birds were walking" but with additional information from documents in the Met Office archives plus Tiny Mentz who was Nudelman's RAFVR Met Air Observer. He remembers flying outbound over airfields crammed with gliders, all of which had disappeared on the return.

    Could I ask your interest Tony?

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 27th July 2011 at 21:50. Reason: Spelling

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    Thanks Brian, I knew that you would come uip with the answer. My interest is in relation to a lecture that I attended in my native Dublin. The speaker mentioned that the final decision by Eisenhower to go for the invasion was from information received from the Blacksod weather station in Co Mayo (Neutral Ireland). I, as a doubting Thomas wanted to explore this further. I believe that the information transmitted by the Met Squadrons during their sorties on the 5th June had more than a passing influence to "go" for it. Long hours spent on these lonely dangerous flights more than contributed to the overall picture, well thats my bit for what its worth
    Thanks again Brian.
    Regards
    Tony K

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    Tony,

    I suppose it's not surprising that, given the importance of the forecast for the D-day landings, that so many people suddenly remembered the important part they played in this aspect of the operation. I've an account written by an American forecaster in which he says that he had worked out, from statistical considerations the previous autumn, the date and time the landings would be made; while another source suggests even the Norwegian observations apparently played an important role (tongue in cheek). There's a good story on the Internet, told by a wireless operator of R/518, of the flight his crew made on the morning of 6 June that was of vital importance to the operation (http://www.oldnautibits.com/features/aerofeature5.shtml). Unfortunately R/518 had left Tiree at 0550 GMT (0750 DBST) which was 80 minutes after the first waves of the assault had already landed on the beaches.

    No matter, back to Ted Sweeney at Blacksod lighthouse; his story has been told many times on the Internet and elsewhere, each slightly different; for instance one tells a high-ranking SHAEF officer phoning him up the following day to congratulate him on his observing.

    Because of the complexity of OVERLORD the preliminary go/no go decision by Eisenhower for D-day had to be made about 33 hours before H-hour, the time of the first assault waves landed - 30 minutes after low tide at dawn, followed by an irrevocable decision 26 hours before H-hour. The forecasters had an almost impossible task, mostly because of the lack of weather data over the North Atlantic. The met reconnaissance flights were only of limited value because they were made once daily and did not provide the forecasters with the required a sequence of observations from fixed points throughout the 24 hours for them to fix and track the movements of depressions and fronts. Not only that but 1407 Met Flight in Iceland had no aircraft due to unserviceability and lack of replacements, the consequence of this being no information was forthcoming from this source after 27 May.

    To help the forecasters the Navy deployed two frigates on weather reporting duties in the East Atlantic, HMS Hoste about 500 miles west of Ireland and HMS Grindall about halfway between southwest Ireland and the Azores. Of the two, Hoste is the most important to this account.

    The preferred time/date for the assault was 0630 DBST on 5 June, meaning the irrevocable decision to proceed had to be made around 0400 DBST on 4 June. From the 0300 DBST chart on 4 June the forecasters knew there was a cold front somewhere west of Hoste, which linked to a developing depression somewhere to the northwest - I use 'somewhere' advisedly as even now, with the advantage of 25:20 hindsight, it is impossible to produce a coherent analysis. From the information available at 0400 DBST on 4 June the forecast for H-hour on 5 June, was for high winds and low cloud with no suggestion of improvement - all unacceptable so Eisenhower postponed on a day-to-day basis.

    For some reason no observations were received from Hoste after 0300 DBST until 1200 DBST on 4 June, so it was not possible to fix either the positions of the cold front or depression between these hours, leaving the forecasters no choice but to hold to their previous ideas. The met reconnaisance squadrons flew their routine sorties on 4 June, but the only one that might have helped, K/518 flying a MERCER track from Tiree to 53N 23W and return, probably reached its turning point just ahead of the front, so it never flew into the cold air. (Still need to look more closely at this.)

    The first definite fix on the front came at 1200 DBST on 4 June when the observations at BOTH Blacksod and Valentia on the west coast of Ireland gave the first indications of a frontal passage, but the front was moving so fast that by the time the next main chart was analysed at 1500 DBST it was already halfway across Ireland.

    Based on this analysis Eisenhower gave a provisional 'Go' for 6 June at around 2200 DBST that evening (4 June) and, with later met information, confirmed his decision at 0415 DBST the following morning, 5 June.

    So yes, the first INDICATION a change to the existing unsettled conditions was underway came from the Blacksod observation - TOGETHER with that from Valentia - but it was not the sole reason that the forecast was changed. It was just one of many observations from the Irish stations which, when considered as a whole and where they sat in the overall picture, allowed the forecasters to find the brief window of opportunity Eisenhower sought.

    The value of ALL the Irish observations cannot be overstated, the corresponding German analysis for 1500 DBST on 4 June placed the cold front about 240 miles west of the Met Office position, simply because their forecasters did not have the Irish observations. I've little doubt the Met Office analysis would have been similar without the Irish data.

    The sorties flown by the met squadrons on 5 June were all too late to make a useful contribution to Eisenhower's 'Go'; with one exception they all took off AFTER the decision was made to proceed, and when the convoys had already started leaving their ports.

    I can't provide a source for the above; its something I'm working on, but I have studied original charts, accounts by the forecasters involved and I'm still finding files in the National Archives.

    Apologies for the length of this, but it seemed the only way to try and place everything into perspective, even though it's not what you were probably expecting. What I can't quite fathom is why, given the enormity of OVERLORD and the fact the USAAF had a met reconnaissance aircraft airborne every hour of the day, the RAF met squadrons were each restricted to a single daily sortie and 1407 Met Flight was not properly supported. It is not as though there was a shortage of crews; between the 4th and 6th June 517 Sqn flew four sorties and 518 Sqn six sorties - each time with a different crew. 519 Sqn at Skitten flew nine sorties over the Norwegian and North seas, but only one crew flew twice.

    However, that's another story.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 29th July 2011 at 08:47.

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    Thank you Brian for such a comprehensive and most interesting reply. I am most grateful for taking so much trouble to enlighten, yes I was on the wrong track and happy to be "realigned". Calls for an attitude change and less jumping to conclusions no doubt?
    Best regards
    Tony K
    Last edited by Tony Kearns; 29th July 2011 at 19:40.

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