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D-Day weather watch

Despite the careful and minute attention to detail that went into the planning for Operation Overlord, one key element was always going to be out of control of those in command – the weather.

British Group Captain James Stagg, Chief Meteorological Advisor to General Eisenhower, recalled the great tension in early June as the allies searched desperately for a break in the poor weather which could allow the invasion to proceed. It was his report which ultimately caused Eisenhower to utter the famous words ‘OK, we’ll go!’

A Sherman tank of the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Sherbrooke Fusiliers), supporting 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade, comes ashore on Nan White beach, Juno area, near Bernieres-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944.
27th Canadian Armoured Regiment comes ashore on Nan White beach, Juno area.

General Eisenhower made it clear quite early that he wanted to build up confidence not only in what we could do as forecasters, but also in the reliance he could put on the tone of voice and very words I used. He could tell even before I presented the forecast each time what I was going to say. He seemed to use my face almost as a barometer.

On the evening of that Wednesday, 31 May, even then I advised General Eisenhower that conditions for the oncoming weekend  especially on Sunday night and into Monday morning, the crucial times for Overlord  were going to be stormy. But we went on with the meetings. General Eisenhower and his commanders who met for nothing else twice a day during those fateful days, first, second and third of June.

Then mercifully, the almost unbelievable happened about midday on that Sunday. We spotted a possible interlude between two depressions. By the evening my own confidence in the forecast for this quieter period had so increased after further reports that I convinced General Eisenhower it would indeed arrive later on Monday after storms Sunday night and Monday morning and that it would continue through Tuesday, probably into Wednesday.

The next morning early on 5 June they met again to confirm this decision and when I could tell them that we were even more confident than we had been the previous night that the quieter interlude would indeed come along, the joy on the faces of the Supreme Commander and his commanders after the deep gloom of the preceding days was a marvel to behold.

Dr J.M. Stagg, Interview for The World at War (1974), Episode 17; ‘Morning’

The Stories of D-Day

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