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June 6, 1944:  God's Weather:  Meteorologists approve the D-Day invasion!

 James Stagg

British Group Captain James Stagg - RAF    Head of Allied D-Day meteorologists

  The outcome of World War II hinged on several great battles and more than a few great strategic risks, but few can be thought as important as the Battle of Normandy, which was the beach invasion phase (Operation Neptune) of the larger invasion (Operation Overlord) of German occupied France.  The invasion of Normandy is often referred to as the D-Day invasion.  Had it not been a success for the Allies, then Europe might now be either Nazi German or Russian, depending on subsequent events.  But, it was a success.  The Allies did launch an invasion of unprecedented size against the German fortifications and troops holding the Normandy Coast.  They did cross the sea, the English Channel, in their various water crafts, some of which were not too seaworthy, and they did reach the beach and secure a presence there.  They invaded a stretch of beach approximately 50 miles long, which they had broken into sections on their invasion maps, calling them Gold Beach, Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Juno Beach, and Sword Beach. 

  But, though the details of the battle itself have been the topic of movies and documentaries and books, there has been less focus on an extremely lucky development that concerned the weather.  Because of the tides, there were only certain days every so often that were realistic candidates for days on which to launch the invasion.  After all, the landing would be hotly contested anyway, so if the tides were bad, then the landing craft were going to be at a huge disadvantage for reaching the beach quickly.  If the storms and the tides were both bad that day then the invasion might fail completely.  And the more time the soldiers spent out on the water, the worse the situation.  In their landing boats they were bunched up in such a way that a direct hit could kill the entire boat load.  But once on land and spread out they had to be picked off in much smaller groups, and they were not helpless then either.  They would be storming across the beach, guns blazing away.  So, the last thing the Germans wanted was for the beach landing to be easy, and conversely there was nothing that the Allied commanders would have liked better.  

  So, what did an easy beach landing depend on?  A few things!  But primarily on tides, weather, and secrecy, I suppose.

  Secrecy was being worked on from every angle by the Allies, who realized that the German forces were entrenched (at least some of the German forces) and would be far superior numerically at the invasion's beginning, and that they would make the beach almost impossible to invade if they got wind of exactly which section of beach had been chosen for the invasion.  So, the Allies did all they could to make their true communications secret.  They planted as much false evidence as possible to suggest that the invasion would take place where it actually was not planned to take place.  And they sent as many confusing signals as possible by every means.  It was a very involved effort that was somehow blessed with success despite the great number of people involved in keeping the secret.

  As mentioned, the tides were only acceptable on a few certain days each month.  In this case, the 5th and 6th of June, 1944 were good.  But if the invasion was not launched on those dates, then the next acceptable day would be the 19th of June about two weeks later.  That meant trying to confuse the Germans for that many more days (a very difficult and perhaps unlikely task!)  And so, it was greatly hoped by General Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied Commander and years later the American President, that the weather would permit a June 5th or 6th invasion.  That brings us to the subject of weather.

  The meteorological science of 1944 was not brand new by any means, but it is fair to say that it was still in its early stages of development, and that its accuracy was a little undependable.  Yet, a Commander seeks any and every advantage, and Eisenhower prudently intended to get the best weather forecasting advice obtainable.  He therefore had a team of meteorologists - three teams, mixed British and American teams -  just for this cause.  They were led by British Officer James Stagg, who was sometimes accused by his junior meteorological team mates of being not so great of a meteorologist and a bit of a glory hound as well.  You will read that they said that about him, anyway, if you look into the records.  Of course those charges may not be true of him, as professional jealousy is nothing new or surprising.  And though he may have been all or none of those things, he certainly got one thing very, very right at an extremely pivotal moment in history!  More on that later.

  At any rate, the meteorologists were in great disagreement.  First, they really only forecasted weather a couple of days in advance at that time, for the most part.  And secondly, as the crucial days of June 5th and 6th drew close, they were in great discord with one another.  The Americans liked the 6th pretty well.  Some of the team hated both the 5th and the 6th, believing that the weather would be very bad on those days.  And no one liked those days completely, as all agreed that there was at least some cause to expect bad weather.  And in the English Channel, bad weather could be very bad indeed.....as in "sink nearly your entire fleet" bad.  So this was not a prediction that any meteorologist on the team wanted to bungle.  Literally tens of thousands of lives were at stake.  And beyond that, perhaps the war itself.  It was a sobering prospect.  They desperately needed to get their prediction right.  They got their information largely via aircraft, but they both had to interpret it correctly and hope that the weather patterns did not do something new and unexpected. So, they had to choose:  would it be the 5th of June or the 6th, or would they have to wait until the 19th to try again?

  Eisenhower wanted as much lead time as possible, but as the first of the possible days drew near...the 5th....he was told by his team of weather mavens that the 5th just didn't look good.  Reluctantly, Eisenhower passed the word among his inner 'need to know' circle that it would not be the 5th, and tens of thousands of tense troops had to go back into waiting mode while Allied strategists continued to try to keep the big secret a secret.  But luckily so!  The 5th arrived bringing stormy weather and bad seas.  It would have likely been a disastrous attempt had they committed to invading that day.  That gave him a little more faith in his meteorologists, but yet he couldn't seem to get them to commit on how the weather would be on the 6th, the very next day, and so very much depended on it!

  Finally, after hot debate, they reached a conclusion, and James Stagg came forward to inform General Eisenhower that though the morning of the 6th looked to start out with slightly rough seas and weather, it should not be too bad, and that there should even be a break in the middle of the day when clear weather would prevail. 

  For the general it was a heavy decision and he could not get his meteorologists to claim that it was a certain matter, but he quickly made the decision to trust their forecast.  The beginning of the invasion was planned for the morning of June 6th, 1944.

  To make a long story short, some troop and equipment transport craft did sink trying to make it to the beach that first morning of the invasion, causing great loss of life in those craft, but most made it.  The beach was stormed and taken, easily in a few areas, but with much loss of life in others.  And at around noon time on the 6th the skies cleared up and the weather calmed just as predicted, which helped things go much more smoothly.  The invasion succeeded.  There was staggering loss of life and limb, but it succeeded.  And few people know how desperately important a matter it was that the small team of  sometimes fractious meteorologists got it right.  But here is some proof:

  On June 19th, about two weeks later, when many men and supplies were still landing and the cove at the Normandy beach was filled with various crafts and there was a large and long floating steel bridge - a Mulberry bridge - from deeper anchorage to shore, there came a storm so horrible and powerful that it sunk approximately 800 floating craft and turned the steel bridge into twisted mangled unusable scrap metal.  On June 19th, the day that would have been their likely invasion day had the 6th of June not worked out, the Normandy invasion site was slammed by the worst and most powerful storm in 40 years!  They would probably have lost almost everyone had they tried to invade that day.  Even as it was the storm was a huge and costly disaster, but luckily there were vast numbers of Allied troops and their equipment already on shore for weeks, well established and fighting the Germans. 

  Below is a photo of a floating military transport bridge destroyed by the June 19th - 22nd, 1944 Normandy France storm.  The 19th had been a candidate as the day to launch the invasion, but an earlier date was chosen.  The most terrible storm in 40 years occurred that day, and would likely have crushed the Allied invasion attempt.  As it was, the storm sank around 800 vessels of various types, mostly military, according to some sources.

Wreakage from June 19 1944 Normandy Storm

19 June Normandy Storm Wreakage

  There were only a small handful of hours when the Normandy invasion could have succeeded in that two week span when they felt that they needed to attempt it, and those exact hours worked out.  The Lord, who manages all things and commands the weather as He wishes decided to allow success to the Allies trying to stop the Godless Nazi war machine, the same Nazis who were destroying His people the Jews whom he had identified 3,500 years ago as His chosen people.  And so, He created a small window of opportunity, and convinced the minds of the key players to choose those hours.  Great, always and everywhere, is the Lord.  His plans will always come to pass.  And His Son Jesus is likewise a small and narrow door of opportunity for the sinner who is willing to confess, repent, and seek Jesus as their Lord.  Outside of Jesus there is only storm, disaster, and everlasting ruin. 

  Choose Jesus as your Lord.  He is infinitely worthy, and you were created for this very purpose.  He really is the Son of the Living God, and........most importantly........there is no other way for your soul to be saved other than to be clothed with His righteousness.  No human possesses true righteousness on their own.  Not even one of us.  Not even one.   

         

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