WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Perfect weather forecast was key to Normandy landing

Posted November 11

When I went to France in May on Delta's first non-stop from RDU to Paris, I got a fresh look at the City of Light. And on a day off, I took a side trip. I wanted to take pictures and experience the emotion still resonant on the beaches of Normandy.

For years, I have been been fascinated by the role the weather forecast played in the Allied success on D-Day. It started in 1994, when a gentleman stopped by WRAL-TV to give me a book called "Forecast for Overlord" which detailed how weather and the man who made the forecast determined the date of the D-Day invasion.

Group Capt. James Stagg of the Royal Air Force, a Brit, was a weather forecaster in an era without satellite data. Even the aircraft of the time were only up for a limited duration. Yet Stagg was the man asked by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower with 24 hours' notice whether to launch the invasion.

We think we have pressure forecasting tornadoes and thunderstorms and snow, but Stagg was the man talking to Ike, a guy who's a four-star general in command of a million troops, thousands of ships, thousands of aircraft, when he turns and says basically, "What's the weather?"

Dan Bolger, a professor of history at North Carolina State University and a veteran of 35 years in U.S. Army, has studied Stagg's forecast and said he saw something the Germans didn't.

"Stagg saw a very small ridge of high pressure," Bolger said. "The German weather forecasters didn't see the very small ridge that would calm the channel and allow the Allies to get across."

At the time Stagg made his forecast, invasion was set for June 5.

Bolger said, "Stagg told Eisenhower, 'If you can wait a day, you can get your invasion.'"

The Germans were so certain of the bad weather, Bolger said, that the commander in the area went home on leave, sure the invasion was not imminent.

The weather forecast for Normandy was the key Allied advantage that allowed them to launch the invasion on that day and at that time. If that invasion had, failed it's uncertain how WWII would have ended.

It just makes you think about the incredible sacrifices made so that I could do a story about them on Veterans Day.

2 Comments

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  • New Holland Nov 11, 7:09 p.m.
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    And those men, and women were the Greatest Generation.
    Another of the many great stories from that war that thankfully went our way, but could have easily not except for great people

  • Byrd Ferguson Nov 11, 6:50 p.m.
    user avatar

    Thank you, Greg. Great story. We need more stories like this and less "flash in the pan" stories by the news media.