Unsung D-Day Hero: a Scottish Weatherman

James Stagg convinced Eisenhower to change date, and an RAF weather squadron helped
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2019 6:15 PM CDT
Unsung D-Day Hero: a Scottish Weatherman
In this June 6, 1944, file photo, Allied troops crouch behind the bulwarks of a landing craft as it nears Omaha Beach during a landing in Normandy, France.   (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, File)

As the world salutes the soldiers of D-Day on the 75th anniversary of the invasion, Accuweather pays homage to a Scottish meteorologist who played no small role in the mission's success. Royal Air Force Capt. James Stagg convinced Gen. Dwight Eisenhower at the last minute to push back the mission one day, from June 5 to June 6. Stagg didn't have the luxury of modern forecasting technology back in 1944, and he had to base his "history-altering" forecast on data from ships and reconnaissance flights. It was anything but a sure thing, but Stagg predicted correctly that fierce conditions on June 5 would break long enough on June 6 to provide an opening. Eisenhower listened, and the Allied mission changed the war.

The BBC, meanwhile, notes that an RAF weather squadron gets even less credit than Stagg, though its role was crucial. The 518 Squadron flew hundreds of miles into the stormy Atlantic to gather weather readings, and its data informed Stagg's pivotal forecast. These weather sorties were flown throughout the war, and British historian John Holliday says they required "amazing" navigational skills. The planes usually went out at night, often during severe weather. "Consequently, they lost a lot of men," says Holliday. "This was one of the most dangerous stations to be in." (A 90-year-old's D-Day song is beating Taylor Swift.)

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