Weather 'Tis noble to suffer

This Day in History

One would be hard-pressed to find a soul who is enjoying this current weather pattern; dark and cloudy skies, random thunderstorms and downpours have been commonplace for well over a week and it seems there’s no end in sight. Those who are holding out hope of sunny skies, cookouts and pool parties on Memorial Day are likely to be sorely disappointed.

But…is that what this weekend is really about?

Perhaps now is good time to refocus our hearts and minds on the true significance of Memorial Day as we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Dangerous conditions have always been “just a part of the job” for America’s soldiers…

Over the centuries, there are countless examples of hazardous weather events wreaking havoc on the execution of battle strategy and yet stories abound in which a decisive victory was attained even as our soldiers simultaneously battled myriad natural foe.

In fact, the weather played no minor role in the outcome of the D-Day Invasion on the beaches of Normandy in June of 1944. The mercurial nature of the English Channel, which had a tendency to spawn ever-changing and dangerous weather occurrences, was about to show its sinister side.

Soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during an intense snowfall

Luckily for the Allied Forces, a cracker-jack team of meteorologists was at their behest and predicted, with fortuitous clarity the impending inclement weather, estimated to last a full two weeks. Postponing the invasion a day or two would have been a challenging possibility, but waiting fourteen days was not!

The Paratroopers, who were to jump in behind enemy lines, and who were absolutely indispensible to the allies hope of success, needed a full moon and clear skies in order for the daring invasion plan to work. The ideal drop date was determined to be June 5th but mother nature would not abide.

Fortuitously, the next day, on June 6th, a small window of opportunity emerged during the tempestuous storms, thus enabling the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare to that time to forge ahead. The sleep-deprived weather forecasters, who had held at bay the mighty armada of over 5000 ships, finally deemed the operation “clear enough to proceed.” That by no means implied that conditions were desirable during that brief gap in the storms.

It is, of course, a well-documented fact that the D-Day Normandy Invasion, deemed by many historians to be the single most important day of the twentieth century, was a remarkable military success albeit sadly rife with unspeakable human tragedy.

One of the more challenging elements of the weather that fateful day, involved the tremendous waves that battered amphibious tanks designed to withstand one foot waves, not the six foot swells that assaulted them. 27 out of 29 Duplex Drive tanks would meet their demise.

The Allies brilliantly turned the weather to their advantage.

All the while in occupied France and in Germany, the Axis powers were (wrongly) placing bets that Allied Forces would be stifled by the weather and that the impending invasion would surely not take place as planned.

Their meteorologists were far inferior to those of General Eisenhower. Thus “resting” securely in that false assumption, German commanders temporarily left their posts and a healthy number of soldiers were granted leave, leaving the Axis powers woefully ill-prepared for the onslaught about to overtake them.

Of course, there were many factors which led to the success of Allied Forces at Normandy, certainly not the least of which was the menacing weather!

So while we all groan about this long stretch of gray skies and rain that is impeding our ability to fire up the grill and spend time outdoors, let us not lose sight of the many courageous men and women who braved conditions far, far worse than those in which we find ourselves this solemn weekend. Many of our soldiers never made it home. And on this day, we should not allow cloudy skies to shroud our memory of them.

Don’t let a few raindrops keep you from attending one of the many tributes that are taking place this weekend all over our great nation. It’s the very least we can do in taking the time to offer up our sincere gratitude for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

About the author

2 Responses
  1. René Nielsen

    For those interested in the stories leading up to, during, and after June 6th, 1944 I recommend “The Longest Day” by Cornelius Ryan. The stories of the characters involved provides personal touches that bring the story alive and show that great events often occur in the midst of mundane lives. The research is excellent and captured narratives in the ’60’s of those no longer with us today.

  2. René Nielsen

    On this day in 1944, Operation Overlord marked the largest amphibious military operation in history. It was a testament to the resolve to contribute to the end of fascist rule of Europe. Truly a combined arms (and multi-national) effort of unprecedented scale. This day was burned into the memories of the survivors and inspired our nation. Commemorate this day.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend