The Airborne "Mets" of WWII

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If, at some future veterans' convention, the uniformed weathermen of World War II get to swap experiences, their tales easily can hold their own with hair-raisers from any other branch of the service.
The "Mets", as they were called, can jingle plenty of medals, and, as for variety-few other outfits will be able to match the meteorologists.
They traveled by snow tractor and dog team to Greenland's frigid ice cap, and they carried their own equipment through torrid jungles of the South Pacific.
They parachuted into the Balkans ahead of the campaigns in Sicily and Italy.
They jumped with the airborne spearheads on D-day in Normandy.
They flew in one-man fighters ahead of regular bombing formations, and they rode in B-29s over Tokyo.
Weather is a vitally important factor in modern warfare.
But accurate weather forecasting for military purposes is a recent thing.
Alexander and Caesar depended on prayers and libations to bring favorable weather for their campaigns.
Weather forecasts in those days were still in the chief magician's department.
A thousand years later bad weather probably killed as many Crusaders as did the scimitars of the Moslems, although history often ignores weather.
Spain's proud armada came to grief in 1588 when a storm struck it in the English Channel.
Napoleon disregarded the severity of Russian winters and left most of his army frozen on the road to and from Moscow.
Later a rainstorm hampered his artillery and lost him the Battle of Waterloo.
Indeed, weather was most unkind to Napoleon, and it is not a little ironic that an important American weather station was established at St.
Helena, the tiny South Atlantic Island where the French Emperor spent the last six years of his life.
The station was small, but its reports helped formulate the forecasts for the busy Air Transport Command routes between South America and Africa.
Both sides in the recent war employed weather as a weapon.
The Germans took advantage of the unusually good dry weather that prevailed in Europe during the summer of 1939, when they rolled westward through France, Belgium and Holland.
In 1943 they sent their great ships, Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, slipping from the port of Brest through the English Channel to more secure hiding places while squally, foggy conditions, and an exceptionally low icing level for aircraft held the British navy and the RAF helpless to stop them.
Later still, the Germans launched their Belgian Bulge counterattack and breakthrough at a time when fog, haze and low-hanging clouds kept the Allied airmen on the ground.
Commanders fumed, pilots chewed their nails, and weathermen scanned their instruments anxiously.
Meanwhile, the German panzer units, set in motion because of weather information from their own lines but the Ally's roared out to blast supply and communications lines, leaving the powerful German advance disintegrated into chaos.

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