Traveling Tuesday: Weather Stations
Most civilians don’t pay attention to the weather unless poor conditions may impact their plans such as outside chores, commuting, or vacations. However, throughout history, weather has made a difference during crucial moments. The scorching heat of summer and the frigid cold of winter during Napoleon’s Russian campaign destroyed his Grand Armee, and torrential rains on the battlefields at Waterloo contributed to his final defeat. When Kublai Khan tried to overtake Japan, his fleet was destroyed by a typhoon. You can bet that both those generals wished they’d had accurate forecasting abilities.
During World War II, every nation involved in the conflict (and perhaps many that were not) had apparently learned from history and paid close attention to the weather. Aircraft could be grounded by bad weather or targets obscured by fog or clouds. Sea convoys needed clear weather to delivery cargoes, and land offenses also depended on knowing what sort of weather was around the corner.
Modern devices such as satellites were unavailable in the 1940s, so meteorologists depended on barometers and other tools. Even with the “crudity” of their devices, weathermen could make fairly accurate predictions up to seventy-two hours in advance. In Europe, weather patterns form in the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, then drift west to east. Because of their lack of colonies in that area to use as reporting stations, Germany was at a disadvantage, but quickly set out to change their situation.
Greenland, Jan Mayen Island (a Norwegian island about 600 miles north of Norway), and the Svelbard Archipelago (a Norwegian island halfway between Norway and the North Pole) were three prime weather-reporting locations, but all part of neutral nations. The good news for the Germans was that Greenland’s and Jan Mayen’s stations transmitted their weather data in plain international code.
An interesting twist occurred to Hitler after he invaded Denmark and Norway in early 1940. When their home countries became occupied, the island colonies had to fend for themselves and chose resistance, cooperating with the British and Americans. Weather information from these stations was now only provided to the Allies.
As a result, Germany sent U-boats to the area to act as weather-reporting stations. However, the General in charge felt that gathering meteorological data came behind sinking enemy ships, so information was sporadic, and by January 1941, the submarine’s full time weather duties ended. The Luftwaffe then became responsible for weather reconnaissance, but was also more intent on battle. Eventually, a program to use weather “fishing” trawlers was thought to be a better solution.
However, that plan ended in disaster because the British were able to intercept the transmissions to such an extent that any element of surprise was lost, but more importantly captured many of the trawlers, each of which was carrying an Enigma Code machine. The Germans realized land-based stations were the best way to go and managed to set up facilities in remote areas of Greenland and several of the tiny islands scattered throughout the Arctic sea.
In the year since arriving in London, journalist Ruth Brown has put a face on the war for her readers at home in the U.S. Thus far, juggling her career and her relationship with Detective Inspector Trevor Gelson hasn't proven too challenging. The war gets personal for Ruth when her friend Amelia is murdered, and Trevor is assigned to the case.
Life gets even more unsettling when clues indicate her best friend, Varis, is passing secrets to the enemy. Convinced Varis is innocent, Ruth must find the real traitor as the clock ticks down toward Operation Husky-the Allied invasion of Sicily. Circumstantial evidence leads Trevor to suspect her of having a part in Amelia's death, and Ruth must choose between her heart and her duty.
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