Joe Bastardi / June 7, 2018

D-Day Reflections

Yesterday was D-Day and I want to share some thoughts.

Yesterday was D-Day and I want to share some thoughts.

I flat-out love history. I think there are times when the weather, if it did not change the course of history, certainly impacted it. The storms that disrupted and in essence destroyed the Spanish Armada is one example. The weather the day JFK was assassinated is another. If the rain had continued, as was the forecast, the limousine top would not have been down, which would have changed the outcome. On Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Erin was well offshore with a ridge of high pressure along the East Coast providing optimum visibility. Had Erin been closer, the airports would likely have seen disruptions. It’s not only bad weather that can change the course of history but good weather also.

1944 had two major events. The subject of this is D-Day. However, let's not forget the Battle of the Bulge. The arrival of Arctic high pressure froze the muddy ground that was bogging down tanks and allowed the counterattack to proceed. Historians have opined that the Battle of the Bulge would have turned anyway and may have actually led to a quicker downfall. But the relief of the garrison at Bastogne in part benefited from the ability to have tanks moving again rather than bogged down in mud.

D-Day was one of the most high-pressure weather forecasts, if not the highest, in history. Here is a fascinating story of the men behind the forecast.

The forecasters threaded the needle as they had a relative opening on the 6th with moderate northwest winds.

Here was the morning map on June 5th.

The evening of June 5th:

The morning of June 6th:

That low cutting southeast to the east of the UK was a headache, because by the evening of the 6th things were likely cranking quite a bit more.

The morning of June 7th:

In hindsight, the 5th might have been the safer day to go, but it was a no-go. You have to read the story (and I hope you did); I just added the maps. As usual, reanalysis can give us a sneak peak but not the real deal as actual maps.

Ever wonder if you could have made the call? Heck, today a storm like that would be blamed on “climate change.”

The weather yesterday was quite tranquil.

Stop and think about how that day has changed all our lives. It’s popular today to assume, because of how far we have advanced since the mid-20th century, that we could have done it. We could have made the call. Then again, perhaps the German meteorologists would have made the call too. 
 But when I think of D-Day, I think of more. In some ways it is a bigger day of reflection for me than Memorial Day. Obviously, the weather is something I reflect on, given its importance. But my very career as a meteorologist may have been impacted. Is it because of my love for the weather? No, it’s because one of the men charging Normandy Beach was Bill Koll, my wrestling coach at Penn State. I will show you a post-World War II picture of him when he was wrestling at Northern Iowa, where he went 72-0 and was a three-time national champion.

He gave me a chance to join the wrestling team. And for three years every day of my life I got better at school, at wrestling, and my walk with the good Lord. There are no atheist in foxholes, they say, and being a wrestling walk-on was like being in a foxhole given I had never made varsity in high school.

But I think all the time about Coach Koll. He loved the weather and loved to razz me about it. He would never talk about what happened in the war. I always wondered what he went through. But I do know this — not only do I owe him and all who charged the Normandy beaches a debt I can never repay, I owe him for giving me a chance later when he was my coach. It really changed the course I was on.

What if he didn’t make it through D-Day, like so many others? What if the forecast was wrong, or the attack failed? These are not things to take for granted. Instead, they are things to have eternal gratitude for. For me, D-Day always brings up the idea of what happened with the weather, but at the time there was a guy charging Normandy who eventually would play a part in me attaining my dream. Fact is, the very things my mom and dad taught me I lost sight of when I went to college, until Coach Koll let me walk on that wrestling team. Like I said, every day for three years I got better, and I still chase that today, with the understanding that I am never likely to attain that level of day-to-day improvement again.

I have never been nervous speaking in public, except once, when Coach Koll asked me to speak to his church group. You just did not want to let him down, because he never let you down. He charged Normandy Beach long before I was born, along with so many others. He let me stay on the team when he could have just thrown me off (I was bad compared to the guys who became my teammates and to this day my closest friends). Coach Koll, along with Coach Andy Matter, whose dad also was in the war, worked with me all the time. And perhaps I am foolish in putting so much value in the past, but there was just something about the generation before mine that I look to measure up to all the time.

We can argue if the weather on D-Day changed the course of history. But one of the guys who charged Normandy changed the course of this weatherman’s history. And for that, and for all the others who came before me, the best you can do is to say thank you and try to measure up.

Perhaps Gen. George Patton said it best: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.“ I don’t know about that, but I do know about the second part of the quote: "Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicle: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”

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