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Weather History

The most accessible general sources of weather lessons for battlefield tactics learned in military history are the writings of John F. Fuller, official historian of the USAF Air Weather Service during the 1970s and 1980s. His works are Weather and War (available from USAF Air Weather Service Headquarters, Scott AFB, IL) and Thor's Legions (published by the American Meteorological Society).

Here are some famous examples (out of hundreds):
"Weather and terrain have a greater impact on battles
 than any other physical factor-including weapons"

G.R. Svoboda, Army Weather Support (A. Deepak Publishing, 1986).



Weather Effect

217 BC Hannibal's invasion of Italy Freezing of marshland allows invasion by mounted troops across weakly defended terrain
AD 1200s Genghis Khan's invasion of China Freezing of marshlands and rivers allows invasion by mounted troops against weakly defended terrain



Sweden's Charles XII's invasion of Russia

Napoleon's invasion of Russia

Hitler's invasion of Russia

Russian winter's cold degrades army mobility and logistics
1776 Washington crossing to Trenton NJ Freezing of Delaware river allows unforeseen mobility of American Army
1863 US Civil War Battles Acoustic propagation disrupts co-ordination of flanking attacks
1915 German use of poison gas Wind blows chemicals back onto German lines and destroys 4 Prussian regiments
1939 German blitzkrieg into Poland Luftwaffe commanders utilize forecast of unusually dry weather
1943 US Army 8th Air Force bombers take heavy losses over Germany Visual bombsights only work over visual targets so Germans cluster their fighters there
1944 D-Day Most famous weather forecast of history for conditions favorable to air, sea, and ground operations together--a rare event
1944 Bombing of Japan B-29s discover 200+mph jet stream winds: can't reach targets with full bombloads and bombsights don't work with 500+ mph ground speeds
1950 North Korean invasion of South Korea NK planners correctly assess USAF vulnerability and plan attacks during monsoon season
1951 Chinese invasion of Korea Chinese commanders repeat Genghis Khan's tactic and invade after the Yalu River freezes (US Bombing had destroyed all bridges)
1954 French defeated in Vietnam Last fortress of Dien Bien Phu located in valley that routinely receives 50% more rain than any other
1966 US Forces in Vietnam Army material replacement cycle speeded up from 8 years to 2 years due to tropic moisture's degradation of wood, cloth, and electronics
1968 US Army 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) Clouds force helicopters down into enemy groundfire and lose 21 after planners erroneously worried more about rainrates then ceiling and visibility
1972 North Vietnamese cross DMZ Low ceilings and visibility immunize 160 tank force against US detection
1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission US Army intelligence officers untrained in meteorology fail to utilize proper weather reconnaissance and pass on forecast of dust effects
1983 Grenada Weather excluded from planning so approach to Point Salinas Airport is straight through violent thunderstorms; Navy SEALS drown
1990 Desert Storm Diurnal winds prevent Hussein from launching ballistic SCUD's during day; winds apparently blow chemicals in unsuspected directions
1996 Bosnia First bridge and camp built in a traditional flood plain; mine detectors fail in snow

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