Ninety-Eight-year-old Mayo woman Maureen Sweeney was presented with a special US House of Representatives honour last weekend for her actions that helped change the course of history.
During World War II, in 1944, on the day she turned 21 years, Maureen Flavin (Sweeney ) changed the course of World history with weather reports.
At 1am on June 3, 1944, Maureen, from Knockanure, Co Kerry, then working as a post office assistant in Blacksod, Co Mayo, examined a barometer and noted the air pressure was dropping rapidly. This signified that a major Atlantic storm was coming to this remote part of Ireland and would blow right across Western Europe. One of Maureen’s duties in the post office was to record this and other metrological information and ring it in to the met office in Dublin.
What Maureen didn’t know was that this information, from the most westerly station in Europe, was being sent to the Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, in England, and would land on the desk of United States Four Star General Dwight D Eisenhower, who was then Supreme Commander of the combined allied forces.
Late in the morning of June 3, a phone call came to the post office in Blacksod and when Maureen answered, a lady with a distinct English accent spoke to Maureen and requested her to “Please Check. Please Repeat!” (the Met report ).
Maureen then called Edward “Ted” Sweeney (Maureen’s future husband ) who checked her readings and confirmed that yes, the barometer is dropping rapidly and yes, a storm is coming.
This confirmed for the meteorologists in General Eisenhower’s office that it was wise to postpone Operation Overlord or what later became known as D-Day for 24 hours, and that the allies should stand down all associated activities until the weather cleared, and this break in the weather which Maureen and the Sweeney family also reported, allowed the invasion to go ahead on June 6.
Last Saturday in the Sonas Nursing Home in Belmullet where she currently resides, Maureen was awarded a special honour for her role in helping the Allies during the war.
John J Kelly, an Irish-American who led the design and production of the modern landing craft, paid tribute to Maureen and the Sweeney Family at the event on behalf of the USA.
John read several letters of thanks to Maureen and her family from the US, the Higgins, Walk and Flavin families. Frank Walk survived D-Day in Normandy mainly due to the storm warning by Maureen on June 3, 1944.
John also presented a letter and certificate to Maureen from the President of the World War Two Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.
John read a signed personal note from the highest ranking military officer to ever take a seat in the US Congress. Retired Three Star Marine Corps General – now Congressman Jack Bergman (Michigan First District ), sent his best wishes to Maureen and thanked her for her work in 1944.
Congressman Bergman also sent a framed parchment from the US Congress, which places her name in the US Congressional Record for perpetuity. This recognises Maureen’s Met report that saved lives because of the postponement of Operation Overlord and then the Met report that led to the go-ahead for D-Day in Normandy, France, in 1944.
John J Kelly presented the House of Representatives Medal to Maureen Sweeney on behalf of the House of Representatives. This medal was specially produced and only given to those that have performed “Laudable Deeds” for the USA.
Patricia Kelly, John’s wife, presented a bouquet of Summer flowers to Maureen with the thanks of the people of the USA and of Ireland.