Historic D-Day weather forecast from Blacksod remembered

This week marked the quiet passing of the 70th anniversary of the historic role played by a lighthouse keeper in Blacksod, who unwittingly changed the course of World War II when he delivered a weather forecast all the way to General Dwight D Eisenhower on June 3, 1944.

Seventy years ago today, on June 6, 1944 - now known as D-Day - the Western Allies finally launched an operation that had been years in the planning, in top secret, and which would become the largest seaborne invasion in history, launching 5,000 ships and landing 156,000 troops on the beaches of Normandy, France.

D-Day is today regarded as being a major contributor to the Allied victory in World War II.

However, many people may not be aware that D-Day was originally scheduled to take place on June 5 and it was a report from Ted Sweeney, the lighthouse keeper at Blacksod on the very western fringe of Europe, which convinced the Allies to delay the landing by one day and potentially save it from disaster.

In the weeks and days leading up to D-Day, meterologists on both sides of the Atlantic were intensely scrutinising the weather and the tides, because the success of the operation relied entirely on the conditions being right for a large-scale seaborne and airborne invasion.

Ted Sweeney was at that time delivering hourly weather reports phoned into London. He didn’t know it but these reports were being delivered directly to General Dwight D Eisenhower and informing one of the biggest military operations in world history.

In the early hours of the morning on June 3, he phoned a report which carried a warning. He advised there was “a Force 6 wind and a rapidly falling barometer” at his weather station.

Up until that point, the British and Americans had been at odds over whether or not conditions would be good enough on the day.

A few hours after the report was phoned in to London, a call came back to Blacksod Lighthouse to repeat the report. Another call requested a further repeat.

The Sweeney family had no idea that they were at the centre of the trans-Atlantic coordination of the greatest invasion in history.

Eisenhower was in a quandary. The long planning looked like it would be swept aside by a most uncontrollable force - the weather. Should the landing not go ahead in the next few days it could be months before tidal conditions would be favourable enough again for such an invasion.

On June 4, the weather reports coming in from Blacksod continued to be monitored. They indicated the weather was clearing and these reports informed the eventual go ahead given for D-Day to proceed on June 6, which is now one of the most historic dates in the history of modern Europe.

 

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