March 1987 Issue
Weather in the CBI is beyond words! The monsoon and anti-monsoon bring great extremes of hot and cold and wet and dry. If stationed in Assam, you certainly know about wet and dry and if stationed in northern China you know about hot and cold. All during the height of World War II activities in CBI, men were at work learning about current weather conditions and accumulating the information to establish climatic statistics not previously known. These were men assigned to the 10th Weather Squadron. ATC crews were under orders to fly when scheduled, so thus, the weather information available to them was used only to help them avoid trouble. If the weather was bad, they flew, just as they did when it was good. This wartime order led to numerous losses so on a clear day one could use the "trail" left by the planes on the ground to guide travel between India and China.
My personal experience in weather began when I requested Weather School on entering the AAC at basic training. I was assigned to classes in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to learn to be a weather observer. The observer's job is to report current regular and special weather to the "world" through radio or teletype. This is done hourly on the half hour and whenever conditions change sufficiently to warrant it. In addition, the observer plots the maps and charts used by the forecaster in making his forecasts. The forecaster uses this information to aid flight crews before they "take off" to their destination. It is important to use this information for the crew's safety and also knowledge of the weather is useful in military air, ground and naval strategy. Thus, it is important the information be kept from the enemy.
After being stationed as an observer at Tyndall Field, Panama City, Florida, and at Eglin Field, Florida (the Air Force Proving Ground), I was sent to Asheville, North Carolina, in answer to volunteering for tropical duty. At Asheville, the Air Force Weather Wing had a Weather Cryptography School which I attended. Following graduation, shipping orders took me to Greensboro, North Carolina, for overseas training and from there to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, where we waited for the U.S.S. General William Mitchell to arrive at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Forty days after boarding the Mitchell, we landed in Bombay in October, 1944. We had sailed via the Panama Canal across the Equator (twice), the International Date Line, through the islands of New Zealand and on to Melbourne, Australia.
After a few weeks at Lake Beale Reception Camp, east of Bombay, we were assigned to the weather station at Agra. About a month later, orders came to proceed to Hsingching Air Base (A-l) in the Chengtu, China, area. I was surprised it was our responsibility to find our own ride over "The Hump," but it worked out. At Hsingching, I worked as a weather cryptographer in a Weather Central. It was our responsibility to receive and transmit weather information to those needing it in the CBI and Allies in other parts of the world. Weathermen in the 10th sent reports to us and we gathered their reports together and sent them back with other information from elsewhere. Ours was the largest weather installation in the CBI. We had the world's largest weather transmitting radio station which was regularly received in the Pacific by Army and Navy units and usually received in Washington, B.C., as well. While they were there, the 20th Air Force used our forecasting service in planning their missions on Japan, Manchuria and Eastern China. Usually some of our people rode along on the missions as a weather observer in flight. Headquarters of 10th Weather was at Barrackpore, outside of Calcutta. Our C.O., Col. Richard E. Ells-worth, flew around the theatre frequently, even to the most remote weather station in Urumchi, Sinkiang in far Northwest China. In a C-47, that trip often took a week, round trip and longer if the stops enroute required more time.
Stationed with us for a while was the 2nd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron whose responsibility it was to fly into bad weather situations and report back what they found. Theirs was a mission of extremes of activity. We used to tease them at times that they had to "taxi their B-25s to the post office and pick up the mail in order to get in the required flying time to collect their flight pay."
The CBI theater of war covered vast areas not counting the Japanese-occupied territories. While the writer is no World War II historian, it can be safely said the United States military organization most widely dispersed in the CBI was the 10th Weather Squadron. It had a detachment at each U.S. Army Air Force base and numerous isolated locations between them to give coverage of weather reports. Geography in Asia runs to extremes in altitude, temperature and living conditions of all kinds ... as those serving there know. The numbers of personnel available restricted good coverage by the 10th Weathermen, but in general a good job was done. Allied air forces used the weather information provided not only by 10th Weather, but by weather people of the RAF, CAF, Indian civilian weather service, USSR and even Japanese weathermen. In addition, OSS men working behind the Japanese lines and Chinese Communist weathermen supplied weather information.
The dispersement of stations sending and receiving weather information in the CBI required an extensive communication network be set up and this was often manned by members of AACS (Army Airways Communication Service). Thus, AACS might challenge my earlier claim of 10th Weather being the most widely dispersed. This communication network included radio and radio teletype equipment be established, connecting the many stations. It also was connected with other weather regions in the world such as the Pacific and Middle East and even Washington, D.C., by use of a "blind broadcast" transmitted four times a day. All messages (incoming and outgoing) were encyphered which meant cryptographers were needed in each weather station. This was usually the job of the weather observer in addition to his regular duties.
Weather station personnel included forecasters and observers, although some remote stations had no need for forecasters as they only reported their weather observations. An earlier comment about reports coming in from USSR and Japanese sources might cause the reader's interest to be piqued. By way of explanation, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had an agreement to exchange a certain number of weather reports each day. We supplied them weather from the north Atlantic area and they supplied us certain selected Siberian reports. Unfortunately, the numbers of reports received and their locations weren't as helpful as necessary considering the area involved, so some of our crypto men set out to decypher Russian weather broadcasts not included in the agreement. This proved quite satisfactory most of the time except on the occasions when they changed their cypher and we were slowed down for a while until a new cypher had been made.
As weather generally moves west to east in the northern hemisphere, with our location west of Japan and the fact the Russians gave no reports to the Japanese, the Allies had quite an advantage over the Japanese as it related to weather. We knew what weather was west of Japan, but they did not which certainly handicapped their forecasters.
10th Weather Squadron
We Were Everywhere ... In the CBI!
By William Hoefs Jr.