ARMY SIGNAL CORPS WEATHER OBSERVERS IN THE KOREAN WAR

By Paul A. Roales and Others


BACKGROUND
(from THOR'S LEGIONS by John F Fuller, American Meteorological Society, 1990 and other sources)

The Signal Corps turned over weather support of the Army to the Army Air Corps in 1937. This worked fine in WW2 while the Air Corps/Air Force was part of the Army. But in 1947 the Army Air Force became the US Air Force and during the Korean War weather support from the Air Force for the Army suffered.

The Department of the Army organized a group in October, 1951 to study the problems of winter combat in Korea and to investigate the quality of the weather service being provided to the Army by the USAF. The team was headed by Army cold-weather expert Dr. Paul A. Siple. Siple's team was in Korea from December, 1951 through February, 1952. In a report issued in May, 1952, the Siple team noted the closer an Army unit was to the front, and the further away from an Air Force air strip or Seoul, the worse the support. Siple's team thought that meteorologists should become part of the standard Army organization tables. If USAF forecasts were to be of maximum value more weather data would have to be gathered by Army observer teams in the front-line area.

The Air Force worked with the Signal Corps meteorological officer to implement the recommendations. The use of Signal Corps weather observers was acceptable to both the Army and the Air Force on a ninety-day test basis. At Fort Monmouth, Signal Corps personnel needed as forward weather observers entered a special six-week training course. In late November, 1952, seven Signal Corps lieutenants, and forty-four enlisted men who had progressed out of basic training into the accelerated weather observer course at Fort Monmouth, arrived in Korea. After a short orientation period, most of the men were divided into two-man teams and detailed forward to begin a surface observing net. Five-man teams (an officer and four enlisted men) proceeded to each corps headquarters and to the Seoul weather center to collect and disseminate observations and supervise the two-man Army observing teams.

From the beginning, the forecast teams at the corps were well received but were hamstrung by poor communications. The Air Force believed the Signal Corps could not continue to furnish weather service to the Army. So on March 23, 1953, they decided to man the front-line observing posts after the Signal Corps observers, on ninety-day temporary duty, went home. In late April the USAF personnel moved into front-line observing sites. After May 1, 1953, the Army weather program became the sole responsibility of the USAF. They gave better service to Army units until the war ended two months later.

The Signal Corps protested the Army's decision to send its people home, and continued to recommend that the Army develop its own weather service. But the support provided by the USAF to the Army in the Korean War was considered satisfactory so, in Jan. 1954, the Department of the Army elected not to develop its own competing weather service. Instead, it would rely on the USAF. However, the Weather Observer school at Ft. Monmouth did not close, instead it began to train observers to support the many R&D programs of the Army.


INDIVIDUAL STORIES

I have been in contact with several men from the "Ole 44" who were in that 1952 Weather Observer class and were then sent to Korea. Below are posted some of the comments and pictures they have provided. Other material from them can be found on the page of emails received from pre-1959 graduates of the school (Link 1A on the main page).

1. The first member of the Korean War class to contact me was Francis Szymanski. That is a picture of Frank and his weather equiptment taken in Korea at X Corps Headquarters on the left below and a picture of him in the field with his rain guage on the right.
He says: "When we were sent to Korea, we brought with us our weather equipment. All the equipment fitted in a box, which you could hand carry. Because we were mobile, we could move from one location to another if we needed to and then set up quickly. The team I was part of was sent to the 73ECB to set up our weather station which was North of the 38th Parallel. I believe my team was the only one that was set up in North Korea. We provided the 73ECB with temperature readings and the latest forecasts and continued to provided our weather information to X th Corps Headquarters. After coming to Korea and setting up our weather stations, we began to provide weather infiormation to the 40th Weather Squadron of rhe Air Force. This information was included in their weather maps. Later the Air Force finally provided weathermen, fixed weather station and a forecaster to Corps Level to improve their forecasting. Just before the end of the war, the Air Force replaced our group with their people."


2. I then heard from Allan Pooler. He sent me the picture of the entrance to the weather station at II ROK Corps KMAG in January 1953 shown on the right.
He said: " I was with II ROK which was just about in the middle east to west and many miles above the 38th parallel. There were two reporting stations. The Ole 44 was there for 7 1/2 months. It was a new concept, and the teams had to figure things out as best they could. When the air force men took over they used the same equipment we had. We worked well for the time we were all together.the extra help was welcome. They had up to two years training as compared to our 6 weeks. Some teams had the barest of essentials and some had relatively passable facilities, and most of us moved around a lot. And since we were all privates and eventually PFCs at the time we had little or no idea what the big picture was all about. We just went where we were told and did our job."

3. Allan forewarded some pictures and information to me from Angelo Nichele. He provided the images of himself in front of his house (it says US Weather Bureau on the sign just left of the door) and checking equiptment in his instrument shelter which are shown below.
He said: "Bill Rogers and I were driven all the way to the East coast of Korea. To a village called Machagini. About 3-4 mud huts about 40 miles north of the 38th. parallel. I hear it is now a large resort town on the Sea of Japan. There were about 20 Marines who were spotters for ships to fire offshore. Their coordinates were given to Signal Corps radio men in a truck which transmitted info to ships offshore. They fired to those coordinates. There also about 6 Air Force personnel who received their info from a Mosquito planes which flew over enemy lines. They in turn radioed their info to the Air Force men. The Officers who flew the planes changed about every 2 months to get acclimated to the men on the ground. The comradeship between all services was excellent. The pilots were on the same level as the enlisted men. Our area was under the control of the 15th. R.O.K. Division K.M.A.G. The North Koreans were about 3-4 miles north of us. At times the ships would fire over our heads at the enemy. Also we could see the M.A.S.H. wagons going south with wounded. A couple of times S. Korean planes on fire would fly overhead and crash on the beach. One time I was on a destroyer for 24 hours who fired, and Panther jet attacked, Wonsan Harbor. Very Interesting."



NOTES

1. An article in the 8th. Army Newspaper on March 3, 1953 written by M/Sgt. Dick Bartlett under the title "Signalmen Cite Achievements" says: "Another outstanding service to Eighth Army begun during the past year is Signal's weather service. The Signal weather predictors will relay their forecasts and messages to Eighth Army Division air section giving them the latest forecasts daily of expected weather in local areas. Begun only a few months ago, Signal weather already produces hourly forecasts and two weather messages a day to Army commanders in the field". (provided by Francis Szymanski).

2. The meteorological work done in Korea had widespread use. I was reviewing some declassified documents and came across this one: Chemical Corps Research and Engineering Command, Army Chemical Center, Edgewood Arsenal, MD. RCC2.950320.001
"The following report of activities of the Research Division for the period 1 April to 6 May 1953 and of the Toxic CW Division from 7 May to 30 Sep. 1953 is furnished for your information and assistance in preparing the Historical Report.
April 24, 1953. Additional background information, including microfilms of meteorological data taken by Signal Corps meteorological teams in Korea, has been forwarded by Lt. Hamilton to Mr. F. X. Webster, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif."
Another document in that series says: "This is in relation to the extension of the Cml Corps - Stanford Univ. contract of long range cloud travel, to include studies of aerosols and vapors in mountainous terrain."

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