by: Victor Boesen
I Want That for the Military
By the end of 1940, knowing the military implications of what was being learned in CalTech's meteorology division under Krick direction, Millikan and von Karman invited General Arnold-1 was now a general and head of the Air Force-to drop in next time his flying missions around the country brought him to the Pasadena area.
Arriving in December, Arnold walked into Krick's laboratory just as Krick read a telegram from a Christmas tree company in Newfoundland that had wanted to know how much time was left to get a cutting of trees out of the woods before they were buried under a fresh snowfall.
"Your forecast's right on the nose," the grateful client wired, going on to say that they had gotten the last trees out just as the first flakes began falling.
Krick handed the wire to General Arnold. "Gee, how do you do that?" asked Arnold, who knew that because of German submarine prowling" the Atlantic, Newfoundland was blacked out to weather reports. "How can you forecast the weather in a place where you're not getting any observations?"
"With our weather types we can get by without many observa- tions," Krick answered. "We can go into an area downwind from our types and develop a fairly good forecast without them." Arnold thought a moment, then broke into the grin that made him known as "Hap." He said, "I want that for the military. Would you set up a special course in long-range forecasting for some of my guys you've trained? Select any four that you want, and I'll grab them from wherever they are and send them to you."
Krick chose four of his most promising former students from the Army Air Corps and gave them a special course in what had been learned since they graduated, including how to forecast for a blacked out region such as Newfoundland. There would be many of those for the United States if war came.
In October, 1941, at the request of General Arnold, who was anxious to make the Weather Bureau more familiar with Ktrck's work as it was being developed for the Air Force, Krick went to Washington and gave a series of lectures to the government fore- casters. He won no converts to his ideas.
With the country now at war, the Air Force in February, 1942, ordered the lectures published for distribution to its weather officers throughout the world. But the man charged with their distribution, Dr. Harry Wexler, a former Weather Bureau employee commis- sioned for service in the Air Force, locked the documents away, never to be seen.
Far from getting the Weather Bureau's ear, Krick presently found himself on the receiving end of a lecture himself from the bureau's chief, F. W. Reichelderfer. Krick thus was hoist with his own petard, incidentally, for it was he who had recommended Reich- elderfer, a one-time Navy weatherman, for his post, acting through Dr. Millikan, former chairman of President Roosevelt's Advisory Committee on the Weather Bureau. Reichelderfer had been upset by "recent press notices in which you [Krick] were credited with new discoveries in methods of long- range forecasting making it possible to forecast with a high degree of accuracy for periods up to ten years."
In the wake of these stories, Reichelderfer continued with a note of distress, the bureau had received a flood of questions from newsmen and government departments wanting to know where the Weather Bureau stood on long-range forecasting and its use by the military.
"You know that our purpose is to aid and encourage progress in this extremely important phase of weather forecasting," Reich- elderfer wrote on December 5, 1941, two days before Pearl Harbor. "Headlines claiming great accuracy in long-range forecasting arouse controversy and are not conducive to real progress."
Reichelderfer recalled impatiently that he had spoken to Krick about this matter twice before, the first time on a visit to CalTech during the summer, and again no longer ago than September. "I emphasize that I would not like to see you count too much upon your present methods," he wrote. He stressed that Krick's methods were "still experimental."
Caution was the watchword. "If you are on the verge of an en- during technique we shall be very glad, but if it does not turn out as you expect you will suffer and so will the profession." Reichelderfer advised that "for your own protection you ought to get someone to make a thorough statistical check of your latest method." And the agent to do that, Reichelderfer indicated, was the United States Weather Bureau.
Reichelderfer enclosed a copy of the reply he had prepared for all those who wanted to know about long-range forecasting after reading in the newspapers about Krick's work. In the statement Reichelderfer dismissed long-range forecasting as a military tool. He conceded that "defense needs have multiplied several-fold the importance of extended weather forecasts," adding in passing that this had been "a subject of intense human interest since time immemorial," and he told what the Weather Bureau was doing to foretell the weather further in advance, but said it hadn't made much headway-just as no one else had, either.
"Long-range weather forecasts for periods greatly in excess of those issued by official meteorological organizations," the state- ment continued, "are somewhat like anticipations of stock market fluctuations-they should be carefully checked for a few months at least before one puts much money in them."
The long-range forecasting claims by the German military, pub- lished in the United States shortly before Hitler invaded Poland and set off World War II, had been carefully studied by our own weathermen, both government and private, and had been found to be nothing to get excited about.
Reichelderfer hoped "that the encouragement and effort now being given to research" in forecasting would lead to improvement. "Naturally," he wrote, closing the subject, "the Weather Bureau will adopt long-range forecast methods as soon as reliable techniques are developed."
Then came Pearl Harbor. Krick received a phone call from General Arnold. "Will you come and help us during the war?" Krick would soon be in uniform. Meanwhile, he was already doing work considered of great value in the struggle ahead-until he received a stunning telegram from the Weather Bureau in Wash- ington saying that because of the war his teletype service was being cut off. "This telegram will serve as notice of cancellation of your present agreement for connection on Schedule C, effective 12:01 AM Eastern Standard Time, December 24, 1941," the message read. "Necessity for this action regretted."
Krick wired General Arnold in Washington, asking his help in having an exception made in CalTech's" case, "so that training pro- gram here can continue uninterrupted as well as our liaison with the Air Corps weather research center at Boiling Field for purpose of providing them with essential weather forecasts."
Krick then wired each of his clients apprising them of what had happened and saying, "This jeopardizes our defense training pro- gram as well as all weather advices to military services, air carriers, and essential defense industries." He asked that they wire him a statement collect, affirming their need for CalTech's forecasts.
But Krick's efforts to have his teletype connections with the Weather Bureau came to nothing. At midnight, Christmas Eve, 1941, the machines were cut off as scheduled. "Now what are you going to do. Dr. Krick?" taunted a little note at the end of the final transmission.
The day after Christmas, however, Krick received fleeting hope that the service might be restored. President Roosevelt issued an executive order placing the issuance of weather information under the Secretary of Commerce for the duration of the war. Under the President's order the chief of the Weather Bureau would act as liaison officer, linking the Commerce Secretary with the Secretaries of War and Navy.
That sounded to Krick as if the Secretary of Commerce became boss of the Weather Service. But that was not the way Weather Bureau Chief Reichelderfer made it out. "This executive order," he wrote in a circular which he hastily distributed to all weather bureau stations on December 29, "places the Weather Bureau in closer rela- tionship with the War and Navy Departments. . . . It means that the weather services directly related to the war efforts of the Nation are our paramount duty."
What the Weather Bureau saw as its expanded responsibilities apparently included keeping an eye on lrving Krick. Ostensibly at the request of the military, soon after the Weather Bureau had his teletypes disconnected. Reichelderfer took steps to block Krick from giving a paper which he was scheduled to deliver before a meeting of the American Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences in New York at the end of January, 1942.
Reichelderfer gave as his reason that the paper contained infor- mation "which might be of value to the 'enemy," presumably see- ing no inconsistency between this and the bureau's position all along that Krick's work had no value. Making sure as well that Krick's words wouldn't be read, Reichelderfer also asked the Insti- tute of Aeronautical Sciences "not to publish Dr. Krick's manu- script until it has been released by the Weather Bureau with the consent of military authorities."
As to the problem raised by losing his teletype tickers, Krick resourcefully found an answer. He supplied aneroid barometers to his subscribers, asking them to send him the daily pressure readings in their respective areas. This was all he needed.
This remedy for the loss of the teletypes went awry a few times, as when the Detroit Edison Company first checked with the Weather Bureau to see if it was all right to send Krick the informa- tion he wanted. The Weather Bureau said no, ignoring Krick's protest that the bureau itself continued to publish weather informa- tion in the daily newspapers.
However the Weather Bureau might rate Krick's talents, the Army and Navy were engaged in something of a tug of war for his services. Although he held a reserve Ensign's commission in the Navy, the Army felt it had first call on him: through General Arnold it felt he belonged to the Army by right of discovery. It wanted him both to operate a weather forecasting plan developed with his help for the Air Forces and to carry out an extensive pro- gram of further research in long-range forecasting.
Arnold, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Air, gave the issue his personal attention, taking it up with Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations. "Active duty status now appears neces- sary to make essential information available to him and to use his capacities to the utmost," Arnold wrote. "The position to which his assignment is contemplated requires the rank of Ma)or in the Army or Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. Therefore, it is re- quested that he be promoted to this comparable rank in the Navy and detailed to the Army for assignment to the Army's Weather Research Center."
If this arrangement didn't suit the Navy, Arnold went on, "it is requested that Dr. Krick's reserve commission in the Navy be term- inated in order to make him available to the Army for commission- ing and assignment to active duty."
The Navy refused either to give up its man or to promote him. "The Bureau of Aeronautics is desirous of retaining this officer in the Navy," Admiral Stark replied, writing that he himself agreed that the Navy should keep Krick so long as he was made available to the Air Forces. But that was as far as he could go, Stark wrote. Krick was too young at thirty-three to be promoted to lieutenant commander, the admiral indicated. The best the Navy could do was to make him a senior lieutenant.
Dr. Millikan, who had wanted Krick to keep his civilian status, believing he could serve better that way, took a tactful hand on Krick's side. In a letter to Reichelderfer, Millikan wrote that he thought the arrangements worked out by General Arnold to make use of Krick's talents within the Air Forces were "excellent." "I think you and I are fully agreed that Krick's techniques are sufficiently promising to warrant further intensive and scientific study and development," Millikan wrote. "I do not know myself of any other monthly forecasts which have actually been made so as to get a comparison. If he has stimulated others to do as well, he is making the biggest contribution that has ever been made to meteorology..."
In Washington Krick began his military service as a naval lieu- tenant heading the Army Air Force's long-range forecasting section, as General Arnold had wanted. With Hitler still having his way in Europe, it was highly important to deliver combat airplanes to the other side of the Atlantic as fast as possible, and one of Lieutenant Krick's first duties was to pick the days, a week in advance, when planes could be safely flown across the ocean. It was, of course, not as simple in 1942 as in the coming jet age when planes could fly farther and faster and above the weather.
In their respective war rooms, Krick also briefed Air and Army intelligence officers once a week on the possible influence of up- coming weather on both Allied and enemy capabilities.
Gradually, the military high command came to see that they couldn't simply plan an activity for a certain day without taking the weather into account. This was all the more true if the activity called for air and ground forces to work together. It would become the procedure, insofar as possible, first to determine what the weather was going to be, then suit the combat missions to it.