by: Victor Boesen
This Is the Day the Japs Will Attack
"The Japs have gone on radio silence up in the North Pacific," an Army intelligence officer remarked to Krick one day in late May, 1942. "What do you make of that?"
Krick studied the weather maps for the region and saw that there was a cold front between the place where the enemy had been known to be, and the Aleutian Islands, curving southwestward in a long arc from the Alaskan mainland. He knew that our own planes, flying reconnaissance out of Alaska, were unable to penetrate this cold front without icing up and therefore wouldn't know what the enemy was up to.
They could be planning to attack the Aleutians," Krick said. He studied the maps further, then he stuck his forefinger on the calendar and said, "This is the day they'll attack Dutch Harbor- June 3."
The intelligence officer reported the conversation to his chief, General George Strong, who rushed Krick before General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff. Marshall immediately ordered an airlift of troops and supplies to Alaska, so that when the Japanese attacked, hitting Dutch Harbor with four bombers and about fifteen fighters on the very day Krick had predicted, the Americans were ready. The raid "was not a surprise and the station was pre- pared to meet it," reported Rear Admiral C. S. Freeman, com- mandant of the 13th Naval District, as quoted by the United Press. Afterward, Army staff intelligence asked and received verifica- tion of the accuracy of Krick's Alaska forecast.
Weather Bureau Chief Reichelderfer, knowing nothing about that forecast, meantime kept after him. In a long memorandum to Krick the day after the forecast was verified, Reichelderfer repeated that he considered long-range forecasting humbug, no better than "those to be expected by random process, that is, without skill." Indeed, Reichelderfer wrote, "None of the long-range methods now under development by the Joint Weather Central [a grouping of Army, Navy, and Weather Bureau forecasters under the Weather Bureau's roof, all making their own forecasts] is as yet appreciably superior to pure guesswork for periods beyond three or four days." The fact that there had been acceptance of Krick's work, Reichelderfer went on, presumably having in mind Krick's paying clients, wasn't enough to prove anything. "For example [astrologers] enjoy a popular reputation for farsightedness, yet their predictions have been proven valueless."
He repeated an old theme: "All long range forecasting methods are still highly experimental. . . . The emphasis you are placing on long range forecasts for military purposes is potentially danger- ous since it may lead military commanders to place undue reliance upon doubtful forecasts. Vital decisions may be at stake."
Vital decisions were indeed at stake, and General Arnold, much impressed by Krick's Alaska forecast, wanted him in Air Force uniform. He wrote to Admiral Ernest ]. King, commander in chief of the Navy, asking for Lieutenant Krick's release.
In no time Krick was out of the Navy and in the Air Force, but only with the rank of major, inferior to the colonels-his former students-he would be working with. Moreover, his old antagonist, the Weather Bureau, dominated the military weather services, and those officers not already in line with the Bureau's thinking soon succumbed to it. This included Colonel Don Zimmerman, whom Krick had recommended to Arnold to head the weather directorate.
The situation boded ill for General Arnold's hopes of providing long-range weather information to all branches of the Army in all parts of the world. Typically, when Krick undertook to distribute thirty-day forecasts of the kind for which business, industry, and agriculture had paid him high fees for years, he was blocked from doing so. One after another of his ideas for getting his speciality of long-range forecasting put to use in the country's defense was either turned down outright or allowed to pass without action.
One of the pivotal decisions at stake in the autumn of 1942 was the Allied invasion of North Africa. The man chosen to lead the Africa landings at Casablanca was General George H. Patton, who knew that the sea alone could defeat him if he struck at the wrong time.
"While I'm on the Atlantic going toward Casablanca," Patton bluntly told the Navy's weathermen, "I want to know what the sea and swell height and wave action on the beach are going to be when we get there. And I want to know a month before! Can you tell me?"
The Navy replied that it could not-that nobody could. A fore- cast that far ahead was impossible.
Patton discussed the problem with General Strong. "There's a man in the Air Force who might be able to do something for you," Strong replied, thinking of Krick. "He's from the California Insti- tute of Technology and has some new ideas that seem to work." "Send him over to see me," Patton directed.
Before setting out, Krick checked with Colonel Zimmerman, his commanding officer. "General Patton wants me to come over and try to tell him how the sea and swell forecast will be for his inva- sion of Africa," Krick explained. "The Navy has indicated no expertise in the situation."
"You can't do that," Zimmerman objected. "That's the Navy's job. Anything having to do with the ocean, that's Navy. We can't interfere."
"I'll tell General Patton," Krick replied as he departed. General Patton knew a great deal about the sea and its behavior off Africa; it was much like the water off Southern California. "Can you forecast the waves, tides, and that sort of thing?" he asked Krick.
"We can give you a general idea of these conditions a month in advance," Krick answered. "We'll update as we go along, and a few days before you land we'll be able to give you the information right on the mark."
Krick paused. "But I understand the Navy is responsible for providing such information and I have been instructed by my commanding officer not to involve the Air Force," he said. Patton pondered briefly. "Who's this guy that's your superior?" he demanded.
Hesitating, Krick answered, "Zimmerman." Patton swept up the telephone and called Colonel Zimmerman. "This is General Patton," he announced. "I have Major Krick here with me. I'm going to set up a special unit to make the sea and swell forecast for Operation Torch-and you, you sonofabitch, if you interfere with him I'll have your head in the basket!"
When Krick returned to his office, Zimmerman angrily ordered him confined to his desk. There began a succession of memoranda from Zimmerman to Krick. "You are hereby informed that any further actions on your part contrary to accepted Army policy will result in a request for your relief from active duty," threatened the first.
There was a second memo the same day. "It is directed that you draw a synoptic map, daily, except Sunday, while in Washington." "You are directed to reply by endorsement hereon stating why you submitted a weather study to G-2, General Staff . . . in dis- regard of written and verbal directives indicating that all such studies should go through the Director Weather," Zimmerman commanded in a third memo, next day.
In the Army one speaks to God only through St. Peter, Krick was learning-even though, in this case, God had spoken first. Krick's endorser, a colonel and therefore Zimmerman's equal, explained that Krick had only been following orders to send his study directly to General ]. E. Hull, in charge of planning the Africa landings, skipping routine procedures. The endorsing colonel cautioned Zimmerman that Krick was to go on bypassing channels so that "the project he is working on be not handled in a manner which in any way can compromise the secrecy thereof."
Further to nail down the point with Zimmerman, General Strong, as senior security officer for the War Department, inter- vened in the matter. He telephoned Zimmerman that Krick was to have complete freedom of action. "You are directed to authorize Major Krick to go on dealing through direct channels," General Strong ordered.
Saying nothing of having heard from General Strong, Colonel Zimmerman next day relieved Krick of his command through the device of realigning his long-range forecast section so that he no longer had authority over it and was left with only two of his CalTech colleagues. Krick was close to being out of business. Meanwhile, the harassing memoranda to Krick went on. "It is directed that you make no further presentations in the Air War Room," Zimmerman wrote on September 12, 1942. "Your name, this date, is being removed from the last of officers eligible to make presentations."
Krick's presentations dealt with long-range forecasting, ordained by Weather Bureau men to be considered "experimental," to re- main so until proved otherwise. Since it had taken the Weather Bureau a number of years to adopt the Norwegian Air Mass Analysis system as standard for short-range forecasting, the outlook for the use of long-range forecasting as a tool of war was further dimmed by having Krick stop talking about it.
The memos from the colonels went on tediously. In slack mo- ments, when there were no memoranda to write to Krick, the colonels wrote memos to one another about him.
There was a fearful flap one morning when Krick couldn't be found for a while. He had been in the barbershop.
As the turmoil over Krick's work for General Patten continued, General Arnold's displeasure with the quality of the forecasting coming out of Joint Weather Central deepened. He called Krick to his office to see what could be done about upgrading it. Krick discreetly brought Colonel Zimmerman along. "I think the Air Force should do the forecasting for the ground forces," General Arnold declared.
Zimmerman quickly objected, as he had objected to the Air Force forecasting for the African operation. "The Air Force should not become involved in any forecasting outside its own require- ments," he argued. "The ground forces should do their own. Their requirements are entirely different."
"How are you going to coordinate air and ground if you have two different forecasts?" Krick demanded as Arnold listened. "You'll have as many forecasts as there are meteorologists. When the Air Force has to support the ground forces, the Air Force should make the forecasts, or the ground should-one or the other, but not both."
"I want the Air Force to do it," General Arnold said quietly. Zimmerman went on being disputatious. "Get the hell out of here, Zimmerman!" Amold suddenly ordered.
As Zimmerman retreated, Arnold said to Krick, "I want you to prepare a plan for operational weather services for all branches of the Army-maybe even the combined forces and ultimately all Allied forces-which the Air Force can run and be responsible for." "Maybe you would like to wait and see if we flub the forecast for the Africa landings," Krick replied, half jokingly. "You may want to kick me out and let me go back to my work at CalTech." Krick drew up a plan whereby the weather service for all branches of the armed forces would be coordinated under a single head, with the Air Force in charge. The plan was endorsed by several generals in addition to Arnold, who put it aside to await the oppor- tune time for its implementation.
Meantime, with motives known only to themselves, Krick's supe- riors at Weather Central sent an urgent telegram to Dr. Millikan at CalTech, asking his opinion on forecasts longer than ten days. "Request immediate answer within twelve hours via Western Union to Colonel Smith, Assistant Director of Weather, Weather Bureau Building, Washington, D. C.," the message directed. It bore the names "Smith" and "Zimmerman."
In two and a half hours Dr. Millikan's reply was on its way by night letter. "There are no scientific reasons for thinking that long- range forecasting may not be developed into a reasonably reliable procedure," Millikan wired. ". . . The theory of weather types, which we regard as already a definitely established fact, makes possible a precise mathematical formulation of the problem of long-range forecasting..."
Millikan explained how this formulation was reached and said that while more needed to be known, "there are enough encourag- ing indications to justify very intensive attack on the problem . . ."
Millikan's message bore the name of Paul S. Epstein in addition to his own. Epstein had been characterized by President Karl Compton of MIT as "the dean of American theoretical physicists." Millikan wrote two letters to General Arnold, including the message from the Colonels. In praise of Krick he wrote:
"A number of us who had a chance to observe the work of Dr. Krick for the past ten years . . . have been impressed by the sanity and intelligence of his approach to meteorological problems as we saw them . . . We had also become pretty thoroughly con- vinced that he was introducing some new methods which had a good deal of promise for the ultimate development of very valuable long-range forecasts . . ."
In his second letter to Arnold, Millikan included this striking comment by Epstein: "Before Krick's theory of weather types and sequences was ad- vanced, the problem of long-range forecasting was so vague and diffuse as to be altogether hopeless. But with the help of Krick's theory (which I, personally, regard not as a theory but as an established fact) the problem can be given a precise mathematical formulation."