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Table of Contents

War History of the Australian Meteorological Service




Chapter 1: D.Met.S.—Australia's Wartime Weather Service

Chapter 2: The Weather Factor in Warfare
Meteorology Through History
Enemy Use of Weather Strategy
Battle of the Coral Sea
Milne Bay and Buna-Gona
The Lae and Salamaua Landings
Weather in the Allied Advance
Chemical Warfare Experiments

Chapter 3: Met in the Retreat

Chapter 4: Met in the Advance

Chapter 5: Meteorology in Aviation

Chapter 6: Central Forecasting Services

Chapter 7: Met With the Army

Chapter 8: Research and Personnel Training

Chapter 9: Instrumental Development and Maintenance

Chapter 10: Scientific Developments in the RAAF Meteorological Service

Chapter 11: Divisional Bureaux and Their Work

Appendix 1: List of Reports Provided by D.Met.S. for Advances Operational Planning and Other Purposes

Appendix 2: List of Service Personnel RAAF Meteorological Service

Appendix 3: List of Civilian Personnel Who Worked Together with Service Personnel of the RAAF Meteorological Service

Appendix 4: List of Locations at which RAAF Meteorological Service Personnel Served


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Battle of the Coral Sea

Dealing with relatively unprepared adversaries, Japan made remarkably fast time in its initial southern advance, so that by May 1942 it had a strong grip on New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons Islands area and was in a position to threaten Australia itself. At this stage, however, came the battle of the Coral Sea, the first naval engagement in history in which the issue was decided without surface ships exchanging a shot. This clash of carrier-borne air task forces represented the first real check to the enemy's southward movement and largely reduced the imminent danger of invasion of Australia, although this virtually was not removed until the defeat of the Japanese forces at Milne Bay late in August.

Fought almost exclusively as a series of air actions, the fortunes of opponents in the Coral Sea battle were largely affected by the changing weather factors. Thus, on 4 May and 7 May, while Allied forces were operating in a frontal zone under a heavy cloud cover, and the Japanese forces were in clear weather beyond the limits of the zone, none of our ships suffered damage and only nine aircraft were lost, as against nine ships and 24 aircraft of the enemy. However, in the clashes that followed on 8 May, when the fleets were in exactly the reverse position so far as the weather was concerned, the Japanese escaped ship losses and the famous American aircraft carrier Lexington was sunk. On that day, the aircraft losses were 51 Japanese planes and 57 Allied, which indicated that the enemy pilots did not make the best use of their meteorological advantage.

The strategic and tactical use of weather normally forms the offensive action, since the attacking force possesses a great advantage in being able to decide the best time for initiating action. This is particularly so in a sea-air engagement, but it is equally clear that it is almost impossible in a sustained naval clash of the type of the Coral Sea battle for one fleet continually to use the weather factor to its own advantage while enemy ships do not. Hence, in the defence, the meteorologists and commanders of the defending forces must be alert to seize the advantage of the weather gauge as soon as conditions will permit. In the total engagement the side making best use of the fully appreciated meteorological situation—an appreciation which largely depends on the extent of weather information to it from all sources, including its own aircraft in flight from the carriers—undoubtedly possesses a valuable advantage over its adversary.

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Haldane, T. 1997 'War History of the Australian Meteorological Service in the Royal Australian Air Force April 1941 to July 1946', Metarch Papers, No. 10 October 1997, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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