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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 (continued)

In the Coral Sea, weather is dominated by the semi-permanent high pressure areas of the southern hemisphere and although south-easterly trade winds are constant for the greater part of the year, this circulation occasionally is affected by the passage of a cold front off the Australian continent. On 4 May 1942 such a cold front had reached its most northerly position, lying in an east-west direction just off Guadalcanal Island, so that the associated bad weather region covered a wide area and provided excellent cover for the American carrier Yorktown to approach and launch a surprise attack on the Japanese-held island of Tulagi. Tactically, the weather situation for this operation, from the Allied point of view, was ideal, since throughout the day the heavy cloud cover protected the Yorktown from reprisal attacks, while clear weather over Tulagi allowed Allied planes to sink two destroyers, four gunboats, a cargo ship and various smaller craft. On the following day the cold front off Guadalcanal had commenced to move southward, taking on the characteristics of a warm front, so that by 7 May, with the combined Allied task force in position about 700 miles south of Rabaul, cover was still available from frontal clouds and opportunity taken again to attack concentrated enemy shipping, this time off Misima Island. Aircraft from the carriers Lexington and Yorktown flew 160 miles through bad weather to reach this target, which was in clear weather, accounting for one enemy carrier, one light cruiser and 19 planes, while the cloud protection over the Allied vessels was sufficient to prevent a single enemy attack.

On the other hand, the tanker Neosho and its destroyer escort Sims left the frontal zone on a southward course for a fuelling rendezvous and were quickly discovered by enemy scouts in the clear weather area. Both were lost as a result of the subsequent bombing.

Similarly, the main task force steaming to the south during the night of 7 May left the protective cover of the frontal zone. Scouting planes from both fleets located each other more or less simultaneously and one of the two Japanese carriers headed for a rain squall, disappearing into the region of poor visibility under the rain cloud. Several hits were registered on the other carrier by Allied aircraft, but in the same action Japanese planes accounted for the Lexington and damaged another Allied vessel.

It is interesting to note that, in the battle of the Coral Sea, although fought chiefly by the opposing carrier-borne aircraft, strikes also were made by B-25 and B-17 planes operating from Port Moresby. In addition RAAF Hudson and Catalina aircraft were engaged in reconnaissance work, flying on forecasts supplied by the Australian meteorological organisation.

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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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