Ex-CBI Roundup
December 1956 Issue

10th Weather Squadron

Observe, Plot, Forecast

From Newsweek Magazine, April 1945. This exclusive dispatch, explaining the dependence of our Pacific actions on isolated meteorological observers in the interior of China, comes from Harold R. Isaacs, NEWSWEEK's correspondent in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Weather is crucial, even decisive, in the Pacific war.

Storms sweeping eastward from the bare heights of the Central Asian plateau may affect next week's movements of the fleet in the Western Pacific. Speed and direction of bitter winds, blowing across some acrid, distant Mongolian steppe may fix a whole week's operation for bombers flying out of Saipan.

When Col. Richard E. Ellsworth, the 34-year-old West Pointer commanding the 10th Weather Squadron, flew from China to Guam in January, he was told there: "If the 10th will deliver, the rest will be easy." The Weather Squadron has been delivering.

The 10th delivers from a vast chunk of the earth's surface and from the great layers of hitherto unexplored air that lie above it. It has 2,300 men spread thin- south, deep into the Indian Ocean far below the Equator; north to the Siberian border; west into Baluchistan and Sinkiang; and east to the China Sea.

They work at some 100 stations, dotting a gigantic rough parallelogram about 3,000 miles deep and 4,000 miles wide. They observe, plot, and forecast weather for all planes that fly in India and Burma, across The Hump, and in China.

The lOth's stations are located in some of the remotest spots in the world. The days roll into each other in an indistinguishable series of balloon runs, instrument readings, and radio reports. Moving personnel and weather and communications equipment into China was a difficult task at a time when every ounce flown over the Hump was questioned. Colonel Ellsworth finally acquired two C-47's of his own. These two ships, affectionately called "The Weather Airline," have carried most of the personnel and the great bulk of supplies to all corners of the beat.

The operation has involved grueling and spectacular flying. Ellsworth has flown the Hump more than 100 times and has piloted squadron ships to his farthest stations. Maj. Harry (Tex) Albaugh of San Antonio recently went home after completing some 1,300 hours of hazardous flying for the squadron. Last November Albaugh and Maj. Joseph Dillow, Squadron communications officer, flew from Peshawar in Northwestern India across the high end of the Himalayas, direct to Tihwa in Sinkiang - the first time such a flight was ever made.

"Dependent at first on a conglomeration of tactical radio networks and Chinese communications, the 10th Weather Squadron has gradually taken over most of the job of insuring swift and regular dispatch of weather information.

Reports also come in from United States Army and other intelligence officers in all parts of China, from British and Russian sources, and from pilots returning from missions over enemy territory. Empty spaces on the meteorological map are often filled in by flying weather stations - specially-equipped aircraft of a weather reconnaissance squadron, flown by skilled young pilots who make long, dangerous flights to take the needed readings.

But increasingly the basic material from which weather maps are drawn is coming from the squadron's own stations, of which there are at present 36 in China alone.

The record of the 10th Weather Squadron is highlighted with new techniques and improvisations, some of which have already become permanent contributions to the science and practice of meteorology.

In the Assam Valley in Northeastern India, jumping-off place for all Hump flying, Capt. Donald E. Martin and M/Sgt. Paul Bauer worked out their own tricks (still secret) for forecasting when fog would come down and when it would lift.

In East China a young forecaster, Lt. Lester Supiro, found a way of making hydrogen for inflating the balloons out of materials available in China. For ferro-silicon he substituted aluminum salvaged from wrecked planes and locally processed. This technique, which has saved up to 25,000 pounds of freight each month, has been adopted all over the world by the Army.

But far more important than new methods are these new facts the squadron has discovered about Asiatic meteorology:

It is now known that there are two tropical fronts, not one, in the vicinity of the Equator. If meetings of these fronts can be located accurately and in time, it may be possible to forecast hurricanes two or three days earlier than can now be done on the basis of observed pressures, clouds, winds and sea swells.

Work of the weather men has exploded the old notion that equatorial regions enjoy stable, unchanging seasonal conditions. They have learned that equatorial regions have moving weather or storm systems, as do higher latitudes.

It was believed previously that the Himalayas were an effective barrier, wholly separating weather in India from weather in Central and Northern Asia. It is now known that a definite relationship exists between weather north and south of the great mountain range.

Meteorologists generally believed that all Pacific weather was formed in the vicinity of the China Sea where the polar continental air meets the warm, maritime tropical air. Data now available show quite clearly that weather also moves eastward from Europe.

In summer, according to previous theory, all Asiatic weather was considered fixed by the thermal low, created by the intense heat of subtropical Asia. This low results in the southwest monsoon, which makes all of Southern Asia a bathhouse misery through half the year. It is now realized that this thermal low is actually displaced, at frequent intervals, by high-pressure cells that cross Asia from Eastern Europe in the usual manner, causing rainfall in China.

These slowly accumulating facts-used every day to clear aircraft on combat or transport missions-are systemically collated and studied at a weather control station set up in West China in December 1943 and at a similar establishment in Calcutta. Here young men to whom a few years ago weather was something good or bad for ball games or trips to the beach, have actually begun the first orderly, continuous study of Asiatic weather ever undertaken.

The records they keep, the carefully classified maps they draw, the data they use to forecast weather for present day wartime operations will form an indispensable part of the knowledge needed to speed the coming age of flight.

Right now, a lonely sergeant tapping out the day's final report on the stratosphere over China may be playing a vital part in a raid over Tokyo a few days later. He is also helping to insure the safety of people who some day will regularly fly the Pacific. -THE END

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