Naval Weather Service Association (NWSA)



An association of Aerographers & Mates,
Meteorologists & Oceanographers

                                            WEATHER SHIP DUTY


This is another in our series illustrating the versatilities of Aerographers and Mates.  Very few people recognize the wide variety of duties that we were assigned.  Duty in weather ships was frequently onerous, even miserable on locations situated in northerly latitudes.  Some Aerogs loved the duty and some detested it.  And some barely survived.


The earliest weather ship duty involving Aerographers that I have heard of was begun right after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and that was in the North Atlantic .  Single Aerographers were detailed to several U.S. Coast Guard converted fishing trawlers based in Greenland .  Surface and pibal observations were made and transmitted to shore stations, hopefully reaching the Navy Weather Centrals then being established.  

Frank Ivie (with whiskers) states that there was a similar team of Aerographers operating out of Iceland .  Attached is a photo of the Greenland Aerographers, the majority fresh from Primary Aerographer School on NAS Lakehurst.  Not pictured is Bob Griffin.

Since there was no way to create fresh water in those trawlers, the normal underway period was fifteen days.  The Aerographer on board joined the other twenty crewmen, carrying out various deck force duties such as helmsman.

Following the loss of USS YORKTOWN (CV-5), my Lakehurst classmate Aerog2c Bob Martin was reassigned to Suva , Fiji , and then to Navy Weather Central San Francisco for duty.  We met there in January, 1943.  Martin finagled a billet in the converted sailing yacht, ZACA out of Treasure Island on San Francisco Bay .  ZACA had been donated to the Navy and was assigned Bird Dog duty halfway to Honolulu , where she would spend a month on station.  Martin took surface and pibal observations and enjoyed the small boating  experience. 


As the war continued there were more and more Bird Dog stations established, some to provide flight safety for the increasing numbers of ferry flights of new military aircraft to Europe and the Soviet Union .  For more reliable weather data the Allies created a better network of weather ships in both the North Pacific and the North Atlantic .  At first these were referred to as Guard Ships.  Responsibilities and costs were shared with our Allies such as Canada and Great Britain .  Many Aerographers recall their northwest Pacific Ocean service in small weather ships out of Pearl Harbor classified as PCE.  To man the Coast Guard cutters in the Atlantic, which operated out of Boston , the U.S. Weather Bureau hired additional observers.  Three Navy AVP vessels were loaned to the Coast Guard to augment their available cutters.


The wartime ocean weather ships were identified first by numerals, then by letters according to the geographical point to which assigned.  Atlantic ships used letters A through H (U.S.) and I, J, K (European Allies).  Pacific ships used L-P.  Station B in the Atlantic was operated jointly by the U.S. and Canada .  But as users demanded more reliable weather forecasts over the oceans, ocean stations ultimately increased to a maximum of 22 Atlantic and 24 Pacific.  The original letter identifiers had to be changed to accommodate the increasing numbers of stations.  Military ferry flight routes to the European Theater shifted southward to Brazil-Africa.


As part of the war in the Aleutians , World War I four-pipe destroyers were pressed into service as small seaplane tenders.  Bill Burris related details of his Guard Ship assignments in these old buckets while he was assigned to Fleet Air Wing FOUR Aerology on Attu .  The ships were positioned on a station 300 miles southwest of Attu, which was the mid-point for Navy bombing missions to the Kuril Islands .  Bill was creative enough to experiment with the ship�s radar, and he claimed the first RAWIN sounding at sea was made by him in 1945.  His claim was never recognized.


An amazing number of Aerographers and Aerographer�s Mates have served in weather ships over many years.  When jet aircraft replaced the older aircraft types that reduced operational requirements for the Bird Dog stations.  Nowadays there are hundreds of fixed and floating ocean buoys providing all types of data over the seas.                  

By NWSA Historian Don Cruse