World War II Era.

On 17 Dec 1944 an unreported typhoon that had been trailing Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet caught up and wreaked havoc on the fleet 300 miles East of Luzon in the western North Pacific.  Three destroyers capsized with the loss of 778 men and 146 aircraft, and serious damage was inflicted on the aircraft carriers, cruisers, and smaller vessels.  The typhoon, named Cobra, dissipated northeast of Luzon on 20 December, presumably in the grasp of the northeast monsoon.  The fleet received typhoon warnings from Fleet Weather Center (FWC) at Pearl Harbor, but neither the fleet nor FWC Pearl Harbor had timely reconnaissance.
 
 
The 655th Bombardment Squadron (B-24s) under the command of Lt Col Nick Chavasse arrived on Guam in January 1945 to conduct en route and target weather reconnaissance.  The 655th supported the Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas (AAFPOA) Weather Center, which moved from Saipan to Guam 31 Dec 1944 under the command of Maj Robert Shafer, (The AAFPOA Weather Center eventually issued the flight and target weather forecasts for the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

Fig 1. The B-24 Liberator was based on Guam beginning January 1945.

In May 1945 the Fleet Weather Central/Typhoon Tracking Center (FWC/TTC) was established on Guam , but there was no naval aerial reconnaissance dedicated to typhoon tracking missions yet.

On 4 - 5 June 1945, the fleet was operating against southern Japan and Okinawa, and suffering nearly constant Kamikazi attacks, when typhoon warnings indicated the presence of Typhoon Viper to the south-southwest. Halsey took the Third Fleet eastward, but Viper was faster, and met the fleet southeast of Okinawa.  36 of the 48 ships suffered damage, 76 aircraft were destroyed and 6 men lost their lives.

On 16 June 1945 the 655th Bombardment Squadron was renamed as the 55th Reconnaissance Squadron. In August 1945, Halsey was enroute to Japan to accept Japan's formal surrender on the Missouri on 2 September 1945.  He safely maneuvered his fleet between three typhoons with the 55th Reconnaissance Squadron providing regular six-hourly checks of the typhoon positions.

Airborne Early Warning Squadron One (VW-1) was stationed at Navel Air Station, Agana, Guam soon afterwards.  On 4 September 1945, the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (WRS) was established at Andersen AFB, while the 55th rotated back to the states in 1946.  The primary backup for the 54th WRS was the 56th WRS based at Yokota AB, Japan.


BACK                                                                                                                NEXT

You can e-mail us at  richard.anstett@xo.cidss.af.mil
This page last updated on 30 April, 1998.


This page created with Netscape Communicator
Copyright © 1996 Netscape Communications Corporation.