1942 - 1945


R. E. Rowland

Prior to our entry into World War II the Army Air Force (AAF) recognized its need for a massive build up in strength. Among the specialties it needed, in addition to pilots, aircraft mechanics, gunners, etc., were weather forecasters. This document reviews the early plans to select qualified individuals capable of becoming highly trained weather forecasters, while the numbers needed initially grew very rapidly only to be followed by the realization that too many were ultimately being produced.

This document was prepared as a description of what was known as the Premeteorology Program. The author was part of that program; he completed the "B" program at the University of Michigan (started in March 1943) and the "A" program at Chanute Field, Illinois (started in October 1943). Throughout this document his comments will indicate where differences occurred between his experiences and the history as written in the document used as his source material. The primary source of information was a document obtained from Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. It was entitled Weather Training in the AAF, 1937-1945, by Sgt. Raymond Walters (AC/AS Intelligence). It was written in 1952 and is listed as US Air Force Historical Study No. 56.

In 1940 there were fewer than 30 officers who had received advanced training in meteorology from two recognized universities with outstanding programs, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the California Institute of Technology. The reason for the low number was a tradition that for meteorology training the man had to be a pilot, and should have had four years of commissioned service. Further, no more than eight officers per year were to receive such training. In January of 1940 the annual quota was increased to 12.

As the need for more weather forecasters was recognized, plans were modified; in July 1940 it was proposed that 30 recent college graduates with training in mathematics and physics be enlisted as "cadets" and assigned to a regular 9-month graduate course in meteorology. These men were to be commissioned as second lieutenants on completion of their course. This proposal was approved by General Arnold, but with the number increased to 40 candidates.

With this encouragement a more ambitious plan was introduced; a goal was set to train 150 candidates during the coming academic year. The five universities then giving meteorological training were contacted, and they helped recruit suitable students. By October 1940, 113 cadets were enlisted and studying at the five universities. The graduates, totaling 112, after finishing their 9-month course, were sent to air bases for a month of military training, then were commissioned second lieutenants.

Before this class had graduated, the AAF announced that it would be repeated, and another 150 candidates recruited. No trouble was found in the recruiting process, so by July 1941, 182 men started their cadet course. The entry into the war created such a demand for trained weather officers that this group was graduated and commissioned in February 1942, a month and a half ahead of schedule. With these new graduates, the AAF now had approximately 330 trained weather officers, but for the tactical groups that were planned, at least 1,000 would be required. Turning again to the five universities, another 840 cadets were entered into training by October 1942 to meet these perceived needs.

However, General H. M. McClelland, Director of AAF Technical Services, after a visit to Great Britain, returned convinced that the number must be increased significantly. As a consequence of this concern, training at the five universities, plus two military schools, one at Chanute Field and the other at Grand Rapids, Mich., continued at an increasing rate. (The school at Grand Rapids, however, was closed after graduating it's first class in September 1943.) During 1943 a class of 1750 started in January, another 500 started in June, and a third class of 1400 students started in October. [The author was in this October class; to his knowledge all the cadets at Chanute Field, some 467, were graduates of the "B" program described below.]


A study made in November 1942 by Col. Don Z. Zimmerman, AAF Director of Weather, apparently based on Gen. McClelland' s report, predicted that by June 1943 the AAF ought to have 1,350 weather officers, by September 1943, 3,500, by January 1944, about 5,000, and by early 1945 a total of 10,000 would be needed.

The number of students starting courses during 1943 was achieved by lowering some of the standards that had been set for these cadet programs. Nevertheless, it was becoming difficult to find men with the required educational background to handle the course work that the meteorological program presented.

To address this and other problems Gen. McClelland had proposed in October that the five universities form a University Meteorological Committee (UMC) to effect closer coordination with the AAF in the training program. [The five universities were never specified in the report Weather Training in the AAF, 1937-1945. They probably were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, The University of Chicago, New York University, and University of California at Los Angeles.] Each university had two members on the committee; Dr. C. G. Rossby of the University of Chicago was chairman of the executive committee. Col. Zimmerman proposed that the facilities of other colleges and universities be tapped to give premeteorological training--perhaps six months--that would prepare promising candidates for the regular meteorological cadet program. Dr. Chalmers, president of Kenyon College, suggested that his and a number of other small colleges with good mathematics and physics departments might assist in the proposed premeteorological program.

The weather directorate, the Military Personnel Division, and the UMC all felt that the program was highly desirable, but opposed the idea of utilizing small colleges. Nevertheless plans went ahead to set up two premeteorological programs, each leading directly to the cadet meteorology course. The nine-month cadet meteorology course was to be called the "A" course, the six-month premeteorology course the "B" course. and the 12-month premeteorology course the "C" course. The last six months of the "C" course would be the same as the "B" course, while the first six months would provide the background needed to handle work at this level. For admission to the "B" course the candidate had to be between the ages of 18 and 30 and have completed, in an accredited college or university, mathematics through college algebra, trigonometry, and analytic geometry plus a year of physics. For the "C" course the candidate had to be between the ages of 18 and 21, a high school graduate, with satisfactory completion of two years of mathematics, including algebra and plane geometry, and one year of high school science. In the "B" and "C" courses the candidate would be a private until he completed the course, when he would enter the "A" program as a cadet.

It was planned that 3,000 "B" students would start their program about 1 March 1943 so they would be ready for the "A" program the following September; training for 2,500 "C" students would start on 1 February 1943 so they could enter the "A" program in February 1944. Additional "C" classes, each with 3,000 students, would start early in May 1943 and every four months thereafter.

Sgt. Walters stated that 12 small colleges were given contracts to operate "C" courses, and 11 colleges and universities obtained contracts to operate the "B" courses. It will be seen below that only 8 small colleges along with 8 universities operated 16 "C" courses while 5 universities received contracts to operate "B" courses, all to start in February and March of 1943. To fill these courses a number of methods of advertising were used. Small schools were permitted to announce that they were offering the courses, although enlistment had to be through regular AAF routes. Some newspaper advertisements appeared and also some radio announcements were authorized. There were more than 30,000 applicants for the "A", "B", and "C" programs during the winter of 1942-1943; of these about 10,000 were accepted. The caliber of the students obtained was very high; in six typical institutions the "B" students averaged 132 while the "C" students averaged 128 when taking the Army's General Classification Test . Some college authorities later reported that their premeteorological students were "of considerably higher intellectual level than normal college students".

At the last minute three main difficulties prevented the programs from getting underway on the scheduled dates-- 1 February 1943 for the "C" schools, 1 March for the "B" schools. One was the problem of getting the civilian candidates into the AAF; draft boards were finding it difficult to understand "voluntary induction" into a specific program, and were going slowly. On 9 January 1943, when 1,692 civilians had been accepted for the "B" course. only 40 had been inducted into the Army, and of the 1,346 accepted for the "C" course only 215 had been inducted. [The author received a telegram on 10 March 1943 to report for induction on 11 March and arrived at the University of Michigan on 16 March, and never did have any basic training.] The second delay was the difficulty in establishing administrative detachments for the 22 schools. Many were far removed from Army establishments, centers of population, and adequate transportation facilities, creating special problems for the detachment commanders and their staffs. Finally, the schools were finding that it took more time than anticipated to turn dormitories into barracks and to organize the teaching staffs.

When arrangements were finally completed 12 colleges and universities started their "C" courses on 15 February while on 15 March four additional institutions started their "C" courses and six universities started their "B" courses. In the table below the schools involved in the premeteorological programs are listed, with the number of students enrolled in each.


"C" Schools starting 1 February 1943


Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.


Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine


Carleton College, Northfield, Minn.


Denison University, Granville, Ohio


Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.


Haverford College, Haverford, Pa.


Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio


Pomona Collge, Pomona, Calif.


Reed College, Portland, Oreg.


University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.


University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.


Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.




"C" Schools starting 15 March 1943


State University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa


University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.


University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.


Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.




"B" Schools starting on 15 March 1943


Brown University, Providence, R. I.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.


New York University, New York City, N. Y.


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N. C.


University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc.


A secondary source of information for this document was a series of documents entitled "History of Eastern Technical Training Command (ETTC)". In Volume 1, for 8 July 1943 to 1 March 1944, Brown University is stated as offering both the "B" and "C" courses, which, if correct, contradicts the information above from Sgt. Walters. These ETTC documents were obtained from the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

During the spring of 1943 AAF meteorology training maintained a fairly even keel. There existed, it was generally supposed, a very real need for large numbers of additional weather officers in stations and tactical organizations throughout the world, but the recruitment campaign for approximately 10,000 men qualified for training as weather officers had been very successful, and no more applications were accepted after early March. Approximately 2,750 cadets were pursuing the "A" meteorology course at 5 universities and the AAF school at Grand Rapids; approximately 1,600 students were taking the "B" premeteorology course at 6 colleges and universities; approximately 3,500 students were enrolled in the "C" meteorology course at 16 colleges and universities.


Then, suddenly, in early May the entire picture changed; at AAF Headquarters Operations, Commitments, & Requirements (OC&R) issued a revision of the Manning Table which called for the removal of the weather officer from the table of organization of practically all tactical squadrons. In addition, considerable reductions in the number of weather officers assigned to stations, sections, and squadron headquarters was called for. It was estimated that by the end of 1943 approximately 800 fewer weather officers would be needed than had previously been supposed. Indeed, reports subsequently received from the field indicated that even with this reduction, the number of weather officers authorized was well over twice as many as were actually required.

The drastic change in the weather officer picture caught the training authorities unaware, and they spent some time considering means by which it might be corrected. At a meeting of the UMC early in June 1943, the types of training to which surplus "B" and "C" students might be diverted was discussed at length, but no definite decisions were reached. At that time large numbers of recruits earmarked for "C" training were accumulating at basic training centers, and as there seemed little likelihood that these men would ever be needed as weather officers, in June AC/AS Training ordered that they be screened, and those with suitable qualifications be entered in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Despite this move, AC/AS Training still clung to the belief that the "exigencies of war" might within a year or two produce a situation where considerable numbers of additional weather officers would be needed. It won ASTP officials over to the idea that, if that occurred, a premeteorology course which would prepare men for the cadet meteorology course might be set up under the specialized training program. As it turned out, however, requirements for additional officers did not develop, and the ASTP was never called upon to give a premeteorology course.

During the months of July, August, and September 1943, the increasing conviction that the surplus of weather officers was no figment of an OC&R planner's imagination led AAF training officials to take more positive steps toward the curtailment of the meteorology programs. In July, AC/AS Training directed that no new classes were to be entered in either the "B" or "C" programs, although the classes then undergoing instruction were to continue through graduation as scheduled. Once these classes had finished, the facilities of the colleges and universities were to be made available to the ASTP--if it desired them. Whether there were to be any additional "A" classes after the graduation of the one then in session remained undecided for some time. In September a proposal was made to the Chief of Air Staff that the "A" course be continued throughout the winter of 1943-1944. Graduates not needed for duty as weather officers could be assigned to navigation, flight control, pilot, or communications training, since it was generally agreed that a knowledge of meteorology was a desirable background for these types of officers. The Chief of Air Staff was inclined to approve of the suggestion, but AC/AS Training protested that it would produce a surplus of 2,350 weather officers--unwise when the manpower situation was so critical.

A solution to this problem was found which incorporated one feature of the proposal: approximately 200 weather officers who had graduated from the "A" course on 6 September, 1943, were assigned to navigator training. But "A" training was not to continue indefinitely. On 17 September Maj. Gen. Barney M. Giles, Chief of Air Staff, approved OC&R recommendation that the class of 1,700 "A" students entering the universities on 4 October 1943 be the last. This meant, of course, that all of the "C" students then in school--and perhaps many of the "B" students as well--could not enter the "A" course. What should be done with them once they had completed the course they were now taking? The spirit in which the training officials approached that problem was well illustrated by a remark made at a UMC conference in late July: the AAF, it was asserted, "had promised these boys a commission. There was a possibility that not all of them would be weather officers; however, it was up to the Army Air Force to see that the promise of a commission to these boys was kept if it was physically possible to do so."

Since the "B" classes would graduate before the "C" classes--one "B" class was scheduled to graduate on 18 September and another on 27 November--the disposition of "B" students became the first concern of AC/AS Training. This office directed the Technical Training Command (TTC) to conduct a survey of the "B" students to see how many desired and were physically qualified for appointment as pilot, bombardier, or navigator (aircrew) cadets or as communications cadets. Training in communications, it added, would ultimately lead to work in the fast burgeoning field of radar, and graduation from the "B" course would constitute the educational qualifications for cadet appointment in any category. By early August a complete survey by the 2nd District TTC showed that 10 per cent of its "B" students were willing to volunteer and were physically qualified for some form of cadet training other than meteorology. Although it was handicapped in its attempt to formulate plans by the refusal of AC/AS Personnel to estimate future training requirements for weather officers, AC/AS Training notified the training command on 21 August that all "B" students graduating on 18 September who desired and were qualified for cadet air crew training would be given it, while all the others would be entered in the cadet meteorology course. At the insistence of General Giles and Dr. Rossby, it held to this policy in spite of a survey completed by OC&R in the middle of September which revealed the existence of a very large surplus of weather officers.

[My records indicate that in the week that ended on 28 August 1943 we went individually before a Cadet Board that was "to determine if we were officer material." They decided most of us were, but a few were turned down. Subsequently, on 17 September a notice on the bulletin board stated we were to stay at Ann Arbor until a board came to "screen and dispose" of us. This did not occur; instead on 22 September we were told we were to report to Chanute Field, after a "delay-in-route", on 1 October. We were to be screened at Chanute, then sent into flying, communications, meteorology, or other school. However, on arrival at Chanute Field we all found ourselves in the "A" meteorology school, no screening ever took place.]

This left the problem of disposing of "B" students in the 27 November 1943 class, the last "B" class, and "C" students in the 12 February, 11 March, and 28 May 1944 classes still unsolved. [Apparently the 12 February and the 11 March classes were those that had started on 15 February and 15 March 1943, but where did the November 1943 "B" class and the May 1944 "C" class come from? These may have been schools that were not included in Sgt. Walters list of schools that started in February and March 1943.]

It had been expected that the last "A" class would graduate in June 1944, but an unexpected development prevented this from being the case. A number of men who had been eliminated from the course under what they protested as unusual circumstances pressed for another chance to complete the training. To grant them this opportunity the AAF started a special class numbering 32 men at Chanute Field in February 1944. When this group graduated on 18 November 1944 the weather cadet program ended.

Although "A" meteorology training was now, of course, out of the question for these graduates of the remaining "B" class and all of the "C" classes, with the exception of the 32 men mentioned above, the possibility of appointing them cadets in aircrew and communications still remained for those who possessed the physical qualifications. Appreciative of the fact that the pool of premeteorology students was one of the finest in the Army, and that the AAF owed certain obligations to the men who had been recruited for it, AAF Headquarters determined that the assignment of the men to other activities should be accomplished on an individual basis with as much attention paid to the desires of each man as possible. Accordingly, in late September it directed the Training Command "immediately" to dispatch a "Meteorological Screening Board" to the premeteorology colleges to screen their students for other types of training.

When the board arrived at a detachment, the entire premeteorology class was convened and addressed by one of the board members, who explained in general terms the reasons for the liquidation of the meteorology program, stressed the desire of the AAF to deal fairly with the men, and described the opportunities now open to them. Following the meeting, each student was interviewed individually by one or more of the board members, in the course of which the opportunities open were discussed as they applied to the man's individual case. The student then filled in and signed a form indicating his first, second, and third choices. During the screening, which was completed by early October, 6,119 men were interviewed. [This number is greater than the number of students listed in the above table of "B" and "C" students.]

After the interviewing board had finished its tour, the data it had collected was sent to UMC headquarters in Chicago. There a tentative assignment was made for each student on the basis of his preference, the rating of the screening board, his educational background before entering the Army, his record in the premeteorology course, and other records on file at UMC headquarters. So concerned was AAF Headquarters that the disposition of the students be made intelligently and fairly that it insisted that the recommendations drawn up at Chicago be forwarded to it for final decision.

Sgt. Walters' History devotes considerable attention to the serious morale problems of the "B" and "C" students who did not get into the "A" program, and also addressed the reaction of the civilian population to the closing of the meteorological program. The latter, apparently, was primarily in the New York City area, and prompted statements from the headquarters of the Training Command and ultimately from the War Department Bureau of Public Relations. The latter, in their press release, gave no clue as to the real reason for the closing of the program but stressed the excellent educational background the men had been given and the variety of the opportunities now open to them.


The "A" meteorology course, as given at the five universities and at Chanute Field, received general commendation from civilian meteorologists and officers of the AAF Weather Service. One objective test of the quality of its instruction, the highly important field of forecasting, was provided in the spring of 1944. It was the practice of the weather service periodically to give all its forecasters in the continental United States a uniform short-range forecast-verification test. In February 1944 AC/AS Training, at the request of the OC&R Weather Division, directed the "A" schools to give all their students and instructors the same examination currently being given weather service forecasters. The test was given at the six schools between early April and early June 1944, with each participant being called upon to submit at least three forecasts a week. Each forecast had five elements: pressure, temperature, ceiling height, visibility, and six-hourly precipitation. The validity of the examination was somewhat restricted by the fact that some of the schools--notably N.Y.U. and M.I.T.--did not have an adequate supply of forms to test all of their personnel. Although three of the schools made a better showing than did the average field station, probably the most striking result of the experiment was that the school whose students and instructors did best was the AAF school at Chanute.

In recognition of the quality of the training received by the students completing the "A" meteorology program, the credit recommended by the American Council on Education for students applying to schools after the war was greater than for any other course given in a U.S. Army program.

In conclusion, the cadet meteorology program proved that a group of above-average students, when properly screened, trained, and motivated, could successfully complete difficult technical courses in a relatively short time. In this sense the AAF premeteorology program was an outstanding success.

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Comments, corrections, any futher information would be appreciated by the author:

Bob Rowland