Naval Weather Service Association (NWSA)



An association of Aerographers & Mates,
Meteorologists & Oceanographers

Plaque on the 
U.S. Navy Memorial Commemorative Wall 
within the 
Naval Heritage Center, Washington DC.

Dan Hewins, Don Cruse, RADM Tomaszeski


Dedication Day
We are gathered at the Navy Memorial today to dedicate the wall plaque which will help us all remember the weather personnel who have served in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

We know that during World War I United States weather personnel were assigned to the expeditionary forces because we read of their supporting fleet air operations from coastal stations on the coast of France. Some of those people were undoubtedly Navy. But in 1921 the Bureau of Navigation—predecessor to the Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington—established the rating of Aerographer. Next came the school for weather observers on Naval Air Station Pensacola. Marine Corps personnel were included. There were minimum numbers of people assigned to this specialty until naval and Marine aviation advanced far enough to require dedicated weather support.

Early Aerological Officers such as Orville and Reichelderfer were free ballooners and lighter-than-air enthusiasts. Hence, the word Aerology was adopted for Navy use instead of meteorology. A small quota of Aerologists received training at MIT.

Training of Aerographers was moved to NAS Anacostia in 1928 and then to NAS Lakehurst, where it remained until 1977. With the onset of World War II, classes increased in size from a dozen to more than a hundred each quarter. WAVES attended the school. The warrant rank of Aerographer was created, and we became Aerographer’s Mates in 1942. Every aircraft carrier and seaplane tender carried an Aerology Office. Single-man units went aboard all cruisers and battleships. Afloat staffs included an Aerologist and a small number of Aerographer’s Mates. By the end of that conflict there were more than five thousand weather personnel in the Navy and many additional Marine Corps weather personnel scattered around the Pacific Ocean area.

Those are some of the people we are remembering at this ceremony this morning. But there are others.

Following the rapid drawdown of military forces in late 1945 and 1946, Aerology assumed a size more akin to its size today—although today the term Aerology has undergone a series of changes. The Aerology Branch within the Bureau of Aeronautics became the Naval Weather Service. That became the Naval Oceanography Command which is today the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. Fighting the Cold War generated these and other changes. No doubt tomorrow will bring further change.

We should not forget the broad variety of duties that have been assigned to our Aerographer’s Mates and Aerologists. Before the earth orbiting satellites and the enormous computer capabilities were developed, we obtained weather data the hard way. Duty in Ocean Station vessels steaming in the North Atlantic was one of the most taxing ways to obtain surface and upper air data. These vessels also acted as Birddog Stations, supporting trans-oceanic flights. Aerographer’s Mates and Aerologists flying airborne typhoon and hurricane reconnaissance missions became standard, after the disastrous fleet losses of 1945 and 1946 in the Pacific. The Aleutians in 1944 and 1945 concentrated the worst possible flying weather. Behind the Japanese lines in China were Aerographer’s Mates, acquiring weather data along with U.S. Army weather personnel. Working in conjunction with communications intelligence agencies from 1941 onward were Aerographer’s Mates. Sometimes these were sub-surface duty assignments.

For fifty years or more the Navy Department supported U.S. scientific endeavors on the Antarctic Continent through Operation Deepfreeze. Weather support to those surface and air operations was vital.

Today there are new ways of doing things and new tools at the disposal of our Aerographer’s Mates and Oceanographers. Weather around the world will always affect military operations and that keeps the challenges before us.

We thank the Navy Memorial and its staff for providing us with this means for recognizing those who have gone before us.