History is not just aircraft and missions,
but rather the people who flew the planes,
planned and executed the missions,
and then later wrote about them.
Photo by Bernie Barris, taken 30 March 2005. All rights reserved.
|The above photo of Dr. Otha Spencer
and his wife Billie was taken at their home outside Commerce,
Texas. 1Lt Otha Spencer was one of true pioneers of weather
reconnaissance. He was hand-picked in 1944 as a member of the
Army Hurricane Reconnaissance Unit. A B-25D aircraft commander,
Otha flew most every type of weather mission that later became the
staple of Air Weather Service crews. Prior to their first
hurricane missions, the B-25 crews flew numerous route recon flights
from Newfoundland to Greenland to Iceland and on to Scotland in early
1944. After this 3-day trip, the crews turned around and flew
back. The data they collected helped greatly improve forecasts
provided to ferry crews bringing all types of aircraft to the allied
forces in England. In the Altantic and Carribean that year, the
crews sent numerous synoptic observations as well as specific reports
on the tropical systems. Lieutenant Spencer also displayed a talent for
writing that would later lead to a career as a Professor of Journalism
at Texas A&M University-Commerce. He was selected to write
on Hurricane Reconnaissance During 1944. This is a must read
for all who are interested in tropical storm data collection
flights. After the 1944 Atlantic storm season, the unit was
disbanded and the crews were sent to the China India Burma
theater. Flying the B-25s, as well as C-46 and C-47 aircraft,
these pathfinder weather missions made the flights a bit safer for the
rest of the "Hump" flyers. Otha has authored numerous books,
including Flying the Weather, the story of air
weather reconnaissance. He is life member of AWRA, the Air
Weather Association and the Pacific Air Weather Squadrons. He celebrates his 85th birthday
this month (April 2005). Happy Birthday, Otha, from all of
us at AWRA! "You done good!"
Photo from Flying the Hump, Memories of an Air War by Otha C. Spencer.
Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved.
|This photo depicts a B-25D weather
crew sent to the China Burma India theater of operations in 1945.
Standing (left to right)
is 1st Lt John Bortz, navigator; 1st Lt Otha Spencer,
aircraft commander; 1st Lt George Abersold, weather officer; 2nd
Lt Arthur Lincks, copilot. Front row (left to right) TSgt Michael
Dezazzo, crew chief; TSgt Raymond Merritt, radio operator; SSgt John
Terrell, flight engineer. They were assigned to the 10th
Weather Squadron and often flew B-25D synoptic tracks in the Bay of
Bengal. However, the only way to get operational approval to
gather data over the Hump was if they were also doing something
"useful", i.e. carrying fuel, bombs, and people. So these weather
flights were conducted in standard C-47s and C-46s. After V-J
Day, they expected a quick return to civilian life -- the Army's idea
of "quick" was months down the road, AFTER they had flown numerous C-46
airlift missions recovering the far flung 10th Weather Squadron teams
and equipment throughout China.
Official Air Force Photograph, courtesy of the Air Force History Office
|These three B-25D aircraft,
equipped with the AN/APQ-13 weather radar, are shown on the ramp at
Kurmitola, India in 1945. The crews from "D Flight" 2nd Weather
Squadron provided weather data to many activities in the C-B-I
theater. Their sister unit, "B Flight", flew weather
reconnaissance missions over the "Hump" into China.
I was extremely surprised and happy to find out that Otha still has about 100 copies of Flying the Weather left in stock. If anyone has looked for it lately, it is hard to find a copy. If you do happen to find one, the seller is asking quite a bit. Just check out Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble online.
As a service to the AWRA membership, Otha is making the few remaining copies of Flying the Weather available for purchase. These will be sold on a first come, first served basis. The price is $20.00 (20 US dollars). This includes shipping and handling. Send a note with your address, along with check or money order to:
4245 Spencer's Road
Campbell, TX 75422-2292
Any orders recieved after the remaining copies are gone, will be quickly returned to the sender.
|Speaking of history and historians, the Air Weather Reconnaissance Association would like to extend a big thank you to folks of the Air Force Weather History Office. Led by Mr. Al Moyers (pictured below) they have been extremely helpful in our attempts to research the past 60 years of weather reconnaissance. Thank you!|