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Air Weather Reconaissance Association

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 the Report 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!"

Open the Report on Hurricane Reconnaissance During 1944 in a new window

Photo of Spencer's B-25 Weather Crew in CBI

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.

B-25Ds on the ramp in India

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.

Cover art of Flying the Weather

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:

                              Country Studio
                        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!
AFWA Historian

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