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The Irish Woman Whose Weather Forecast Influenced D-Day Scheduling

Maureen Flavin (Sweeney) in 1944

On June 3, 1944, Maureen Flavin turned 21, on the same day she also changed the course of history with the meteorological information she recorded while working as a post office assistant.

During World War II, Maureen, who hails from Knockanure, County Kerry was working overnight in Blacksod, County Mayo, when she completed one of her daily tasks at 1:00, am, examining the air pressure and barometer readings and reporting them to the meteorological office in Dublin. The readings indicated that a major Atlantic storm was coming to this remote part of Ireland and would blow right across Western Europe.

What Maureen didn’t know was that this information, from the most westerly station in Europe, was being sent to  the Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, in England, and would land on the desk of United States Four Star General Dwight D. Eisenhower who was then Supreme Commander of the combined allied forces.

Late in the morning of June 3, a phone call came to the post office in Blacksod and when Maureen answered, a lady with a distinct English accent spoke to Maureen and requested her to “Please Check. Please Repeat!” the Met report. Maureen then called Edward “Ted” Sweeney (her future husband) who checked her readings and confirmed: “Yes’ the barometer is dropping rapidly and a storm is coming.”

This affirmation convinced the meteorologists in General Eisenhower’s office that it was wise to postpone Operation Overlord or what later became known as D-Day for 24 hours, and that the allies should stand down all associated activities until the weather cleared, and this break in the weather, which Maureen also reported, allowed the invasion to go ahead on June 6.

The Sweeney family, Ted, his mother Margaret and sister Frances, together with Maureen, had been reporting on the hour, twenty-four hours a day, to the Meteorological Service in Dublin for the length of World War II. This hourly reporting continued until an automatic meteorological station was brought into operation in Belmullet in 1956. Only then, in 1956, did the now husband and wife couple, Ted and Maureen, learn about the history-changing events that their met reports had contributed to in 1944.

When John J. Kelly, who led the design and production of the Navy’s modern landing craft, which has been used in military and humanitarian roles worldwide, heard about Maureen Sweeney, he decided that this story had to be told. John requested Eoin O’Hagan, his friend, based in Clare, to research Maureen Sweeney and her story. Eoin interviewed Vincent Sweeney (Maureen’s son) who told the story in-depth, as well as providing photographs as evidence. Kelly then approached the World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA, of which he was a director, and presented the recording and photographs to them, while requesting official recognition of Maureen and the Sweeney family by the museum. 

On Saturday, June 19, 2021, at 12:00 PM EST and 5:00 PM in Ireland a special tribute of these historic events will be presented to the now 98-year-old Maureen in Belmullet, County Mayo and via Livestream video.

Maureen Sweeney as she is now at age 98. Photo Eoin O’Hagan.

The Livestream tribute from the World War II Museum will include congratulatory words from John J. Kelly. And on the Belmullet side, Maureen’s son Vincent will speak on behalf of his mother, while Ruth O’Hagan will recite a poem that she wrote honoring Maureen, and close out the program with the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann.

With the current COVID restrictions in place, a limited number of people can attend the tribute in person, so it will be available by Livestream at https://vimeo.com/event/1040405.

One Response to “The Irish Woman Whose Weather Forecast Influenced D-Day Scheduling”

  1. Terry says:

    Not only did her observations lead to the decision to cancel , which saved lives, but I suspect her later observations confirmed a break in the weather and then a resumption of poor weather. This allowed for a successful landing on June 6th, while the Nazis assumed continued weather too poor for any landing.

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