Her D-Day Forecast 'Saved God Knows How Many Lives'

Ireland's Maureen Sweeney warned of impending storm, so 1944 Normandy invasion was postponed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2023 1:00 PM CST
Weather Forecaster Who Altered D-Day Plans Dies at 100
Members of an American landing unit help their comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, aka D-Day, near Sainte-Mere-Eglise in France.   (Louis Weintraub/Pool Photo via AP, File)

We're used to commemorating June 6, 1944, as D-Day, the day when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in France, helping to shift the path of World War II and defeat the Nazis. That fateful day actually came close to happening on June 5, but thanks to Maureen Flavin Sweeney's warning of incoming inclement weather, the invasion was postponed for one day. The Irish postal clerk's forecast "changed the course of the D-Day landings," notes the BBC, which reports on the death Sunday of the Irish native at age 100. Sweeney's family tells the outlet she died at a nursing home in Belmullet. Per the Washington Post, Maureen Flavin, then 21, was stationed in June 1944 at the post office in County Mayo's Blacksod, which, thanks to its position on Ireland's northwestern coast, had served as a UK weather station since 1939.

On June 3 of that year, as 130,000 Allied troops awaited the word to begin their air-and-sea incursion, Flavin and her eventual husband, lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney, noted that barometer readings and other data indicated that two big low-pressure areas were set to lay heavy rains and wind upon the English Channel on June 5—and so, after the UK Meteorological Office confirmed that the forecasters were confident in their prediction, invasion plans that had been in the works for years were put on hold for one day. "A bad forecast would jeopardize the entire operation," author John Ross wrote in 2014's The Forecast for D-Day. "If [Gen. Dwight Eisenhower] gave the word to 'go,' and the weather turned sour, the lives of thousands of men and massive amounts of equipment would be lost."

The Allies couldn't wait too long to make their move, however—the Post notes that "early June was picked for D-Day because of lower-than-normal tides and a moon cycle that provided darkness during the early stages of the invasion and, on a clear night, a moon glow after rising later on." The invasion took place on June 6 instead, when the worst of the weather had cleared. "Maureen Sweeney saved God knows how many lives," Charles Pierce writes at Esquire. "If the Normandy invasion had gone off on June 5, the landings, if they even occurred, would have been even more nightmarish than they were on June 6." Ted Sweeney died in 2001. Maureen Sweeney is survived by her son, Vincent Sweeney, and a grandson, Fergus Sweeney. (More D-Day stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.