Combat Weatherman




     Staff Sergeant Robert A. Dodson enlisted in the Army in August 1941 and trained as a weather observer at New Orleans Army Bomber Base in September 1941.  In April 1944, Sergeant Dodson was assigned to the 21st Weather Squadron in Ascot, England and a month later he volunteered jump school training.  As his paperwork was being processed, the jump school was shut down in preparation for "D-Day".  Undaunted, Sergeant Dodson and his commanding officer convinced the 82nd Airborne Division, located at Manchester, England, to make room for one more soldier.  Sergeant Dodson became a member of an Air Support Party from Ninth Air Force attached to Headquarters, 82nd Airborne Division, which consisted of an Officer in Charge, five communications men who acted as forward air controllers, a driver, and a weather observer, equipped with a half-track and a "veep" (radio equipped jeep).   Sergeant Dodson received a minimum of mock-up training before making his first and only jump.

    At 0230hrs on 6 June 1944, Sergeant Dodson jumped with Force "A" of the 82nd Airborne Division commanded by Brigadier General James M. Gavin.  The sky was moonlit and practically clear when he landed about a mile northeast of St. Mere Eglise, France in a field where cattle were grazing.  One other man had landed in the same field with him and the two of them set out at once toward the head of the stick, in spite of a knee injury Sergeant Dodson sustained during the jump.  As they proceeded they picked up eight other members of their outfit one at a time.  Things were progressing according to schedule and they had yet to make contact with the enemy.  They found three injured men along the way, gave them first aid, and continued on.  Along the way they recovered their equipment which they unpacked, selected a VHF radio, and camouflaged the rest of the equipment in a hedgerow before finally linking up with the command post which had relocated to St. Mere Eglise.

    The Germans counterattacked, and during thirty-six hours all members of the Air Support Party acted as riflemen.  When the siege was lifted, Sergeant Dodson began his weather observing duties.  Each hour he sent by radio the present weather, wind direction and speed, visibility, ceiling and cloud heights, temperature, and dew point.  For the last elements he was equipped with a shielded psychrometer and psychometric tables, while all other elements were determined visually.  This work continued until 21 June, when Sergeant Dodson was evacuated to the hospital at Bouteville for treatment on the knee he injured during the jump.  He later returned to his unit, which returned to England when it was relieved on 13 July.  Sergeant Dodson, who made his first trip to France during the war with a parachute as a weather observer with the 82nd Airborne Division, returned to France with the headquarters of Ninth Air Force and the 21st Weather Squadron, serving out the rest of the war as chief dispatcher at the motor pool.  He left the service in September 1945.  
    Sergeant  Dodson's military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal,  Purple Heart, Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign medal with 4 bronze service stars (for the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns), American Defense Service Medal, and Distinguished Unit Citation.  The Air Weather Service recognized Sergeant Dodson's World War II service in July 1987 by naming its Specialized Support Award in his honor. 

Simmons Weather

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