Return Of The Nazi Weather Robot
May 17, 2013 5:46 AM   Subscribe

What won the war? The weather helped. For while the Allies had access to all the Atlantic meteorology, the Axis couldn't easily predict what systems were rolling in from the West - and with the Battle of the Atlantic the one thing that Churchill said kept him awake at night, knowing which way the wind blew certainly needed a weatherman. Or Britain would never be starved into submission. The Weather War was complex and engaging,

Reports from U-boats and weather ships were dangerous to make, giving away positions and even - famously - fatally compromising the Enigma system. What the Nazis really needed were men on the ground on the other side of the Atlantic that wasn't happening.

Instead, they built a robot called Kurt, and, in the only WWII armed enemy operation on land in North America, deployed it.

And there it sat while its masters fought and lost, forgotten in the tumult. Until decades later a chance finding by a German historian set off a hunt to track it down...
posted by Devonian (16 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
That's cool. I've gone by those items at the War Museum but never gave them much thought.
posted by smcniven at 6:05 AM on May 17, 2013

Sort of Imperial Probot vibes off them, ain't there.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:09 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having installed many remote weather stations, can I just say I'm thankful for solar panels (providing lightweight remote power, instead of hundreds of kilos of batteries), microcontrollers (which can run a weather station on milliwatts) and satellite comms (which allows worldwide data transmission with a few watts)?
posted by scruss at 6:30 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Devonian: "in the only WWII armed enemy operation on land in North America"
Ahem. The Sirius Patrol and the US Army fought German weatherman several times in Eastern Greenland during 1943-44.
posted by brokkr at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah, now, I knew of the Sirius Patrol's (also entirely fascinating) story but always considered that on European territory. Which it was, but on North American geography. I should have worded it better...

Damn you, Greenland. Why you so ambiguous?

The other thing to watch for is saying that this happened in Canada, a bullet I did dodge - it was the Dominion of Newfoundland at the time.
posted by Devonian at 6:56 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites] the only WWII armed enemy operation on land in North America
I'm pretty sure Alaska is part of North America.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:05 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

For meteorology nerds, I recommend Forecast For Overlord by James Stagg. Stagg is the British Royal Air Force meteorologist who persuaded General Dwight D. Eisenhower to change the date of the Normandy landings.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:11 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The only operation on a sovereign territory culturally considered a North American country by a non-Japanese Axis belligerent.
posted by stbalbach at 7:14 AM on May 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

Germans! With guns! In Newfoundland! And a shortwave, nickel-cadmium powered, ten-metre-tall, Nazi robot! From a submarine! With scientists!

I do love MeFi. Keeps me honest.
posted by Devonian at 7:19 AM on May 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

The WFL would broadcast weather readings every three hours during a two-minute transmission on 3940 kHz.

Talk about the Holy Grail of shortwave recordings. I've found some pretty weird stuff, but this would be a lifetime capstone to unearth.
posted by mykescipark at 8:09 AM on May 17, 2013

"Imperial troops have entered the base!
posted by clavdivs at 9:04 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think SIGSALY would be my lifetime shortwave find...
posted by Devonian at 9:16 AM on May 17, 2013

Damn. Sounds like a plot for a new Hellboy comic.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:00 PM on May 17, 2013

I'm trying to think of how the U-Boats could have plugged the cryptographic leak that sending the weather reports created. The best I've got so far is, use a separate Enigma system to encode these and only these broadcasts.
posted by thelonius at 6:19 PM on May 17, 2013

Hey, I've seen that in person!

I hope you enjoy, as I spent ages deleting pictures from my photostream so that this one would be within the most recent 200
posted by Canageek at 6:40 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

There was actually another German military operation on American soil, which involved landing sabateurs in Florida and on Long Island, and which had just as much effect on the war:

George John Dasch and the Nazi Saboteurs.
posted by adamg at 7:14 PM on May 17, 2013

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