Maureen Sweeney lived a whole century – a feat that is becoming less and less remarkable as many people are living past 100. But the 20th century might have turned out to be very different, were it not for a prediction she made at the age of 21.
Mrs. Sweeney’s funeral Mass is due to take place Friday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Aughleamon, Ireland, not far from where she and her husband, Ted, worked at a coast guard and weather station in 1944. According to the BBC, they were tasked with taking hourly barometer readings in the days before the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Their reports from Ireland’s west coast, indicating an impending storm coming in from the Atlantic, contributed to the decision to delay the invasion, allowing the weather to improve.
“We were told that our reports were the first to show any change coming in for good weather or bad weather,” Sweeney told the BBC in 2016.
On June 3 the readings showed a storm approaching. The success of the invasion relied so much on the right conditions for wind and visibility.
Thus D-Day would take place on June 6, becoming the largest sea-borne invasion in history. Waves of men landed on the beaches of Normandy – the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation of France and, eventually, the rest of Europe.
Ireland was officially neutral during World War II, but information gathered by the Irish Meteorological Service was shared with the Allies, said the BBC.
At 1 p.m. on June 3, Sweeney “was first to forecast a severe storm approaching Europe from over the Atlantic Ocean,” the British wire service said. “Her forecast was then phoned into London.”
In 2014, Mrs. Sweeney recalled to the Irish Independent that she had received a phone call from London asking for the readings to be checked again.
These observations from the west of Ireland formed an important part of the forecasting decisions of a team of American and British forecasters who urged that the invasion be delayed.
Sweeney’s husband predeceased her in 2001. Just three years ago, in 2021, Sweeney was given a special recognition from the US House of Representatives.