Captain Steere passed away on 17 March 2001

OPERATION TORCH 1942

Submitted by: Don Cruse

Originally appeared in the May 1998 issue (Vol 22-2) of The Aerograph, the Naval Weather Service newsletter.


This is a bit of history which explains where surf and swell forecasting for the amphibious force landings on the coast of northwest Africa originated. I should add that the same afloat crew provided meteorological data and forecasts to the Allied forces. During the past year it has been a pleasure to rediscover CAPT Richard C. Steere, USN (Ret). He was the Staff Aerologist embarked in USS AUGUSTA (CA-31), flagship of VADM H. K. Hewitt USN. LCDR Steere's "number one" was Aerographer Chuck Barron USN. A small team of supporting Aerographers handled the ob-serving, map plotting, deciphering of sparse reports, and logistics in the Aerological Office.

Who was LCDR Steere? We learned that from the USNA Class of 1931 came three aerologists, one of whom was Richard Steere. The others were Sherman W. Betts and Arthur A. Cumberledge. ENS Steere went to sea as a Line Officer in the Fleet Flagship USS PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38) after graduating from USNA. Admiral Joseph M. Reeves USN flew his flag in PENNSYLVANIA as CINC-USFLEET. Steere was promoted to LTJG after three years in the ship where his battle station was Turret Officer, Num-ber Three Main Battery Turret. One of his shipmates at the time was Wilber Lockhart, an aerologist. Steere recalls that Lockhart became involved in research on Santa Ana wind conditions that frequently adversely affected the ships in Long Beach harbor. We find references to those studies in Lockhart memorabilia.

LTJG Steere was ordered to new construction in 1936 and commissioned USS PORTER (DD-356) at the shipyard in Camden NJ. PORTER was an 1850-tonner. After two years at sea he reported to Naval Postgraduate School at USNA Annapolis for studies in Aerological Engineering lasting two years. One of his instructors was LCDR "Shorty" Danis USN. It was standard procedure at NPGS for students such as Steere to acquire practical knowledge by spending their "PG Summers" at Weather Central NorVa for one month and at NAS Lakehurst the following year for one month. In the autumn of their second year they were ordered to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a one-year course of instruction in meteorology. In those days oceanography was given little emphasis, the focus centered on people like Sverdrup who was at Scripps in La Jolla.

That was Steere's background prior to reporting to USS AUGUSTA in NorVa where he was assigned to newly created COMPHIBLANT under VADM Hewitt. Preparations for Operation Torch were underway. Allied Forces landed on the northwest coast of Africa in November, 1942. VADM Hewitt was CTF-122 and then Commander Eighth Fleet. The Aerological Unit moved ashore at Algiers and supported other amphibious operations on Sicily and at Salerno while newly-promoted CDR Steere was still assigned. Aerographer Lloyd White relieved Barron. Steere went to London to establish an Aerological Unit on Grosvenor Square where CINCUSNAVEUR Headquarters was situated. Planning for Operation Overlord was in progress and surf and swell forecasts for the English Channel were essential. CDR Steere was deeply involved in the planning and coordination for maximum support. In June 1944 Allied Forces landed in Normandy. We read of these events in "America's Weather Warriors" by Bates and Fuller.

CDR Steere reported to BuAer (Aerology Section) as deputy to CAPT H. T. Orville USN. His primary duty was officer assignments for aerological personnel. CDR Cum-berledge was spot promoted to CAPT and sent to the Soviet Union as Commanding Officer Project MOKO, the U.S. effort to establish a Fleet Weather Central at Khabarovsk and provide urgently needed forecasts for expected amphibious landings in Japan in late 1945.

After nearly three years in the Main Navy Building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, Steere was ordered to the faculty of Armed Forces Staff College in NorVa, where he spent an additional three years. He retired with thirty years of service in 1961 and found employment in the cor-porate world on civvie street.

At the age of 89 we found CAPT Steere in the Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchelville, Maryland. His wife died in 1997 so he relocated from a bungalow to the Creighton Center. He is nearly blind but he is sharp of memory and regularly works out in their gym. He provides us with a wonderful lookback into our history.