From the art of practical sailing to the electronic science of navigation: Typhoons, seamanship, and U.S. naval operations in the Northwest Pacific, 1944-1945

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The Pacific theater of World War II represents a turning point in the history of navigation: whether a ship’s commander should entrust the safety of his vessel to his own judgment based on years of practical experience at sea or rely instead on radio broadcasts, the beginnings of “big data,” and the output of detection systems, including radar. U.S. naval campaigns in the Northwest Pacific during World War II, when some of the largest armadas of naval vessels ever assembled were continuously at sea in a relatively restricted maritime area for months at a time, provide notable occasions when the old and the new knowledge were tested under extreme weather conditions and the exigencies of wartime operations. This article examines the role of typhoons and the science of their prediction in relation to U.S. naval operations in the Pacific theater in 1944–1945.