Nature is not affected by the laws of war, indifferent to the military efforts of mortal man. The laws of nature are more than capable of overriding the laws of war, and have throughout history. Had it not been for soaking rains the day and night before the battle, Napoleon likely would have won at Waterloo. The opening days of the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 were marked by atrocious weather. Allied fighter-bombers and ground support aircraft were grounded. The weather gave the Germans a decided advantage throughout the first phase of that epic battle.
It was a violent storm, more so than the British fleet, which wrecked the Spanish Armada in the 16th century. The Mongol invasion of Japan was stopped by storms which the Japanese attributed to the gods. They called the storms the Divine Wind. The Japanese expression entered the English language during World War II – kamikaze. Here are details of these and other examples of the weather and natural phenomena affecting the affairs of man in combat with his fellow man throughout history.
1. Thunderstorms contributed to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo
Napoleon planned to strike his enemy at Waterloo early in the morning of June 18, 1815. The Emperor was well aware of the proximity of the Prussian forces and had dispatched a corps to deal with them. But he was also aware that reinforcements could come for Wellington from that direction. Driving the Anglo-Dutch army from the field early in the day ended that peril. But the heavy rains of the day and night before had turned the roads and fields into muddy quagmires. For Wellington, positioned on a ridge with little plans to maneuver, they were no problem. For Napoleon they were nothing but.
Napoleon’s army relied on what he called flying artillery, which moved rapidly around the battlefield to positions where they were most effective. They often moved repeatedly during battle. At Waterloo, Wellington remarked admiringly on their ability to speedily redeploy. But they could not do it in the mud. Napoleon was forced to wait as the morning sun dried out the fields, allowing him to use his army to best effect. The exact time of the start of the battle is debated, but it was several hours later than Napoleon had originally intended, and by the time he did launch his attack in late morning, the Prussians were already on their way. They arrived just in time to help the hard-pressed Wellington.