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NEWS | Feb. 15, 2023

CNMOC Recognizes Oceanographic Pioneer Walter Munk

By Mr. Clayton Boyd, Public Affairs, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command

Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command recognizes Walter Munk for his pioneering achievements in oceanography.
Walter Munk, a physical oceanographer employed by the U.S. Navy, was an instrumental player in development of oceanographic data analysis. His work considerably advanced our understanding of ocean wave, tides, and currents and their relationship to geophysics.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1932, Walter started his career in oceanography after convincing Harald Sverdrup, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, to take him onboard for a summer job. With tensions rising in Europe and the occupation of Austria by Germany in 1938, Munk, a citizen of Austria, applied for U.S. citizenship and enlisted in the U.S. Army. After only 18 months of service, Munk was excused of any remaining military service to undertake defense related research at Scripps where he, accompanied by several colleagues, started research in oceanographic data analysis at the U.S. Navy Radio and Sound Laboratory.
During his time at the naval laboratory, Munk, joined by Harald Sverdrup, developed a wave prediction method to assist the Allies in planning amphibious operations off North Africa. This system also aided in the success of Normandy’s invasion through the training of Army and Navy meteorologists who would employ Munk’s method to accurately predict wave activities on the early morning of June 6, 1944.
Later in his career, Munk began collaborating in the development of oceanographic acoustic tomography to exploit the ease with which sound travels in the ocean and the use of acoustical signals for measurement of broad-scale temperature and current. Walter would go on to have an illustrious career, honored by milestones such as serving with JASON, a panel of scientists who advised the U.S. government, and eventually holding a Secretary of the Navy Chair in Oceanography.
U.S. Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command directs and oversees more than 2,500 globally-distributed military and civilian personnel who collect, process and exploit environmental information to assist Fleet and Joint Commanders in all warfare areas to make better decisions, based on assured environmental information, faster than the adversary.

Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command | 1100 Balch Blvd. | Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529