William S. Barney – Colonel, United States Army

From a contemporary press report:

Colonel (Ret) William S. Barney 1917-2000)  and his wife, Betty, perished in a fire that ravaged their home in Rockville, Maryland, in the early morning hours of February 3, 2000.

Colonel Bill Barney was well known throughout the meteorological community for his work in the Air Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research.  Colonel “Bill” Barney was a legend and a leader — and his accomplishments were numerous.  (Ed. Excerpts for this necrology were taken from AWS files and various obituaries. Thanks to Lillian Nolan and Loraine Becker of the AFWA History Office and Bob Dumont at OFCM.) The following article appeared in the Headquarters, Air Weather Service Observer in October 1967.

Cott Air Force Base, Illinois, October 10, 1967

An Air Force weatherman who held every rank from Private to Colonel retired recently at this base where he began his military career 30 years ago.

Colonel William S. Barney, a member of AWS since it began in 1937, received the Legion of Merit from Brigadier General Russell K. Pierce, Jr., AWS commander.  General Pierce praised Colonel Barney’s numerous contributions to military weather support. The Legion of Merit recognized Colonel Barney’s effort in the development of environmental support for space projects.  This was nothing new for the Colonel, who has pioneered many military weather advancements and always kept an eye to the future.  Colonel Barney’s immediate future is the beginning of a career with the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). He retired on Thursday, September 28, and the following Monday was on the job as assistant director of the Barbados Oceanographic and Meteorological Experiment (BOMEX) project office.  He will direct the planning of logistics and operations for BOMEX, an interagency study of interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean, planned for the summer of 1969.

The Colonel’s Legion of Merit covered the period from May 1, 1963, to May 31, 1967, when he was AWS Vice Commander.  He was 1st Weather Wing commander in the Pacific from 1961 to 1963.  Prior to that, he held posts throughout AWS, dating to 1937, when he began as a weather observer.

His accomplishments include work to rehabilitate the Italian military weather service and the civilian weather services of Germany and Japan. He established the ocean vessel station program for the Japanese government and prepared the first tidal wave warning plan for the pacific.

More recently, Colonel Barney chaired a joint steering committee concerned with developing a capability to observe and predict the aerospace environment. AWS’s Solar Observing and Forecasting Network (SOFNET), which monitors and forecasts radiation resulting from solar disturbances, was designed by the Colonel through the joint committee.

Largely as a result of the veteran weatherman’s efforts, AWS is receiving weather data at Air Force Global Weather Central, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, from Europe and the Far East at a rate of 3,000 words per minute versus 100 words per minute in the recent past.  This is the new Automated Weather Network.

Colonel Barney also has played a role in the Vietnam conflict.  Following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, he made an accurate estimate of the situation and planned and deployed a weather-support organization to Southeast Asia.  The force was designed to support not only the situation at that time, but the rapid growth of
U.S. forces and the expanded operations which followed.

Born in Bernie, Missouri, on July 3, 1917, Colonel Barney is a 1933 graduate of Parma High School. (In his youth, he played professional baseball.)  He enlisted in the Army in 1937 and was assigned to Scott Field after his initial military training. He trained as a weatherman and navigator and in 1945 compiled 2 combat hours in
four missions over Italy.

Colonel Barney was commissioned from the field as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry.  He won a regular commission in field artillery and transferred to the Army Air Corps.  He has held all grades, both temporary and regular, from private to colonel.  This includes six specialist ratings, the two air mechanic ratings and regular Warrant Officer Observer,

Colonel Barney also commanded the 6th Weather Squadron (Mobile) in Oklahoma and later as Federal Coordinator, he expedited the use of the USAF Mobile Squadron in the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant incident.  He also commanded the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, commanded the reconnaissance forces for atomic tests in 1948 and the Test Service Unit for the first hydrogen bomb tests in 1952 and 1956. He also commanded the 9th Weather Group at Andrews AFB, MD and moved it to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, in 1957. He helped plan its reorganization and at the end of his tour, the unit was redesignated as the 9th Weather Reconnaissance Group supervising all AWS reconnaissance squadrons. It later was redesignated the 9th Weather Reconnaissance Wing.

After being the assistant director of BOMEX, he served as Logistics Manager for the Man in Sea project, Project Manager for the International Field Year for the Great Lakes, U.S. Field Director for Meteorological and Hydrological Services, and Director of the Special Projects office for NOAA.  He directed the project for the Modernization of the Iranian Civil and Military Meteorological Services and served in a similar capacity for the Government of Saudi Arabia.  He was also Chairman of the Interdepartmental Board of the Departments of Commerce and Defense. In 1981, he became The Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and
Supporting Research.

Colonel Barney was awarded the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, the USAF Legion of Merit, and 14 others including the Army, Navy, and Air Force commendation medals.  In addition, he received two flying safety awards and four consecutive Military Airlift command outstanding awards for flying safety.  As a pilot
and command navigator, he logged 9,000+ hours.

During Colonel Barney’s retirement, he continued to study military history and the effects of weather service as a military force enhancer. He was called upon  numerous times for advice on philosophy and strategy for meteorological services and supporting research — both national and international. He was an avid reader and student of the Bible.  He enjoyed attending many Civil War reenactments with his friends and until his death, he continued to run three miles a day with his German Shepherd dog Sable Lee (found in the fire, but resuscitated).

John Fuller in his Thor’s Legions wrote: Colonel Bill Barney became one of the finest and most respected leaders ever developed in AWS. With little formal schooling beyond high school, self-educated Barney (he was a history buff and read and memorized passages from the classics) was at once Missouri homespun and
insightful philosopher and teacher.  Master of the smile and metaphor. Bill Barney was the Will Rogers of AWS.  His integrity was like the oak and hickory of the Ozark foothills he grew up in.  Integrity was a big theme in a treatise on leadership for AWS commanders he published in March, 1955 (Leadership: A Treatise for AWS Commanders).

Interment service was held at Fort Myer Chapel, Arlington National Cemetery, on Thursday, Feb 24, 2000 with full military honors.  Colonel and Mrs. Barney were survived by their children: Robert S. Barney (wife, Janice), Eleanor Sherfield (husband, Floyd), James Scott Barney (wife, Susan), and Mary Barney Haines (husband, Dennis); loving brother and sister-in-law of Robert E., James  Scott and Pat O. Barney; nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and Sable Lee (German Shepherd). Memorial contributions may be made to the Montgomery Humane Society, 14645 Rothgeb Dr., Rockville, MD 20850, or to the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 1547, Rockville, MD 20849.

wsbarney-01The Legion of Merit and an album were presented to Colonel William S. Barney (on right) by Brigadier General Russell K. Pierce, Jr., Air Weather Service (AWS) commander. Colonel Barney, who retired at the end of  September1967 after 30 years’ service, was cited for his contributions to the weather service as AWS Vice Commander.

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment