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Illinois Wing History

Civil Air Patrol \ Illinois Wing


Our present-day Civil Air Patrol is the product of the tense international situation prior to World War II. Axis forces those of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan were taking over much of the world, and it was obvious, at least to some people, that the Axis powers had designs on territories of the United States. In every country the Axis for conquered, civil aircraft flight was eliminated. Too, in those countries not yet feeling the bite of Axis power, civil aircraft flight was either drastically curtailed or eliminated as authorities realized the need to better control air traffic through restriction to military flights only.


During the period 1938-41, United States civilian aircraft pilots, aviation mechanics, and others-all of whom we might call “aviation enthusiasts”-became increasingly concerned about the international situation. They were acutely aware of the impending confrontation between the United States and Axis powers. These air-minded men and women of vision realized two things: (1) the nation’s air power had to be strengthened for such a confrontation, and (2) civil aircraft flights in the United States might be eliminated for the duration of the ensuing conflict. They looked upon the latter with particular disfavor since they felt that civil air strength could be used in any war effort to great advantage. After all, there were 25000 Light aircraft, 128,000 certified pilots, and over 14,000 aircraft mechanics in the nation at that time. In addition, there were hundreds of aviation workers who had the same interest.


All of these aviation enthusiasts had essentially one thought in common: “How can I serve my country in this time of need?” Many of them got a head start by joining the Royal Air Force or the Royal Canadian Air Force to “get on with it.” Others joined one of the U.S. armed services. Those who could not get into a military service because of age, physical condition, or some other reason, still had the desire to “get in there and help,” and they were prepared to endorse any plan whereby they and their aircraft could be put to use, when the time came, in defense of the nation.


It was Mr. Gill Robb Wilson who made what was probably the first concentrated effort to effectively organize a civil air “patrol.” Mr. Wilson was an aviation writer in 1938 when took a trip to Germany on reportorial assignment.  What he saw there further confirmed suspicions held by many. Upon return to his home state of New Jersey, he reported his findings to Governor Edison and pleaded that New Jersey organize and use its civil air fleet as an augmentative force in the coming war. With Governor Edison’s approval, Mr. Wilson organized what became the New Jersey Civil Air Defense Services.


Mr. Wilson’s plan, backed by General H.H. (“Hap”) Arnold (Chief of the Air Corps (1938-41); Chief of the Army. Forces (June 194I-March 1942); and Commanding Gene Army Air Forces (May 1942-1946)). and the Civil Aeronautics Authority, called for the utilization of small planes for liaison work and for patrolling uninhabited stretches of coastline and vital installations such as dams, aqueducts, pipelines, etc., to guard against sabotage. In addition, security measures, such as policing the airports and fingerprinting everyone connected with light aviation, were to be performed by Civil Air Defense Services personnel

Other efforts were made following the pattern of the New Jersey Civil Air Defense Services. The Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (a national organization) had its “Civil Air Guard” units in several metropolitan cities across the nation. In Ohio, the Civil Air Guard was started by Mr. Milton Knight. In time, other states followed the pioneering efforts of New Jersey. Colorado and Missouri had state air squadrons; Florida formed the “Florida Defense Force.” Soon thereafter, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, and Texas followed suit with statewide organizations. Of all the various organizations established, it was Mr. Wilson’s New Jersey Civil Air Defense Services that was the blueprint for the coming Civil Air Patrol.

The first step taken in the plan to utilize national civil air strength, supported by the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Civil Aeronautics Administration, was to institute a civilian pilot instructor refresher course and a civil pilot training program. These two activities made provision only for military use of those trained, with the objective of boosting the existing reservoir of civilian airmen who could be placed in military service when needed. There still remained many civilian pilots and ground crewmen who were not acceptable for this step.

The second step pertained to the civil air strength in being. The program’s objective was to organize civilian aviation personnel so that their efforts could best be used in what loomed on the horizon as an all-out war effort. From this second step, the Civil Air Patrol came into being.

As with any program of such magnitude, there were divergent opinions, and much though and effort were spent before a workable program could be devised. Some highly responsible men believed military use should be made of available civilian aviation “know-how.” Others, equally responsible, believed that civil aviation should be curtailed in time of war, as in Europe.


Divergent viewpoints concerning control arose even among those who advocated military use of civilian aircraft. One group was convinced that light-plane aviation interests should be unified under a national system. The other group thought that control would be more appropriate at state level.


The advocates of a nationwide Civil Air Patrol made numerous contacts in their effort to establish their proposed organization as an element of the nation’s defense. First, however, the problem of how best to use the proposed Civil Air Patrol for military missions had to be solved through Federal Government approval and direction.

Mr. Thomas H. Beck, Chairman of the Board of Crowell-Collier Publishing Co., prepared and presented to President Roosevelt on 22 April 1941 a plan for the mobilization of the nation’s civil air strength. Mr. Beck discussed his plan with Mr. Guy P. Gannet, owner of a New England newspaper chain. On 20 May 1941, the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) was established as an agency of the Federal Government, with, former New York Mayor, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, as its director. The National Civil Air Patrol advocates, including Mr. Beck, Mr. Gannet, and Mr. Wilson, presented their plan for a National Civil Air Patrol to Mr. LaGuardia. Having been World War I pilot, Mr. LaGuardia recognized the merit of the plan and expressed his enthusiasm for it, but he also recognized that its success would depend upon the support of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

 Mr. LaGuardia appointed Beck, Gannet, and Wilson to special aviation committee, with instructions to “blueprint” the organization of civil aviation resources on a national front. By June 1941, the plan for the proposed organization was completed, but many details had yet to be worked out. Gill Rob Wilson took on this task, assisted by Mr. Reed Landis, a WWI ace, aeronautical expert, and the OCD aviation consultant.  Mr. Wilson and Mr.: Landis had the advice and assistance of some of the country’s leading airmen, as they worked to finalize the plan. By early October it was completed, except for the drawing up of directives, preparation of application blanks, and a few, other administrative details. To take care of these remaining details and the important job of selecting wing commanders (one for each state), Mr. Wilson left his New York office and went to Washington, D.C., as the proposed Civil Air Patrol’s first executive officer.

To solidify the plan under the approval of the military establishment, General “Hap” Arnold-who had encourage the project from the beginning-set up a board of military officers to review the final plan presented by Mr. Wilson and his colleagues. General George E. Stratemeyer was appointed presiding officer of the board, which included Colonel Harry H Blee, Major Lucius P. Ordway, Jr., and Major A.B. McMullen. General Arnold asked the board to determine the potentialities of the Civil Air Patrol plan and to evaluate the role of the War Department in making CAP an agency of the new Office of Civilian Defense. The board approved the plan with a recommendation that Army Air Forces (AAF) officers help set up and administer the CAP organization.

As a result of the board’s approval, the Director of Civilian Defense (Mr. LaGuardia) signed a formal order creating the Civil Air Patrol. The date was 1 December 1941. 0n 8 December 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Forces, Director LaGuardia published Administrative Order 9. This order outlined the proposed organization of the Civil Air Patrol and designated as its commander Major General John F. Curry, U.S. Army Air Corps. Mr. Gill Robb Wilson officially became the executive officer. Appointed as the Operations Officer of the fledgling organization was Colonel Harry H. Blee. Blee was one of the many retired military officers who were recalled to active duty during World War II to fill vacancies created by the expansion of the regular military establishments and related wartime activities. CAP was fortunate to have Colonel Blee assigned to head its technical and administrative operations. His administrative ability in overseeing the myriad of details involved in both the establishment and the smooth running of CAP throughout the war years was without peer. His attention to detail was such as to provide a solid base upon which to grow a rapidly expanding organization. Under the wise leadership of these men and others like them, the Civil Air Patrol began a period of tremendous growth and development in the service of our nation.

The CAP fears that flight by civil aircraft would be halted were justified. The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor all civil aircraft, except for scheduled commercial airlines, were grounded. This restriction lasted only a few days, however. The pendulum soon swung the other way, and except for the West Coast area, the “puddle jumpers” were given little attention as they flitted in and out of airports across the nation. Because our nation feared the possibility of Japanese activity, or even invasion, restrictions on civilian flight in the West Coast area were maintained.


Earle L. Johnson, one of the founders, and later Commander of Civil Air Patrol, was disturbed by the renewed flights and the lack of security at airports. He envisioned the great potential of light aircraft, as a tool in the hands of saboteurs, to wreak havoc with the nation’s industrial complexes. They could do this, he reasoned, by making night flights to drop bombs on war plants. No doubt, saboteurs would have to make a concentrated and all-out effort to have a crippling effect, for after the first attempt security measures would be taken. But Mr. Johnson didn’t want saboteurs to have that chance and he took it upon himself prove the vulnerability of industry.


At eleven P.M. one evening, Mr. Johnson took off in his plane from his farm airstrip near Cleveland, Ohio. With him he took three small sandbags and headed toward a cluster of plants on Cleveland’s outskirts. Flying at 500 feet, Johnson dropped the sandbags on the roofs of three plants and returned to his airstrip-apparently no one detected him, and if they did-no attention other than curiosity was given the dark silhouette of his airplane.


The next morning Mr. Johnson notified the plant owners that they had been “bombed.“ The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) reacted by again halting all civilian flying until adequate security measures could be taken. This meant airports must be guarded; all pilots, before they would be permitted fly, must prove that they were loyal citizens of the United States and, that all flights must be for official business only and accomplished under approved flight plans. The grounding of all civilian light aircraft by CAA certainly helped increase the ranks of the newly created Civil Air Patrol because flying with CAP was the only way in which “weekend pilots” could then get in flight time. These pilots were of all ages and both sexes. The oldest male pilot was Lieutenant A.I. Martin, of Montour Falls, N. Y., who had reached the enviable age of 81.  Among the ladies, there was Second Lieutenant Maude Rufus from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who came into Civil Air Patrol as the oldest female pilot. Her exact age at the time is somewhat of a mystery, but it IS known that she soloed at age 65 and had nearly 1,100 hours to her credit.


Along with the pilots came thousands of other patriotic citizens, some of whom possessed special skills. They included mechanics, radio operators, physicians, and nurses. Those who had no special skills had ample opportunity to help as messengers, guards, and drivers, or to perform other necessary duties required to ensure the proper function of a CAP unit


Soon after Congress declared war on Germany, Italy and Japan, German submarines were operating in the American coastal waters along the eastern and southeastern shorelines.  Beginning with the sinking of 11 Allied sea going vessels in January of 1942, many of which were in sight of the United States’ Eastern and Gulf shores, the submarines were starting extract their deadly toll. The sinkings continued on an upward trend to a peak of 52 in May. They then gradually declined to a point where the one sinking in September was the last for year. Unfortunately, by this time 204 vessels had been lost. This type of destruction not only seriously affected the supply of materials to allied forces fighting in Europe and Africa, but cut into the nation’s petroleum supplies.


Civil Air Patrol leaders urged the War Department to give their newly organized force a chance to help combat the submarine menace. Again the patriotic and eager Civil Air Patrol met opposition. It was argued that their proposal could not be accepted because of the impracticability of sending a young organization with undisciplined members on critical and dangerous missions.


Meanwhile, the Navy was spread so thinly along the 1,200- mile sea frontier of the eastern and southeastern coasts that it could not effectively combat the raiding enemy submarines. The nation’s air forces had not had time to build up the number of aircraft to a point where they could cope with their regular missions as well as the submarine menace. Consequently, the German submarines continued their activities at an alarming rate. They were sinking ships practically at will; oil, debris, and bodies were being washed ashore all along the eastern and southeastern coastlines.


The worsening submarine menace convinced military authorities that the Civil Air Patrol should be used to help combat the German U-boats. By this time Gill Robb Wilson had been replaced as the Civil Air Patrol’s executive officer by Captain Earle L. Johnson, U.S. Army Air Corps. Thus, Wilson was able to concentrate on the tremendous task of organizing a Coastal Patrol program within CAP. This preparation culminated on 5 March 1942, when the Civil Air Patrol was authorized to conduct a 9O-day experimental operation on coastal patrol at two locations on the eastern seaboard. This gave the brave volunteers a scant 90 days to prove themselves worthy of the trust placed in them. Thus, on the shoulders of these first Coastal Patrol pilots rested the destiny of the entire Civil Air Patrol. Before the 9O-day period was over, testimony to their success was evidenced by an authorization for expanded operations. It is interesting to note that this successful operation, contributed to the decision to replace the national Commander, General Curry, with the aforementioned Captain Johnson. He was subsequently promoted to Colonel and served as the CAP’s National Commander until his death. In recognition of his role as the wartime leader of CAP, Johnson was posthumously promoted to Brigadier General.


Soon after the CAP Coastal Patrol experiment was authorized, the first three bases were established. One was located at Atlantic City, N. J.; one at Rehoboth, Maryland; and one at Lantana, Florida. Soon pilots began arriving at the Coastal Patrol installations, and the program expanded rapidly until there were 21 bases. Honors for the first combat flight by civilian pilots go to those of Coastal Patrol Base 2 at Rehoboth, Delaware. Interestingly, their March 5, 1942 patrol was less than a week after the February 28, 1942 activation date for the base.



Life wasn’t easy at any of the Coastal Patrol bases and was extremely difficult at some. For instance, at Parksley, Virginia, a farmer’s house and chicken coop were converted into a headquarters and barracks. At this same location, the CAP members had to cut down a grove of trees to make room for a runway, and then the trees had to be paid for-by the CAP members, with their own money. At the Manteo base, in North Carolina, mosquitoes were so numerous all CAP personnel had to wear special head nets to protect themselves. The Coastal Patrol members stationed at Grand Isle, Louisiana, had the dubious honor of living in an old and ransacked resort hotel with a rather large rat colony.


Even though all CAP pilots were receiving only $8 per and ground personnel

$5, people with the desire to do something in defense of their country kept volunteering for Civil Air Patrol duty. These people were from virtually every profession-teachers, doctors, plumbers, salesmen, and a few millionaire brokers. Their fraternalism was love of country and love of flying.


The light aircraft flown by CAP Coastal Patrol were at first utilized for reconnaissance only. They were crewed by a pilot and an observer who were in constant radio contact with shore bases. Their mission was to spot enemy submarines and summon the destructive power of the thinly spread Army and Navy bomber forces. Naturally the CAP crews wanted to do more than just spot targets-they also wanted to destroy them.


Late one afternoon in May 1942, a crew consisting of  “Doc” Rinker and Tom Manning were flying a patrol mission just off Cape Canaveral when they spotted an enemy sub. The sub’s crew sighted the CAP patrol aircraft, and, not knowing aircraft to be unarmed, made a desperate effort to get away.  In its haste or panic the sub became stuck on a sandbar, making perfect target.


Dutifully, the patrol reported the situation and began circling the sub, waiting for the bombers to come and destroy it. For more than a half-hour the patrol kept circling and frantic calling for help. By the time the bombers arrived, the sub dislodged itself and returned to deep waters. The loss of this “perfect target” further justified the Coastal Patrol’s plea to carry bombs and use them whenever possible.


Soon thereafter, the CAP planes were carrying demolition bombs and ranging as far out to sea as 150 miles. The smaller planes could carry only one l00-pound bomb, and in many instances one of the bomb’s fins had to be removed to keep it from scraping the runway as the plane took off. Even modifying the bombs for takeoff, the smallest planes had difficulty flying the additional load. Of course the larger planes could be more heavily armed, and a few carried 325-pound depth charges.


It was one of these larger planes, armed with depth charges, that made the first CAP “kill” Captain Johnny Haggins and Major Wynant Farr, flying out of Atlantic City, N.J., had just become airborne in a Grumman Widgeon (an amphibian) when they received a message from another CAP patrol that “contact” had been made about 25 miles off the coast. The other CAP patrol was low on fuel and had to return to base, so Captain Haggins and Major Farr sped to the area, flying about 300 feet above the ocean.


When the Haggins-Farr patrol reached the area, no sub was in sight. However, Major Farr spotted the shadowy form of a German submarine as it cruised below the surface. After radioing to shore, and knowing that they could not accurately estimate the depth of the sub, the two men decided to follow the sub until (they hoped) it surfaced to periscope depth. Then their depth charges could be put to the most effective use.


For over three hours they tracked their quarry and were getting low on fuel. Just before they had to turn back, the sub came up to periscope depth. Captain Haggins swung the plane around quickly and aligned it with the sub. He then started a gentle dive to 100 feet where he leveled off behind the sub’s periscope wake. Major Farr pulled the cable release and the first depth charge plummeted into the water just off the sub’s bow. Seconds later a large water and oil geyser erupted, blowing the sub’s forward portion out of the water. Shock waves from the blast rocked the patrol plane. As the sub sank below the surface, it left a huge oil slick as the target for the second run.


On the second run, the remaining depth charge was dropped squarely in the middle of the oil slick. After the second geyser had settled, pieces of debris floated slowly to the surface. The CAP Coastal Patrol’s first kill was confirmed!


As a result of its effectiveness, the CAP Coastal Patrol, as we have said, passed its trial or experimental period with “flying” colors, and it went on to serve its country for almost 18 months (5 March 1942-31 August 1943), flying in good weather and bad and from dawn to dusk.


The 18-month record chalked up by the Coastal Patrol is rather impressive it had started with three bases and was operating from 21 at the close of its missions. It had reported 173 submarines sighted, had sunk two, and had dropped a total of 83 bombs and depth charges upon 57 of these-with several other “probable.” It had flown 86,685 missions over coastal waters for a total of 244,600 hours-which approximates 24 million miles! The patrol summoned help for 91 ships in distress and for 363 survivors of submarine attacks. It sighted and reported 17 floating mines, and, at the request of the Navy, it flew 5,684 special convoy missions.


The CAP Coastal Patrol’s impressive record, however, was not without the sacrifice of lives. Twenty-six brave CAP pilots or observers were killed, and seven were seriously injured. Besides the loss of life and injuries sustained, 90 aircraft were lost. The impressive amassment of mission feats brought official recognition to many of the Patrol’s members. They were winners of Air Medals and War Department Awards for “Exceptional Civilian Service.” These were tokens of high esteem bestowed by a government representing a nation grateful people.


Not every “scrape” that CAP had was with submarines, and humor managed to creep into some missions, although at t time the humor probably escaped those involved. As an example, at the Brownsville, Texas, base, escort patrols for incoming and outgoing shipping were being flown by CAP. One morning it fell to the lot of Ben McGlashan, base commander, and Henry King, assistant base commander (the director of 2Oth Century Studios), to fly escort for a convoy out in the Gulf of Mexico


In civilian clothes and flying out over the Gulf, the two ran into strong headwinds which caused more fuel to be used than they had anticipated. Realizing their fuel consumption would prevent returning to Brownsville, it was obvious to them that they would have to set down in Mexico, and into the Mexican Gulf coast area they went. Immediately upon landing, they were surrounded by Mexican authorities and promptly arrested Of course, they protested loudly, but the fact that they were in civilian clothes did not help convince the Mexicans that they were not spies of some sort. It was only after lengthy hand waving communications between themselves and the authorities, and with the help of three Mexican pilots they had encountered while flying their mission, that they were permitted to refuel and return to Texas-without creating a diplomatic military situation. Soon after this incident, Mexico granted permission for CAP planes to land in its territory.


Discontinuance of Coastal Patrol on 31 August 1943 did I mean any loss of confidence in the Civil Air Patrol. Its mission had been accomplished in that the regular forces had been built up to the point where they could take over the CAP’s former coastal patrol mission. And now the CAP was to continue pursuing its other wartime missions, most of which had been going on at the same time the Coastal Patrol was operating.


Many of the other wartime missions conducted by Civil Air Patrol were just as important and equally dramatic as those flights made by the Coastal Patrol. To fulfill their other missions, CAP flew approximately 500,000 hours and lost 30 pilots by accidental death. Many other pilots lost their aircraft and sustained injuries.


Both men and women took part in all other wartime activities (women were excluded from Coastal Patrol flights). They joined Civil Air Patrol for periods which ranged from 30 days to the duration of the war, and flew their missions for subsistence pay only. Although they were reimbursed for expenses incurred while on assigned missions, the $8 or $5 per day did not contribute much to their support, or to the support of their families back home. Many of these people flew without pay in unassigned but necessary missions. They spent thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to complete these missions for a good cause-in service of their country 


During the period I January 1942 to I January 1946, Civil Air Patrol flew 24,000 hours of assigned search and rescue (SAR) missions. But, during the same period, CAP pilots and crews voluntarily flew thousands of additional SAR hours at their own expense. Although no accurate record was kept of the number of aircraft and survivors found, one week of February 1945 was probably the highlight of the SAR missions. In this one week, CAP SAR pilots found seven missing Army and Navy planes.


The CAP search and rescue pilots had three advantages over the AAF search and rescue pilots, and, as a consequence, CAP had a greater percentage of “finds’.   First, the CAP aircraft could fly much lower and slower than the AAF planes. Further, the CAP pilots were familiar with the terrain in their search sectors and could spot wreckage that would be concealed from pilots flying over for the first time. Moreover, CAP ground search teams were ready to speed to the sites where wreckage was thought to be, using motor vehicles, on foot, or by other means, some of which were unique.


In Nevada, the ground search teams adopted horses as their mode of transportation over the rough mountainous terrain. This type of operation led the ever resourceful CAP into the development of a very distinctive uniform for their cavalry. They rigged litters to special pack horses and brought back to civilization many injured and dead. The “mounties” sometimes ran out of water on long treks over arid countryside -again the CAP ingenuity came through. Instead of sending back to their base for water, the CAP pilots would parachute sacks of ice to them. Simply placing the ice in containers and waiting for it to melt provided an ample water supply.


In Florida, where Zack Moseley, the famous cartoonist and creator of “Smiling Jack,” was wing commander, special vehicles known as “glade buggies” were used as instruments for ground rescue missions. The glade buggy was a shallow-draft innovation that had a flat-bottomed hull above which was mounted an aircraft power plant and propeller for propulsion.  Being able to traverse almost any type of surface found in the Everglades of Florida, the glade buggies were (and still are) used very successfully to rescue downed pilots and passengers in areas where no other type of vehicle can go.


Ground rescue teams in the “snow country” formed winter ski units. By ski the teams were able to cover more area in a much shorter time than by any other method.


In the state of Washington, CAP created a unit of parachutists to be dropped into areas that were inaccessible by any other means. Although the parachutists were never used, the Washington group had the foresight and ingenuity to be prepared for any eventuality.


Cargo and courier flying was another important mission during the CAP war years. From 1942 to early 1944, CAP pilots moved over 3.5 million pounds of mail and cargo for the air forces, and it transported hundreds of military passengers throughout the United States. As wartime industrial production grew, the commercial and military transportation faci1ities became taxed to the limit of their capabilities. They simply could not transport all of the war materials that were stacking up like mountains in the warehouses and supply depot yards. At least a stop-gap solution to the transportation bottleneck had to be found, and CAP again provided the solution.


In the spring of 1942, a 30-day experiment was made by pilots of the Pennsylvania Wing to see if they could do the job of cargo transportation. With only five light planes at their disposal, they transported Army cargo successfully over a large a area, winging into AAF bases as far south as Georgia—much to the delight of AAAF supply officers.  It wasn’t long before industry and Army officials were convinced of the plan’s merit, and CAP was given the go-ahead.  Soon thereafter, CAP set up regularly scheduled cargo flights and courier flights all over the nation.  As a result of their services, reduced air transportation costs were realized, and many military aircraft were eventually released for more direct employment in the war effort.


Civil Air Patrol was active in helping patrol the border between Brownsville, Texas, and Douglas, Arizona.   The CAP Southern Liaison Patrol flew approximately 30,000 hours, patrolling from dawn to dusk the 1.000 miles of rough, rocky and barren terrain. The CAP planes were looking for out-of-the-ordinary activities that might be indicative of spies or saboteurs entering or leaving the country. Pilot-observers often flew their aircraft low enough to read the license plates on suspicious automobiles.  In fact, one patrol aircraft flew so low in pursuit of a “suspicious” automobile that the observer was able to report an accurate description of the car’s occupants-down to the color of their shirts and ties. The car was stopped at the Mexican border whereupon the individuals were found to be enemy agents.  In another case, a patrol noticed car tracks leading to and from a supposedly abandoned building. Investigation by ground units revealed an enemy radio station,


From its beginning in July 1942 to its discontinuance in April of 1944, the CAP “Border Patrol” had reported almost 7,000 out-of-the-ordinary activities on the ground within its patrol area and had radioed to the AAF the direction of flight and description of 176 suspicious aircraft.  Considering its many hours of hazardous operations, the loss of two patrol members was an exceptional safety record.


In March 1942. CAP units began towing targets for air-to-air gunnery practice by fighter aircraft and antiaircraft batteries. They would fly antiaircraft machine gun runs, simulating a strafing attack, trailing targets as little as little as 1.000 feet behind them. Then they would climb to high altitudes trailing two targets at distances of up to 5,000 feet. These were for the heavy antiaircraft guns to practice on. Occasionally the antiaircraft gunners took a little too much lead, and the CAP aircraft would land with holes intended for the target. One of the pilots is reported to have found a shell fragment embedded in his parachute seat-pack!

One of the other notable services that CAP rendered to the people manning antiaircraft batteries was flying night mission to afford tracking practice for the crews of searchlight and radar units. Although the CAP pilots were not under fire, the missions were dangerous. There was always the possibility that a pilot would inadvertently look into the glare of a searchlight, be blinded, and crash to his death.


This is evidently what happened to Captain Raoul Souliel an experienced pilot who called Biddeford, Maine, his home. On one ink-black night, off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H., Captain Souliere began his searchlight run in the normal manner. Suddenly the searchlights came on and seemed to pin his little Waco against the velvety background of the night sky as a butterfly would be pinned in a display case. For a few minutes the airplane maintained an even keel, but soon it went into evasive maneuvers. No matter what tactic the pilot used the efficient searchlight operators kept him in their beams.


For several more minutes the battle of wits went on between the pilot and searchlight crews, until the little Waco went into dive from which there was no apparent effort to recover.  Witnesses surmised that Captain Souliere had accidentally looked into the intense searchlight beams while performing the evasive maneuvers and became so disoriented he did not know his plane was in a dive.


For three years CAP flew these hazardous missions, helping increase the efficiency of Army units preparing for combat. It flew a total of 20,593 towing and tracking missions-46,000 hours were flown on live ammunition and searchlight missions. 

But a price was paid for such dangerous work. Seven CAP members were killed, five seriously injured, and 23 airplanes were lost.


At the same time, other CAP pilots and crews were flying missions which assisted the war effort either directly or indirectly. Among these were: flying blood bank mercy missions for the American Red Cross and other civilian agencies; cruising over forests, detecting fires and reporting suspected arsonists; flying mock raids to test blackout practices and air raid warning systems; and supporting bond drives and assisting in salvage collection drives. CAP pilots were even pressed into service as a “wolf patrol.” The population of wolves had increased to dangerous proportions in the southwest. By the winter of 1944, ranchers in the Texas Panhandle called upon their governor to enlist the aid of Civil Air Patrol to help control the menace. One rancher alone had lost over 1,000 cattle to marauding wolves the year before-beef denied to the nation in an era of meat rationing. Again, CAP did its duty. Armed with various types of firearms, the CAP pilots and observers took to the air and helped bring the wolf population back under control.


Not all of CAP’s wartime activities were in the air. Its personnel guarded airfields and other installations; patrolled power lines and waterways, guarding against saboteurs. When natural disasters occurred, they were there helping the Red Cross and others to evacuate people and administer aid to those affected.


Throughout the war, CAP was carrying on another most important mission-pilot training. In early 1942 it had set up a program to recruit and train CAP cadets to assist with tasks at the operational level, and, at the same time, to begin indoctrination and training toward their becoming licensed pilots for service in the Civil Air Patrol or to go into the military service for military pilot training. Although CAP was organized along military lines, wore uniforms, operated in a military manner, and performed defense functions, none of its physically fit members were exempt from military service.  However, the early recruitment and training offered the CAP Cadet an advantage over other youths in that he, or she, would already have a knowledge of military life and of aviation’s challenge and importance to the nation. The pilot training program built a reserve of air -minded citizens from whom the military air forces could draw needed personnel, particularly those CAP members who had completed private pilot training.


Each man in the CAP was permitted to sponsor a boy and each woman could sponsor a girl. The youths, in the age bracket of 15-17 years, had to be physically fit, in the last two years of high school, maintaining satisfactory grades, and be native-born of parents who had been citizens of the U .S. for at least 10 years.  Indeed these restrictions seem rather severe, but they were purposely imposed to hold down membership in the program until a solid foundation could be established.


Restrictions notwithstanding, American youth responded aggressively to the opportunity. Within six months of the program’s onset, CAP had over 20,000 cadets attending weekly meetings in schoolrooms and other meeting places, studying in groups on their own, or side by side with senior members. The youths spent many or all of their weekends at local airports learning instead of engaging in less informative activities. 


Recruiting these 20,000-plus CAP cadets cost the Office Civilian Defense slightly less than $200. This amount was s~ by CAP National Headquarters on its directives pertaining to the cadet programs, cadet applications, and cadet membership card.




The Cadet Program and the performance of other mission were being done so

exceptionally well that the War Department realized the advantage of making Civil Air Patrol an auxiliary of the Army Air Forces. So, on 29 Apri1 1943, the command jurisdiction was transferred from the Office of Civilian Defense to the War Department. This date (29 April 1943) is considered a red-letter day on the CAP calendar!


Later the War Department issued a memorandum (W95-12-43, dated 4 May 1943) assigning to the Army Air Forces the responsibility for supervising and directing operations of the Civil Air Patrol.


One of the more significant outcomes of this transfer of command jurisdiction was its impact on Civil Air Patrol’s cadet recruiting mission-Army aviation cadets, that is. By this time, CAP had built up its membership to about 75,000 men and women, located in over 1,000 communities over the nation. Moreover, the early wartime practice of training CAP members for operational missions had established an effective training corps that was ready to assume a larger Army aviation cadet training mission.


In December 1943, the Army Air Forces placed 288 L-4 aircraft (civilian designation, “Piper Grasshopper”) on loan to CAP for use in the aviation cadet-recruiting program. CAP “took to the air,” and during 1944 flew 78,000 aviation cadets and prospective recruits a total of 41,000 flying hours. Before the end of 1944, CAP had recruited an oversupply of cadets and had taken over the responsibilities of administering cadet mental screening tests and operating centers where cadets received preliminary medical checkups.


The record established by CAP during the war years impressed the nation. It had flown 500,000 hours of missions in support of the war effort; had sunk at least two submarines; and had saved countless numbers of aircraft crash survivors and survivors of disasters at sea by guiding rescue forces to them. They had spent their own money in support of wartime missions and volunteered thousands of hours of non-flying missions to train or indoctrinate cadets. They built their own airfields and “pitched in” to help when natural disasters occurred. No sacrifice was too great for these patriots-and to prove it, many gave their lives.


The Civil Air Patrol was still serving as an auxiliary of the Army Air Forces at the cessation of hostilities in 1945, but this status established by executive order,(Executive Order 9339, approved by President Roosevelt, 29 April 1943) had no foundation by statute; usefulness had been proved during wartime through all of the aforementioned feats of service. But now peace had come and the scope of its activities had narrowed because the

Army Air Forces had assumed many of the tasks assigned to CAP during the war. In short, the future of CAP was uncertain.  To make things even worse, the Army Air Forces was to withdraw its monetary support of CAP after 31 March 1946. This action would have to be taken because the Army Air Forces’ budget had been drastically cut.


In view of these circumstances, General “Hap” Arnold called a conference of CAP wing commanders. In January 1946 the conference convened and discussed the feasibility of a postwar Civil Air Patrol.  From this conference, a plan to incorporate grew. 


On the evening of 1 March 1946, the 48 CAP wing commanders held their first congressional dinner, honoring President Truman, the 79th Congress and General “Hap” Arnold, the commanding general of the Army Air Forces. The express purpose of the dinner was to permit the CAP to thank the president and other honorees for CAP’s having had the opportunity to serve the nation during WWII.  



On 1 July, 1944, Public Law 476, 79th Congress, 2nd Session, was approved.  It incorporated the civil Air Patrol and authorized the incorporators named herein to complete the organization of the corporation by the adoption of a constitution and bylaws and regulations, and by the selection of officers, etc.  The law stated that the objects and purposes of the corporation were “solely of a benevolent character” as follows:

  a.  To provide an organization to encourage and aid American citizens in the contribution of their efforts, services, and resources in the development of aviation and in the maintenance of air supremacy, and to encourage and develop by example the voluntary contribution of private citizens to public welfare;

  b. To provide aviation education and training especially to its senior and cadet members; to encourage and foster aviation in local communities and to provide an organization of private citizens with adequate facilities to assist in meeting local and national emergencies.


Under this Federal Charter the CAP corporation planned to undertake a very ambitious program-without the help of Army Air Forces. Among the first-defined CAP objectives were to, (1) inform the general public about aviation and its impacts; (2) provide its seniors and cadets ground and preflight aviation education and training; (3) provide air service under emergency conditions; (4) establish a radio network covering all parts of the United States for both training and emergency use; (5) encourage the establishment of flying clubs for its membership; (6) provide selected cadets a two-week encampment at air bases; (7) provide selected cadets flight scholarships; a (8) encourage model airplane building and flying; (9) assist veterans to find employment; and (10) contribute services to special projects such as airport development, the survey and marking of emergency landing areas, and the survey of dangerous flying areas In mountainous regions.


In addition to implementing the objectives of the first program, the newly chartered Civil Air Patrol undertook other official and unofficial tasks which were requested by the Army Air Forces. These included helping to prepare an address list of a1l former AAF personnel, helping convince the public of merits of an autonomous air force, assisting in the air marking program, (identifying downed aircraft debris to avoid its being mistaken as a new crash), and conducting AAF-CAP airshows.


Obviously, many of CAP’s objectives could not have been attained without support from the Army Air Forces. However since there was no official basis for such support, it appeared necessary to review the true relationship of the Army Air Forces and the Civil Air Patrol. After the United States Air Force been established (26 July 1947), steps were taken to study USAF-CAP relationship.


In October 1947, a CAP board was set up to meet with USAF officials and plan the establishment of Civil Air Patrol as a USAF auxiliary. After several meetings between CAP and USAF officials, certain agreements were reached concern CAP and USAF objectives, and a plan was adopted to legalize U.S. Air Force assistance to Civil Air Patrol. Shortly thereafter a bi1l was introduced in the House of Representatives that would permanently establish CAP as the USAF auxiliary and authorize the Secretary of the Air Force to extend aid to Civil Air Patrol. Following subcommittee hearings, the bill was passed by the Senate and on 26 May 1948 became Public Law 557 (10 USC 9441), 8Oth Congress, 2nd Session. CAP thus became an auxiliary of the new United States Air Force.

On I January 1959 Civil Air Patrol was transferred from Headquarters U.S. Air Force to Continental Air Command (CAC). This transfer placed the U.S. Air Force officers, airmen and civilian employees attached to Civil Air Patrol within the jurisdiction of CAC, but the corporate entity and the administration of Civil Air Patrol remained unchanged. The responsibilities of CAC in supporting the Air Force reserve program were related to many of the missions and aims of Civil Air Patrol; thus, the CAP-CAC alliance provided closer coordination with Air Force units and activities to aid Civil Air Patrol in realizing its potential and to establish a firmer CAPUSAF relationship.

Continental Air Command continued its outstanding support to Civil Air Patrol until I July 1968, when the command was abolished. Effective with this action, CAP was transferred to Headquarters Command, USAF. Another Air Force organizational change took place in 1976, and CAP was placed under the education command, Air University. As the USAF reorganizes occasionally to adapt to changing times and missions, such changes may be expected. However, each change has continued to perpetuate the concept that Civil Air Patrol will be supported by a major Air Force command, and that the strong CAP-USAF relationship will continue as it has for so many years.

This is a private Website, Not an Official WebSite & does not reflect the views or opinions of the U.S. Air Force, Civil Air Patrol or any of its subordinate units or members.


Lt Col Ted E. Lohr

Copyright firearsn © 2007, 2013.

Last revised: 21 November 2012.