Aviation History CAP Civil Air Patrol Civil Defense Civilian Pilot Volunteers Games HistoryNet Homepage Featured Top Stories Mag: Aviation History Featured WORLD WAR II

Civil Air Patrol’s Combat Pilots

Civil Air Patrol's Combat Pilots

By David T. Zabecki
eight/10/2018 •
HistoryNet, Homepage Featured Prime Tales, Magazine: Aviation Historical past Featured

Through the early levels of World Warfare II, the Civil Air Patrol performed an important position in serving to defend American service provider ships from marauding U-boats.

Pure disasters all the time place excessive calls for on the nation’s emergency providers. The 2017 hurricane season was notably troublesome, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria battering the southern United States and Puerto Rico in speedy succession.

For Harvey alone, greater than 170 Civil Air Patrol volunteers from 19 states supported air operations in Texas, flying numerous catastrophe aid missions, together with transporting medical provides and conducting aerial photoreconnaissance of key infrastructure websites and inland waterways. Final yr, the nationwide CAP fleet amassed greater than 100,000 flying hours. 

The Civil Air Patrol got here into being through the darkish days instantly previous America’s entry into World Struggle II. In 1941 there have been greater than 128,000 licensed personal pilots within the U.S., working some 25,000 mild plane from 2,500 airfields. Lots of these pilots, together with aviation author Gill Robb Wilson, frightened that when America was lastly drawn into the struggle, all civil aviation can be grounded for the period, as had occurred in Germany. Additionally they thought that if correctly organized, personal aviation might be a invaluable nationwide asset, relieving army fliers of a number of the burden of liaison, mild transportation and coastal and border reconnaissance work. With the backing of U.S. Military Air Corps chief Basic Henry “Hap” Arnold and the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA), Wilson was instrumental in establishing the New Jersey Civil Air Protection Providers, the fore­runner of CAP. 

Different states established comparable organizations on the New Jersey mannequin, which in flip led to the initiative to type a national-level group. On Might 20, 1941, the federal authorities established the Workplace of Civil Protection, with former New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia as its first director. Advocates for a nationwide civilian air group, together with Wilson and publishers Thomas Beck and Man Gannet, misplaced no time in petitioning LaGuardia with a plan for a Civil Air Patrol organized into 48 state wings as a part of the Civil Protection workplace. LaGuardia, a former World Warfare I bomber pilot himself, enthusiastically endorsed the plan, however he additionally knew that the help of the Air Corps (quickly to be redesignated the U.S. Military Air Forces) was important to its success. Arnold, in flip, established a board headed by Brig. Gen. George Stratemeyer to guage the proposal. The board shortly beneficial that the Military Air Forces present a workforce of officers to assist arrange and administer the brand new group. LaGuardia signed the order creating the Civil Air Patrol on December 1, 1941—six days earlier than the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. The AAF assigned Maj. Gen. John Curry as CAP’s first nationwide commander, with Wilson as his government officer. 

Instantly after Pearl Harbor, the federal government positioned restricted restrictions on personal civilian flights alongside sure areas of the West Coast. Captain Earle Johnson, one other CAP founder, was lower than impressed with the aerial safety measures for the nation’s inside, particularly round airports and important struggle industries. Taking off in his personal personal aircraft one night time in early 1942, Johnson dropped sandbags onto the roofs of three warfare crops on the outskirts of Cleveland. Utterly undetected, he notified the varied plant managers the subsequent morning that that they had been “bombed.” The CAA reacted instantly by grounding all personal flights till much more complete safety measures might be carried out. These included background checks on all licensed pilots, guards in any respect airports and authorised flight plans required for all flights. The brand new guidelines resulted in an enormous inflow into the ranks of CAP, which gave personal pilots larger alternatives to fly beneath the auspices of an official U.S. authorities group.

Members of CAP Tow Goal Unit No. 22 in Clinton, Md., exhibit their personalised goal sleeve. (CAP Nationwide Headquarters)

Though the Japanese assault initially triggered federal authorities to concentrate on the West Coast, the primary actual menace emerged on the East and southeast coasts, as German U-boats began working inside a number of hundred yards of the shoreline, typically sinking merchantmen and tankers on the fee of two a day. The U.S. Navy was unfold too skinny to be all over the place on the similar time alongside the 1,200-mile japanese sea frontier, from Halifax to the Florida Keys. Nor did the AAF have sufficient plane to display the coast and supply sufficient early warning to ships. The thought of utilizing civilian pilots and their personal plane for such a hazardous mission was a measure of desperation. It was an enormous danger, however there was no viable various. 

CAP was approved to determine and conduct the Coastal Patrol Experimental Program on a 90-day trial foundation. Gill Robb Wilson stepped down as CAP’s nationwide government officer to imagine the mission of organizing the Coastal Patrol. Formally established on March 5, 1942, it flew its first over-water fight patrol that very same day from a base in Rehoboth, Del. The opposite bases within the trial program have been in New Jersey and Florida. By September CAP was working from 21 Coastal Patrol bases from Maine to the Texas-Mexico border. The bases have been initially underneath the operational management of the Japanese Protection Command’s I Bomber Command, however in October they have been positioned underneath the 25th and 26th wings of the AAF’s Antisubmarine Command. 

The preliminary flights have been reconnaissance missions solely, consisting of a pilot and an observer with a donated maritime radio. They operated so far as 150 miles from shore, and the crews’ solely over­water gear consisted of kapok life vests. The volunteer pilots acquired $eight a day, the bottom crewmen $5. Volunteers ranged from storage mechanics to millionaire sportsmen, farm arms and even grandfathers. 

Every time a patrol noticed a U-boat, the crew broadcast its place to service provider ships within the space, in addition to to the Navy and AAF. The CAP aircraft then caught with the sub so long as potential to vector in any intercepting forces. The patrols additionally radioed in studies of tankers and service provider ships that had been hit, and the place of survivors within the water.

In Might 1942, one patrol sighted a U-boat sitting on the floor. Not understanding the plane was unarmed, the crew executed a crash dive, however the sub hung up on a sandbar. The CAP pilot circled the sitting duck for greater than half an hour, however the U-boat lastly managed to work unfastened and get away simply earlier than land-based bombers reached the goal. Shortly after that, CAP planes began carrying bombs and depth fees slung from jury-rigged exterior racks. 

CAP claimed its first U-boat kill on July 11, 1942, when Captain Johnny Haggins and Main Wynant Farr, flying a Grumman G-44 Widgeon armed with two depth fees, bombed a sub that they had been shadowing for 3 hours, simply because it got here as much as periscope depth. The ensuing oil slick and floor particles appeared to verify the kill, and for a few years after the warfare that and one later claimed kill have been credited to CAP. Nevertheless, no corroborating proof has been discovered within the in depth data the Kriegsmarine stored on all 1,154 of its commissioned U-boats. These data point out no U-boats lacking off the East Coast through the interval that the Coastal Patrol was lively. Nor do the conflict diaries of the Navy’s Japanese Sea Frontier and the Gulf Sea Frontier document any point out of CAP plane sinking a U-boat.

The very legality of the Coastal Patrol was extremely doubtful, in fact. Regardless of sporting semi-military uniforms and having army rank titles, the CAP crews have been formally civilians. Had any of them been shot down and captured, they might not have acquired prisoner of struggle standing beneath the Geneva Conventions. The CAP members knew this, but they continued to volunteer to fly the hazardous missions.

Coastal Patrol stood down on August 31, 1943, by which era each the Navy’s and the AAF’s anti-submarine forces had grown giant sufficient to deal with the mission. In the course of the virtually 18-month interval, CAP had flown 86,685 over-water sorties, noticed and reported 91 service provider vessels and 363 survivors in misery, reported 173 U-boat positions and dropped 82 bombs on 57 of these subs. Within the course of, it misplaced 90 plane and 26 crew members. After the warfare, 824 Coastal Patrol pilots and observers acquired Air Medals, and Edmond Edwards and Hugh Sharp have been every awarded a second Air Medal with V Gadget for valor for his or her rescue of a CAP pilot who had ditched at sea.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt awards Air Medals to CAP crewmen Edmond Edwards (right) and Hugh Sharp (middle) while Director of Civilian Defense John Landis looks on. (AP Photo/George R. Skadding)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt awards Air Medals to CAP crewmen Edmond Edwards (proper) and Hugh Sharp (center) whereas Director of Civilian Protection John Landis seems on. (AP Photograph/George R. Skadding)

Because the warfare progressed, CAP assumed further missions to reinforce the AAF. Between August 1942 and August 1944, the Courier Service transported some Three.5 million kilos of cargo for the First, Second and Fourth air forces, flying mixed every day routes spanning 16,380 miles. Seven Courier Service pilots died within the line of obligation. Between October 1942 and April 1944, the Southern Liaison Patrol screened the 1,000 miles alongside the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, to Douglas, Ariz., to stop unlawful border crossings. The patrol flew Four,720 missions, dropping 13 plane and struggling two crew fatalities. For 3 years CAP’s Goal Towing Service supported searchlight goal monitoring and live-fire coaching for each aerial gunnery and anti-aircraft hearth. The fee was 25 plane and 7 pilots killed. 

Search and rescue was the wartime mission that also defines CAP to this present day. CAP aircrews flew greater than 25,000 hours of SAR missions in the course of the conflict. With their potential to fly low and sluggish, and their information of the native terrain, they have been much more environment friendly at such missions than army pilots. In a single week of February 1945 alone, CAP pilots situated the wreckages of seven army plane. As soon as a wreck was discovered, CAP typically despatched floor rescue groups to the situation to safe the crash website and seek for survivors. Within the Florida wing, which was commanded by Zack Mosely, creator of the basic aviation caricature The Adventures of Smilin’ Jack, floor groups pioneered the use of swamp buggies for rescue missions in the marshy Everglades. 

The Civil Air Patrol was a co-ed group from the beginning, and attracted numerous ladies pilots. By 1945 ladies accounted for some 20 % of CAP’s membership. Greater than half the Ladies Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) began out in CAP.

On October 1, 1942, the Cadet Program was instituted for girls and boys between the ages of 15 and 17. Inside lower than a yr, there have been greater than 20,000 younger individuals in this system. The CAP cadets acquired coaching in first assist, Morse code, meteorology, navigation, plane development and different primary floor faculty topics. Many went on to qualify for personal pilot licenses. Because the conflict progressed, the CAP Cadet Program turned a screening level and an entry path for the AAF’s Aviation Cadet program. 

Quickly after the Coastal Patrol was up and operating, Earle Johnson (by then an AAF main) changed Currey as CAP’s nationwide commander, remaining in that position till February 1947. On April 23, 1943, a presidential government order transferred jurisdiction for the Civil Air Patrol from the Workplace of Civilian Protection to the Warfare Division, and CAP turned an auxiliary of the Military Air Forces. That December the AAF loaned 288 Piper L-Four Grasshoppers to CAP to be used within the Aviation Cadet recruiting program. By the top of 1944, CAP had given greater than 78,000 potential recruits orientation flights and had truly recruited an oversupply of aviation cadets. 

As World Conflict II ended, it appeared to many who CAP’s raison d’être ended with it. Though a lot of the AAF’s senior officers have been enthusiastic supporters, the sharp finances reductions that began in 1946 introduced growing strain on the army’s potential to fund CAP. Involved concerning the group’s future, Common Arnold convened a convention of the 48 wing commanders to plan a path ahead. They determined to include CAP as a corporation devoted to aviation schooling and civilian emergency providers.

On July 1, 1946, Congress handed Public Regulation 476, incorporating CAP as a nonprofit group “solely of a benevolent character.” CAP members would by no means once more take part in direct fight operations, and the group meant to function with out the assistance of the Military Air Forces. However after the U.S. Air Drive was established as a separate service in 1947, CAP and USAF officers began assembly to reevaluate their future relationship. On Might 26, 1948, Congress handed Public Regulation 557, establishing CAP because the official civilian auxiliary of the Air Pressure.

Cessna 172s, part of CAP’s 560-aircraft fleet, await their next cadet training flights at Coles County Memorial Airport near Mattoon, Ill. (CAP National Headquarters)
Cessna 172s, a part of CAP’s 560-aircraft fleet, await their subsequent cadet coaching flights at Coles County Memorial Airport close to Mattoon, Unwell. (CAP Nationwide Headquarters)

Headquartered at Maxwell Air Pressure Base in Montgomery, Ala., the Civil Air Patrol at the moment operates underneath the USAF’s Air Schooling and Coaching Command. It at present has 33,500 senior members and 24,500 cadets, and maintains a fleet of 560 mild plane. In occasions of emergency, it could actually additionally draw from its members’ Four,300 privately owned plane. Though civilians in each authorized sense, CAP members put on modified USAF uniforms with distinctive CAP insignia, and are organized alongside army strains. 

CAP’s three main missions are emergency providers, aerospace schooling and the cadet packages. At present CAP flies 85 % of all inland search-and-rescue missions beneath the operational management of the Air Pressure Rescue Coordination Middle at Tyndall Air Pressure Base in Florida. CAP members sometimes save the lives of 75 to 100 individuals a yr. CAP additionally has formal working agreements with most of the nation’s main catastrophe aid and humanitarian businesses, together with the FAA, Nationwide Transportation Security Board, U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Administration Company and the American Pink Cross. Since 1986, CAP aircrews have additionally flown counter-drug missions underneath the operational management of the Air Drive and the U.S. Customs Service. 

Cadet membership at the moment is open to youths between the ages of 12 and 18. The Cadet Professional­gram is taken into account a parallel program to the highschool Air Drive Junior ROTC. CAP cadets who earn the Mitchell Award and obtain the rank of cadet 2nd lieutenant are eligible to enlist within the Air Pressure as airmen first-class (E-Three). Many cadets go on to both the U.S. Air Pressure Academy or to Senior ROTC in school. 

On Might 30, 2014, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor, to the World Warfare II members of the Civil Air Patrol. In line with Public Regulation 113-108: “The CAP’s wartime service was highly unusual and extraordinary, due to the unpaid civilian status of its members, the use of privately owned aircraft and personal funds by many of its members, the myriad humanitarian and national missions flown for the Nation, and the fact that for 18 months, during a time of great need for the United States, the CAP flew combat-related missions in support of military operations off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts.”   


Retired U.S. Military Maj. Gen. David T. Zabecki is HistoryNet’s chief army historian. From 1962 to 1965, he was a CAP cadet at Westover Air Pressure Base in Massachusetts. Additional studying: Minutemen of the Air, by Carroll V. Glines and Gene Gurney; and America’s Homefront Air Conflict, by Roger Thiel.

This function initially appeared within the July 2018 situation of Aviation Historical past. Subscribe right here!

Aviation Historical past, CAP, Civil Air Patrol, Civil Protection, Civilian Pilot Volunteers, World Struggle II

Sponsored Content material: