On December 1 of last year the Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, observed its 70th anniversary. The all-volunteer service was founded on December 1, 1941, less than a week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As part of the anniversary the organization has intensified its campaign to award members the Congressional Gold Medal for their World War II service.
CAP performed a host of aerial missions during the war, including patrolling for German U-boats. Known at the time as the Coastal Patrol, CAP operated from ad hoc bases up and down the East Coast and along the Gulf of Mexico. CAP pilots flew missions in their own personal aircraft, and in addition to reconnaissance and search-and-rescue, performed combat missions with jury-rigged armament. All told, 26 CAP pilots were lost while on Coastal Patrol duty during WWII.
The bill awarding the Civil Air Patrol with the Congressional Gold Medal is currently pending in Congress. Only a few hundred of the roughly 60,000 CAP volunteers in WWII are still alive. “Each week, each month, others are lost,” stated Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr, CAP’s national commander. “We want to make sure those who remain, and those who have passed, are rightly honored for their great service to America.”
In support of the campaign for Congressional recognition, CAP pilots are coming forward to tell their stories. Charles Compton, 94, left two jobs in Chicago to volunteer with CAP and “be more actively engaged in the war effort.” The duty was dangerous, and Compton recalled that pilots often navigated using partially sunken American merchant ships.
For more info and CAP pilots’ stories, visit capmembers.com.