Civil Air Patrol Celebrates 70 Years

By: CAP National Public Affairs Staff                                                                                                                           
Today, the Civil Air Patrol celebrates its Platinum Anniversary.  CAP was founded 1 December 1941 by a fledgling group of volunteers led by civilian pilots who flew their own planes at their own expense to support America’s efforts in World War II, primarily by flying reconnaissance missions near the country’s coasts to protect cargo ships, especially vital oil tankers, being sunk at an alarming rate that, according to U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshal, “now threaten our entire war effort.”

So many subs were spotted by these “subchasers” that a decision was soon made by the military to arm their light aircraft with small bombs and their larger aircraft with 325-pound depth charges, putting these brave civilians at great risk because they were often flying 100 miles or more from shore in all kinds of weather.

Over the next year and a half, these subchasers played an integral role in the defense of America’s homefront during World War II, spotting 143 German submarines, attacking 57 and sinking two, while directing shore-based fighting units to their targets and forcing the German Navy to move further offshore.

The wartime effort, which included border patrol operations, search and rescue, disaster relief, forest fire patrol, emergency transportation of personnel and critical cargo and towing practice targets for the U.S. military, also resulted in the loss of 26 members and 90 aircraft in the war’s beginning stages and 64 deaths and 150 lost aircraft by war’s end.

The Coastal Patrol was heralded as a great success, prompting President Harry Truman to sign Public Law 476 in 1946, which made CAP a benevolent, nonprofit organization and, nearly two years later, in 1948, the Congress of the United States passed Public Law 557, permanently establishing CAP as the auxiliary of the new U. S. Air Force with the three primary missions of Emergency Services, Cadet Programs and Aerospace Education.

Since that auspicious beginning, a modern-day Civil Air Patrol has emerged to become one ofthe nation’s premier humanitarian service organizations, saving lives, finding those who are lost, helping fellow citizens in times of disaster, working to keep America safe, preparing future leaders, offering aerospace education to inspire our nation’s youth and honoring our military.

Civil Air Patrol, forged by a late-century revolution in search and rescue technology, became known worldwide for its unique emergency services operations, performing vital search and rescue, disaster relief and other important emergency missions for what now numbers more than 1,600 communities across America and the 50 states, as well as the nation’s capital and Puerto Rico.

Civil Air Patrol, supported by the world’s largest fleet of single-engine aircraft equipped with high-tech toolboxes like full-motion video, infrared cameras and glass cockpit aircraft, has established itself among the nation’s search and rescue elite, now participating in up to 90 percent of the Air Force’s inland search and rescue missions.

In the past year alone, many of Civil Air Patrol’s professional volunteers, backed by CAP’s own experts in cell phone forensics and radar tracking experts, left their families and their homes, often in adverse weather conditions, to participate in 1,016 search and rescue missions in which they were credited with saving 113 lives.

As a top resource for disaster relief, Civil Air Patrol is often first on the scene, providing aerial photography and damage assessment to help emergency officials pinpoint critical infrastructure needs in real time as well as ground team support, often provided door-to-door, which includes water, food and supply delivery, even laundry services, for victims.

Recent high-visibility Civil Air Patrol missions have included responses to tornadoes that ravaged communities across America; forest fires in numerous states; Hawaiian Island and Pacific Coast tsunamis; Hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Irene; wildfires in the Southwest; Midwest flooding; 9/11; and counterdrug missions across the nation that have helped remove over $1 billion in illegal drugs from our communities.

The aircraft of Civil Air Patrol were the only non-military planes allowed in the skies over the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in 2001, and CAP has since performed admirably in other homeland security missions, including responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a 118-day continuous effort, by taking tens of thousands of aerial photographs necessary for assessing environment damage, deploying containment assets and successfully working side by side with numerous state and federal agencies all the while saving the federal government an estimated $22 million to $38 million for these services.

The Civil Air Patrol sets the world standard for volunteer aviation emergency services, prompting other nations like Denmark and the United Kingdom to use the CAP model to establish or improve their own similar volunteer programs. And, The Civil Air Patrol’s youth program currently includes more than 26,500 cadets who benefit from a curriculum that trains them to be leaders; offers them opportunities for flight, including pilot training; and teaches emergency services techniques, including lifesaving.

Civil Air Patrol reaches tens of thousands of the country’s school-age children and their teachers, regardless of their membership in Civil Air Patrol, with a comprehensive selection of academic programs that stress the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, in addition to programs that encourage a drug-free lifestyle.

Civil Air Patrol’s membership includes an 868-member Chaplain Corps that fulfills critical needs for deployed U.S. military chaplains and provides counseling services for soldiers and their families, as well as disaster victims.

In its partnership with Wreaths Across America, Civil Air Patrol annually honors military veterans by helping sponsor and place tens of thousands of wreaths at the graves of fallen soldiers at U.S. cemeteries nationwide and overseas.

 Civil Air Patrol is celebrating 70 years of performing these “Missions for America.”