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About the Civil Air Patrol

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Civil Air Patrol was conceived in the late 1930s by legendary New Jersey aviation advocate Gill Robb Wilson, who foresaw aviation’s role in war and general aviation’s potential to supplement America’s military operations. With the help of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the new Civil Air Patrol was established on December 1, 1941, just days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

The CAP insignia, a red three-bladed propeller in the Civil Defense white-triangle-in-blue-circle, began appearing on private aircraft everywhere. CAP initially planned only on liaison and reconnaissance flying, but the civilian group’s mission expanded when German submarines began to prey on American ships off the coast of the United States and CAP planes began carrying bombs and depth charges.”

A CAP crew first interrupted a sub attack on a flight out of Rehoboth Beach, saving a tanker off Cape May, N.J. Since radio calls for military bombers were often unproductive, unarmed CAP fliers dived in mock attacks
to force subs to break and run.

The CAP coastal patrol flew 24 million miles, found 173 submarines, attacked 57, hit 10 and sank two. By Presidential Executive Order, CAP became an auxiliary of the Army Air Forces in 1943.

A German commander later confirmed that coastal U-boat operations were withdrawn from the United States “because of those damned little red and yellow airplanes.”

In all, CAP flew a half-million hours during the war, and 64 CAP aviators lost their lives in the line of duty.

The U.S. Air Force was created as an independent armed service in 1947, and CAP was designated as its official civilian auxiliary the following year.

Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was established 1 December 1941 and is a private, nonprofit organization of a benevolent character, and incorporated by the United States Congress on 1 July 1946 (36 USC 40301-40307).

In 1946, Congress granted a charter to Civil Air Patrol, charging its members with three missions. First, CAP was to promote aviation. As years passed, that mission expanded to include aerospace education as well. Second, CAP was to provide a training program to support the nation’s youth in contributing to society and preparing for successful adult lives. Finally, CAP was to continue its emergency services, the work for which CAP is still best known today.

Civil Air Patrol is uniquely positioned to conduct operations in support of the nation’s homeland security initiatives. With decades of operational experience, CAP can provide low-cost airborne assets across the nation, all manned by mission-ready personnel who have demonstrated capability to work with federal, military, state and local agencies across the spectrum of homeland security.

As the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP has now been placed under the Air Force Homeland Security Directorate. CAP leaders recently met with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to discuss CAP’s expanding role in protecting the home skies. CAP members have proven themselves capable, having assisted in relief efforts after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. CAP also provided security for the Winter Olympics soon thereafter and has been asked by NASA to provide flights above its spacecraft launch sites.

CAP increases our nation’s security capabilities by providing airborne reconnaissance and imagery, disaster and damage assessment, airborne transportation of personnel, equipment and critical supplies, and multi-layered communications support. CAP can provide manpower for communications and emergency operations centers, search and rescue teams, and ground support teams.

CAP can put a manned airborne platform over any major city or strategic resource in the country in less than two hours, safely and cost-effectively.


Written by Iowa Wing CAP

December 18, 2010 at 5:09 pm

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