Civil Air Patrol History

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 the Axis powers. All of these aviation enthusiasts had essentially one thought in common: "How can I serve my country in this time of need?"

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 he took a trip to Germany on reportorial assignment. Mr. Wilson's plan, backed by General H. H. ("Hap") Arnold 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.

The Civil Air Patrol was created on Dec. 1, 1941 - one week before Pearl Harbor. By Presidential Executive Order, CAP became an auxiliary of the Army Air Forces in 1943. The CAP coastal patrol flew 24 million miles, found 173 submarines, attacked 57, hit 10 and sank two, and was also credited fo saving hundreds of crash victims lives. During the war 64 CAP aviators lost their lives in the line of duty.

A thankful nation recognized the vital role CAP played during the war and understood the organization could continue to provide invaluable help to both local and national agencies. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 that incorporated CAP as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. And on May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law 557 which permanently established CAP as the Auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force. This law also gave the Secretary of the Air Force the authority to provide financial and material assistance to the organization.

Today The Civil Air Patrol conducts 85% of all inland Search and Rescue missions directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center located at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Each year CAP is credited for saving over 100 lives. CAP also serves in other capacities as well such as Disaster Relief, Drug Demand Reduction, Humanitarian Services, Medical Transport, Air Force Support, and has an on-going relationship with the Department of Homeland Security. CAP is also well represented within the Air Force community with former cadets making up 8-10 percent of the Air Force Academy class each year.

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