In the late 1930s, more than 150,000 volunteers with a love for aviation argued for an organization to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country. As a result, the Civil Air Patrol was born one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Only a couple of weeks after Pearl Harbor, German submarines began attacking U.S. vessels along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of volunteer members answered America’s call to national service. The Civil Air Patrol, in small airplanes owned by the members, began performing coastal patrol flights to deter, report, and prevent enemy operation. Armed CAP aircraft at coastal patrol bases extending from Maine to the Mexican border patrolled the waters off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and was able to attack several Nazi U-boats and was credited with sinking two. In their success in spoiling submarine attacks and safeguarding shipping lanes led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 9339 on April 29, 1943, transferring CAP from the Office of Civilian Defense to the Department of War.
In addition to coastal patrol, CAP’s male and female volunteers also patrolled the country’s borders by air, towed targets for military trainees, spotted forest fires, conducted search and rescue missions, provided disaster relief, emergency transport of people and parts, and conducted orientation flights for future pilots as well as much more. One of these missions was the development of a youth leadership development program for boys and girls ages 15 to 18, appropriately named the Cadet Program. The Cadet Program proved to be a powerful force for imparting practical skills and preparing teenagers for the military and other wartime service agencies and training future pilots.
For the contributions of Civil Air Patrol, including logging more than 500,000 flying hours, and saving hundreds of crash victims during World War II, are well documented.
After the war, a thankful nation understood that Civil Air Patrol could continue providing valuable services to both local and national agencies. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 incorporating Civil Air Patrol as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. On May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law 557 permanently establishing Civil Air Patrol as the auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force. Three primary mission areas were set forth at that time: aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency services.
For the history of the Shawnee Composite Squadron, click here.