CAP Celebrates 75 Years of Serving America
In the early 1940s, officials knew that America would get involved in World War II; it was just a matter of when. Gill Robb Wilson envisioned mobilizing America’s civilian aviators for national defense, an idea shared by others as well. On December 1, 1941, the Civil Air Patrol was born and it couldn’t have come any sooner.
On December 7, 1941, the United States was attacked by the Empire of Japan at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii which pushed America into the war. Only a couple of weeks after Pearl Harbor, German submarines began attacking U.S. vessels along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. 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 and sink several Nazi U-boats. 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. A few years later, the Civil Air Patrol became the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force.
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 establishment 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.
Today, the Civil Air Patrol continues to perform missions for America every day. These include search and rescue, disaster relief, counterdrug operations, organ and patient transport, homeland security, as well as an evolving mission of educating the nation about aviation and aerospace. In addition, the Cadet Program is still going strong and is ranked as one of the best youth programs in America. Youth ages 12 to 18 can join the Cadet Program and be able to serve their community, state, and nation while gaining valuable leadership training and experience that will benefit them in all aspects of life in the future.
Locally, the Civil Air Patrol has been an active part of the community since 1947. The Shawnee Composite Squadron meets every Tuesday from 6:00pm to 8:30pm at the squadron’s headquarters in Herrin and has an aircraft based at the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois in Marion. The squadron’s emergency services teams are frequently called upon to perform missions such as search and rescue, counterdrug, and disaster relief. The squadron also prides itself in having a very active Aerospace Education program and has been recognized as having one of the top Cadet Programs in the nation.
Membership in the Civil Air Patrol is open to everyone ages 12 and up. Future or past military service is not required.