President Barack Obama has signed into law S. 309, the bill awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to Civil Air Patrol for its service during World War II.
The legislation, approved in May 2013 by the Senate and last week by the House, recognizes the volunteer service of more than 120,000 men, women and teenagers who joined CAP immediately before and during the war.
They helped protect the nation by warding off German U-boat attacks on American oil tankers bound for Allied nations. CAP’s early members also took to the skies to patrol the nation’s borders, tow targets for military training, watch for forest fires, conduct search and rescue missions, provide disaster relief, transport people and parts and conduct orientation flights for future pilots.
More information about CAP’s World War II service is available at the organization’s Congressional Gold Medal website.
The numbers alone tell a story of heroic sacrifice: At least 59 CAP members were killed in the performance of their missions, with nearly half – 26 – dying during coastal patrols. Those patrols alone accounted for 86,685 missions involving 244,600 flight hours and more than 24 million aerial miles.
CAP was founded Dec. 1, 1941, a week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The coastal patrols began within three months, after the Petroleum Industry War Council requested protection for oil tankers falling prey to German torpedoes. Over the next 15 months, members used their own planes to watch for U-boats, sometimes dropping when they spotted one of the submarines.
The Congressional Gold Medal marks the first major recognition CAP’s members have received for their World War II service. Fewer than 100 are believed to be alive today.
“CAP is proud of the service our founding members provided in protecting the homeland, and we thank Congress for this recognition of their contributions to the war effort,” said Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr, CAP national commander.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs about 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 70 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 72 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans.
For more information: GoCivilAirPatrol.com