BOOK REVIEW By THOMAS F. NORTON
Many Americans learned of the Civil Air Patrol for the first time last year when its participation in the search for Steve Fossett was widely publicized.
Few Americans are aware that the CAP has been around for 65 years, since Dec. 1, 1941, just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II.
Drew Steketee has done a first-rate job of chronicling the long history of the CAP in his book, “Civil Air Patrol, Missions for America,” most impressively through his selection of 585 photographs and cartoon graphics, which bring the story to life.
A lively story it is, too.
According to the book, a national civil air patrol was envisioned in 1938 by aviation writer Gill Robb Wilson. He had been in Europe on assignment and took an interest in the aggressive growth of Hitler’s Luftwaffe. As soon as he returned to the States he started lobbying for an organized civilian air patrol before the war he saw as inevitable came to our shores.
Wilson caught the attention of Army Air Corps General Hap Arnold and the Civil Aeronautics Authority, predecessor to the FAA. Soon Thomas Beck, chairman of the Crowell-Collier Publishing Co., and Guy Gannett, owner of the Gannett newspaper chain, were offering a plan to Fiorello LaGuardia, who had been appointed director of the new Office of Civilian Defense. LaGuardia involved the War Department and the Army Air Corps. Arnold convened a military board to review the plan, assigned some officers to help start and administer the organization, and on Dec. 1, 1941, LaGuardia signed the papers creating the CAP.
The rest, as they say, is history: 160 fascinating pages of it. About half covers the World War II period, but the decades since then get good coverage, too, right up to the Homeland Security missions of today.
This book would be a welcome addition to any aviation history library, but a word of warning to would-be buyers: Most of the standard edition ($42.95) first printing has been sold out, making sources such as eBay and Amazon the most likely places to buy copies. There is a limited number of the leather-bound Collector’s Edition available at $67.95.
For more information: TurnerPublishing.com.