As a premier sponsor of CAP’s Congressional Gold Medal presentation, CITGO is sponsoring the purchase of replica Congressional Gold Medals to be awarded to CAP World War II veterans who will travel to Washington, D.C., for the medal presentation, as well as the celebratory reception/dinner. Those who are unable to travel to Washington will be presented a replica medal by CAP in their hometowns.
The CAP Congressional Gold Medal bill – Senate 309 – was signed into law on May 30 by President Barack Obama; the medal is expected to be presented to CAP sometime between December and April.
Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to CAP in recognition of its founding members’ role in warding off deadly German U-boat attacks on vital merchant shipping off the East and Gulf coasts – especially oil tankers – during World War II.
Prior to CAP’s coastal patrols, CITGO, then known as Cities Service Co., lost five tankers to enemy attack, with a cost of 73 lives and 260,003 barrels of various types of oil.
CAP escorted thousands of convoys and ships, as well as tankers belonging to companies that ultimately became part of seven present-day oil companies – CITGO, BP, Chevron, Exxon, Sinclair, Sunoco, and Tesoro. CAP’s efforts helped push the submarine threat well away from coastal shipping lanes at a critical time for the nation when the military did not have enough resources.
Col. Frank Blazich, CAP’s chief historian, notes that one of the members of the Petroleum Industry War Council – the body that advocated and supported using CAP for coastal patrol service – was W. Alton Jones, president of Cities Service Co. during the war.
“On March 4, 1942, the committee approved forming the Temporary Committee on the Protection of Tankers which in turn that same day recommended using CAP aircraft for patrol duty off the East Coast. Thus, the experiment for coastal patrol bases and flights was born,” said Blazich.
“CITGO has a unique connection to CAP’s history,” said Rafael Gómez, vice president of government and public affairs with CITGO. “CAP’s World War II members performed missions that were not only vital to the war effort but also vital to CITGO, which was Cities Service at that time.”
“Our connection to CAP goes beyond the foundation laid during World War II,” he added. “Civil Air Patrol’s Louisiana Wing and the local Lake Charles Composite Squadron have served CITGO and the petrochemical industry as a longstanding air support provider. Since both organizations emphasize community service, I am certain our relationship will continue as we work together for the good of the community.”
On Oct. 16, CAP participated in CITGO’s 70th anniversary celebration at the company’s Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex in Sulphur, Louisiana. In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of its operations, the event honored CITGO retirees who served during World War II. Vintage CAP memorabilia was on display, including items associated with Coastal Patrol Base 9 at Grand Isle, Louisiana.
“CAP aircraft are a part of CITGO’s emergency action plan that enables CITGO emergency managers to view aerial imagery from Civil Air Patrol aircraft,” said CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez. “Following Hurricane Rita, CAP aircraft few numerous disaster assessment sorties over the CITGO refinery, which were provided to the Air Force and state and local emergency officials. CITGO also did its part in providing assets to fuel Southwest Louisiana’s recovery following Hurricane Rita.”
CAP’s highest-profile activity during World War II was its coastal patrols. Eventually, CAP established 21 coastal patrol bases that extended from Maine to the Texas-Mexico border. Coastal Patrol Base 9 at Grand Isle was activated on June 25, 1942.
All told, the coastal patrols flew 24 million miles to safeguard oil tankers and other merchant traffic from German U-boat attacks. For 18 months, from March 1942 to August 1943, CAP members flew over the waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico for that purpose, reporting 173 sightings of suspected submarines and occasionally attacking suspected submarines with small demolition bombs.
CAP’s more than 200,000 founding members were volunteers, a legacy of service that continues to this day. CAP’s World War II members flew their own airplanes at their own expense and at great peril, with little or no safety measures to fall back on. A total of 65 CAP members died in service to the nation.
From Louisiana, the families of the late Trent Lane of Baker and the late Emma Moss of New Orleans will receive a replica Congressional Gold Medal in honor of their loved ones’ CAP World War II service.