It might have gone unnoticed by most people, but the Civil Air Patrol recently celebrated 76 years as an organization of civilian aviators helping to protect the U.S. The all-volunteer organization continues as a vital resource for homeland security, Air Force operations, search and rescue, and other operations in communities throughout the country.
The early years of the Civil Air Patrol
It should come as no surprise that the concept for organizing civilian pilots to augment the military for national defense arose in the years prior to World War II. From 1936 through 1941, various groups and organizations sprung up throughout the country in response to the threat of war with civilian aircraft flying patrol operations.
The Civil Air Patrol was created Dec 1, 1941 as a national organization to consolidate the other local groups operating at the time into a single unit under the command of a general. The attack on Pearl Harbor less than a week later resulted in the newly formed CAP recruiting members to begin patrol flights along the nation’s coastline.
Aerial patrols to observe and report threats from enemy naval forces soon expanded with armed CAP aircraft operating out of 21 bases along the east coast of the U.S. in response to the threat of attacks on merchant vessels by German U-boats.Â The success of its missions caused President Roosevelt to transfer the CAP to the Department of War.
Expansion of the CAP mission
Because of its success during World War II, the CAP mission was greatly expanded to include a cadet program. Under this program, the CAP recruits and trains volunteers who are between 15 and 18 years of age in the skills needed to carry out missions in times of war and during peacetime.
CAP continues strong after 76 years
In addition to its operations in support of the military and the Department of Homeland Security, CAP pilots respond to natural disasters as well as national and local disasters. Their efforts during hurricane relief operations and offshore oil spills are some of the reasons they are now deployed along with other units of the Air Force Total Force program.