Flying Piper Cubs and Stinson biplanes, aircraft sometimes borrowed for the mission, the Civil Air Patrol guarded the American coast and helped turn back the U-boat onslaught that might otherwise have turned the tide of World War II.
Men and women answered the call to serve as the nation went to war, joining the volunteer service founded less than a week before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. With the U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps spread thin, the Civil Air Patrol was pressed into service patrolling the coast from Maine to Texas in 1942. Over the next 18 months, CAP pilots spotted 173 German submarines and attacked 57. They escorted more than 5,600 convoys carrying vital supplies; they reported floating mines, ships in distress, and survivors in the water—363 survivors by war’s end. Sixty-five CAP pilots were killed in the line of duty, and many more have passed in the intervening decades.
On Dec. 10, the surviving pilots who played a vital role in winning that war gathered in Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by Congress. With family and friends included, more than 600 were expected to make the trip.
For the complete story by Jim Moore of AOPA.org, click here.
Photo via Civil Air Patrol