Civil Air Patrol was conceived in the late 1930s by legendary New Jersey aviation advocate Gill Robb Wilson, who foresaw aviation’s role in war and general aviation’s potential to supplement America’s military operations. With the help of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the new Civil Air Patrol was established on December 1, 1941, just days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

The CAP insignia, a red three-bladed propeller in the Civil Defense white-triangle-in-blue-circle, began appearing on private aircraft everywhere. CAP initially planned only on liaison and reconnaissance flying, but the civilian group’s mission expanded when German submarines began to prey on American ships off the coast of the United States and CAP planes began carrying bombs and depth charges.”

A CAP crew first interrupted a sub attack on a flight out of Rehoboth Beach, saving a tanker off Cape May, N.J. Since radio calls for military bombers were often unproductive, unarmed CAP fliers dived in mock attacks to force subs to break and run.

The CAP coastal patrol flew 24 million miles, found 173 submarines, attacked 57, hit 10 and sank two. By Presidential Executive Order, CAP became an auxiliary of the Army Air Forces in 1943.

A German commander later confirmed that coastal U-boat operations were withdrawn from the United States “because of those damned little red and yellow airplanes.”

In all, CAP flew a half-million hours during the war, and 64 CAP aviators lost their lives in the line of duty.

The U.S. Air Force was created as an independent armed service in 1947, and CAP was designated as its official civilian auxiliary the following year.

Nowadays, Civil Air Patrol is done chasing around submarines.  We focus more on Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services.  We help shape America’s youth into outstanding young men and women.  This is where the adventure starts.

Nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporation
The auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force
More than 56,000 members, including 22,000 cadets ages 12-21
Eight geographic regions, 52 wings, 1,500 units in all
National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., with 100 support staff
World’s largest fleet (530) of single-engine, piston aircraft
Nation’s most extensive communications network
1,000 emergency services vehicles

100 aerospace education workshops each year
Aerospace classroom materials, grades K through college
Nation’s premier annual aerospace education conference
AE program touches more than 900 teachers per year

Multi-step leadership training
Cadet glider and powered orientation flights, flight training scholarships
International Air Cadet Exchange program

Performs 90 percent of nation’s inland search and rescue
75 lives on average saved per year
Aerial reconnaissance for homeland security
Disaster relief and damage assessment
Transport for time-sensitive medical materials
Counter-narcotic missions


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