A Proud History of Volunteer Service
Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has a long history of service both combat and non-combat, in the United States. CAP was originally conceived by aviation enthusiast and New Jersey Director of Aeronautics Gill Robb Wilson as an organization to supplement U.S. military operations. On the eve of U.S. involvement in World War II, with the help of New York City Mayor and Director of the Office of Civilian Defense, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Civil Air Patrol was formed on December 1, 1941. Major General John F. Curry was selected as CAP's first national commander.
World War II was a difficult time for all Americans, but the young CAP organization rose to many challenges. CAP pilots flew more than 85,000 coastal patrol missions along the eastern seaboard, logging impressive statistics. In single engine civilian aircraft, CAP crews spotted 173 enemy U-boats, attacked 57 and sank 2. CAP airmen also identified 91 vessels in distress and assisted in the rescue of 363 people at sea. Airmen also reported 17 floating mines and flew more than 5,500 Navy convoy missions. CAP aviators flew 30,000 hours of southern border patrol between Texas and Arizona and 24,000 hours of air search and rescue. WWII operations came at a cost. During the 500,000 flight hours logged, CAP lost over 90 aircraft and more than 60 airmen lost their lives.
After the close of WWII, President Harry Truman incorporated Civil Air Patrol on July 1, 1946 as a benevolent organization, ending CAP's participation in combat operations. On May 26, 1948, Congress designated Civil Air Patrol as the official auxiliary of the newly formed United States Air Force, and established its three primary missions: Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs and Emergency Services.
Today CAP has grown into a national support organization with more than 60,000 Members in all 50 states. CAP currently operates the largest private fleet of Cessna aircraft in the world and maintains an advanced, nationwide radio communications system. As the Emergency Services mission evolves, members continue to volunteer thousands of hours each year to support our nation in times of need.
On May 30th, 2014 the President signed the CAP Congressional Gold Medal Bill into law. This bill awards Civil Air Patrol a single medal for the unusual contributions of all of our volunteer members during WWII. Members who are still alive and families of those who have passed will receive replica medals.