National Organization

History of the Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol was conceived in the late 1930s by aviation advocate Gill Rob Wilson, who later would become CAP first executive officer during WWII. In its infancy the Civil Air Patrol served the New Jersey area but with tensions mounting in the 1940s the United States would soon see the need for a volunteer organization to aid in civil defense, Civil Air Patrol would answer the call.

The modern national organization of CAP was born 1 December 1941, only 6 days prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Early in the war German u-boats were sinking Allied tankers and barges with little resistance. The Allied powers lacked the resources and manpower to repel this threat. Congress granted CAP a 90-trial period performing coastal patrols. Early tactics used by the CAP known as “duck diving” would often scare away German subs. But when U.S. Armed forces failed to respond quickly enough to sightings CAP was granted ordinance to attack sighted u-boats.

Another tradition was born at this time; In order to ensure that CAP members would be taken as prisoners of war rather than executed if downed, congress authorized the wear of military uniforms and U.S. insignia.

Not long into its early missions CAP found another area to serve: Search and Rescue. Only fifteen minutes into its first flight out on a Connecticut River patrol, a CAP flight crew spotted a tanker in distress. CAP quickly began to organize rescue efforts. CAP patrols were credited with forcing German U-boats to stay further away from the U.S. Coastline and providing tankermen with the assurance that they would be rescued, and the confidence to accept more missions.

In all CAP flew over One-Half-Million hours during WWII, sank three u-boats and saved countless lives.

After WWII no one knew what was to become of CAP. Many believed that it would disappear like many other wartime organizations. But there were also many advocates for the continuation of CAP in peacetime. In 1948 Congress granted Civil Air Patrol a National charter giving it unique status to perform its missions: Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services.