Civil Air Patrol

A Mustang passes behind a Cessna T-41 at Bartow Air Base. Photo: John Stemple

A USAF/CAP Cessna T-41 at Bartow Air Base.
Photo: John Stemple

By 1939, with wars raging in Asia and Europe and the U.S. military woefully unprepared to face Imperial Japan or National Socialist (Nazi) Germany, thousands of perceptive Americans realized that there was a need for civilians to prepare to defend the nation.

One week prior to the Imperial Japanese Navy attack on military facilities in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was founded. The CAP was assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

During the Second World War CAP volunteers performed wartime missions that included including logging more than 500,000 flying hours while in support of the Air Corps, sinking two Kriegsmarine (Nazi Germany’s navy) submarines, and locating and saving hundreds of domestic air crash victims.

On 1 July 1946 President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476, which incorporated CAP as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. On 26 May 1948 the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 557. This legislation permanently established CAP as the official auxiliary of the newly created U.S. Air Force (USAF). At the time the trio of primary CAP mission areas were aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency services. In 2016 the CAP was made a partner in the USAF’s “Total Force” concept with regard to planning and undertaking missions.