Civil Air Patrol and its earliest members were honored in December 2014 with the Congressional Gold Medal for their contributions during World War II, when they forged the path the organization and its volunteers still follow today – helping secure the homeland, selflessly and often at great sacrifice.
These days, CAP’s volunteers stand ready to take on such challenges as natural and manmade disasters and searches for missing aircraft or individuals. In CAP’s formative years, during the early days of American involvement in the war, the perils were mostly posed by enemy combatants, in the form of Nazi U-boats threatening U.S. shipping – especially oil tankers – off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
CAP’s founders flew patrols that discouraged and eventually stopped the U-boat attacks. They also patrolled the country’s borders by air, towed targets for military trainees, spotted forest fires, conducted search and rescue missions, provided disaster relief and emergency transport of people and parts and conducted orientation flights for future pilots.
In many ways, the pioneering members being honored were ahead of their time in devoting themselves to serving their communities and their country as volunteers. And just like their CAP counterparts today, when they risked life and limb to help protect the home front during wartime they weren’t looking for recognition.
Even so, more than 70 years later they received it.
Legislation in both houses of Congress awarded CAP a single Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of its members’ contributions during the war. Many used their own aircraft to conduct volunteer combat operations and other emergency missions under hazardous conditions.