Civil Air Patrol

Armed!

The photo: two Base 3 CAP aviators, sporting sidearms, flank a “Bombs Loaded” sign that makes their aircraft look like a gung-ho war fighter. In fact, CAP planes were initially unarmed. They broke up sub attacks on freighters and tankers merely by being there and diving on subs in simulated attacks. 

You see, the airplane is the natural enemy of the submarine. Why? The submarine loses its underwater stealth when viewed from above. At shallow depths, a sub can be seen from a plane even when submerged – and thus, it can be bombed. A sub captain’s fear of the airplane was evident in all those World War II movies: Sighting a plane was immediate cause to “clear the decks, dive, dive.”

But initially, CAP pilots could only simulate bomb runs, then radio in a U-boat’s location. The U.S. military, however, was cool to civilians doing the Coastal Patrol job. Army or Navy attack planes usually arrived too late – if at all.

The situation came to a head on the Florida coast. A Nazi sub was found stuck on a sandbar. CAP called for the military, but after 45 minutes the sub got away. Army Air Forces officials then agreed: It was time for CAP itself to carry bombs.

Now, mission-ready CAP planes would boast “Bombs Loaded” signs. Bomb shackles were obtained from military bases; bomb sights were improvised by CAP members themselves. 

One operations officer, Milton Aitken, recalled, “Our bombsight… had a brass weight… and a Plexiglas protractor…. The bombsight was clamped to the passenger door and the observer stuck his head out in the wind to sight on the submarine.”

The 90-horsepower Stinson 10s could carry a 100-pound bomb. Larger, twin-engine amphibian seaplanes could manage a 325-pound depth charge.

 

 

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Maxwell Air Force Base, AL 36112
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© 2018 Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters. All rights reserved.
© 2018 Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters. All rights reserved.