Civil Air Patrol

Creation Letter

September 29, 1941


Honorable Frank Knox
Secretary of the Navy
Washington, D. C. 

My dear Mr. Secretary: 

Following the studies and conversations which have taken place on the questions of mobilization of civilian aviation potentially for the joint benefit of national defense and civilian aviation, it has been decided that this office shall immediately undertake the formation of a volunteer national organization of pilots, mechanics and other aviation personnel to be known as the “Civil Air Patrol. “ The Civil Air Patrol will be a part of this Office and its activities housed and financed by us so far as necessary. 

In general, it is planned to have as the general policy making body of the Civil Air Patrol a group known as the “General Staff, Civil Air Patrol,” appointed by the Director of the Office of Civilian Defense with two members representing the Army Air Corps, the Naval Air Services, the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the Civilian Aviation activities of the Department of Commerce, the Office of Civilian Defense and five citizens appointed at large from among interested and active civilian aviation personalities. 

The active administration of CAP will be in the hands of a National Commander, appointed by the Director of the Office of Civilian Defense. He will probably be a former high ranking, retired officer from the Army Air Corps. He will be provided general headquarters and the necessary executives and clerical staff in this office. 

It is requested that the Army Air Corps and the Naval Air Service each assign one experienced aviation officer, either regular or reserve, who will need not necessarily be on flying status at the moment, to act as aide to the National Commander of the CAP, with full time available for the work. It is intended that these officers shall not only contribute their efforts toward the successful organization and operation of CAP, but that they will maintain an intimate contact with their particular branch of service for the CAP, in order that the civilian activities may include all possible potential value for defense. 

It is planned that in each Regional Office of Civilian Defense which happens to be located in the cities where the Army Corps Area Headquarters are situated, there will be a Regional Commander of the CAP. It is believed that best results can be secured if these Regional Commanders are Air Corps or Naval Air Service Officers, and probably they should be either former National Guard or Reserve Officers, familiar with civilian aviation activities in their region. Request is made the Army Air Corp and Naval Air Service immediately submit their suggestions for these several positions. 

Generally speaking, each State will have a wing of CAP. In certain States there are not enough civilian pilots and aircraft to justify a wing organization, and in such cases one wing will be set up to cover several States. The Wing Commander in each case will be a volunteer civilian pilot. 

The subordinate units immediately below the wing level will be groups, and below the groups will be squadrons, comprised of flights. It is contemplated that the ground personnel will be very largely assigned to the flights with some small number assigned to the squadron headquarters, particularly in cases where one or more of the squadron flights are located at points other than squadron headquarters. 

All of the members of the CAP from the rank of Wing Commander down will serve on a voluntary basis. They will, of course, in their application for membership in the CAP undertake certain obligations and make certain representations as to their citizenship, etc. 

The objective of this plan is to make available as efficiently as possible the existing civilian aviation potential for national defense and by means of self-conducted and voluntary participation in training programs raise the level of skill of the civilian aviation structure to improve the potential value for national defense. 

It is expected that the Army Air Corps, the Naval Air Service and the Civil Aeronautics Administrator will substantially contribute in the training work by making available advice and counsel, training courses and material and personnel aid, without reducing the defense program effort. 

In case the armed services or other governmental agencies desire to utilize civilian aviation persons or equipment, it is planned that they will contact CAP for lists of persons qualified to so the specific work involved, and then contract with such persons from the list as they may care to. 

The Army and Naval Aides to the National Commander will provide the channel by means of which the Army and Naval Air Service may at all times keep intimately in touch with the progress and potential values of CAP, insofar as national defense is concerned. 

It is contemplated that as the training program progresses, there will be organized a corps d’elite, probably known as the “Civil Air Reserve,” which will have a higher than average qualification in flying and technical matters. It is believed that as time passes this Civil Air Reserve will be of rather unusual value to the national defense effort. 

It is, of course, understood that membership in the Civil Air Patrol in no way will form a basis for an exemption or deferment from military services, but it is the intention that the program shall aid rather than interfere with the defense program. 

One of the most valuable facilities available in the formation and operation of the CAP is the field personnel of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. These gentlemen know immediately and are favorably known by all of the civilian flyers and ground personnel. It is planned to use these men as information points for both the dissemination and collection of data, and in some cases in the organizational period it will probably be desirable to have certain of that field force act as acting executive officers for Wing and Group Commanders. It is certain that it is going to be desirable to secure the advice of these men in connection with nominations of persons to serve as Group and Wing Commanders. 

Much time has already been spent in the preparation of the program. It is highly important that it be put into operation immediately. It has been decided that there shall be no announcement of the program or any part thereof until the detailed plans have all been completed and the preliminary organizations established, and the necessary printed matter distributed through the field, easily available to prospective enrollees. Under the circumstances, it is requested that you take such action as the above outline indicates necessary at the earliest possible moment to effect the completion of the necessary work. 

Yours very truly, 


F.H. LaGuardia, 
U.S. Director Civilian Defense 

CC –  Rear Admiral J.H Towers
         Chief of Bureau of Aeronautics
         Navy Department 
         Washington, D.C.


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© 2019 Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters. All rights reserved.