WASHINGTON, D.C. – Forty-six founding Civil Air Patrol members were present today to see the organization honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for the service they and more than 200,000 other CAP volunteers provided during World War II, when they helped protect U.S. shipping against German U-boat attacks and carried out other vital wartime domestic missions.
Speaker of the House John Boehner presented the medal to CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez and former U.S. Rep. Lester Wolff, who served in CAP’s New York Wing during the war, in a 40-minute ceremony that began at 3 p.m. Eastern time in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol.
Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas all spoke before the presentation, describing CAP members’ acts of selfless service in volunteering to help protect the homefront during the war.
The CAP members being honored “were just private citizens who wanted to lend a hand. They also lent their planes, their two-way radios and their replacement parts,” Boehner said.
“They weren’t pressed into serving – the government was pressed into letting them serve.”
“World War II could have turned out a lot differently if not for the men and women of the Civil Air Patrol,” McConnell told the gathering.
“Today’s gold medal may be overdue, but it’s well-deserved. It’s the highest civilian honor we can bestow, and we’re proud to bestow it.”
Reid acknowledged the service of the World War II members present while also praising those no longer alive to see their service recognized. “Their acts of heroism and bravery will never be forgotten,” he said.
Wolff described the full scope of CAP’s wartime service, telling his audience that the Coastal Patrol mission “began in the dark days following Pearl Harbor, when submarines were sinking oil tankers within sight of East Coast cities.”
“For 18 months we patrolled the Atlantic and Gulf coasts hunting submarines, escorting thousands of ships and searching for attack survivors,” he said.
Coastal Patrol pilots flew 24 million miles through August 1943 over the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in order to ward off German U-boat attacks against U.S. shipping – especially domestic oil tankers bound for Europe to help fuel the military machine. They did so at the request of the U.S. Petroleum Industry War Council, because the U.S. Navy lacked the resources to guard against the submarine attacks and provide escorts for commercial convoys.
Flying out of 21 bases located along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to the southern tip of Texas, Coastal Patrol pilots spotted 173 U-boats and attacked 57. They also escorted more than 5,600 convoys and reported 17 floating mines, 36 bodies, 91 ships in distress and 363 survivors in the water.
Elsewhere, CAP members patrolled the country’s southern border by air, vigilant for potential saboteurs. Others towed targets for military trainees, watched for 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 all, 65 CAP members lost their lives in the line of duty by the end of the war, including 26 Coastal Patrol participants.
“Every one of those lives was given to defend this nation,” Wolff said. “We accept this award particularly for those who did not come home.”
In introducing Wolff, Vazquez referred to the World War II members as “brave and heroic citizen volunteers from America’s greatest generation. They served valiantly on the home front and along the coasts, helping to save lives and preserve our nation’s freedom.”
Along with the 46 members present, more than 50 other pioneering CAP members were represented by family members attending the ceremony.
The gold medal will be placed on permanent display in the Smithsonian Institution. Three-inch bronze replicas will be presented to the veterans and families tonight at a celebratory dinner sponsored by CITGO at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where bronze replica medals will be presented to the World War II-era CAP members courtesy of the oil giant. Sunoco and Sunoco Logistic are also major sponsors of the events.
In addition to the bronze replicas being distributed tonight, World War II members and families unable to attend today’s events will be presented with replicas of their own in local ceremonies later. Anyone wishing to buy a replica will be able to do so by ordering through the U.S. Mint starting Thursday.
The story of CAP's World War II service and its members' wartime experiences can be found on the organization's Congressional Gold Medal website.
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – On Dec. 10, Civil Air Patrol will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Capitol Hill in honor of its founding members’ role in protecting the homeland against deadly German U-boat attacks during World War II and carrying out other vital wartime domestic missions.
The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in Statuary Hall at the Capitol. About 40 living veterans and dozens of members of their families as well as the families of deceased veterans will be in attendance. Later that evening a celebratory dinner sponsored by CITGO will be held at 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where bronze replica medals will be presented to the World War II-era CAP members courtesy of the oil giant. Sunoco and Sunoco Logistic are also major sponsors of the events.
Some 200,000 men, women and teenagers from all walks of life – including stars of the silver screen and successful businessmen, future Tuskegee Airmen and aspiring pilots – participated in CAP during the war years, largely without recognition or reward. The organization was founded Dec. 1, 1941, six days before Pearl Harbor.
World War II members in attendance at the event will include:
Also attending will be the families of:
Other high-profile CAP members during the war years included a significant Hollywood contingent, most notably famed actors Robert Cummings and Mary Astor; Meinhardt Raabe, who portrayed the Munchkin coroner in “The Wizard of Oz;” Henry King Jr., a noted Hollywood director from 1915-1961 and one of 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and Jose Iturbi, a world-famous pianist and harpsichordist who also appeared in several Hollywood films in the 1940s.
During the war members of CAP’s coastal patrols, flying their own or borrowed planes, flew 24 million miles from March 1942-August 1943 over the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in order to ward off German U-boat attacks against U.S. shipping – especially domestic oil tankers bound for Europe to help fuel the military machine. They did so at the request of the U.S. Petroleum Industry War Council, because the U.S. Navy lacked the resources to guard against the submarine attacks and provide escorts for commercial convoys.
The CAP coastal patrols, flying out of 21 bases located along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to the southern tip of Texas, spotted 173 U-boats and attacked 57. They also escorted more than 5,600 convoys and reported 17 floating mines, 36 bodies, 91 ships in distress and 363 survivors in the water.
Other pioneering Civil Air Patrol members patrolled the country’s borders by air, vigilant for potential saboteurs. In addition, they towed targets for military trainees, watched for 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 all, 65 CAP members lost their lives in the line of duty by the end of the war.
The Senate passed legislation authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2013, with the House following suit a year later. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law May 30.
“I salute CAP’s founding members for their legacy of service and sacrifice in protecting the homeland during World War II,” said Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, CAP’s national commander. “Now, some 73 years later, CAP’s rich history of service continues. Modern-day members, nearly 60,000 strong, still perform vital homeland security missions, search and rescue missions and provide emergency response for natural and manmade disasters.”
In-depth information about CAP and its World War II missions and members, including those listed above, can be found at www.capgoldmedal.com.
May 30, 2014
Founding members honored for World War II service
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – President Barack Obama today signed into law S. 309, the bill awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to Civil Air Patrol for its service during World War II.
The legislation, approved in May 2013 by the Senate and last week by the House, recognizes the volunteer service of more than 120,000 men, women and teenagers who joined CAP immediately before and during the war. They helped protect the nation by warding off German U-boat attacks on American oil tankers bound for Allied nations. CAP’s early members also took to the skies to patrol the nation’s borders, tow targets for military training, watch for forest fires, conduct search and rescue missions, provide disaster relief, transport people and parts and conduct orientation flights for future pilots.
More information about CAP’s World War II service is available at the CAP Congressional Gold Medal website.
The numbers alone tell a story of heroic sacrifice: At least 59 CAP members were killed in the performance of their missions, with nearly half – 26 – dying during the coastal patrols. Those patrols alone accounted for 86,685 missions involving 244,600 flight hours and more than 24 million aerial miles.
CAP was founded Dec. 1, 1941, a week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The coastal patrols began within three months, after the Petroleum Industry War Council requested protection for oil tankers falling prey to German torpedoes. Over the next 15 months, members used their own planes to watch for U-boats, sometimes dropping bombs when they spotted one of the submarines.
The Congressional Gold Medal marks the first major recognition CAP’s members have received for their World War II service. Fewer than 100 are believed to be alive today.
“CAP is proud of the service our founding members provided in protecting the homeland, and we thank Congress for this recognition of their contributions to the war effort,” said Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr, CAP national commander.
May 19, 2014
Medal to honor founding members’ World War II service
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – When the founding members of Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Air Force auxiliary, risked life and limb to help protect the home front during the early days of World War II, they weren’t looking for recognition.
Some seven decades later, though, they’re receiving it, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives’ voice vote Monday afternoon to award CAP a Congressional Gold Medal for its volunteer service during the war, when more than 120,000 members stepped up to support the military effort and help keep the nation secure. The Senate approved the gold medal legislation a year ago. A new CAP website provides full coverage of CAP’s Congressional Gold Medal journey, including vintage photos, bios of living World War II veterans, nationally renowned veterans, B-roll video and blog posts.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who introduced the Senate legislation in February 2013, hailed the House vote Monday. “I am delighted to see this bill receive final approval,” said Harkin, commander of CAP’s Congressional Squadron. “The men and women of Civil Air Patrol stepped up and served their country when it needed them during the darkest days of World War II, and it’s time we recognized them and thanked them for their service.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who introduced the gold medal proposal in the House, praised the legacy CAP’s founders established.
“The awarding of the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the members of the Civil Air Patrol ensures that long overdue and proper recognition has finally been bestowed upon these brave men,” McCaul said.
“The Civil Air Patrol's valiant efforts in defending our coastline, providing combat services and flying dangerous humanitarian missions in America during World War II embodies the American Spirit of volunteerism. These brave men were an integral part in defending not only our homeland but also our principles of freedom and liberty.
“I am proud Congress has taken this step to recognize all of the important work the Civil Air Patrol did," he said.
CAP was founded Dec. 1, 1941, a week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Within three months, CAP members were using their own planes to fly anti-submarine missions off the East and Gulf coasts, where German U-boats were sinking American ships carrying oil and other vital supplies to the Allies. By the time that mission ended Aug. 31, 1943, CAP’s coastal patrols had flown 86,685 missions totaling 244,600 hours and than 24 million miles. Seventy-four planes sent out from coastal patrol bases crashed into the water; 26 CAP members were killed.
Elsewhere, CAP’s airborne missions throughout the U.S. included border patrols, target-towing for military trainees, fire and forest patrols, searches for missing people and aircraft, disaster relief, emergency transport of people and supplies, and orientation flights for future pilots. Many from the organization’s ranks went on to join the Army Air Forces.
Civil Air Patrol’s national commander, Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr, said, “The heroic service provided by our members during World War II helped save lives and preserve our nation’s freedom. I am very grateful they are finally receiving the recognition they so deserve.”
CAP’s legacy of selfless service for the nation and its communities continues today. In all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, CAP members stand ready to respond to such challenges as natural and manmade disasters and searches for missing aircraft or individuals.
May 16, 2014
Civil Air Patrol WWII members’ gold medal journey
New website tells their stories, describes their service
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – Civil Air Patrol has launched a website, “Our Congressional Gold Medal Journey,” that tells the story of its volunteer service during the early days of World War II.
The website features members’ accounts of taking to the skies off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to help prevent deadly German U-boat attacks against American shipping. Others recount their participation in numerous domestic missions to aid the war effort.
Their legacy is outlined in words, videos, photos and graphics, spotlighting many of the heart-warming stories that led to the organization’s pending Congressional Gold Medal for its World War II service. These founding members of CAP came from all walks of life, ranging from ordinary men and women in communities across the country to a noted Hollywood director and a world-famous pianist, a Munchkin from “The Wizard of Oz,” a sitting state governor, a storied Wall Street financier, a pioneering African-American female aviator, future Tuskegee Airmen and the founders of a major brewery and a famous doughnut chain.
The Congressional Gold Medal will recognize CAP’s contributions during World War II, when CAP members used their own aircraft to conduct volunteer combat operations and other emergency wartime missions under hazardous conditions.
CAP’s unique World War II story, which has been essentially untold until now, is reflective of the volunteer American spirit that has been a hallmark of the nation since its founding days. Early in the war, after supply ships leaving American ports to support the Allied war effort began drawing deadly attacks off the East Coast, CAP pilots carried out anti-submarine missions. This was in addition to calling in the Navy and Coast Guard when they spotted German U-boats. Their vigilance helped discourage and eventually halt the U-boat attacks.
Over 18 months, CAP anti-submarine coastal patrols flew more than 24 million miles, spotting 173 U-boats and attacking 57. They also escorted more than 5,600 convoys and reported 17 floating mines, 91 ships in distress and 363 survivors in the water.
In addition, members towed targets for military pilots, carried out search and rescue missions, flew border patrols, provided flight orientation for potential Army Air Corps recruits and conducted flight training for men, women and cadets.
Until now, the role they played in establishing that legacy has been their only reward.
The website also features new perspectives, in the form of blogs presenting fresh takes on various aspects of CAP’s World War II legacy. CAP will also post the latest developments as the vote for the Congressional Gold Medal draws near, including advance notification of events associated with this prestigious honor.
Contact information for living World War II CAP veterans and family members of deceased veterans is available from CAP Public Affairs.