Civil Air Patrol

Charter Members' Legacy of Service

Between them, Col. Louisa Spruance Morse and Lt. Col. Ben H. Stone have devoted a total of 129 years to Civil Air Patrol. They both joined CAP in 1942, and are among the last surviving original 43,000 charter/founder members. Today, 60-plus years later, their loyalty is as strong as ever.

By Lenore Vickrey

Lt. Col. Louisa Spruance Morse is shown in the uniform worn by Civil Air Patrol officers from December 1944 to August 1951.

As a civilian volunteer member of the Delaware Wing, Col. Louisa Spruance Morse served from November 1942 throughout World War II and beyond. She first served as a ground instructor, teaching officers the basics of navigation, meteorology and civil air regulations, even though she herself was not a pilot.

“I was not a pilot, but I’d done a lot of Red Cross instruction,” said Morse. “In those days of the civilian pilot training corps, kids were given ground instruction before they went in the military to get a head start on flying.”

She read in the newspaper CAP needed instructors, and she volunteered. “They did not have cadets when I went in, so I was teaching pilots,” she remembered. Though she had a staff sergeant rating because of her experience in civil aeronautics, she wouldn’t take the stripes until she could drill the troops. “So, I learned how to do it,” she said.

Morse progressed through the ranks — from enlisted to officer sta-tus. Her staff assignments included instructor, squadron assistant training officer, wing assistant training officer, wing supply officer and wing fiscal officer. In 1953, she became Delaware’s first female wing commander and the only female wing commander nationwide. She served in this prestigious position for 23 years.

She then served as Middle East Region commander for three years. This assignment covered Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. In this capacity, she again broke new ground by being the first woman to serve on the CAP National Executive Committee.

She is especially proud that two of the cadets who served under her, Richard L. Anderson and S. Hallack “Hal” DuPont, went on to be CAP national commanders.

Morse won many awards during her CAP career, including the wartime Courier Service Ribbon, Wing Commander of the Year for 1969, Regional Commander of the Year and the Distinguished Service Award with four bronze clasps. She was inducted into the CAP Hall of Honor in 1982 and the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame in 2003.

Her years in CAP were a family affair. Her husband, Lt. Col. Albert W. Morse Jr., an Army Reserve officer, was a member of the Delaware Wing where he held many posts. Their son, William, was a cadet.

“When there would be a mission, we’d start from the house,” she recalled. “I’d get on the radio or the phone, and we’d run things from the house until we’d reach people. We’d get the calls about 4 a.m., usually.”

Morse continued to serve CAP through her work with the CAP National Historical Committee, which she founded. As national historian, she compiled a book chronicling the history of CAP uniforms, insignia and ribbons, and another recording corporate leadership. She has also transcribed oral history interview tapes of many of CAP’s early members, including those who served in the Coastal Patrol during World War II.

Her reason for dedicating many of her 93 years to CAP? “I believe strongly in the missions of CAP,” she said, “and was glad to find an interesting and rewarding volunteer service.”

Lt. Col. Ben H. Stone

Lt. Col. Ben H. Stone, right, with friend Maj. Ralph deAvila, a fighter pilot during World War I and coastal pilot for CAP, pose by a C-45 Expeditor at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., around 1950.

Ben Stone loved airplanes and was fascinated with aviation as a young boy growing up in Worcester, Mass., where he was born in 1914. Although his father was dismayed at his son’s attraction to what he called “those machines of the devil to be used in war,” young Ben’s zeal for aircraft was only enhanced when, as a Boy Scout, he got to work at a local air show and saw such famous pilots as Jimmy Doolittle, Frank Hawks, Willie Messerschmitt and aviatrix Thea Rasche. After taking a test ride in a WACO 9 biplane at a local airfield, he was hooked for life.

His father relented, allowing him to attend Parks Air College at St. Louis University where he earned a degree in aviation management with honors. After graduation, while teaching Navy aviators to fly at Holy Cross College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, both in Worcester, he was asked by CAP to teach flying on the weekends. “I happily joined and started my 65-year sojourn with CAP,” he said.

During those years, he held almost every office or committee chairmanship except wing commander and vice commander. A self-described “100-percent patriot who loves my God, my country and my family,” Stone said it is the cadets who have kept him motivated. “The young men and women in the cadet corps of CAP are our future leaders and need help in understanding their future role in leading our country,” he said.

Stone worked with many cadets in Massachusetts and Georgia. He was commander or on staff for summer encampments for 15 years in Massachusetts and two years in Georgia in the 1950s and ’60s. As a tribute to his work with cadets, the Georgia Wing named its most outstanding cadet award after him.

During the early 1970s, he and other CAP members used their own funds and donations from local businesses to build a Search and Rescue Center at Grenier Air Force Base in Manchester, N.H., with no help from the government. “Today, that doesn’t seem so significant, since all communication is via the Internet and handheld transceivers,” he said.

This was the only such center at the time, and CAP members manned it 24/7. “A search for a downed plan was started immediately. We searched the entire Northeast Region for any downed planes, covering nine states,” he said.

A surprise encounter during CAP’s 50th anniversary celebration held in Washington, D.C., stands out as a unique memory for Stone. He met America’s first astronaut, retired Navy Rear Adm. Alan Shepard, who recognized him as the pilot he met at Derry Airport in New Hampshire.

“He said he was one of those kids who hung around the airport hoping to get a free ride from the flyers and aviators coming in and out of the field,” Stone said. “He told me I had given him one of his very first flying lessons when I took him up for a ride and let him fly my plane. Now that is a memorable memory!”

Assisting with this story was Capt. James L. Shaw Jr., CAP National Headquarters.

 

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© 2018 Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters. All rights reserved.