Civil Air Patrol

Louisa Spruance Morse

Hall of Honor member remembered for 60 years of service to CAP

By Steve Cox

Col. Louisa Spruance Morse early in her Civil Air Patrol career wore the uniform CAP officers wore from December 1944 to August 1951.

As Civil Air Patrol began its 68th year of service to America, members in Delaware and the Middle East Region paused to remember CAP’s first and longest-serving female corporate officer, who dedicated much of her life to the organization.

Col. Louisa Spruance Morse died Oct. 22 in Wilmington, Del. She was 96 years old.

“Louisa was irreplaceable and will be remembered for all time as a pioneering leader in America’s Air Force auxiliary,” said Brig. Gen. Richard L. Anderson, one of two CAP national commanders who served under her as a cadet.

One of only two women inducted into CAP’s Hall of Honor, Morse was active in the organization for more than 60 years, starting as a ground instructor in World War II and rising to serve as commander of the Delaware Wing for 23 years.

She was Delaware’s first — and only — female wing commander and also became the first woman to serve on CAP’s National Executive Committee when she was appointed commander of the Middle East Region. In addition, she made major contributions as CAP’s national controller and as founder of the organization’s National Historical Committee.

Morse was a true trailblazer, breaking new ground throughout her lengthy and productive career.

During World War II she was a Red Cross first aid instructor in Wilmington. She studied to become an aviation ground instructor and became certified by the Civil Aeronautics Authority. She enlisted in CAP as a private in November 1942 and began teaching officers the basics of navigation, meteorology and civil air regulations, though she herself was not a pilot.

“I was not a pilot, but I’d done a lot of Red Cross instruction,” Morse said in an interview in 2006 for the Civil Air Patrol Volunteer’s 65th anniversary issue. “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.”

At her home in Wilmington, Del., in March 2009, Morse shows off her Spaatz Association honorary membership certificate and a challenge coin from CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Amy S. Courter.

Morse read in the newspaper that 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 enlisted and officer ranks. Her staff assignments included instructor, squadron assistant training officer, wing assistant training officer, wing supply officer and wing fiscal officer.

In 1953 she was appointed Delaware Wing commander, and she served diligently until 1976. She was named Wing Commander of the Year for 1969 among CAP’s 52 wing commanders before her appointment in 1976 to the National Executive Committee as Middle East Region commander.

She held that post for three years before becoming the national controller of CAP for the next three years. Before she relinquished the post in 1983, Morse was inducted into the CAP Hall of Honor.

Her decorations during her CAP career are legion. In addition to her 1982 Hall of Honor induction, she was awarded the wartime Courier Service Ribbon and the Distinguished Service Medal with four bronze clasps. She also was inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame in 2003.

Despite the accolades, Morse was most proud that two of her cadets — Anderson and Brig. Gen. S. Hallack “Hal” du Pont Jr. — became national commanders.

A recently retired U.S. Air Force colonel who now serves on CAP’s Board of Governors, Anderson said Morse influenced him for nearly 40 years.

“Col. Morse had a profound impact on my life,” he said. “She was one of the major reasons for my desire to remain in CAP as a senior member after my cadet years concluded. Simply put, I wanted to emulate her lifetime of service through CAP, which also played out in my decision to pursue an Air Force career.”

In 2003 Morse was presented with a plaque honoring her 60 years of service to Civil Air Patrol and her country when she was inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame. With her are, from left, then-cadets Robert L. Staton, Jerry A. Horn Jr. and Nicholas A. Horn and former CAP National Commander Brig. Gen. Richard L. Anderson, one of two of her former cadets who became national commanders.

During his eight years as an Air Force colonel, on his service uniform Anderson wore the same eagles Morse gave him in 1986 for his CAP service dress uniform when he was appointed Nebraska Wing commander.

“They were the same eagles that she wore on her own CAP uniform starting in 1953 and until her active service with CAP concluded,” he said. “That’s the sort of impact that she had on my life, and I was privileged to remain in close contact with her until just one month before her passing.”

Anderson said Morse touched thousands of other lives through the CAP cadet program and was a major benefactor, through her generous financial contributions, of Aviation Leadership Scholarships awarded by The Spaatz Association to deserving CAP cadets.

Morse’s years in CAP were a family affair. Her husband, Lt. Col. Albert W. Morse Jr., an Army reserve officer, became an active member of the Delaware Wing after they were married in 1947. Their son, William, was a cadet.

“When there would be a mission, we’d start from the house,” she recalled in her 2006 interview with the Volunteer. “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.”

Lt. Col. Morse, like his wife, advanced in a succession of CAP posts, including director of operations for the Delaware Wing. He died in 1979, the victim of a stroke.

Morse continued to serve in her later years, mainly 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 book recording corporate leadership.

She 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 much of her life to Civil Air Patrol was explained in the 65th anniversary interview. “I believe strongly in the missions of CAP,” Morse said, “and was glad to find an interesting and rewarding volunteer service.”

Spoken like the true public servant that she was.



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