Civil Air Patrol
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Our History

Homeland Security Past & Present

From our very beginnings in 1941 at the eve of World War II, the unpaid volunteers of your Civil Air Patrol have made a difference in our national security and have aided those in need.  Today, we’re even more active.

The Civil Air Patrol was started on Dec. 1, 1941. Six days later, Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the organization was sent on submarine patrol off the Atlantic coast.

Using civilian pilots recruited for their flying skills, the original plan for the Civil Air Patrol limited its role to liaison flying (unarmed support flights, including reconnaissance) along the U.S. East Coast and interdiction patrols on the southern border to guard against enemy infiltrators crossing over from Mexico. However, German submarines (U-boats) patrolling the North Atlantic began sinking commercial vessels with impunity, taking a terrible toll on tankers and freighters in particular, disrupting deliveries of gasoline and oil to the United States, and threatening the transport of vital war supplies being rushed to Europe. The Civil Air Patrol found itself chartered to perform a crucial new mission–coastal patrols and submarine spotting.

During the war, the Civil Air Patrol lost 26 pilots and observers and 90 of its tiny aircraft. Its planes guided warships and combat planes to 173 U-boats that it had hunted down and were credited with sinking two unassisted submarine as well as several “probables.”

In the ultimate compliment, a Nazi submariner admitted under allied interrogation that the U-boats were pulled back by German high command “because of those ****ed little red and yellow airplanes” of the Civil Air Patrol.

During World War II, the Coastal Patrol flew 86,865 missions, logging over 244,600 hours. But in addition to finding and sinking U-boats, Coastal Patrol aircraft saved American lives, reporting 91 ships in distress and playing a key role in rescuing 363 survivors of U-boat attacks.

Today’s Expanded Mission: NASA, DHS, DEA, USFS…

Today, the Civil Air Patrol assists the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Administration, and United States Forest Service in the War on Drugs, as well as directly working with the US Department of Homeland Security.  Civil Air Patrol is uniquely positioned to conduct operations in support of the nation’s homeland security initiatives. With decades of operational experience, CAP can provide low-cost airborne assets across the nation, all manned by mission-ready personnel who have demonstrated capability to work with federal, military, state and local agencies across the spectrum of homeland security.

As the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP has now been placed under the Air Force Homeland Security Directorate. CAP leaders recently met with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to discuss CAP’s expanding role in protecting the home skies. CAP members have proven themselves capable, having assisted in relief efforts after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.  CAP also provided security for the Winter Olympics and was asked by NASA to provide flights above its spacecraft launch sites.

CAP increases our nation’s security capabilities by providing airborne reconnaissance and imagery, disaster and damage assessment, airborne transportation of personnel, equipment and critical supplies, and multi-layered communications support. CAP can provide manpower for communications and emergency operations centers, search and rescue teams, and ground support teams.

CAP can put a manned airborne platform over any major city or strategic resource in the country in less than two hours, safely and cost-effectively.

In 2010, CAP flew over 12,000 hours in support of this mission and led these agencies to the confiscation of illegal substances valued at over US $400 million.

An Overview of the Civil Air Patrol

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. While the CAP is sponsored by the Air Force, it is not an operating reserve component under the Air Force or the federal government.  CAP is a non-profit volunteer organization with an aviation-minded membership that includes people from all backgrounds, lifestyles, and occupations.

It performs three congressionally assigned key missions: emergency services, which includes search and rescue (by air and ground) and disaster recovery operations; aerospace education for youth and the general public; and cadet programs for teenage youth. In addition, CAP has recently been tasked with homeland security and courier service missions.


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