IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol.
Congress makes the following findings:
The volunteer members of the Civil Air
Patrol (hereafter in this Act referred to as the
World War II, civilian men and women ranging in age from 18 to 81, provided
extraordinary public and combat services during a critical time of need for the
During the war, CAP members used their own aircraft to perform a myriad of essential tasks for the military and the Nation within the United States, including attacks on enemy submarines off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States.
This extraordinary service set the stage for the post-war CAP to become a valuable nonprofit, public service organization chartered by Congress and the Auxiliary of the United States Air Force that provides essential emergency, operational, and public services to communities, States, the Federal Government, and the military.
The CAP was established, initially as a
part of the Office of Civil Defense, by air-minded citizens one week before the
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 1, 1941,
out of the
desire of civil airmen of the country to be mobilized with their equipment in
the common defense of the Nation.
Within days of the start of the war, the German Navy started a massive submarine offensive, known as Operation Drumbeat, off the east coast of the United States against oil tankers and other critical shipping that threatened the overall war effort.
Neither the Navy nor the Army had enough aircraft, ships, or other resources to adequately patrol and protect the shipping along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, and many ships were torpedoed within sight of civilians on shore, including 52 tankers sunk between January and March 1942.
At that time General George Marshall
[t]he losses by submarines off our Atlantic seaboard and
in the Caribbean now threaten our entire war effort.
From the beginning CAP leaders urged the military to use its services to patrol coastal waters but met with great resistance because of the nonmilitary training and status of CAP pilots.
Finally, in response to the ever-increasing submarine attacks, the Tanker Committee of the Petroleum Industry War Council urged the Navy Department and the War Department to consider the use of the CAP to help patrol the sea lanes off the coasts of the United States.
While the Navy initially rejected this suggestion, the Army decided it had merit, and the Civil Air Patrol Coastal Patrol began in March 1942.
Oil companies and other organizations provided funds to help pay for some CAP operations, including vitally needed shore radios that were used to monitor patrol missions.
By late March 1942, the Navy also began to use the services of the CAP.
Starting with three bases located in Delaware, Florida, and New Jersey, CAP aircrews immediately started to spot enemy submarines as well as lifeboats, bodies, and wreckage.
Within 15 minutes of the first Coast Patrol flight, the pilot had sighted a torpedoed tanker and was coordinating rescue operations.
Eventually 21 bases, ranging from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Brownsville, Texas, were set up for the CAP to patrol the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, with 40,000 volunteers participating.
The CAP used a wide range of civilian-owned aircraft, mainly light-weight, single engine aircraft—manufactured by Cessna, Beech, Waco, Fairchild, Stinson, Piper, Taylorcraft, and Sikorsky, among others—as well as some twin engine aircraft such as the Grumman Widgeon.
These aircraft were painted in their civilian prewar colors (red, yellow, blue, etc.) and carried special markings (a blue circle with a white triangle) to identify them as CAP aircraft.
Patrols were conducted up to 100 miles off shore, generally with 2 aircraft flying together, in aircraft often equipped with only a compass for navigation and a single radio for communication.
Due to the critical nature of the situation, CAP operations were conducted in bad weather as well as good, often when the military was unable to fly, and in all seasons (including the winter) when ditching an aircraft in cold water would likely mean certain death to the aircrew.
Personal emergency equipment was often lacking, particularly during early patrols where inner tubes and kapok duck hunter vests were carried as flotation devices since ocean worthy wet suits, life vests, and life rafts were unavailable.
The initial purpose of the CAP was to spot submarines, report their position to the military, and force them to dive below the surface, which limited their operating speed and maneuverability and reduced their ability to detect and attack shipping.
It soon became apparent that there were opportunities for CAP pilots to attack submarines, such as when a Florida CAP aircrew came across a surfaced submarine that quickly stranded itself on a sand bar. However, the aircrew could not get any assistance from armed military aircraft before the submarine freed itself.
Finally, after a number of these instances, a decision was made by the military to arm CAP aircraft with 50 and 100 pound bombs, and to arm some larger twin engine aircraft with 325 pound depth charges.
The arming of CAP aircraft dramatically changed the mission for these civilian aircrews and resulted in more than 57 attacks on enemy submarines.
While CAP volunteers received $8 a day flight reimbursement, their patrols were accomplished at a great economic cost to many of the members of the CAP who—
used their own aircraft and other equipment in defense of the Nation;
paid for much of their own aircraft maintenance and hangar use; and
often lived in primitive conditions along the coast, including old barns and chicken coops converted for sleeping.
More importantly, the CAP Coastal Patrol service came at the high cost of 26 fatalities, 7 serious injuries, and 90 aircraft lost.
At the conclusion of the 18-month Coastal Patrol, the heroic CAP aircrews would be credited with the following:
2 submarines destroyed or damaged.
57 submarines attacked.
82 bombs dropped against submarines.
173 radio reports of submarine positions (with a number of credited assists for kills made by military units).
17 floating mines reported.
36 dead bodies reported.
91 vessels in distress reported.
363 survivors in distress reported.
836 irregularities noted.
1,036 special investigations at sea or along the coast.
5,684 convoy missions for the Navy.
86,685 missions flown.
244,600 total flight hours logged.
More than 24,000,000 miles flown.
At least one high-level German Navy Officer
credited the CAP with being the primary reason that submarine attacks were
withdrawn from the Atlantic coast of the United States in 1943, when he said
[i]t was because of those damned little red and yellow
The CAP was dismissed from coastal missions with little thanks in August 1943 when the Navy took over the mission completely and ordered the CAP to stand down.
While the Coastal Patrol was ongoing, the CAP was also establishing itself as a vital wartime service to the military, States, and communities nationwide by performing a wide range of missions including—
forest fire patrol;
courier flights for mail, repair and replacement parts, and urgent deliveries;
emergency transportation of personnel;
target towing (with live ammunition being fired at the targets and seven lives being lost) and searchlight tracking training missions;
missing aircraft and personnel searches;
rescue of aircraft crash survivors;
radar training flights;
aerial inspections of camouflaged military and civilian facilities;
aerial inspections of city and town blackout conditions;
mock bombing attacks on cities and facilities to test air defenses;
aerial searches for scrap metal materials;
support of war bond drives;
airport guard duties;
support for State and local emergencies such as natural disasters;
recruiting for the Army Air Force; and
a cadet youth program which provided aviation and military training.
The CAP flew more than 500,000 hours on these additional missions, including—
20,500 missions involving target towing (with live ammunition) and gun/searchlight tracking which resulted in 7 deaths, 5 serious injuries, and the loss of 25 aircraft;
a courier service involving 3 major Air Force Commands over a 2-year period carrying more than 3,500,000 pounds of vital cargo and 543 passengers;
southern border operations flying more than 30,000 hours, with 7,000 reports of unusual sightings including a vehicle (that was apprehended) with 2 enemy agents attempting to enter the country;
a week in February 1945 during which CAP units found seven missing Army and Navy pilots; and
a State in which the CAP flew 790 hours on forest fire patrol missions and reported 576 fires to authorities during a single year.
On April 29, 1943, the CAP was transferred to the Army Air Forces, thus beginning its long association with the United States Air Force.
Hundreds of CAP-trained women joined military women’s units including the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program.
Many members of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots program joined or rejoined the CAP during the post-war period because it provided women opportunities to fly and continue to serve the Nation that were severely lacking elsewhere.
Due to the exceptional emphasis on safety, unit discipline, and pilot discipline, and the organization of the CAP, by the end of the war only 64 members of the CAP had died in service and only 150 aircraft had been lost (including its Coastal Patrol loses from early in the war).
There were more than 60,000 adult civilian members of the CAP in wide range of positions, and CAP aircrews flew a total of approximately 750,000 hours during the war, most of which were in their personal aircraft and often at real risk to their lives.
After the war, at a CAP dinner for Congress, a quorum of both Houses attended with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President thanking the CAP for its service.
While air medals were issued for those participating in the Coastal Patrol, little other recognition was forthcoming for those efforts or for the other services the CAP volunteers provided during the war.
Despite efforts to end the organization at the end of the war, the CAP had proved its capabilities and strengthened its ties with the Air Force and Congress.
In 1946, Congress chartered the CAP as a nonprofit, public service organization and in 1948 as the Auxiliary of the United States Air Force.
Today the CAP conducts many of the same missions it performed during World War II, including a vital role in homeland security.
Congressional Gold Medal
The President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall make appropriate arrangements for the award, on behalf of Congress, of a single gold medal of appropriate design in honor of the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol collectively, in recognition of the military service and exemplary record of the Civil Air Patrol during World War II.
Design and striking
For the purposes of the award referred to in paragraph (1), the Secretary of the Treasury shall strike the gold medal with suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions, to be determined by the Secretary.
Following the award of the gold medal referred to in paragraph (1) in honor of the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol, the gold medal shall be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it shall be displayed as appropriate and made available for research.
Sense of Congress
It is the sense of Congress that the Smithsonian Institution should make the gold medal received under this paragraph available for display elsewhere, particularly at other locations associated with the Civil Air Patrol.
Under such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe, the Secretary may strike and sell duplicates in bronze of the gold medal struck under this Act, at a price sufficient to cover the costs of the medals, including labor, materials, dyes, use of machinery, and overhead expenses.
Medals struck pursuant to this Act are national medals for purposes of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code.
Authorization of appropriations; proceeds of sale
Authorization of appropriations
There is authorized to be charged against the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund, an amount not to exceed $30,000 to pay for the cost of the medal authorized under section 2.
Proceeds of sale
Amounts received from the sale of duplicate bronze medals under section 2(b) shall be deposited in the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund.
Passed the Senate May 10, 2012.