CAP Cadet History Project


USSR Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth once in April, 1961.

Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American launched into space on May 5th, 1961.


CAP introduced a long-lived cadet program, that sought to develop "dynamic Americans and aerospace leaders."

Cadet membership peaked at just over 50,000 in 1964.



America put ground troops into Vietnam in March 1965.  The build-up was rapid over a couple of years, and reached 490,000 troops by 1967.  The Vietnam war featured the B-52, F-4, AH-1, and F-100 among many other aircraft.  The Army perfected the life-saving "dustoff" missions, or aeromedical evacuation, using the UH-1 helicopter.

The Soviets had perfected surface to air missiles (SAMs) and provided them to Communist North Vietnam.  SAMs were unfortunately quite effective against US aircraft.


The anti-war and social movements became popular in the US.  Anything associated with the military became less popular.  CAP cadet membership plunged.  In 1967 CAP had about 48,000 cadets.  By 1969, it had about 32,000.  In 1973, CAP reported about 25,000 cadets.


America was well ahead of the USSR in the Space Race.  America's Apollo 11 landed on the Moon July 20th, 1969. 



CAP was authorized to wear the new USAF uniforms, with a required phase-in by 1956.


Due to rising nuclear tensions between the USSR and US, Civil Defense released a movie for school children teaching them to "Duck and Cover" in the event of a nuclear war.  Upon seeing a bright flash, children were trained to hide under a desk, or near a wall, to try to survive a nuclear bomb.



In 1953, cadets with the COP were given preferred treatment in the Air Force aviation cadet program.


The Korean War ended July, 1953.



The world was shocked, and nuclear tension was heightened, when the USSR launched the first artificial satellite into space on October 4th, 1957.  The beep-beep-beep of Sputnik announced that the "aviation age" had become the "aerospace age."  It also meant a nuclear power had reached space.  CAP was tasked to track the path of Sputnik across the sky.  The US attempted its own artificial satellite launch on December 6th, 1957.  The rocket exploded on live TV.


In 1956 the 52 Wing Commanders resolved to eclipse the Soviet's youth aviation education program by making CAP the "largest aviation youth program in the world."  CAP developed a new six volume series of aviation education manuals in 1956.  They were released along with a new cadet program in 1957.

American cadets are greeted by Canadian representatives.  From the city of Vancouver archives.



President Nixon ordered NASA to pursue a reusable spacecraft.


Around this time the Air Force transitioned to all blue uniforms, dropping all seasonal combinations.  CAP followed soon after.



Saigon fell to North Vietnam.  President Ford announces the Vietnam war is "finished."


The cadet program reached stasis, and remained mostly the same until 1998.


NASA rolled-out its new reusable spacecraft, called the Space Shuttle.  It eventually built six orbiters.  The Space Shuttle turned space flight into an almost routine event.  Operations were lower impact than the previous programs, and the crew larger, which meant ordinary specialists such as scientists and teachers could tag along.  Space travel was within reach for many more ambitious dreamers.
America's youth had a new dream to pursue.

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NASA was created on October 1st, 1958


The Space Race was on.  However, the Space Race was really in part a Missile Race.  It was a thinly veiled extension of the nuclear arms race.  Nuclear bombs were carried by slow moving, easy to track and defend, aircraft.  Nuclear missiles would be faster and impossible to defend at the time.  All any country had to do was change the payload from satellite or man to a nuclear tip.  The lessons learned "exploring space" could be used in weapons development.  The satellites launched could be used for spying, guidance, and tracking.  The first rockets which launched Americans into space were initially designed as intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs.

The Soviet Union and United States remained locked in this arms race until the downfall of the USSR in the early 1990s.  The whole world was brought to the brink of annihilation many times, often unknown by the average citizen.


CAP added a new book to the Aviation Education Courses called The Dawning Space Age.

Summer 1948

Several firsts occurred over this summer: first National Drill Competition, International Drill Competition, and International Air Cadet Exchange.
See NCSA and IACE.



After a successful spy program, the USSR tested its first atomic bomb on August 29th, 1949.  Nuclear development grew exponentially in the early fifties as the USSR and US tried to retain the upper hand in the nuclear era.


The Air Force released its new uniforms.  During this time period all military services wore seasonal uniforms - winter and summer.  The USAF winter uniform was the first blue uniform.  The Army summer uniform was modified and worn by the Air Force until the 1950s.  These uniforms were not widely available until 1950. 


CAP introduced an all new cadet program, with new manuals and regulations.  It encouraged cadets to prepare themselves for the "air age."  Training focused on developing a "reservoir of preflight trained young men available for the Air Force in the event of war."

The Certificate of Proficiency was awarded to cadets who completed the objectives of the cadet program.  See COP.

The new manuals were a three volume set.  See early manuals.  Cadets paid particular attention to Volume II, the Aviation Study Manual.  This manual was also used in public schools for non-CAP aviation education.  It was also the forerunner of AFJROTC materials.



The Korean War started June, 1950 after North Korea, aided by China and the USSR, invaded South Korea.  This war brought the words "jet fighter" and "jet ace" into America's vocabulary.  The prestige of the jet pilot grew, and they were even featured in comic books. 


The ranks of the cadet program swelled from a little less than 30,000 in 1950 to almost 50,000 in 1952.