Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and declared war on the US and UK.  On December 11th, the Axis powers in Europe also declared war on the US.

The US was quickly involved in two theatres: the European and Pacific. Initially, the European battles were fought primarily in the air, until the North African campaign in November, 1942.  The Pacific theatre required costly air, land, and sea battles.

The Army Air Force desperately needed qualified recruits to train as air crew, with a particular focus on pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and aerial gunners.  These specialties required more education and intelligence than average, making them difficult to fill and training failures costly.

December 7th, 1941

The Mobil oil tanker Dixie Arrow burns after being torpedoed off the North Carolina coast, March 1942.


The war in the Atlantic was brought to the US east coast.  German u-boats destroyed ships at will, sometimes within sight of US cities.  U-boat attacks cost the US men, equipment, and precious oil supplies.  The attacks on oil tankers lead to shortages in the US, which slowed transportation and war production.  The oil companies first pushed for CAP coastal patrols.


CAP began coastal patrol on the east coast March 1942.  The coastal bases were funded by Sun Oil Company.

Initially the patrols were for reconnaissance only.  Later, CAP's tiny aircraft were outfitted with bombs.  Sinking subs was not expected - but deterring their unchecked activity was.

As the war continued, the Army Air Force and Navy were able to provide armed patrol around the US.  The war was not going very well for Germany, leading to the withdrawal of her U-boats from the western Atlantic.  Coastal Patrol missions for CAP ended August 31st, 1943.

During and after the successful coastal patrol experiment, CAP diversified its missions to include search and rescue, courier missions, fire patrol, border patrol, emergency services during natural disasters, and air ambulance missions.



WWII ended after the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.  The US briefly stood alone as a nuclear power.


Although CAP diversified its missions during the war, its future was doubtful.  Most of the military-based programs
such as the High School Victory Corps were already gone.


April 29th, 1943

Maj Earle Johnson (later Col and Commander of CAP) and

Gill Robb Wilson, 1942

NJ Wing cadets pause for a photo-op with a Senior Member, circa 1943.  The cadet on the right has an ACER lapel pin through his left button hole.  See metal insignia.

Cadet Mary Ellen Dedominicis, Miami, FL, 1943



CAP was designated as the Army Air Force Auxiliary by President Roosevelt's executive order 9339, which meant it was also financially supported and supervised by the Army Air Force.

The AAF took on a new interest in CAP and the CAPC.  It also established the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve (ACER) program and formed a close relationship between ACER and CAPC.  CAP provided the AAF so many recruits that the ACER program was canceled in 1944.  See also training.

​March 1946

It seemed CAP would become a victim of the post-war reduction in force when the Army Air Force withdrew all support.

July 1st, 1946


CAP was saved when it was incorporated as a a benevolent non-profit organization by Public Law 476.  CAP could never again engage in war operations such as armed coastal patrol, but could live on with its new supported missions: search and rescue, the cadet program, aviation education, and several others.

CAP was required to submit an annual report to Congress, accounting for its activities.

1946-48 was a period of transition for CAP.  As far as documents, regulations, and manuals, this period is almost a black hole.  The cadet program was large but poorly regulated, and run by local commanders.  The first training manual was published August 1944, and another was not published until August 1949.

January 1942


The spirit of the times was for young and old to do what they could to help win the war, from scrap metal drives, to rationing, knitting, and hard work.  For teenagers that meant they needed to prepare themselves for war since they would be fighting in it.  Military programs such as the High School Victory Corps and Aviation Scouts were created, and JROTC was expanded.


CAP authorized the Civil Air Patrol Cadets, or CAPC, and included the program as a mission.  The objective was to prepare cadets for the military mentally, physically, and academically.  Cadets had to be 15-18 years old, and in the last two years of high school.
In the first six months 20,000 cadets joined CAPC.

The first official unit was CAPC Squadron 711-4 in Minneapolis, MN.  See also this piece which details the formation of the first CAPC squadron.

Cadets wore the Army's "shirt sleeve" uniform.  See the topic uniforms for more detail.

October 1st, 1942

September 18, 1947


The Air Force separated from the Army, and became its own service.  It began to develop its own distinctive uniform.

May 26, 1948 


CAP was officially made the auxiliary of the USAF by Public Law 557.Type your paragraph here.Type your paragraph here.

December 1st, 1941


CAP was established to augment the thin Army Air Force and as a way to protect civilian aviation, to prevent it from being shut down by the government during the impending war.  Fiorello LaGuardia and Gill Robb Wilson are regarded as the founders of CAP.

CAP fell under the Office of Civilian Defense, and the first insignia reflected this relationship.  See shoulder patches.

To enlist in CAP adult volunteers had to possess the skills necessary to contribute to CAP - pilots, mechanics, and physicians were welcome.  CAP was not a skills training program for adults.  All members were unpaid volunteers, some also provided their own airplanes.

CAP Cadet History Project

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