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Timeline

1941

Aviation leader Gill Robb Wilson and others won approval for a national Civil Air Patrol, superseding similar organizations in other states. On Dec. 1, 1941, CAP was established under the federal Office of Civil Defense per Presidential Administration Order 9. Shortly after, members of the CAP Coastal Patrol were hunting for Nazi U-boats out of 21 bases “from Maine to Mexico.”

1942

CAP’s first female African-American officer, Willa Brown, gained her lieutenant’s rank in 1942. She was a pioneering activist for equal aviation career opportunities for blacks. Also in ‘42, the Coastal Patrol was armed with bombs and depth charges after a CAP aircrew located a Nazi sub that had run aground, but later escaped before military bombers could arrive.

1943

CAP pilots Hugh Sharp and Eddy Edwards were the first to be awarded the Air Medal for heroism during World War II. Their medals were presented by President Franklin Roosevelt at a special White House ceremony in February 1943. CAP Coastal Patrol stood down in August 1943, but the organization’s other World War II missions continued.

1944

One in four members of Civil Air Patrol was a woman, and they were flying important inland missions.

1945

CAP’s hazardous target-towing mission came to an end after many months of CAP aircrews serving as practice targets for gunners and searchlight operators. Also in ’45, CAP was named the official auxiliary of the U.S. Army Air Forces.

1946

President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476, which made CAP a federally chartered nonprofit corporation. Shortly after, CAP’s headquarters was established at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.

1947

Air Force Maj. Gen. Lucas V. Beau was appointed as CAP national commander. He led a robust CAP through the Cold War years with strong support from the U.S. Air Force. Also in ’47, Col. Nancy Tier of Connecticut became CAP’s first female wing commander.

1948

Air Force Gen. Carl A. Spaatz was named chairman of the CAP National Board. The International Air Cadet Exchange and National Drill Competition became official CAP activities.

1949

Pioneer 1930s aviatrix, air racer and world-record holder Louise Thaden joined CAP. She remained active in the organization through 1970.

1950

CAP membership topped 70,000 early in the Korean War.

1951

CAP first developed aerospace education program workshops in 1951 to stimulate American’s interest in aerospace technology such as jet flight and space travel.

1952

The National Aviation Education Workshop was established with the help of Dr. Mervin K. Strickler Jr., then head of the CAP Aerospace Education Program and renowned aerospace education pioneer. Today, the NAEW is known as the National Conference on Aviation and Space Education.

1953

The CAP/Air Force ground rescue school was founded by longtime Pennsylvania Wing Commander Col. Phil Neuweiler. Three years later, the school was moved to CAP’s Hawk Mountain Search and Rescue School.

1954

During the nationwide “Operation Alert” Civil Defense drill, CAP flew 1,700 pints of blood into an athletic field in downtown Washington, D.C., following a simulated nuclear attack on the capital.

1955

CAP flew radiological air sampling missions for “Operation Cue” Nevada A-bomb tests in Nevada. Also in ’55, CAP membership briefly topped 90,000.

1956

National Geographic published a 27-page feature story on Civil Air Patrol in its May issue, complete with a host of photos depicting the organization’s cadet program emergency services missions and Civil Defense functions.

1957

CAP members towed simulated satellites during “Operation Moonwatch” flights to train ground observers visually tracking the world’s first artificial satellites. Also in ’57, CAP integrated 323 L-16 Grasshoppers and other liaison aircraft into its fleet for search and rescue missions and cadet training flights.

1958

CAP’s national radio network was used to support American scientists who were optically tracking new earth satellites. CAP radio operators transmitted over-flight data to thousands of observation sites.

1959

CAP moved its headquarters to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, Texas, after it began operating under the Air Force’s Continental Air Command, which was responsible for overseeing domestic Reserve and Air Guard operations.

1960

Silver and Bronze medals of valor were instituted to honor CAP members who performed heroic actions. The same year, the first Silver Medal of Valor was award to Virginia Wing Staff Sgt. Charles T. Foster.

1961

As part of the space race with the Soviet Union, Illinois Wing member Irene Leverton is selected as one of the Mercury 13. The group was composed of 13 skilled female astronauts who passed the same intense physical and psychological tests as the male astronauts of Mercury 7 – though none of the “13” ever left Earth. Also, CAP was issued a National Emergency Mission assignment by the Office of Civil Defense in recognition of its traditional role in emergency services and national defense.

1962

President John F. Kennedy accepted an honorary lifetime CAP membership from cadets during a White House Rose Garden ceremony. The president expressed regret that CAP’s cadet program was not around when he was young.

1963

As part of CAP’s commitment to aerospace education, 15 academic achievements in aerospace education were added to the cadet program.

1964

CAP established the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award in 1964 as the pinnacle achievement in the CAP cadet program. To date, only 1,622 cadets have earned the award.

1965

New Mexico Wing cadet Gwen Sawyer became the first female Gen. Carl A. Spaatz awardee.

1966

A full-length feature story was published in Flying, an influential aviation magazine, in honor of CAP’s 25th anniversary.

1967

CAP members honored Gill Robb Wilson, one of CAP’s founders, by dedicating this plaque that now rests on his burial site in Woodlawn Cemetery in Covina, Calif. Wilson died at the age of 72 on Sept. 8, 1966. Also in ’67, CAP moved its national headquarters from Ellington Air Force Base near Houston, Texas, to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Ala.

1968

CAP National Board Chairman Brig. Gen. Lyle Castle, right, became CAP’s first general officer. Congratulating him were Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Viccellio, left, commander of the Continental Air Command, and Air Force Brig. Gen. William Wilcox, CAP national commander. Also, CAP’s first National Staff College was conducted, promoting leadership and professionalism among the organization’s leader corps.

1969

CAP added newer, faster, more durable military surplus aircraft to its fleet.

1970

The Federal Aviation Administration selected CAP to play a role in its State and Regional Defense Airlift Plans.

1971

CAP celebrated its 30th anniversary with a Zack Mosley commemorative cartoon. Also, the CAP Supply Depot was established to support CAP’s fleet of modern military surplus aircraft.

1972

Georgia Wing Commander Col. Raymond B. Mabrey, center, and Staff Sgt. Cameron E. Warner, wing liaison noncommissioned officer, presented Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter with a CAP Honorary Membership Certificate. Also Puerto Rico Wing commander and aerospace education pioneer Clara Livingston became the first woman inducted into the CAP Hall of Honor.

1973

CAP National Commander Brig. Gen. Leslie J. Westberg, left, presented Great Lakes Region Commander Col. Richard R. Dooley the keys to CAP’s first T-41 Mescalero during a ceremony at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Ala. Dooley later delivered the aircraft to the Illinois Wing. Also in ’73, CAP partnered with the Salvation Army on disaster relief operations.

1974

CAP began tracking electronic locator transmitters for the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. The Air Force considered the locating and silencing of errant ELTs “critical detective work.” Also in ’74, the CAP fleet consisted of 780 aircraft – 450 of which were military surplus.

1975

During Brig. Gen. William M. Patterson’s tenure as CAP National Board chairman, the board chairman’s title was changed to CAP national commander. Also in ’75, the USC 9441 Supply Bill authorized CAP to purchase modern off-the-shelf general aviation aircraft from commercial manufacturers.

1976

Members of the Middle East Region Color Guard presented the colors during America’s bicentennial celebration in the nation’s capital. Also in ’76, Col. Louisa S. Morse, Delaware Wing commander, was named CAP’s first female region commander.

1977

The CAP Medal of Valor is awarded to Dorothy Kelley, a New Hampshire Wing member and Pan Am flight attendant, for her heroic efforts following the collision of two Boeing 747 airliners on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands.

1978

Colorado Wing members Lt. Col. Stuart P. Hall, left, and Capt. Gerry Sherman presented entertainer Ed McMahon with his CAP Honorary Membership Certificate. McMahon was recognized for his dedication to youth and children’s causes. Also in ’78, the intensive search and rescue effort waged by Colorado Wing members for a downed commuter flight resulted in 21 saves.

1979

When Col. Johnnie Boyd, an Oklahoma Wing cadet in 1943, was selected to serve as CAP national commander, he became the first former CAP cadet to serve in that capacity. Also, Delaware Wing Col. Louisa Morse became the first female member to be appointed to the CAP National Executive Committee.

1980

CAP played a vital role in emergency services after the violent 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. Also that year, a California Wing member advanced the art of search and rescue by helping the Federal Aviation Administration develop a means of tracing lost aircraft by using store air traffic control recordings.

1981

CAP partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on disaster relief missions.

1982

CAP aerospace education leader Jack V. Sorenson was awarded the Frank G. Brewer Trophy, the aviation industry’s highest aerospace education honor.

1983

A Cessna L-19 or O-1 Bird Dog painted in Civil Air Patrol colors is raised into the air for placement on a display base in front of CAP National Headquarters at Maxwell AFB, Ala. The aircraft was placed there in memory of all the CAP members who have given their lives in service to America. Also, CAP and the Air Force tested the new SARSAT or Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System for satellite detection of emergency locator transmitter signals.

1984

At the 1984 CAP National Board meeting in Chicago, Brig. Gen. William Cass accepted command of CAP from Brig. Gen. Howard Brookfield.

1985

CAP Executive Director Col. John Massingale, left, American Red Cross President Richard Schubert, center, and CAP National Commander Brig. Gen. William Cass signed an agreement pledging their cooperation and support of the live organ and human tissue transplant program in the U.S.

1986

CAP purchased new Cessna aircraft, without distinctive CAP markings, to be used during drug interdiction missions. Also in ’86, the first A. Scott Crossfield Award was presented to Robin Kline of Arizona.

1987

Sen. Tom Harkin, a CAP Congressional Squadron member and pilot, joined members of the Florida Wing in a drug interdiction mission. Also in ’87, CAP received thanks from President Ronald Reagan in the form of a letter to all CAP annual NCASE conference attendees for encouraging America’s youth to reach for the stars.

1988

Famed test pilots A. Scott Crossfield and Chuck Yeager were inducted into the Crown Circle for Aerospace Education during CAP’s 10th National Congress on Aviation and Space Education. Also, CAP began supporting U.S. Custom Service missions.

1989

Seventeen cadets from 16 wings were selected to attend the Air Force’s weeklong Computer Orientation Program. Also in ’89, CAP joined forces with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Forest Service in the war on drugs and launched a massive effort after Hurricane Hugo slammed into the Carolinas.

1990

CAP National Vice Commander Col. Richard Anderson coined CAP’s motto for modern times, “Missions for America,” when he wrote this note to then CAP National Commander Brig. Gen. Warren Barry during discussions with the Air Force on CAP’s roles and missions.

1991

Entertainer Frank “Ol’ Blue Eyes” Sinatra produced a public service announcement in honor of CAP’s 50th anniversary, encouraging people to join the organization. Also, Florida Wing cadet Andy Vail of the MacDill Cadet Squadron and other squadron members met with Army Gen. Norman “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf after the general’s change of command ceremony and retirement. Schwarzkopf became famous as the commanding general during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

1992

Cadets with the New York Wing’s Manhattan-Brooklyn Composite Squadron, winners of the 1992 National Cadet Competition, delivered a copy of CAP’s 1991 Annual Report to Congress to New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato in Washington, D.C. Also in ’92, CAP largely replaced its fleet of 530 military surplus planes with Cessna aircraft.

1993

Brig. Gen. Richard Anderson was elected to serve as the CAP national commander and became the first “Spaatz cadet” to reach the position. Also, in recognition of CAP’s leadership in emergency relief, the organization was granted temporary emergency control of 12,400 square miles of midwestern airspace, establishing an “air bridge” during the catastrophic 1993 Mississippi River floods.

1994

Entertainer Bob Hope and Thomas McKee, president of the Air Force Assocation’s Iron Gate Chapter in New York, awarded the Air Force Enlisted Men’s Widows and Dependents Home Foundation Humanitarian Award to the late Lt. Col. Dorothy Welker of the New York Wing for her dedicated service to the foundation and CAP. To address the needs of the future, CAP also initiated the Drug Demand Reduction program, which focused on anti-drug activities for military youth living within 30 miles of an Air Force base.

1995

The 400,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association paid tribute to CAP’s history of service – from World War II sub-chasing to modern search and rescue achievement – during its annual convention, the largest public recognition of CAP since the 1946 presidential and congressional dinner that honored CAP’s World War II efforts. Also, CAP changed its corporate structure, as Air Force billets and civil service positions were reduced at CAP National Headquarters. Headquarters staff members became employees of Civil Air Patrol Corp. And the CAP-U.S. Air Force commander became the senior Air Force adviser.

1996

Brig. Gen. Richard Anderson raised Col. Paul Bergman’s hand in victory after Bergman was elected to serve as the organization's national commander during the summer CAP National Board meeting.

1997

Former CAP subchaser and Air Medal awardee Eddie Edwards joined CAP members Brig. Gen. Richard Anderson and Col. Lloyd Sturges for an aircraft dedication ceremony at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn. The Sikorsky S-39 amphibious aircraft Edwards flew during World War II was put on permanent display in the museum. Also in ’97, a marble monument was erected and dedicated at Dare County Airport in Manteo, N.C., to honor the heroic CAP Coastal Patrol Base 16 subchasers who served there during World War II.

1998

Texas Wing Cadet Lt. Col. Jeff Paddon presented Air Force Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton with a CAP Honorary Membership certificate. At the time, Newton was the commander of Air Education and Training Command. Also, in a continuation of the war on drugs, CAP was enlisted in Operation Drop-In and used its manpower nationwide to inspect local airfields for evidence of drug smuggling.

1999

After a decade of flying incognito, CAP adopted a uniform and distinctive paint scheme for all of its aircraft.

2000

Twenty-one cadets attending the CAP National Military Music Academy performed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the national celebration dubbed “Tattoo 2000 — Saluting America's Veterans.” Also, the CAP Board of Governors was established for new oversight of CAP administration and management. Members included top Air Force officers, aviation industry executives and senior CAP members.

2001

CAP flew the first low-level fixed-wing aerial mission over “Ground Zero” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. New York Wing aircrews provided high-resolution imagery of the World Trade Center site and surrounding buildings for the New York State Emergency Management Office.

2002

CAP developed Analytical Graphics’ Satellite Toolkit for cadet education on satellite operations and orbital mechanics. The system was later adapted to help automate aircraft search patterns.

2003

CAP began development of its ARCHER or airborne real-time cueing hyperspectral enhanced reconnaissance system for use in aerial search and rescue missions. Also, the National Emergency Services Academy was started at Camp Atterbury, Ind.

2004

CAP began development of its ARCHER or airborne real-time cueing hyperspectral enhanced reconnaissance system for use in aerial search and rescue missions. Also, the National Emergency Services Academy was started at Camp Atterbury, Ind.

2005

More than 1,800 CAP members generated a massive multiwing response in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Missions included high-tech mapping and imaging of the devastated areas. Also, Maj. Nicole (Ellingwood) Malachowski, a former California Wing cadet, became the first female Air Force Thunderbird pilot.

2006

CAP adopted Wreaths Across America as one of its premier community service projects. The organization quickly became the largest fundraiser for the annual event, in which remembrance wreaths from Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, are placed on veterans’ graves every December to honor their service to the nation. CAP members not only place the garlands but also sell wreath sponsorships, organize ceremonies, present the colors and deliver commemorative addresses at cemeteries, memorials, state capitols and other public places.

2007

Severe flooding in Minnesota, Oregon and Washington spurred members of those wings to provide assistance to officials and residents in devastated local communities. Here, members of the Minnesota Wing’s Anoka Composite Squadron helped retrieve flooding victims from a boat in the swollen Root River near Houston.

2008

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Boe, whose interest in aviation began during his days as a Georgia Wing cadet, carried the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award he earned in 1983 with him into space when he piloted Space Shuttle Endeavour for its 16-day mission. Boe, now a CAP lieutenant colonel in the Texas Wing, returned to space a second time in 2011 as pilot of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

2009

Flying CAP Cessnas converted into “Surrogate Predators” with a sophisticated high-tech ball placed underneath the plane’s left wing, CAP pilots provided training for military flyers preparing for deployment. The ball enables the Cessna to mimic unmanned aircraft used to provide real-time data to U.S. warfighters.

2010

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill sent millions of gallons gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, CAP assisted the federal and state response by carrying out an 118-day mission that involved some 150 members contributing more than 20,000 man-hours to monitor and photograph damage – at the time, the largest mission in the organization’s history.

2011

A team of cadets from three central Florida squadrons took first place in the All Services Division of CyperPatriot, the Air Force Association’s annual cyber security competition for high school teams. The following year, the team from the Colorado Springs Cadet Squadron gave CAP two straight overall championships.

2012

When Hurricane Sandy left much of the Northeast devastated, 73 CAP planes made 696 flights totaling more than 1,407 hours, with aircrews from the Great Lakes, Middle East and Northeast regions covering more than 300 miles of coastline to generate more than 158,000 photos for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local agencies to evaluate. Those images’ value to emergency officials was increased through crowdsourcing, as thousands of online viewers, many of them CAP members, viewed and rated the photos on a website created for that purpose.

2013

CAP’s cell phone and radar forensics teams gained new national prominence with their roles in the searches for a missing plane in Idaho and a family of six stranded in Nevada. Rescuers credited CAP’s cell phone experts with narrowing the search area considerably, leading them to the two adults and four children.

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