History Of CAP WW2 Patrolling Our Coast

January 16, 2012 in General News by ellenmd

Civil Air Patrol: CAP: World War II

The Subchasers of the Civil Air Patrol

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With the approval of the Army Air Corps, Director La Guardia formalized the creation of Civil Air Patrol with Administrative Order 9,  signed on 1 December 1941 and published 8 December 1941. This order outlined the Civil Air Patrol’s organization and named its first national commander as Major General John F. Curry. Wilson was officially made the executive officer of the new organization. Additionally, Colonel Harry H. Blee was appointed the new operations director.

The very fear that sparked the Civil Air Patrol “movement” — that general aviation would be halted — became a reality when the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. On 8 December 1941, all civil aircraft, with the exception of airliners, were grounded. This ban was lifted two days later (with the exception of the entire West Coast) and things went more or less back to normal.

Earle E. Johnson took notice of the lack of security at general aviation airports despite the attack on Pearl Harbor. Seeing the potential for light aircraft to be used by saboteurs, Johnson took it upon himself to prove how vulnerable the nation was. Johnson took off in his own aircraft from his farm airstrip near Cleveland, Ohio, taking three small sandbags with him. Flying at 500 feet (150 m), Johnson dropped a sandbag on each of three war plants and then returned to his airstrip. The next morning he notified the factory owners that he had “bombed” their facilities. The CAA apparently got Johnson’s message and grounded all civil aviation until better security measures could be taken. Not surprisingly, the Civil Air Patrol’s initial membership increased along with the new security.

With America’s entrance into World War II, German U-boats began to operate along the East Coast. Their operations were very effective, sinking a total of 204 vessels by September 1942. The Civil Air Patrol’s top leaders requested that the War Department give them the authority to directly combat the U-boat threat. The request was initially opposed, for the CAP was still a young and inexperienced organization. However, with the alarming numbers of ships being sunk by the U-boats, the War Department finally agreed to give CAP a chance.

On 5 March 1942, under the leadership of the newly promoted National Commander Johnson (the same Johnson that had “bombed” the factories with sandbags), the Civil Air Patrol was given authority to operate a coastal patrol at two locations along the East Coast: Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. They were given a time frame of 90 days to prove their worth. The CAP’s performance was outstanding, and before the 90 day period was over, the coastal patrol operations were authorized to expand in both duration and territory.By the end of the war, CAP pilots had flown over 500,000 mission hours. However, more than 90 aircraft were lost, and between 59 and 64 CAP pilots were killed, including 26 who were lost while on coastal patrol.

 Coastal Patrol

Artist’s recreation of a Coastal Patrol subchaser

Originally, the Coastal Patrol was to be unarmed and strictly reconnaissance. The air crews of the patrol aircraft were to keep in touch with their bases and notify the Army Air Forces and Navy in the area when a U-boat was sighted, and to remain in the area until relieved. This policy was reviewed, however, when the Civil Air Patrol encountered a turkey shoot opportunity. In May 1942, a CAP crew consisting of pilot Thomas Manning and observer Marshall “Doc” Rinker were flying a coastal patrol mission off Cape Canaveral when they spotted a German U-boat. The U-boat crew also spotted the aircraft, but not knowing that it was unarmed, attempted to flee. The U-boat became stuck on a sandbar, and consequently became an easy target.

Rinker and Manning radioed to mission base the opportunity and circled the U-boat for more than half an hour. Unfortunately, by the time that Army Air Force bombers came to destroy the U-boat, the vessel had dislodged itself and had escaped to deep waters. As a result of this incident, CAP aircraft were authorized to be fitted with bombs and depth charges. Some of CAP’s larger aircraft had the capability of carrying a single 300-pound (140 kg) depth charge, however, most light aircraft could only carry a 100-pound (50 kg) bomb. In some cases, the bomb’s flight fins had to be partially removed so they would be able to fit underneath the wing of a light aircraft.

One squadron’s insignia of the time was a cartoon drawing of a small plane sweating and straining to carry a large bomb. This insignia became popular throughout CAP.

The CAP’s first kill was claimed by one of the larger aircraft. The Grumman G-44 Widgeon, armed with two depth charges and crewed by Captain Johnny Haggins and Major Wynant Farr, was scrambled when another CAP patrol radioed that they had encountered an enemy submarine but were returning to base due to low fuel. After scanning the area, Farr spotted the U-boat cruising beneath the surface of the waves. Unable to accurately determine the depth of the vessel, Haggins and Ferr radioed the situation back to base and followed the enemy in hopes that it would rise to periscope depth. For three hours, the crew shadowed the submarine. Just as Haggins was about to return to base, the U-boat rose to periscope depth, and Haggins swung the aircraft around, aligned with the submarine and dove to 100 feet (30 m). Farr released one of the two depth charges, blowing the submarine’s front out of the water. As it left an oil slick, Farr made and second pass and released the other charge. Debris appeared on the ocean’s surface, confirming the U-boat’s demise and the Civil Air Patrol’s first kill.

The sinking was perhaps the crowning achievement for CAP’s Coastal Patrol, which continued to operate for about 18 months (from 5 March 1942 to 31 August 1943) before being officially retired. During this time, the Coastal Patrol reported 173 U-boats and attacked 57 of them with 83 ordnance pieces, resulting in two confirmed kills. Overall, the Coastal Patrol flew 86,865 missions, logging over 244,600 hours. Coastal Patrol aircraft reported 91 ships in distress and played a key role in rescuing 363 survivors of U-boat attacks. 17 floating mines were reported and 5,684 convoy missions were flown for the Navy.

More on CAP history:

1. Introduction to the Civil Air Patrol

2. Many Other CAP WW2 Missions

Coastal Patrol 18 Cape Cod CAP

CREDITl Lt. Col. Keith E. Raymond Public Affairs Officer Massachusetts Wing

2011 Dedication to Original Coastal Patrol Base 18.
MASSACHUSETTS – Members of the Massachusetts Wing and direct descendants of the volunteers who served at Coastal Patrol Base 18 during World War II gathered Saturday in Falmouth to place a historical marker at the original base’s location, commemorating both the significance of the site and Civil Air Patrol’s roots as an organization.
Using private aircraft, the early CAP members patrolled the Atlantic Ocean for German submarines. They operated from Aug. 25, 1942-Aug. 31, 1943, out of a small, paved airport known as Coonamesset Field.
Although Coonamesset Field is still there, it’s a little overgrown, and none of the original buildings are standing.
The history, though, remains.
Remembering the men and women of Base 18 for their courage, bravery and civilian wartime service, a wreath was laid at the site by Col. Christopher Hayden, Northeast Region commander; State Rep. David Viera; and Lt. Co. Richard Bungarden, CAP/USAF Northeast Liaison Region commander for Detachment 1.
In addition, Col. William Meskill, commander of the Massachusetts Wing, and family members placed roses at the base of the plaque in recognition of the members’ service and dedication.
Final honors were rendered to the 93 volunteer members of Coastal Patrol Base 18 as a CAP aircraft flew over the field while current members, families and other invited guests looked on.

COASTAL PATROL BASE No. 18    Falmouth Ma Dedication