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Illinois Wing History

Civil Air Patrol \ Illinois Wing

This Website is dedicated to the

past, present, and future members of Illinois Wing Civil Air Patrol


A Brief History of Your Civil Air Patrol

The Civil Air Patrol Mission Statement is: “To serve America by developing our Nation’s Youth; accomplishing local, state and national emergency and humanitarian missions; and educating our citizens on the impact of aviation and space.” Since 1941, Civil Air Patrol has been staffed by dedicated volunteers to perform its congressionally chartered missions.

Origins of the Civil Air Patrol began in the mid to late 1930s by a number of aviation enthusiasts and pilots with concerns about the future of general aviation. With the formation of the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, it was recognized that there was a growing threat to the interests and security of the United States. Between 1938 and 1941 these aviation enthusiasts realized that general aviation would likely be prohibited in order to minimize the risks of sabotage in the event of armed conflict. As a measure to serve their country and to preserve general aviation, these enthusiasts were eager to endorse any plan where they and their aircraft could be utilized in America’s defense.

The concept of an organized Civil Air Patrol was envisioned by Gill Robb Wilson in 1938. Mr. Wilson was a noted aviation writer at the time who documented the advancement of aviation in Germany prior to the war. He reported his findings to Governor Edison of New Jersey and urged him to organize the civilian air fleet to augment the military in the event of war. With Governor Edison’s approval, Mr. Wilson created a plan in which civil aircraft would patrol coastal areas as well as vital items of infrastructure such as dams, pipelines and power stations. The plan was endorsed by General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps. As a result, other civilian patrol groups were organized across the country. Eventually, the Office of Civilian Defense organized the nation’s civil aviation resources and formed the Civil Air Patrol on December 1, 1941, six days prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

During the early part of World War II, the US military did not have sufficient resources to provide adequate coastal patrol for the United States. Civil Air Patrol provided a significant amount of coastal anti-submarine patrol and accounted for the sighting of 173 German U-Boats, sinking 2! In addition, the Civil Air Patrol summoned help for 91 ships in distress and for 363 survivors of submarine attacks. However, these coastal patrol missions ended in August of 1943 as US military airpower resources became large enough to control all of these missions. Civil Air Patrol also undertook several other wartime assignments which include Search and Rescue, Air Courier Services, Target Towing, Border Patrols, and training of High School age Cadets to become pilots.

After the war, it was recognized that there still was a need to provide many of the services preformed by the Civil Air Patrol. On July 1, 1946, Public Law 476 was established which incorporated the Civil Air Patrol and authorized it’s officers to adopt a constitution, by-laws, and regulations. The law further stated that the objects and purposes of the corporation were to be “solely of a benevolent character”. As a consequence of this law, the three chartered missions of the Civil Air Patrol were established. These missions are 1) Emergency Services; 2) Aerospace Education; and 3) Cadet Programs. On May 26, 1948, Public Law 557 established the Civil Air Patrol as an official Auxiliary of the United States Air Force.

Emergency Services missions include Search and Rescue missions for downed aircraft or lost persons, disaster relief, and humanitarian flights. In 1985, an additional service, counter drug activities was added to the emergency services mission. As a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Civil Air Patrol was designated to support and perform services and support for the Department of Homeland Security.

Civil Air Patrol’s Aerospace Education mission is to provide a comprehensive overview of the history and advancements of aerospace activities to its members as well as to the general public. This is accomplished by one-on-one or classroom instruction, self study, and group presentations.

Cadet Programs are designed to promote leadership and good citizenship in America’s youth using aerospace education, Air Force role models, and emphasis on public service. Civil Air Patrol cadets advance though promotions and gain responsibilities as they advance. The skills gained through their training assist in preparing for future careers in the civilian world as well as the military. Cadets may participate in hands-on activities, educational trips, and week-long encampments which provide intensive training in leadership as well as flight orientation. Cadets are also offered free orientation flights in Civil Air Patrol and sometimes, military aircraft.

The modern Civil Air Patrol has approximately 60,000 members and is active in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Members are of many different ages starting at age 12 and offer many different skills and experiences. Tasks performed include both aviation and non-aviation expertise. The emergency services mission of the Civil Air Patrol currently provides 85 percent of the domestic search and rescue service for the United States.

The Civil Air Patrol has served America for over six decades. As a chartered Auxiliary of the United States Air Force, its members proudly accept its chartered missions in an effort to support the active duty military, local emergency service responders, America’s youth and the general public. This responsibility is exemplified by our Motto:

Semper Vigilans
(Always Vigilant)

Source: Compiled from Introduction to Civil Air Patrol, CAPP 50-5, 1 August, 2002-Civil Air Patrol NHQ, Maxwell AFB, AL

This is a private Website, Not an Official WebSite & does not reflect the views or opinions of the U.S. Air Force, Civil Air Patrol or any of its subordinate units or members.


Lt Col Ted E. Lohr

Copyright firearsn © 2007, 2013.

Last revised: 04 December 2012.