Civil Air Patrol celebrates 62 years of volunteer service to America

Dear Editor:

Civil Air Patrol, celebrating 62 years of volunteer service to America, is alive and well and protecting the home skies, just as it did starting December 1, 1941, when the organization was formed.

Gill Robb Wilson, a New Jersey native, was a newspaper reporter for a local paper and was assigned to go to Germany in 1938. When he saw confirmed the suspicions of many Americans on what Hitler was doing to the people of Germany. Once home, he reported to Governor Charles Edison and urged New Jersey to organize and use a civil air fleet as a force in the coming war. With the governor’s approval, Mr. Wilson organized what would become the New Jersey Civil Air Defense Service.

Mr. Wilson got the support of General H. Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps, and the Civil Aeronautics Authority. His plan called for the use of small planes for liaison work and patrolling uninhabited stretches of coastline and vital installations such as dams, aqueducts, pipelines, etc., to guard against sabotage. Isn’t that what Homeland Security is today in 2003?

Other members were New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the National Director of the Officer of Civilian Defense; Mr. Guy Gannet, owner of New England newspaper chain; Mr. Thomas Beck, Chairman of Collier Publishing Co., and Mr. Wilson. These people saw the need to fight a war and contribute to the well-being of our country. They prepared and presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in April of 1941, a proposal to carry out the missions of what would become the Civil Air Patrol.

On September 12, 2001, while all commercial aircraft were grounded, Civil Air Patrol aircraft and the US Air Force had the skies of American to themselves. CAP aircraft conducted aerial photo reconnaissance of the World Trade Center and sent pictures back to a facility set up as a command center, at the request of the New York State Governor.

Today in 1003, the Auxiliary of the US Air Force Civil Air Patrol boasts of more than 64,000 members nationwide. These volunteers give of their time and resources to perform traditional CAP missions, including Search and Rescue, Damage Assessment, aerial reconnaissance and air transportation. One of the fraction of members are pilots, many others serve in less visible ways. Some train and mentor cadets in moral leadership, military customs and technical education. Other serve as chaplains. Still others lead classroom projects in public schools, in Aerospace Education, science and math.

The volunteer members of Civil Air Patrol work with federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency and US Customs. CAP is also involved in the Search and Rescue, Disaster Relief and is in the forefront of technology for homeland and security efforts with the use of digital imaging with satellite transmission and hyperspectral imaging systems located in the aircraft.

New Jersey has 27units based throughout the state. To find out where squadrons are located call 201-768-8313 or email: For more information on Civil Air Patrol and today’s programs, visit this website

Lisa Van Clief, Major, CAP
Public Affairs Officer
New Jersey Wing Civil Air Patrol
Auxiliary of the US Air Force


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