The views and opinions expressed or implied in WBY are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents.
By Dr. Frank Blazich
/ Published June 21, 2021
Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air University, the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense, or any other US government agency.
0:00:00.1 Dr. Margaret Sankey: Welcome to Wild Blue Yonder Podcast. This is episode three. Today we're talking to Dr. Frank Blazich, of the Smithsonian, the National Museum of American History, and he has a new book with Air University Press, "An Honorable Place in American Air Power": Civil Air Patrol Coastal Patrol Operations, 1942-1943. We'll have a link to the press site on our transcript. Welcome
0:00:26.1 Dr. Frank Blazich: Thank you for having me.
0:00:27.6 MS: So, in 1942, there is a big problem off the East Coast of the US, tell us about it.
0:00:34.1 FB: Yeah. We... Some tourists came to the Eastern Seaboard of North America in the form of five German Unterseeboots or U-boats. And, beginning on January 12th, 1942, these five U-boats began sinking merchant shipping. And this was part of a German offensive, which was code named Paukenschlag or Drumbeat. And the idea was to deliver this jarring blow to the American home front, right after our nation's entry into World War II, as well as the declaration of war between the United States and Nazi Germany. So, five U-boats at this point, along the extent of the Eastern Sea Frontier, when this is about 1,500 miles of coast from the Canadian border of Maine, down to the southern border of Duval County, Florida. To cover all of this, for say five U-boats, the United States Navy at this point has basically 20 ships. These are under armed, they're really undermanned. You question all the liability and maintenance to some extent, not to a fault of the crews, and they only have about 103 aircraft.
0:01:32.5 FB: Three-quarters of these are completely ill-suited for coastal patrol or any type of anti-submarine defense, and one could say, "Well, Aha. We have the Army Air Forces. And they can bring out their advantage as part of the Army's Eastern Defense Command." And the first Bomber Command absolutely begins flying anti-submarine patrols as early as 8 December '41. What about that? They only have a 120 engine aircraft to patrol the entire Eastern Seaboard. And, to make matters even more frustrating, the Army and the Navy, let's just say, don't play well together. They do run well with scissors, but they don't necessarily play well together. So you're not having a lot of coordination between the Navy's patrols along the actual ocean, or in the air, much less the Army Air Forces patrols. It's fantastic that we have B-17s with the Norden Bombsight, and they can drop a bomb on a pickle barrel from 20,000 feet, but it doesn't do a lot of good if you're saying, "We're flying over the ocean and a B-17 took off at 8:00 AM, say in Bangor, Maine, and flew all the way down to Savannah, Georgia and back.
0:02:30.6 FB: All a submarine needs to do is look up through its periscope and go, "Oh, shoot, there comes the bomber. Dive. Okay, he's gone. Good. We have a few more hours to operate." It's just not efficient. You need constant eyes out over the water. So cut to the chase Frank, what's happening? Ships are getting hit. Ships are getting torpedoed. Ships are getting sunk by gunfire, the U-boats did have deck guns. Deck guns are actually being brought to there, to inflict losses against merchant ships, not just the American flag merchant vessels, but those ships of our allies or even non-combatants in the conflict at that point. Those first five U-boats are gonna manage to sink 23 merchant ships, and that's a 151... Over 151,000 tons of shipping.
0:03:10.0 FB: This far exceeds the German's expectations. The first five U-boats and the success they had against merchant shipping off the Eastern Seaboard, really comes to a surprise to the German Naval staff, particularly Vice Admiral Karl Dönitz, who's head of the U-boat arm, and Dönitz essentially immediately orders for more submarines to be sent out to cross the Atlantic to continue to attack American shipping. And despite our best efforts, we simply... The United States Navy, the United States Army Air Forces as well as the United States Coastguard, they're just short-handed; we simply don't have the seaborne assets or the aerial assets to combat the U-boat threat. And, because of that, the military is somewhat anxious, or at least, maybe not anxious, but they are open-minded about finding opportunities to increase the defensive capabilities in anti-submarine warfare.
0:04:02.1 MS: So, the inspiration for the answer to this is coming because some of what will be the intellectual founders of the Civil Air Patrol had been looking at what the Germans were doing, their own experience as volunteers in World War I, and then what the Luftwaffe was up to, right?
0:04:18.4 FB: Absolutely. So the... Really the brainchild, the founder, if you could point to one individual and say, "This is the founder of the Civil Air Patrol," is Gill Robb Wilson. Gill Robb Wilson, in autumn of 1936 is the New Jersey State Aviation Director. He's also a major in the New Jersey National Guard. He is a veteran aviator of World War I. Both he and his brother were essentially... They're not in the Lafayette Escadrille, if you will, but they're in the Lafayette Flying Corps. So they're Americans flying for the French Air Force. Both of them will later transfer over to the Army Air Service, and I believe Wilson and his brother Joseph were both in the Air Services, 163rd Bombardment Squadron. Now, Wilson's brother will tragically be killed in the war, but Wilson will survive, he will come home to the United States, and he'll become a pastor.
0:05:26.1 FB: He'll end up being the National Chaplain of the American Legion. And, at a time when the budgets are small, but the ideas are big, Wilson's at the forefront of a lot of them. And, in 1936, about Summer of '36, Wilson will board the Hindenburg, the Zeppelin Hindenburg, before it blew up, and [chuckle] cross the Atlantic Ocean, and he'll basically get a tour by the Ministry of Aviation. And while he's in Germany, Wilson's able to tour aircraft plants, he sees aviation demonstrations, pretty much anything he has to see, the Germans are willing to show him. But what really intrigues him, is he witnesses youth glider clubs and glider competitions. He's really taken aback by how the German government is subsidizing and actively encouraging German youth to fly gliders, to get involved in aviation.
0:06:34.0 FB: And Wilson can quickly see these are the seeds of the resurgence of German military aviation. And as he recalls in his autobiographical book... I think it's "I Walked with Giants", Wilson mentions that one evening over wine, his guide says he was a submarine officer in World War I; he said something along the lines of, "The East Coast is the best hunting ground in the world for submarines." Wilson kind of begins to put two and two together and he goes, "Yeah, yeah. That's... We need to take... The United States, even though we're caught in the doldrums of the Depression and the military is underfunded and underequipped, we need to act, we need to begin to do something about this." And so, on his return journey to the United States, Wilson begins coming up with this idea of, "Well, what can we do with civil aviation, with light aircraft, in the United States, and how can we use them in a national defense purpose? How can we use them for national defense roles?" He said, "Well, maybe there's plenty of domestic roles they could do. It could be transporting emergency medical supplies, essentially medevac type flights. Maybe it's just patrolling natural disaster areas."
0:07:37.9 FB: And with this thinking, he reaches out to the American Red Cross. He said, "What about an auxiliary aviation corps for the Red Cross?" Then they never wrote him back, so nothing comes of it. And that's in 1936, but Wilson's not alone in his thinking. During this time, there were other private citizens who were independently aviation-minded if you will, and they also played around with this idea of taking civil aviation and making it an asset for military preparedness. One notable example is a gentleman, Milton Knight. He's the Secretary of the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company in Toledo, Ohio. Knight's really a sportsman. He's a sportsman pilot, he's a yachtsman. He likes it if it goes fast and it's adventurous; we'll put it that way. He gets this idea of, "Hmm. Well maybe we could use private flying to better prepare civilian pilots for military service, and if they can perfect their techniques in a civilian capacity, it would make their transition into military aviators that much easier and be of benefit to national defense." And so in November of '38, Knight as well as his brother and several other folks will come together and sign the articles of incorporation for what's called the Civilian Air Reserve, or the CAR.
0:08:45.0 FB: And the CAR has objectives to basically develop interest in aviation, offer trained and student pilots this incentive and opportunity to keep up their training and experience, and mature a potential reserve of pilots, mechanics and other persons who could be of service to the nation in times of national emergency. It is different from what Wilson's proposing, which is not just saying, "We have people," but saying, "We have aircraft and people, and they will supplement the national defense establishment." Whereas Knight's saying, "We're just gonna be kind of an incubator of talent that we can send in." But the CAR warrants attention because they describe themselves as semi-military, they organize themselves along the Army Air Force structure. They have squadrons, they have officers, there's military titles and ranks. And they're not really quasi-military, that's why I call them semi-military. And the idea which begins in Toledo will spread to other states, and you see it in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania. It's spreading here and there across the country. It's still really a private organization, but the ideas are taking root and with those ideas, acceptance of the ideas, and a further dissemination of the concept.
0:09:47.0 FB: So we continue forward in the story. September 1939, we have war break out in Europe. On 25 May 1940, President Roosevelt will by executive order establish the Office of Emergency Management within the Executive Office of the President. Days later, he's gonna have our Declaration of Unlimited National Emergency, he's gonna re-establish the World War I era Council of National Defense, he'll appoint a National Defense Advisory Commission, and NDAC is there... The N-D-A-C... NDAC's really there to advise and coordinate industrial infrastructure for the defense production. However, a lot of state governments just begin flooding them with ideas. What about this? What about this? What about this? What about this? And so then there's a kind of a new offshoot called the Division of State and Local Cooperation that falls under NDAC. They're really like a filtering agency if you will, to control all these various ideas, and there's no Office of Civilian Defense yet. That's not quite there in the story, [chuckle] but, you can see that aviation's gonna have a place in all of this.
0:10:44.0 FB: And, in August of '40, they send out to all the state governors... NDAC will send out guidance on state and local cooperation in national defense, basically saying governors should create state defense counsels, and this is basically resurrecting a World War I equivalent council, State Council of Defense. This is where Wilson finds his opening to bring back his ideas. And so Wilson in August of 1940... So now we're talking... We're four years removed... Wilson decides to reach out to Audley Stephan, who's the Chairman of the New Jersey Defense Council. He says, "What about using civilian aviation for national defense purposes?" He says, "I reached out to the Red Cross. They never wrote me back. We can do something with this." And Wilson... And I'm quoting here... He says, "Now, there are numbers of thoroughly capable pilots who are not and could not be utilized in the military service, but they are eager to do anything in their power, and to utilize their experience for the national defense, but they do not know how to proceed, and there's no constituted agency of government has given them any light on the subject nor offered them any opportunity." He's saying under the aegis of the State Defense Council, "You could take these civilian aviators, you can vet them, train them and organize them for observation, ensuring they will be a resource that can be employed in the event of a national emergency.
0:12:00.6 FB: Stephan doesn't ignore him, he actually takes Wilson's letter and he kind of sends it up the NDAC chain, saying, "Well, this is a good idea. What should we do with it?" But let's continue forward, because it's a long, complicated origin story, and Marvel is not unfortunately gonna make a superhero movie about it so, for our listeners, "Hey, sorry folks, this is the best you're gonna get." I don't know if there's a Captain Gill... Well, there was a Captain Gill Robb Wilson actually, but he did not have a cool outfit, he kind of looks like a dapper nerd, but he's a really nice fellow, I've been told. Fast forward. So, in February 1941, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who was a bomber pilot in the First World War on the Italian front, writes to President Roosevelt, and he says, "We need to create a home defense organization. We need to prepare our ordinary citizens to meet the threat of air or naval attack on American cities."
0:12:44.4 FB: This is keeping in mind the Blitz in London and the aerial attacks that Americans had been hearing about or seeing, either listening to Edward R. Murrow on the radio, or seeing news reels in movie theaters of the destruction wrought by air attack, and LaGuardia's saying, "Mr. President, we need to do something." And be careful what you wish for, because on May 20th, 1941, Roosevelt issues an Executive Order 8757, establishing the Office of Civilian Defense, and he turns to LaGuardia, and says, "Guess what, pal? You're now the Director of this new organization. You will coordinate all federal civilian defense activities with those of the state and local governments." And NDAC will be absorbed into all of this.
0:13:24.8 FB: Now civil aviation at this point, what's its role? What's it gonna do? But, Wilson, together with newspaper publisher Guy Gannett, which we still have Gannett Newspapers today; as well as Thomas Beck of the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, they all kind of share Wilson's idea, and collectively the three of them all say, "Yeah, we should do something with civil aviation," knowing that LaGuardia himself is an aviator and still active and interested in civil aviation, will approach him, and say, "What can civil aviation do? We should do something here." And they'll ask him very early. So 20 May the Office of Civilian Defense is established, and, within the first two weeks of June, on June 12th, LaGuardia will appoint Beck, Gannett, and Wilson as a committee to kind of come up with a plan, "Give me a formulated plan for how to use private planes, owners and pilots for civilian defense purposes." It's during this time that Wilson then has already formulated all his ideas, working with the state of New Jersey, and will launch what he calls the Civil Air Defense Services and will begin to launch this around the same time in New Jersey.
0:14:26.1 FB: And it's this Civil Air Defense Services that essentially will be what the plan is provided by Beck, Wilson and Gannett to LaGuardia in late June of '41, and it really boils down to... They really say they have two objectives: "We need to immediately organize all available civil air resources, and the ultimate civil development essential to any sound formation for air power will be using these resources." And they lay out, "Take folks who can't serve in the military, use them for auxiliary service in a national emergency, organize along the Army Air Corps," and they say these individuals could patrol over restricted areas, be it war industries, water supplies, cities, arsenals, to avoid against sabotage. They could provide an emergency disaster service when military personnel are unavailable. They'll serve as volunteers. There will only be federal funding for POL, essentially, petroleum, oil, lubricants, aircraft maintenance. States will absorb all other costs. The planes will be voluntarily owned and provided; the personnel will not be subsidized for the work.
0:15:28.5 FB: And they're also... I may be jumping ahead of myself here... But they also are trying to promulgate this idea of air-mindedness, this concept that General Giulio Douhet, as well as General William Mitchell; good old Billy Mitchell will begin to adopt and promulgate. There are exact definitions here, but I tend to prefer this idea of developing an enthusiasm and an interest in not just aircraft but aviation writ large. And they're very interested in this with both youth, American youth, and encouraging air-mindedness in American youth, but also in American adults. And it's not clear in Wilson's writings or others, but there is an awareness that aviation will play a very important role should America find itself in this conflict, and it's gonna require a lot of bodies. You're gonna need a lot of individuals involved in this work. So, inculcating air-mindedness in the American public is absolutely critical if we're going to have the personnel and the resources and the willpower to really develop the air arm necessary to defeat those forces in opposition to the United States. So moving forward [chuckle] in our grand story...
0:16:35.0 MS: Well, this all sounds great, but, as I listen, I hear not only is it going to be joint, but we’ve also got civ, we've also got mil, we're dealing with industry, so we've added all the possible complications and frictions that are imaginable in trying to stand up an organization.
0:16:51.5 FB: Absolutely. The summer of '41 is rather fascinating, and, as a historian, it's very tricky because so few archival sources are available to kind of literally piece together the chronology of actions because, you have Wilson, Gannett and Beck working with LaGuardia. At the same time, you have Milton Knight and the Civil Aeronautics Administration under the Commerce Department actively exploring, basically creating a National Civilian Air Reserve. Again, similar but not quite to what Wilson, Beck and Gannett are proposing. But they're trying to work with Congress to get legislation proposed on a national CAR model, while Wilson has launched his Civil Air Defense Services Program in New Jersey to be the model of his program. Oh, and by the way, now that we have the Office of Civilian Defense, people are writing to them, and they're forwarding these ideas on to Major General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, who's Chief of the Army, the new Army Air Forces at this point, and saying, "General, all these civilians want to do something. What should we do?" And Arnold is... And turns, passing some of this on to Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, although he's getting ideas too from the Commerce Department. The Secretary of Commerce is writing him saying, "Well, we want to do something with civil aviation."
0:18:09.9 FB: And so, all these different ideas their common theme is, "Yes, civil aviation can be useful, and we should do something." But there's no one voice that's really emerging as the person, the power that will say, "This is what it will be." And so, Arnold... When Arnold weighs in on this, he's weighing in on what LaGuardia and the Office of Civilian Defense, as far as I can tell, they've obtained the Civil Air Defense Services plan. Arnold looks at it and Arnold weighs in on it. General Arnold's career is absolutely fascinating because he has crossed paths so many times with private aviation, with industry, with private aircraft industry. He's himself used a light aircraft in a variety of non-military missions. It could be missing aircraft searches, it could be forest fire spotting, it could be courier duties, tactical airlifts. So he sees a value in this, he sees the air-mindedness opportunities, and he sees a great benefit to building up the Army Air Force, which he wants to do, and needs to do with this penultimate goal of independence. But what do you do with all these people?
0:19:12.0 FB: And oh, by the way, Air-Mindedness has grown along this time because the CAA launched the Civilian Pilot Training Program in late 1938. So you now have a lot of college age men and women who have obtained some degree of flight instruction, ground school as well as actual flight instruction in the air. So you have a lot more private pilots than you did before, and you have a lot of people who want to contribute something to the nation. And there's all these voices in the room. What do you do with them? What do you do with them? What do you do with them? In July 1941, Arnold's gonna weigh in on all this thought and he says, "Look, the organization of the existing private flying resources is highly desirable from a national defense standpoint."
0:19:54.9 FB: He feels, "Yes, you can take the Office of Civilian Defense, this new organization, it absolutely could be useful, but it has to stand on its own feet." They cannot come to the army saying, "We need, we need, we need, we need. Give, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme." Because Arnold doesn't have the resources to give. He's aware he does not have the force he needs, and he can't afford... He can ill afford to weaken the defensive and offensive military capabilities of the nation to support a fledgling civilian effort. And he notes that whatever gets created has to be non-professional, character must be preserved, and the personnel vault will have to strictly be limited to military non-effectives. If they can serve in the military, he's gonna want them. Or if he doesn't, the Navy will want them.
0:20:36.3 FB: But out of all of this, once LaGuardia hears where Arnold stands, he appoints Reed Landis to take the Wilson plan and make it functional and coordinate the liaison. Another shrewd move, Landis himself, at the time, is the Vice President with American Airlines. He himself was a fighter ace in World War I; coincidentally he's also the son of Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, and he's served in the National Guard, he's... By American Airlines he's worked with professional civil aviation, but also private aviation. He understands the military and the civilian world, he has a tremendous professional network to bring to bear. And aiding Landis' work in August of '41, and this was something I'd never knew about, I discovered in the course of my research, there was an informal board of Air Corp officers who basically looked at Wilson's plans, they looked at Knight plans, they also looked at a program that the AOPA or Airplane Owners and Pilots Association of America had created called the Air Guard.
0:21:33.6 FB: And they looked at all this, they brought in Wilson, they brought in Landis, the Executive Secretary of the AOPA and then John Hartranft, I may be butchering the pronunciation; as well as representatives from the National Aeronautics Association, the NAA. When they looked at all of it, they said, "Yes, we absolutely can do something. If properly organized and trained, the civilian pilots and aircraft owners could assist the War Department; they could assist the military in minimizing aerial sabotage and subversive activities." And from this, essentially as far as I can tell, this is where the green light is given, "Okay, we're gonna create something out of this." And the name that eventually will emerge is the Civil Air Patrol. LaGuardia on September 29th, 1941, is gonna write to basically the Secretaries of Commerce, Stimson and Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, and say, "This is what the Office of Civilian Defense is gonna do, so we will take the lead on this, and we are gonna create this organization." It's Reed Landis who's in the lead on all of this, but they will bring in Gill Robb Wilson, and he will be requested to come in from New Jersey, and they write to the Governor... LaGuardia says he's gonna basically borrow him, and they bring Wilson in...
0:22:38.9 FB: And between Wilson and Landis and a tiny office, we're talking half a dozen people, they will begin to really come up with everything for the Civil Air Patrol. But you also need a leader to create this whole effort. And you need a leader who has the military background, an understanding of civil aviation, and in a way, that's very shrewd, you bring in someone who has a deep understanding of aviation's potential. And the person who's tapped to be the first National Commander is Major General John F. Curry. Curry is a West Point graduate, he actually flew with the Punitive Expedition, under General Pershing in 1916. He was Chief of Staff for the Second Army Air Service in France in 1918. But more importantly, from 1931 to 1935, he was Commandant of the Air Corp Tactical School at Maxwell field. And he's there at a critical time when all these fantastic ideas are really getting properly organized, written down and codified, as kind of the plan ahead if you will, for the strategic bombing offensive in World War II and also kind of the framework of, "This is what we are going to do with Army aviation in the United States." Curry is also a graduate of Commanding General Staff College, Staff School, excuse me, at the time, and Army War College.
0:23:47.9 FB: He knows everybody. He brings a technical understanding of aviation, but also a deep understanding of what could be, what is possible. And he's really an ideal choice to be CAP's national commander. Everything now seems lined up. Everything seems ready to go, a lot of the friction has been worked out, there's a plan in place. But LaGuardia says "Hold up. No, no, no. We're not quite there yet". And this is where it's an issue of CAP history. As far as I can tell, on December 1st '41, so before American entry into World War II, LaGuardia, informally if you will, will approve the creation of a Civil Air Patrol division within the office of Civilian Defense. He signs a simplified establishment order, purely for informative purposes, but it's not legally formally launched. Then Pearl Harbor happens, and it catches everybody off guard, including the Office of Civilian Defense, LaGuardia, and Wilson.
0:24:39.2 FB: And it's really on the evening of December 8th, 1941, LaGuardia will go on national radio, and announce, "We have this new thing called the Civil Air Patrol as an organization of the Civil Aviation Resources of the Nation for National Defense Service". That's the broad announcement of what CAP is. Is CAP really organized at this time? Not really. We essentially are a paper organization, and December is going to see an expedited if you will, accelerated, energetic rush to get membership applications, spread information, coordinate with the CAA, who's trying to essentially ground civilian flying out of fear of sabotage or guerilla... Fifth column activities, it's over from the nation. And work with airports to educate people on what this new CAP is, and really establish the individual state organizations, which we refer to as Wings. And get the individual state Wings established, founded, organized, trained and ready. But, because so much of the friction and all the varying plans had been figured out before the American entry in the war, Civil Air Patrol is this wonderful resource or potential resource that really is at the right place at the right time.
0:25:54.0 MS: It's really interesting, having had a front row seat to watching the stand-up at the Space Force, is all of the friction that goes into standing up a new organization, that the military has a big bureaucracy, and how it calves off new institutions. So, this is a really interesting parallel. So, obviously in December of 1941, there's gonna be a lot of enthusiasm for volunteering time and resources, and the Civil Air Patrol really is an all hands operation. They're really unusual for the 1940s in being all races, all genders, color, creed, everybody's welcome. How does that work out?
0:26:31.2 FB: So what's really interesting about the Civil Air Patrol at this time is due in large part to the Office of Civilian Defense. And even before that, really, A. Philip Randolph's threatened march on Washington to desegregate the war industries. The advantage for Civil Air Patrol and how it is so inclusive at its origin, can directly be traced back to be the issuance of Executive Order 8802 by President Roosevelt on June 25th, 1941. This really prohibits ethnic or racial discrimination in the nation's defense industry. However, there's also... Within there, it's also saying that it's barring discrimination with the federal government as well. And it's because of that little entry, as far as I can tell, that, since Civil Air Patrol, even if it's volunteer, is under the Office of Civilian Defense, which is a federal entity. This is why CAP cannot discriminate against any individual on the grounds of race, creed, color, and national origin. Although national origin, Civil Air Patrol does block members of enemy nations if you will. And, if you're a naturalized citizen of a friendly nation, you're fine. If you're a naturalized citizen, say of Germany, or Italy, or Japan, they somewhat treat it on a case-by-case basis.
0:27:51.4 FB: But the upshot to this is, from the start, Civil Air Patrol has women, and women flying, not just grounded. We do have African-American members, we have Asian-Pacific, Chinese-Americans, we do have some German and Italian-Americans, naturalized citizens flying in the organization. There's plenty of Latino members, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican-American members of the Civil Air Patrol. So, we have this diversity from day one. Unfortunately, the state and local policies, discriminatory policies in place do adversely infect Civil Air Patrol. And we can talk more about that later. For the most part, CAP is pretty damn inclusive from the start. If you can fly, and you have an interest in aviation, and even if you can't fly, but you're interested in aviation, CAP would like you to join. We want you to be part of this, part of this team, part of this exciting new era that's being launched.
0:28:41.4 MS: What I found really interesting was that these private planes are flying low and they're flying slow, and it turns out that that's really effective. What is it that they do really well with the assets that they have?
0:28:54.4 FB: One of the big advantages to these light civilian planes, as you just said, they can fly safely at low altitudes at slow speeds. And in an era where radar has yet to really be miniaturized to fit in aircrafts, you don't have this myriad of sensor technologies. Essentially your sensor consists of the Mark I Eyeball, and perhaps a pair of binoculars if you have some. Those are your assets, to spot an item from the air on the ground. If your job is essentially, we want you to fly back and forth over a given piece of real estate, be it ocean or land, and tell us what you see that seems amiss using small aircraft that are very affordable to maintain, very affordable to service and fly, that have nice loiter times. It's ideal for the task as opposed to taking a low wing high performance aircraft, and sending it zipping out over land or the ocean, or 300, 400 miles per hour. You're moving too fast that you... It's very easy to miss something, to miss an anomaly if you will, in whatever the terrain is, either land or water that you're looking at.
0:29:57.2 MS: And we know from the U-boats themselves, that unlike a B-17 flying over where they just have to wait it out, something that's patrolling, this actually deters them and makes them go away.
0:30:08.5 FB: Absolutely, the Navy is very skeptical of this idea of low, slow, and civilians flying over the ocean, "Ah, balderdash, blasphemy, we can't do that. They're gonna kill themselves. They're gonna be crying for help all the time. They're not gonna know what they're looking at. Come on, give me a break, and you can't do this." This is one school of thought in the Navy, at the same token, Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, commander of the Eastern Sea Frontier, he needs eyes out over water. He needs information. He needs intelligence saying, "What's there? Tell us what you see." And he looks at Civil Air Patrol and goes, "No, these could be useful." These could form, in his words, a 'scarecrow patrol'. Essentially, a continuous deterrent, aerial deterrent, at least during daytime hours, which, if he can keep those merchant ships safe during the day, and move them then to protected areas where he can use his limited assets to better protect them, it's absolutely... He'd be idiotic not to do that. And so he looks at CAP and says, "Yes, I can use them, I want them, I can use them."
0:31:10.3 FB: Chief of Naval Operations who was also Commander-in-Chief US Fleet, Admiral Ernest J. King basically says, that, "I don't want to use them." But it was too late, because the army had already given CAP the green light to fly out over the ocean. And it's in a way... Thankfully because of that, Andrews eventually will gain full operational control of the CAP planes. And they provide, as a famous 1943 recruiting poster said, "They become the eyes of the home skies." The CAP volunteers are gonna provide a low-cost, constant aerial surveillance over at least the inland shipping lines, from the shoreline to 15 miles out, where a considerable number of merchants ships are trafficking up and down the East Coast, and no submarine is gonna want to engage at our merchant any type of target if they're under potential or constant aerial surveillance. Because they don't necessarily know if that aircraft is armed, they don't know if that aircraft is equipped with communication devices, and it may be one plane initially, but it could then turn into a whole squadron of aircraft. It could then turn into a destroyer or a destroyer escort. They don't know. If they're wise, they don't want to wait and find out that that submarine is likely to submerge and call off its attack, and potentially leave the area or at least allow a target to escape unscathed.
0:32:22.3 MS: It may be a financial low cost, but the Civil Air Patrol loses, what, 20, 26 people doing these patrols?
0:32:29.5 FB: We lose, 26 killed, and we also lose about approximately 90 aircraft. And these are all privately owned aircraft, with varying degrees of insurance if you will. And the 26, they're all men, but the 26 men who were killed, they are not veterans, at least in the sense of World War II veteran. They're not military personnel so there is no benefit for the families. They may have private life insurance, but that's basically it. They really are expendable forgotten American service members in a sense; not quite equivalent to civilian war fighters, civilian contractors of today, but very close, in the sense of how the general public per se, thinks about them. When we think of Veterans Day, really Memorial Day in this instance, beyond CAP recognizing its own fallen, they're kind of forgotten, they're really forgotten, and yet they went to sea, flying out over the ocean, and it was the bare minimum of survival gear. And an understanding that should they go down, the odds are not necessarily in their favor, particularly in the winter months, in the cold waters of the Atlantic.
0:33:27.3 MS: You mentioned that this had gotten into public perception, and one of the best primary documents you showed me when you were putting the book together, were a couple of the unit insignia, and the moment I looked at 'em, I said, "That's Disney." They were really smart about getting out into the funny papers, they were getting really recognizable iconography, tell me a little bit about that.
0:33:48.3 FB: The contemporary Civil Air Patrol likes to say, "We're the Air Force's best kept secret," which is a misnomer, In World War II, the Coastal Patrol was probably the worst kept secret, because despite being told, "You cannot talk about this. There's no photography allowed, no one must know." The best way to research about them is look to the local newspapers because they have lots of stories talking about the bases, and talking about the people and everything else, and one of the members who joined CAP actually very early in the organization's existence is cartoonist Zack Mosley, who has a very popular syndicated cartoon called "Smilin' Jack" and it's aviation themed. And Mosley being a pilot himself, actually becomes a Coastal Patrol pilot, Coastal Patrol Base 3 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Mosley will feature CAP's Coastal Patrol in his cartoons. And he can't give all the details away, but he at least includes enough so that the people learn about Civil Air Patrol. You'll have whole cartoons talking about essentially what CAP's up to, and he'll design some of these insignia, these very colorful cartoony insignia for the individual CAP Coastal Patrol Units.
0:34:54.0 FB: Now Walt Disney as well has even before America entering the war, began offering the services of designing military insignia for free for anyone who wrote to them. And, several CAP units actually reached out to Walt Disney and said, "Would you create a logo for our Coastal Patrol Base?" And as far as I can tell where located, they did have insignia for three bases created, and those were Coastal Patrol Base 14, which was located in Panama City, Florida. They also have Coastal Patrol Base 16, which was located in Manteo, North Carolina, although they never used the insignia, and the last was Coastal Patrol base 18 in Falmouth, Massachusetts. And all these actually had Disney designed Unit insignia.
0:35:34.7 FB: The case of the one for Manteo, North Carolina is actually a gigantic mosquito; its proboscis is kind of digging into a U-Boat if you will, attacking the U-Boat, literally sucking the blood out of it. I think the Base 18 insignia, it's Donald Duck, and he has a little CAP insignia in his eyes, and then for base 14, which is probably the most whimsical of all, is Donald Duck holding an umbrella, wearing roller skates riding a winged bomb, it's absolutely fantastic. Unsurprisingly, quite a few of the other bases that opted to create insignia, if Disney didn't design them, they're absolutely Disney-inspired. As much as being these volunteer organizations, they absolutely began to present themselves rightfully so, as uniformed military organizations and even adopting insignia that was parallel with those of military organizations in the country at the time.
0:36:22.0 MS: Unlike a lot of other World War II innovative organizations, what the Civil Air Patrol did was successful enough to actually outlive the end of the war.
0:36:31.5 FB: And that's probably one of the most fascinating parts of the Civil Air Patrol story. It's anti-submarine patrol operation. It is an absolutely a success in the sense that it expands from a tiny experimental effort to eventually encompassing 21 independent air bases if you will, either independent bases or I should say they're operations connected with a larger airfield or airbase, and they're all funded largely by either the pockets of the volunteers, or the War Department is actually picking up 95% of the tab for these CAP bases. Now I should note to the listeners, these bases are costing, and this is war-time figures, they're not adjusted for temporary inflation; we'll say about $20,000-$30,000 a month is what it takes to operate one of these bases. And we're talking 15 pilots and 15 observers, not necessarily 15 planes, but at least the aircraft would sometimes average about 15-20 or more if they needed spare aircraft if you will, because of maintenance issues. And we're talking upwards of 78, close to 80 personnel. The cost of a single B-24 or heavy bomber or B-17 heavy bomber, we're looking at figures that are well over $250,000 per aircraft.
0:37:38.7 FB: So, the CAP... For 420 civ aircraft, that are being fielded by CAP, comes at a very small cost in the grand scheme, it's a very cost-effective effort. But, because of the financial structure of CAP, as Arnold said very early on, we're only gonna allow the existing resources, you can't come to the army saying, "Give us airplanes or give us people." That was not the agreement. CAP really burns itself out, at least the anti-submarine operation will begin to really burn itself out in the fall of '42, when they have 21 bases running, and they're unable to obtain the kind of priority rating to obtain spare parts, to obtain proper maintenance. They're running out of people because the trained aircraft mechanics are all getting drafted or enlisting in the military, pilots are flying upwards of 40 plus hours operational patrol time a week, but not getting adequate crew rest, and the aircraft maintenance becomes creative to say the least, to keep some of these planes aloft. And it's a dangerous situation, you have worn out planes flown by tired air crews, simply unable to get adequate parts or even in some cases, adequate facilities to maintain the aircraft, even when they have parts.
0:38:42.7 FB: And the end results of all of this is CAP finds itself in a very difficult situation in about October, November of '42, and they essentially go to the War Department saying, "We're done, if you can't support us, we gotta quit. We got to disband this." The War Department says, "No, no, no, we won't let you quit. However, we're going to reduce your flying hours, and you can spend all your copious new free time preparing your planes, fixing your bases, training your personnel," but looking at the surviving statistical data, the flying hours don't... Because you now have 21 bases, they don't seemingly decrease that much, and CAP is still flying a substantial number of patrol hours, but the problems...
0:39:18.2 FB: These problems are going to get Hap Arnold, and, at this point, the Office of Civilian Defense is under James Landis, under Director James Landis, they're gonna begin talking and they're gonna say, "The army is saying, we're paying 95% of the bills for this operation, we really like it, it's really helpful to us, we should just take it over, we're already doing the lion's share of the work. We should just have it." Landis really doesn't want to lose CAP, it's really the app... The jewel in the crown of the Office of Civilian Defense; it's the one group of civilian defense volunteers who can strike back at the enemy who actually are directly engaged in armed operations against the enemy. They don't want to lose that because if you take that away, they are largely left with...
0:39:56.9 FB: As LaGuardia would call it, sissy stuff; operations and volunteer work that has nothing to do with directly confronting the enemy. There's no irate wardens here running around and saying, "Black out your lights," or running drills, and CAP is his spear, so to speak. Landis doesn't win that argument. And, on April 29th of 1943, President Roosevelt is gonna issue an executive order, and he's gonna transfer just Civil Air Patrol from the Office of Civilian Defense, over to the War Department under the auspices of the Army Air Forces. By 1944, CAP is actually being referred to as the auxiliary of the Army Air Forces. Long-term what this means is by June of '45, now President Harry Truman looks around and he says, "Oh, Germany's been defeated, Japan's a long way from the United States, and we haven't had any enemy air attacks beyond... Yes, the Japanese balloon bombs, which that's top secret, don't let anybody know about that. But we're really not being attacked." There's... Where's the threat?
0:40:47.1 FB: And, he issues an executive order and says, "Disband the Office of Civilian Defense; men and women it's been fun. It's been great. Thank you, but we don't need you anymore." And a lot of the state's free, there's nothing for them to do, "Let's just disband this program." So civilian defense goes away, but CAP, because it moved, is the only remnant of LaGuardia's Office of Civilian Defense that still exists, then and now. And then post-war, to make a very long story even shorter, Civil Air Patrol, when the war ends, they're funding and their patronage if you will, from the word patron, essentially is gonna cease. And what they will do is the senior leaders of CAP who are very politically connected in their states as well as with their congressional representatives, will actually get CAP congressionally chartered in 1946, and CAP then becomes this incorporated organization. And following the establishment of the Independent Air Force in 1947, in 1948 legislation will be passed, making them an auxiliary of the United States Air Force, which is a status CAP enjoys to this day, as a big part of why CAP still exists.
0:41:46.1 MS: You mentioned that the CAP is the Air Force's kind of a best kept secret, I was excited to see that they've also embraced all of the Air Force's missions, which include space and cyber. So they are still on the leading edge, right?
0:42:00.4 FB: Absolutely. Civil Air Patrol today is very much deeply involved with... As a member of the Total Force, CAP is absolutely involved in these rising fields on cyber security and cyber defense, and a program not just with our adult members, but particularly with the young men and women of the CAP cadet organization. And, CAP's cyber mission really began to develop, and is developing the future generation of cyberspace defense operators, not just for the Air Force, but for our fledgling United States Space Force. And we work very closely with the Air Force Association who has a deep connection of course to the Air Force, as well as CAP. And, presumably also with the Space Force. We all work together in a national...
0:42:40.4 FB: It's called CyberPatriot, it's the National Youth Cyber Education Program trying to steer young men and women to military service and cyber security as well as in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM. Recently though, for the adult members, CAP has partnered with Cisco, the Cisco Networking Academy to allow the adult members to have access to cyber security and support training and as well as curriculum resources. All of this is tied into using CAP, the civilians of today, youth and adults as a potential pool of personnel for the United States military in the event of any future conflict that will have people who are already cyber-minded, if you will, to participate, entering the military service in uniform, or in a civilian capacity, working hand-in-hand with our defense partners for the nation's security and defense.
0:43:27.3 MS: It's really important to you, and it's very clear in your work that the Civil Air Patrol should understand and value its history as they understand its goals for the future. So, to wrap up, could you tell us, why do you do what you do, and why is this important as a historian?
0:43:44.2 FB: Well, I can certainly say I don't do it for money, because as a fellow Civilian Air Patrol member, we like to say CAP stands affectionately for 'Come and Pay' because yes, to this day, CAP members buy their own uniforms, in many cases pay for own training or conference attendance and whatnot. But, to me, Civil Air Patrol as a historian, and as a curator, is a fascinating organization, because when we talk about the Civil Military gap as it exists today in the United States, and this distance between the military institution, military service and the civilian world, CAP offers this fascinating bridge to introduce young men and women to not just the Air Force, but the military as a whole, and what the United States military means and what it also does for the American people, and in a way the world writ large.
0:44:30.5 FB: And so, CAP can become this fascinating conduit for the DOD and the United States Air Force to interact with the American public, in a way that is essentially not overtly militaristic, but rather go back to this origin, these ideas of air-mindedness and really now it's air and space and cyber-mindedness; to encourage STEM education, to encourage young men and women to look to a career in any of these fields, whether it's for the military, or whether it's for the civilian community, but all of it can be an advantage to the nation's defense. Can... And, we have plenty of great success stories in Civil Air Patrol, particularly for our cadet program of young men and women, entering the... Using Civil Air Patrol's cadet program really as a steppingstone to enter the United States military. It could be through the service academies, direct enlistment or RTC. The CAP can claim an Air Force Chief of Staff, a chief master sergeant at the Air Force, our former Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson's grandfather was a Civil Air Patrol member and helped inspire her to go into aviation as a career.
0:45:30.5 FB: We can point to MacArthur fellows, astronauts, aviation pioneers, Colonel Ruth Cheney Streeter of the Marine Corps, who was Director of the Women Marines in World War II. She was first a CAP member, and even before that, was in the New Jersey's Civil Air Defense Services, good old Gill Robb Wilson's original program. CAP is very proud of our past, and we offer a fascinating example to the American public of what's possible, particularly in a partnership too in the military, and that's essentially a civilian organization. We're a great success story, and it's an organization that curiously the United States Army, the United States Navy, really don't have anything equivalent. Beyond the Coast Guard Auxiliary, you really don't have any other uniformed civilian auxiliary, and there's fascinating potential there. We do have young marines, we do have the Sea Cadets, but they're not of the same visibility stature and operational utility as the Civil Air Patrol and the Coast Guard Auxiliary have been for the American public since really, 1941.
0:46:26.7 MS: Thank you for joining us, this is Dr. Frank Blazich at the Smithsonian. I love it as a historian when things connect so beautifully from past to present to future, so, please check for the downloadable link for his excellent new book and join us next time on Wild Blue Yonder on the Air.
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