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Civil Air Patrol WWII members’ gold medal journey new website tells their stories, describes their service

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- Civil Air Patrol has launched a website, “Our Congressional Gold Medal Journey,” that tells the story of its volunteer service during the early days of World War II.

The website features members’ accounts of taking to the sky off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to help prevent deadly German U-boat attacks against American shipping vessels. Others recount their participation in numerous domestic missions to aid the war effort.

Their legacy is outlined in words, videos, photos and graphics, spotlighting many of the heart-warming stories that led to the organization’s pending Congressional Gold Medal for its World War II service, scheduled for final approval in the U.S. House of Representatives next week. These founding members of CAP came from all walks of life, ranging from ordinary men and women in communities across the country to a noted Hollywood director and a world-famous pianist, a Munchkin from “The Wizard of Oz,” a sitting state governor, a storied Wall Street financier, a pioneering African-American female aviator, future Tuskegee Airmen and the founders of a major brewery and a famous doughnut chain.

The Congressional Gold Medal will recognize CAP’s contributions during World War II, when CAP members used their own aircraft to conduct volunteer combat operations and other emergency wartime missions under hazardous conditions.

CAP’s unique World War II story, which has been essentially untold until now, is reflective of the volunteer American spirit that has been a hallmark of the nation since its founding days. Early in the war, after supply ships leaving American ports to support the Allied war effort began drawing deadly attacks off the East Coast, CAP pilots carried out anti-submarine missions. This was in addition to calling in the Navy and Coast Guard when they spotted German U-boats. Their vigilance helped discourage and eventually halt the U-boat attacks.

Over 18 months, CAP anti-submarine coastal patrols flew more than 24 million miles, spotting 173 U-boats and attacking 57. They also escorted more than 5,600 convoys and reported 17 floating mines, 91 ships in distress and 363 survivors in the water.

In addition, members towed targets for military pilots, carried out search and rescue missions, flew border patrols, provided flight orientation for potential Army Air Corps recruits and conducted flight training for men, women and cadets.

Until now, the role they played in establishing that legacy has been their reward.

The website also features new perspectives, in the form of a blog presenting fresh takes on various aspects of CAP’s World War II legacy. CAP will also post the latest developments as the vote for the Congressional Gold Medal draws near, including advance notification of events associated with this prestigious honor.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs about 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 70 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.

The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 72 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans.

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