On Dec. 10, Civil Air Patrol was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Capitol Hill in honor of its founding members’ role in protecting the homeland against deadly German U-boat attacks during World War II and carrying out other vital wartime domestic missions.
The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony took place at 3 p.m. in Statuary Hall at the Capitol. About 40 living veterans and dozens of members of their families as well as the families of deceased veterans were in attendance. Later that evening a celebratory dinner sponsored by CITGO was held at 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where bronze replica medals was presented to the World War II-era CAP members courtesy of the oil giant. Sunoco and Sunoco Logistic were also major sponsors of the events.
Among those being recognized by the award were:
• Robert T. S. Colby, 86 of Alexandria
• Carolyn Guertin, 85, of Richmond
Several were not able to attend the ceremony in person and will have more personalized ceremonies to recognize the award and present them the replica medal that is given to each recipient.
• Wesley V. Hillman, of Roanoke, VA
On February 6, 2015, a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony was held for Mr. Wesley V. Hillman. The ceremony was held at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. There is a Wesley G. Hillman Exhibit at the museum commemorating Mr. Hillman’s many years of contribution to the aviation community through operating Hillman Flying Service for many years. Around 75-80 friends, family members, dignitaries, church members and many representatives of Civil Air Patrol were present to honor Mr. Hillman for his World War II service.
During World War II, members of CAP coastal patrols, flying their own or borrowed planes, flew 24 million miles from March 1942-August 1943 over the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in order to ward off German U-boat attacks against U.S. shipping – especially domestic oil tankers bound for Europe to help fuel the military machine. They did so at the request of the U.S. Petroleum Industry War Council, because the U.S. Navy lacked the resources to guard against the submarine attacks and provide escorts for commercial convoys. The CAP coastal patrols, flying out of 21 bases located along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to the southern tip of Texas, spotted 173 U-boats and attacked 57.
They also escorted more than 5,600 convoys and reported 17 floating mines, 36 bodies, 91 ships in distress and 363 survivors in the water. Other pioneering Civil Air Patrol members patrolled the country’s borders by air, vigilant for potential saboteurs. In addition, they towed targets for military trainees, watched for forest fires, conducted search and rescue missions, provided disaster relief and emergency transport of people and parts and conducted orientation flights for future pilots. In all, 65 CAP members lost their lives in the line of duty by the end of the war. The Senate passed legislation authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2013, with the House following suit a year later. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law May 30.
“I salute CAP’s founding members for their legacy of service and sacrifice in protecting the homeland during World War II,” said Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, CAP’s national commander. “Now, some 73 years later, CAP’s rich history of service continues. Modern-day members, nearly 60,000 strong, still perform vital homeland security missions, search and rescue missions and provide emergency response for natural and manmade disasters.”
In-depth information about CAP and its World War II missions and members, including those listed above, can be found at www.capgoldmedal.com.