History and World War II
In the late 1930s, more than 150,000 volunteers with a love for aviation argued for an organization to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country. As a result, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was born one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of volunteer members answered America’s call to national service and sacrifice by accepting and performing critical wartime missions. Assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Corps, the Civil Air Patrol logged more than 500,000 flying hours, sinking two enemy submarines, and saving hundreds of crash victims during World War II.
Members of the Virginia Wing flew their personal aircraft in coastal patrols for German submarines and towed targets for air gunnery practice. Much of this was done at the volunteer’s own expense and risk.
After the war, Civil Air Patrol would continue providing valuable services to both local and national agencies. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 incorporating Civil Air Patrol as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. On May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law 557 permanently establishing Civil Air Patrol as the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Three primary mission areas were set forth at that time: aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency services.
Virginia Wing Today
CAP continues its three Congressionally charted missions today. Virginia Wing is headquartered in Richmond with 24 local units throughout the Commonwealth. We participate in air and ground search and rescue missions looking for missing aircraft and lost persons, fly aerial photography missions to do damage assessment (including Hurricane Sandy and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill), and operate the largest privately owned nationwide radio communications network. To read more about Emergency Services missions, click here.
Virginia Wing also has a thriving cadet program, with over 800 youth aged 12-20 participating in a hands-on program that emphasizes personal and team leadership, aerospace education, character and personal ethics, and physical fitness. Cadets are an integral part of the organization, and are active participants in emergency services operations. Cadets have the opportunity to fly in CAP’s fleet of single-engine aircraft and non-powered gliders, participate in state, national, and international programs, and can earn scholarships for education or flight training. To learn more about the Cadet Program, click here.
Having been founded by aviation enthusiasts, CAP maintains an active aerospace education program for both for its members and the general public. Aerospace is a key component of the cadet program, and senior members can participate in an optional aerospace program as well. CAP also provides numerous outreach efforts, including offering school teachers an opportunity to fly in CAP aircraft, distributing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education kits, and aviation curriculum materials for public schools. To learn more about Aerospace Education, click here.