Civil Air Patrol was conceived in the late 1930s by legendary New Jersey aviation advocate Gill Robb Wilson, who foresaw aviation’s role in war and general aviation’s potential to supplement America’s military operations. With the help of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the new Civil Air Patrol was established on December 1, 1941, just days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
The CAP insignia, a red three-bladed propeller in the Civil Defense white-triangle-in-blue-circle, began appearing on private aircraft everywhere. CAP initially planned only on liaison and reconnaissance flying, but the civilian group’s mission expanded when German submarines began to prey on American ships off the coast of the United States and CAP planes began carrying bombs and depth charges.
The CAP coastal patrol flew 24 million miles, found 173 submarines, attacked 57, hit 10 and sank two. By Presidential Executive Order, CAP became an auxiliary of the Army Air Forces in 1943.
On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 that incorporated CAP as a benevolent, nonprofit organization.
And on May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law 557 which permanently established CAP as the Auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force (created as an independent armed service the previous year). This law also gave the Secretary of the Air Force the authority to provide financial and material assistance to the organization.