March 2, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to honor World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol with the Congressional Gold Medal for using their own aircraft to conduct combat operations and other emergency missions.
The introduction of bills in the House and Senate starts a national campaign to honor Civil Air Patrol veterans in time for the organization’s seventieth anniversary on Dec. 1. The CAP was established in 1941, one week before Pearl Harbor.
Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) said, “During World War II, these courageous men and women dutifully patrolled our air space, searched for submarines off our coasts, and provided our nation with whatever they were asked to give. They made the same sacrifices I and thousands of uniformed armed service members made during that historic conflict. They deserve our praise and should be honored for their service."
The Congressional Gold Medal commemorates distinguished service to the nation and is considered by many to be the highest form of congressional recognition. Since 1776, only about 300 such awards have been given to a wide range of military leaders and accomplished civilians, including George Washington, John Glenn, Robert Frost, Douglas MacArthur, and Colin Powell. Foreigners awarded the medal include Winston Churchill, Simon Wiesenthal, and Mother Teresa.
The award to Civil Air Patrol would be unusual in that a single medal would be awarded for the collective efforts of all CAP World War II adult members. Other organizations that have been recognized by Congress for their wartime contributions include the Navajo Code Talkers, Tuskegee Airmen, and Women Airforce Service Pilots.
CAP and its members have received little recognition for their World War II service, particularly the anti-submarine coastal patrols, and were not granted veterans’ benefits.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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