CAP marks 70th anniversary, honors World War II members
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- Civil Air Patrol members observed the 70th anniversary of its founding with a ceremony Dec. 1 at its national headquarters here.
During the ceremony, which celebrated the past, present and future of the official civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, CAP leaders presented Exceptional Service Awards to a pair of the organization's World War II members.
CAP Lt. Cols. Wendall Haas and Otha Vaughan, both members of the CAP Alabama Wing, were honored for their service during CAP's wartime years. They received their awards from Col. Al Bedgood, the CAP Southeast Region commander. In addition, Don Rowland, the executive director at CAP National Headquarters, presented each man with a framed commemorative 70th-anniversary poster and an anniversary coin.
Haas, 88, joined the CAP in 1942, serving as an officer in a squadron in California's San Fernando Valley. He played a vital role on the ground in support of CAP's subchasers as an airplane and engine mechanic, including patching planes shot while towing targets for pilots training in military planes.
Vaughan joined the CAP in 1944 as a 15-year-old cadet. His mother drove him to squadron meetings in Anderson, S.C., because no unit existed in his hometown of Seneca. After nearly 30 years in active and reserve Air Force service, he retired as an Air Force lieutenant colonel in 1989. At 82 years old, Vaughan is an active member of the Huntsville Senior Squadron in Alabama, having rejoined CAP in 2005. He serves as the unit's historian, an assistant aerospace education officer, and a mission scanner during search and rescue exercise missions.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Roger Watkins, the commander of the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development here, was a guest speaker at the ceremony. During his speech, he highlighted the bravery and patriotism of the men and women who serve in the CAP, especially during World War II.
"CAP members who served during World War II played a critical role in the defense of America's homeland," Watkins said. "Their contributions were varied, as evidenced by the distinguished service of our honorees, but their collective efforts, both on ground and in the air, were nothing short of remarkable. As volunteer patriotic Americans, who provided service at their own expense and even by flying their own airplanes, they actually spotted nearly 150 German submarines, attacked 57 and sank two."
Air Force Col. Paul Gloyd, the commander of CAP-U.S. Air Force and another guest speaker at the ceremony, echoed Watkins' praise for that wartime record, lauding "the thousands of men and women who followed their hearts and volunteered to serve their country during World War II.
"That same patriotic service is still the hallmark of success of Civil Air Patrol," Gloyd said. "Today, CAP is a world-class public service organization consisting of members who, like their forefathers, give selflessly every day to make a profound difference all across America in their communities.
"No matter when and how they are called to serve -- whether providing aerial and ground team reconnaissance for natural disasters and emergencies, nurturing the leadership skills of our youth, promoting aerospace education, partnering with the Air Force to keep America safe, or honoring veterans through the Wreaths Across America program -- CAP members never cease to impress me with their dedication and commitment to this outstanding organization," he added.
Rowland said there is an effort under way in both houses of Congress to secure approval of legislation that would honor CAP's World War II senior members with a congressional Gold Medal.
"Their wartime service was highly unusual," he said, "because they were civilian volunteers flying combat missions in their own aircraft."
Article by Air Force News Service