The origins of Civil Air Patrol date back to 1936, when Gill Robb Wilson, World War I aviator and New Jersey director of aeronautics, returned from Germany convinced of impending war. Wilson envisioned mobilizing America’s civilian aviators for national defense, an idea shared by others.
In Ohio, Milton Knight, a pilot and businessman, organized and incorporated the Civilian Air Reserve (CAR) in 1938. Other military-styled civilian aviation units emerged nationwide, training for homeland defense.
Founded on Dec. 1, 1941, Wilson launched his perfected program: the Civil Air Defense Services (CADS). That summer, tasked by Fiorello H. LaGuardia (New York mayor and director of the federal Office of Civilian Defense and also a World War I aviator), Wilson, publisher Thomas H. Beck and newspaperman Guy P. Gannett proposed Wilson’s CADS program as a model for organizing the nation’s civilian aviation resources.
Their proposal for a Civil Air Patrol was approved by the Commerce, Navy, and War departments in November, and CAP national headquarters opened its doors on Dec. 1, under the direction of national commander Maj. Gen. John F. Curry. Existing CADS, CAR and other flying units soon merged under the CAP banner. Public announcement of CAP and national recruiting commenced on Dec. 8.
As a Total Force partner and Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, Civil Air Patrol is there to search for and find the lost, provide comfort in times of disaster and work to keep the homeland safe. Its 60,000 members selflessly devote their time, energy and expertise toward the well-being of their communities, while also promoting aviation and related fields through aerospace/STEM education and helping shape future leaders through CAP’s cadet program.
Civil Air Patrol’s missions for America are many, and today’s adults and cadets perform their duties with the same vigilance as its founding members — preserving CAP’s 75-year legacy of service while maintaining its commitment to nearly 1,500 communities nationwide.
To mobilize the nation's civilian aviation resources for national defense service, CAP has evolved into a premier public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions when needed — in the air and on the ground
Supporting America's communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development and promotion of air, space and cyber power.
Civil Air Patrol, America's Air Force auxiliary, building the nation's finest force of citizen volunteers serving America.
Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence and Respect.