Ohio Wing of the Civil Air Patrol in World War II – A Brief Overview
Frank Blazich, Maj, CAP
Ohio Wing Historian
Emblem: The Ohio Wing patch was approved by National CAP Headquarters on 20 October 1950. The original designer remains unknown.
Description: On an azure disc bordered argent, a Wright Flyer in Argent at the fess point is superimposed over a map of the state of Ohio. The map in Gules at the nombril point is trimmed in Argent. A Tenne depth is on the southern and eastern sides of the state’s trim. The undercarriage, wire bracing, struts, and edges of the forward horizontal elevator are silver-gray. The struts and supporting wire braces extend from the top or leading edge of the upper wing to the top or leading edge of the lower wing. At the middle chief are the Arabic numerals “51” in silver-gray.
Significance: The map of Ohio signifies the home for the wing. The Wright Flyer pays homage to Orville and Wilbur Wright, natives of Dayton, Ohio who invented and constructed the world’s first successful airplane in 1903. The Flyer depicted is this airplane. The colors of azure, gules, and argent are representative of the colors of the Ohio state flag, as well as the colors of the Civil Air Patrol. Centered above the map of the state are the numerals “51” in silver-gray, for the Ohio Wing was the first state in the Army’s Fifth Service Corps area during World War II, as designated by Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters in Operations Directive No. 1, 12 February 1942.
Established on 1 December 1941, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) organized the nation’s civilian pilots into a type of “flying minutemen,” utilizing private aviation resources for the nation’s defense. The founding of the CAP predated the Second World War in both concept and development. Aircraft demonstrated their utility in World War I, fulfilling virtually every role undertaken in subsequent wars. Air combat in the opening stages of World War II demonstrated the immense value that aviation offered for military operations. As Americans watched the war unfold overseas, the U.S. civilian aviation resources numbered 100,000 private pilots, 25,000 private aircraft, and more than 2,500 small airfields. Gill Robb Wilson, a veteran aviator from World War I, editor of the New York Herald Tribune aviation page, president of the National Aeronautics Association, and director of the New Jersey Bureau of Aviation, foresaw the use of these civilian resources in 1936 after a visit to Germany. Convinced that war loomed on the horizon, Wilson in the summer of 1941 persuaded New Jersey Governor Charles Edison to grant him permission to develop the New Jersey Civil Air Defense Services (NJ CADS), which would serve as the direct model for the Civil Air Patrol. Wilson’s plan offered several missions for the pilots, including safeguarding airports, aerial liaison, and coastal patrol work. Patrol work in particular sought to deny spies and saboteurs from landing and attacking American industrial infrastructure. Wilson’s decision to establish the NJ CADS (and subsequently CAP) was influenced by aviation developments in other states from 1938 to 1941. Developments in Ohio, however, would directly influence the eventual creation of the Civil Air Patrol.
OHIO WING'S INITIAL OPERATIONS AND SERVICES
Subsequent CAR units developed across the country from 1939 to 1941. In the fall of 1940, the Aeronautical Advisory Council of the Department of Commerce subsequently appointed Milton to chair a committee to plan for the establishment of a national program. The same year, the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association launched a similar organization, the Civil Air Guard. Wilson initially swung the weight of the NAA behind the CAR program in 1940. Following the establishment of the federal Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) in May 1941, OCD Director Fiorello LaGuardia tasked Wilson and other aviation advocates to draft plans to organize the nation’s civilian aviation resources for homeland defense. These plans would in time culminate with the creation of the CAP.
After taking office in 1939, Governor John W. Bricker appointed Cleveland resident Earle L. Johnson as Director of Aeronautics for the Ohio Bureau of Aeronautics. A graduate of The Ohio State University who played on the first OSU football team to win the Big Ten championship in 1916, Johnson’s interest in aviation began in the mid-1920s thanks to his neighbor and Cleveland native David Ingalls, the only United States Navy fighter ace from World War I. Ingalls and Johnson served together in the Ohio House of Representatives for several years in the 1920s, which further developed Johnson’s views on aviation. While working for Governor Bricker, Johnson in September 1941 organized Ohio’s civilian pilots into a state wing of the Civil Air Defense Service. The Ohio Wing began recruiting its first members on 22 September 1941. When the OCD established the CAP in December 1941, the state Civil Air Defense wing evolved into a CAP wing, with Johnson serving as the first wing commander. On 24 December 1941, Johnson went to Washington to serve as the Assistant Executive Officer for the CAP; in January 1942 he became Executive Officer. In March 1942, Johnson entered active army service as a captain in the Army Air Forces and succeeded Major General John F. Curry as the national commander of the CAP, a position he held until his death in 1947.
The Ohio Wing grew rapidly following the onset of the war. Under Johnson and later wing commander CAP Colonel George A. Stone, Jr., the wing recruited men and women throughout the state. Governor Bricker joined CAP in May 1942, as did Congressman John M. Vorys, himself a World War I naval aviator and former director of the Ohio Bureau of Aeronautics. Initial operations in the days after the Pearl Harbor attack included patrolling major gas mains that supplied state arsenals and guarding reservoirs. In the early months of 1942, Ohio CAP members trained extensively to improve their flying proficiency for any eventuality. By October, the wing numbered 4,212 men and women organized into 9 groups and over 39 squadrons, making the Ohio Wing the second largest CAP wing in the nation. Groups existed in Willoughby, Akron, Cleveland, Mansfield, Toledo, Dayton, Columbus, Athens, and Cincinnati, with squadrons located nearby. The Cleveland Group became extremely active in the state, establishing an all-female squadron, a military police squadron, and an engineering squadron.
Following training, the Ohio Wing undertook a variety of missions on behalf of the war effort. The wing conducted state-wide searches for scrap metal in response to OCD scrap drives for metal, tires, and other resources, saving countless hour of ground searches and locating well over a quarter million pounds of scrap metal. One “junk hunt” near Cleveland found an abandoned railroad, with the scrap iron track estimated to sell for over $55,000. Other flights conducted observation flights during blackouts and assisted civilian defense efforts to camouflage war industries in the state. Several squadrons also maintained constant aerial patrol over the state’s valuable timber resources through the CAP Forest Patrol service. The eagle eyes of Ohio CAP members prevented large forest fires from erupting in 1942. In 1943, these aircrews flew 402 fire watching missions, totaling 790 hours. CAP personnel reported 587 fires and provided further surveillance of coal, oil, and gas resources in the state vital to the war effort and defense industries. Ohio wing members in 1943 volunteered to patrol flood-stricken areas across the state, radioing flood information to state and local authorities on the ground to help in responding to the emergencies.
Other Ohio wing members served as aerial couriers during the war. The small light aircraft of CAP could ferry supplies vital for war effort into areas and through conditions when no other options remained viable. In 1943, the Thompson Products Company plant in Cleveland, manufacturing aircraft engine valves, ceased operation when a pump failed. A CAP courier service plane flew into Defiance – which lacked a commercial airport – retrieved a replacement pump, and in less than four hours the Thompson plant resumed production. Meanwhile at wing headquarters in Columbus, the town of Gallipolis sent in an urgent call for typhoid serum to prevent an outbreak of the disease following a flood. CAP aircraft flew to the town and airdropped a supply of the serum on an inundated golf course. If CAP could either land or airdrop time-sensitive items, the state wing would find a way to keep the nation’s war effort churning towards victory.
THE U-BOAT THREAT AND COASTAL PATROL
No mission, however, received the prominence of antisubmarine coastal patrol duty. In January 1942, five German U-boats began offensive operations along the East Coast of the United States. Military officials in the early months of 1942 tried to calm public fears, but confronted a shocking lack of preparedness to combat the submarines. The German offensive, deemed Operation Paukenschlag (“Drumbeat”), sought to deliver a sudden blow to the American war effort; it did so with immense success. The German U-boat attacks from January to July 1942 sank approximately 400 merchant vessels along the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The United States military proved completely unprepared to defend coastal shipping. U-boats sank more merchant vessels off the U.S. East Coast in 1942 than off the British coast in fall 1940. The American military could not claim a victory until 14 April 1942, when the destroyer USS Roper sank U-85 off Oregon Inlet, North Carolina. In the first half of 1942, U-boats sank three million tons of shipping in American waters at a cost of just eight submarines.
The military moved slowly to address the U-boat threat. In April 1942, Admiral Andrews implemented a partial convoy system deemed the “Bucket Brigade,” which utilized daylight movement of vessels from one guarded anchorage to another spaced 120 miles apart along the Atlantic Coast. The navy began to escort merchant convoys along the East Coast the following month. The introduction of coastal convoys turned the tide against the U-boat offensive off the Eastern Seaboard. The convoys, in addition to increased air patrols and armed escorts, drastically reduced the number of U-boat sinkings. On 19 July 1942, German Admiral Karl Doenitz withdrew the last two U-boats off Cape Hatteras (U-754 and U-458) and transferred his efforts to the mid-Atlantic. This change by Doenitz was unknown to American authorities (although they did notice the downturn in U-boat activity) as Allied code breakers could not decipher the German Enigma codes for almost the entirety of 1942. Doenitz remarked after the war that despite his shift in priority, “American waters were nevertheless still worthy of exploitation in any area in which the defensive system was found to be still defective.”
From the onset of the first coastal patrol mission out of Rehoboth Beach on March fifth, the CAP crews proved invaluable to the American defense effort. These early efforts entailed spotting submarines and forcing them to dive and evade attack, locating shipwrecked sailors, marking wreckage or mines, and escorting merchant vessels. Naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison noted the “low speed and flying altitude of the C.A.P. planes enabled their pilots to observe many objects that escaped the notice of those in military planes.” CAP aircraft typically flew in two-ship formations, providing near-continuous air patrols over shipping lanes within 60 miles of shore from dawn to dusk, often only a few hundred feet above the waves. These civilian volunteers forced U-boats to dive and remain submerged, while transmitting any sightings to military authorities who would then take measures to engage the U-boats. The use of the CAP aircraft allowed the military to husband its limited forces in a focused effort to engage sighted submarines. Beginning in May, army technicians began fitting bomb racks to enable “civilian” aircraft to carry one AN-M30 100-pound general purpose bomb or a Mk17 325-pound depth bomb. Army authorities, and begrudgingly the navy under Admiral King, were convinced of the CAP’s antisubmarine patrol value well before completion of the 90-day test period. By the end of 1942, 21 CAP coastal patrol bases from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico guarded the Atlantic coastline.
Ohio, far removed from the U-boat menace, resolved to contribute to the coastal patrol effort. In July 1942, Representative Vorys made an open request for volunteers to help form an all-Ohio CAP Coastal Patrol base. On 16 July 1942, national CAP headquarters turned Congressman Vorys’ request into reality by authorizing the activation of Coastal Patrol Base No. 14 at Panama City, Florida. Columbus native Robert E. Dodge, a forty-one year old CAP major served as commander. The Ohio men established the base at Atkinson Field, an abandoned airfield four miles northwest of Panama City by St. Andrews Bay. When the Ohio men and women arrived to begin operations, they confronted a weed-infested concrete apron, three overgrown sod and sand runways, and remains of a rotting wooden hanger. Working around the clock, the Buckeyes erected barracks, a mess hall, operations buildings, and a hanger using lumber scavenged from a nearby Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Training on open water navigation, communications, and bombing practice commenced and the first patrols took off on 8 August 1942 over the Gulf of Mexico.
Five Ohioans would join the Duck Club during the war, four at Panama City. The first member, thirty-seven year old CAP first lieutenant Henry T. Cross of Columbus, earned his webbed feet on 21 July 1942 as a member of Coastal Patrol Base No. 2, at Rehoboth, Delaware. Cross and his flight observer, nineteen year old Charles E. Shelfus (also of Columbus) crashed in the Atlantic around 5:00PM. After an hour of treading water, a Sikorsky S-39 Amphibian flying boat from the base arrived on the scene, landed, and managed to pull Cross aboard. The men were unable to spot Shelfus, who remains on eternal coastal patrol. Cross suffered several fractured vertebrae, contusions, and lacerations, but survived his ordeal. His rescuers, Hugh R. Sharp, Jr. and Edmond I. Edwards, received the Air Medal for meritorious service from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first Air Medals ever awarded to CAP personnel. Although Cross’s injuries prohibited him from flying, he later served as operations officer at Panama City.
Unfortunately, the next members of the Duck Club joined under even more tragic circumstances. At the Panama City base on 30 October 1942, the two aircraft preparing for dawn patrol collided shortly after takeoff. Lieutenants Charles W. Andrews, 36, of Springfield and Lester E. Milkey, 50, of Sandusky died on impact with the water. Lieutenants Carl S. Clark, 26, of Columbus and Franklin B. Wetzel executed a semi-controlled crash into St. Andrews Bay and a nearby tugboat rescued them. At his funeral in Sandusky, Ohio, over one thousand people bid Milkey farewell. In January 1943, an aircraft with lieutenants Alvie T. Vaughen of Galion and Curtis B. Black of North Olmsted crashed on patrol over the Gulf for undetermined reasons. Neither man’s remains were ever recovered. Vaughen left a widow and three orphans; the base personnel, together with pledges from various Ohio squadrons, established a trust fund for the children. Since CAP personnel served as civilian volunteers, they were ineligible for veterans’ benefits.
The inter-service confusion between the army and navy about control and use of aircraft for antisubmarine operations determined the long-term military role for the CAP. The navy wanted antisubmarine patrol and aerial escort for convoys; the army wanted “killer groups” to pursue any submarine sighting. Nationally, overall control of the CAP coastal patrol bases fell under the I Air Support Command, in turn operating under I Bomber Command for the spring and summer of 1942. In September General George C. Marshall proposed to Admiral King the establishment of an antisubmarine command, whereby the naval sea frontier commanders retained operational control, but the War Department would control the allocation of aircraft to concentrate them at specific areas of concern. On 15 October 1942, the antisubmarine elements of the I Bomber Command, including the CAP bases, shifted to the newly established Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command (AAFAC), composed of the 25th and 26th Antisubmarine Wings.
In the summer of 1943, the army and navy reached a final solution about aerial operations in antisubmarine warfare that had a profound effect on the CAP bases. On 9 July 1943, the services agreed that the army would withdraw from antisubmarine operations when the navy was in a position to assume these duties. The services would complete transfer of equipment and operations from late July into September. With American military forces built up along the Atlantic coast, and the U-boat arm dealt a devastating blow in the spring of 1943, Admiral King ordered the deactivation of the CAP coastal patrol operations and the discontinuance of CAP coastal patrols at sundown on August 31. That same day, the Eastern Defense Command and USAAF re-designated the AAFAC as the I Bomber Command and disbanded the 25th and 26th Antisubmarine Wings. This decision reflected the army-navy decision of July 9. Admiral King commended the work of the civilian bases, expressing a “’WELL DONE’ for their enthusiastic, loyal, and constant cooperation in combating the submarine menace, patrolling our coastline and assisting in the locating of survivors and ships in distress.”
Just at the moment the bases reached their operational apex, changes at the national level ended the CAP coastal patrol mission. While military leaders initially had been skeptical about the creation of the Civil Air Patrol, doubting whether civilian aviators could contribute effectively to the nation’s defense, by the summer of 1943 both the army and navy recognized the value of the CAP, largely due to the success of the coastal patrolling operations. On 29 April 1943, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9339, transferring the Civil Air Patrol from the Office of Civilian Defense to the Department of War, specifically the USAAF. The Civil Air Patrol thereby became the USAAF Auxiliary. The War Department justified their push for the CAP transfer, writes historian Elwyn Mauck, for two reasons. First, the War Department financed all important CAP functions thus warranting the logical consolidation under one agency. Second, the War Department could more easily supply parts for CAP aircraft. Following the transfer, both the CAP missions and national staff remained intact, and aircraft parts and maintenance rapidly improved.
POSTWAR AND LEGACY
After the conclusion of the CAP tow targeting bases, a group of CAP coastal patrol personnel organized and lobbied Congress for veteran status. In November 1944, North Carolina Senator Robert R. Reynolds introduced legislation to recognize active-duty members of the CAP as World War II veterans. Speaking before the Senate, Reynolds declared, “these men were made combatants not by choice of their own, but by command of the War Department.” Reynolds later asked his listeners, “These men did not question the right of the War Department to make them combat troops; now who has the right to question whether or not they were soldiers?” The following year, North Carolina Representative Joe W. Ervin introduced similar legislation in the House. In late 1944, CAP Lt. Col. Frank E. Dawson of Charlotte, North Carolina established the Association of Civil Air Patrol Veterans, Inc. to further the effort to obtain veterans benefits for the coastal patrol members, widows, and orphans. In October 1945, coastal patrol members testified at a subcommittee hearing for the House Committee on Military Affairs about legislation to provide veteran status for CAP members on active-duty service in coastal patrol, tow target units, liaison patrol, or courier service. Unfortunately, the legislation died in committee. The Veterans Association continued to press Congress to award compensation to the surviving families of those active-duty CAP members killed during the war for the remainder of the decade. In 1948, the Department of Defense awarded Air Medals to any coastal patrol pilot or observer with over 200 hours of patrol time. Forty-three Ohio CAP members received the medal for their wartime service, the sixth highest total in the nation.
Ohio’s men and women proudly served their state and country and their actions did not go unnoticed. CAP’s wartime record of antisubmarine duty contributed to the postwar permanence of the organization. Nationally, these wartime volunteers flew 244,600 hours in 86,685 missions. Aircrews reported 91 vessels in distress, rescued 363 survivors at sea, and recovered the remains of 36 souls. CAP coastal patrol personnel also performed 5,684 special convoy missions at the request of the navy. Congress noticed these accomplishments, and on 1 July 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 79-476, incorporating the Civil Air Patrol. Less than two years later, Truman signed Public Law 80-557 on 26 May 1948, establishing the Civil Air Patrol as the civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force.
PERSONNEL KILLED– COASTAL PATROL
1st Lt Charles W. Andrews, Springfield – CP No. 14, Panama City, FL, 30 Oct 42
1st Lt Curtis P. Black, North Olmsted – CP No. 14, Panama City, FL, 4 Jan 43
1st Lt Lester E. Milkey, Sandusky – CP No. 14, Panama City, FL, 30 Oct 42
1st Lt Gerald G. Owen, West Farmington – CP No.14, Panama City, FL, 3 Apr 43
1st Lt Charles E. Shelfus, Columbus – CP No. 2, Rehoboth, DE, 21 Jul 42
1st Lt Alvie T. Vaughen, Galion – CP No. 14, Panama City, FL, 4 Jan 43
PERSONNEL KILLED – MISCELLANEOUS
1st Lt Margaret J. Bartholomew, Cincinnati – Courier Mission, Kenwood, PA, 18 Oct 43
2d Lt Dayton C. Davis, Willoughby – War Bond Campaign, Erie, PA, 7 Sep 43
2d Lt Meriwether J. Purdy, Cambridge – Courier Mission, Chicago, IL, 13 Jan 44
Sgt Frederick P. Streisel, Cleveland – War Bond Campaign, Erie, PA, 7 Sep 43
AIR MEDAL RECIPIENTS
Coastal Patrol Base No. 1, Atlantic City, NJ
1st Lt Briggs S. Cunningham, Cincinnati
1st Lt Randall M. Custer, Cincinnati
FO Duane C. Frazier, Medina
1st Lt Washington T. Miller, Cleveland
1st Lt Emmett Pedley, Cleveland
1st Lt Henry J. Sloan, Cleveland
Coastal Patrol Base No. 2, Rehoboth, DE
Maj Robert E. Dodge, Columbus
1st Lt Robert C. Remy, Richland
1st Lt William C. Vance, Columbus
Coastal Patrol Base No. 5, Flagler Beach, FL
1st Lt Isaac C. Beatty III, Oberlin
Coastal Patrol Base No. 6, St. Simons Island, GA
1st Lt Arthur A. Bieder, Ashtabula
2d Lt Cloyce F. Luce, Ashtabula
1st Lt Floyd M. Shepherd, Ashtabula
Coastal Patrol Base No. 14, Panama City, FL
1st Lt Robert E. Arn, Westerville
1st Lt Joseph Azis, Ashtabula
2d Lt Fred W. Binger, Columbus*
1st Lt Curtis P. Black, North Olmsted*
1st Lt Edward P. Bruch, Jr., Mentor
1st Lt William V.E. Burdick, Stow
1st Lt Carl S. Clark, Columbus
2d Lt Bernard R. Cohen, Cleveland Heights
2d Lt Kenneth C. Davies, Liberty Center
1st Lt William E. Fowler, Cincinnati
1st Lt George E. Furry, Orrville
1st Lt Joseph Gabney, Cleveland
1st Lt Gerald R. Gray, Marysville
1st Lt Charles A. Greene, Wooster
1st Lt Edward H. Hahn, Cleveland
1st Lt Fred D. King, Springfield
1st Lt Francis E. Kissell, Upper Sandusky
2d Lt David Laufman, Cleveland
1st Lt William H. Oliver, Columbus*
1st Lt Gerald G. Owen, West Farmington*
1st Lt Stanley H. Reaver, Columbus
1st Lt Donald W. Ross, Columbus
1st Lt Harry E. Studier, Cleveland
1st Lt Herbert L. Thompson, Wyoming
1st Lt Joseph Ule, Lorain
1st Lt Alvie T. Vaughen, Galion*
1st Lt Ferdinand L. Weston, Cincinnati
1st Lt Franklin B. Wetzel, Lakewood
1st Lt James G. Willoughby, Cleveland
* indicates posthumous award
Coastal Patrol Base No. 20, Bar Harbor, ME
1st Lt Frederick F. Ludwick, Jr., Cuyahoga
OHIO WING COMMANDERS