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The Civil Air Patrol is Born
--Washington, D.C. December, 1941. The final pieces to officially create the Civil Air Patrol have fallen into place. In early November, the plan for the Office of Civilian Defense's air arm had been placed before a committee for final review and approval, by Lt. General Henry "Hap" Arnold; who has supported the project almost since its inception. Headed by Brigadier General George E, Stratemeyer, the board included; Colonel Harry H. Blee, Major Lucius P. Ordway Jr., and Major Alex B. McMullen.
Tasked with determining potential uses for the CAP, and what role would be required by the War Department in order for the organization to be put in place as a part of the OCD, the committee completes its study and recommends approval of the plan, and further requests that the required Army Air Force officers be assigned immediately. Major General John F. Curry is selected to be the Civil Air Patrol's first Commander. Colonel Blee is assigned as Operations and Training Officer, and Gill Robb Wilson is named as Executive Officer. On December 1, LaGuardia signs an executive order under presidential executive authority, making the Civil Air Patrol official. That same day, the announcement is made.
In New Jersey, the Civil Air Defense Service, already in place with a Wing Commander, groups, squadrons, flights, aircraft, equipment, and personal; simply roles over and becomes the New Jersey Wing, of the Civil Air Patrol, although applications to join the CAP must be tendered in order to make it official. George Viehmann retains his position, thus making him New Jersey's first CAP Wing Commander. A slight change is made to the organization, as the two groups which were subdivided into two "zones" are redrawn into three groups with no zone subdivisions. These Northern, Central, and Southern groups would soon come to be known as Group 221, Group 222, and Group 223.
One of the motivations for the organization of civil aviation by Gill Robb Wilson and other aviation leaders, was the fear that if war broke out, civilian aviation would be halted and all pilots grounded. That fear becomes a reality only six days after the Civil Air Patrol is born. Just after dawn on December 7th, an undetected task force of Imperial Japanese aircraft carriers launches a devastating sneak attack on US military forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Thousands lose their lives. The sleeping Pacific naval fleet, along with US Navy, Marine, and Army Air Force aircraft are destroyed. Only by chance, the US aircraft carriers are not in port at the time and escape destruction at hands of the Japanese. As a result of this attack, all non commercial civil aviation is grounded immediately.
The very next day, LaGuardia publishes Administrative Order 9. The order officially recognizes Major General Curry as commander, and includes the Civil Air Patrol's first organizational chart. Also by this time, James Landis is assigned by LaGuardia as his aid in charge of overseeing the CAP.
Also on that day, in response to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and their declaration of war against the United States and Great Britain, President Roosevelt asks for, and gets approval from the US Congress for a declaration of war against Imperial Japan. Several days later, in accordance with a previously signed treaty, Germany, and Italy declare war on the United States. In turn, the United States declares war on Germany and Italy.
There is a somber mood going into the Christmas holiday season as America suddenly finds itself thrust into fighting a war that it neither wanted to get involved in, nor was prepared for, as it would quickly find out. George Viemann and the other forty seven newly appointed Wing Commanders must now scramble to recruit, train, and prepare personnel and equipment for whatever missions and assignments might be handed to the Civil Air Patrol in the coming weeks and months. The war on the other hand would come to the United States faster than anyone could have predicted, and in a way that Gill Robb Wilson had feared, and had been trying to sound the alarm on for years.
By Lt Colonel Gregory F. Weidenfelid
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