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In late 1941, shortly before the disastrous air attack on Pearl Harbor, there was significant interest by civilian pilots to assist the U.S. Military. However in Washington, D.C., those in authority scoffed at the idea that a group of non-military aviators could provide any such assistance. Fortunately, sound logic prevailed and Civil Air Patrol was formed on December 1, 1941, as a part of the nation's home defense needs, less than a week before Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Maj. Gen. John Francis Curry, an Army Air Corps officer, was selected as the first national commander of CAP. Curry learned to fly in time to accompany General Blackjack Pershing's expedition to Mexico. Later, he served as Chief of Staff of the Air Service of the Second Army in France. He destroyed a German observation balloon, but was shot down himself by anti-aircraft fire. He escaped capture. When selected to head CAP, he was the nation's only acting general in command of a civilian army. Serving from December 1941 to March 1942, Gen. Curry provided the vision and direction for this unique venture.
Founded as a volunteer organization, CAP conducted patrols over coastal waters in search of enemy submarines and naval activity. CAP was by no means a government-sponsored plan to provide free flight training. Each individual had to pay for their own flying time. Part of the reason for the founding of CAP was to keep aviation from being put aside entirely during the war. As Gen. Curry stated, Without such a plan [as CAP], there might be no private aviation for the duration of the war; with such a plan, there is a chance that private flying might continue and develop. Under Curry's guidance, wings were formed in every state. He help mobilize 100,000 private pilots for non-combatant service; thus freeing military pilots for wartime duty. There was no discrimination because of one's gender. Individual ability, experience and past records were the real criteria for selection. Again, in Curry's words, There must be no doubt in the minds of our gallant women fliers that they are needed and, in my opinion, indispensable to the full success of the CAP organization. A great part of the progress made in organizing civilian aviation under Civil Air Patrol has been due to the volunteer help given by women flyers.... Although he only served a few months as national Commander, Maj. Gen. Curry's organizational skills were influential in determining the future growth of this new resource. Originally, CAP was given the opportunity to prove itself for a 90-day test period. However, thanks to the vision of John F. Curry, and others like him, CAP remained throughout the war as an effective demonstration of volunteer spirit.
After the end of World War II, CAP continued to serve the nation in performance of dangerous missions. The Colorado Wing, Civil Air patrol, and Colorado State Director of Aeronautics, headed now by retired Maj. Gen. John F. Curry, conducted light plane surveys through the rugged Colorado Rockies. Where more than 50 peaks have an elevation of greater than 14,000 feet, scores of flying individuals lost their lives due to unpredictable winds. As a result of Curry's direction, maps of safe-flying routes were developed by Colorado CAP personnel.
In 1945, General Curry retired from the US Army to Denver, CO. On March 3, 1973, he passed away at the Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, CO.
From Leadership: 2000 And Beyond, Vol. I, Civil Air Patrol, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
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Updated: 13 March, 2012