Civil Air Patrol in New Jersey, with Eliz Yull, January, 2020

Celebrating 75 years of service, Civil Air Patrol

Joe Teti called the meeting to order at 12:40.

Our Treasurer, George, reported $1167 in hand.  His report was approved by voice vote.  He reminded Symposium members to pay up with next year’s dues.

Mike Zuckerman, head of the Teti Prize committee, recommissioned the members for the 2020 Prize process.  He described the prize, mentioned that the first had been given to Patricia Hall and the Trenton Free Public Library.  He promised to send out a request for people’s suggestions for the 2020 prize.

Shan introduced Symposium member, Elizabeth Yull, who has for the last 20 years been in the Civil Air Patrol.  She holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, having retired at that rank from active duty.

Eliz discussed the founding of the Civil Air Patrol, which in fact began in Trenton under the guidance of Gill Robb Wilson.  Wilson, son of a Presbyterian minister and a WWI pilot in France, he became the pastor of 4th Presbyterian church (450 E. State St) in Trenton.  The 1919 flu epidemic killed Wilson’s wife, Margaret Perrine, who was pregnant with their second child.  The shock left him unable to speak, necessitating his withdrawal from the active ministry. 

Building a second career around his aviation experience, Wilson became state director of aviation.  In this post, he noted and worried about German efforts to re-arm as a nation.  To make sure that the United States was prepared, Wilson initiated what came to be the Civil Air Patrol.  The US Congress approved his plan on Dec 1,  1941, just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war.  We also learned that Wilson was acquainted with Charles Lindbergh, another aviator concerned about the German build-up in the 1930s.

Civil Air Patrol planes flew the Atlantic coast scouting for German submarines (U-boats), and in 1942-43 sank two submarines and one unfortunate whale.  Most of the flyers were ineligible for active service, and so contributed to the war effort as civilians through the CAP.

Today, New Jersey Civil Air Patrol has 23 squadrons with 1300 members and there are 1200 squadrons across the United States.  Organized with the same rank structure as the Air Force, the CAP provides Emergency Service and Cadet Education. 

Emergency Services include search and rescue, locating drug traffickers, and other disaster recovery services.  Calls come from the Air Force through the State Police.  The State Police notify the whole New Jersey wing or individual squadrons, and often supervise their work.

Cadet Education has also been successful.  Boys and girls aged 12-21 are eligible to participate.  There are currently 50 cadets at the Twin Pines squadron in Mercer County, where Eliz mostly works.  She likes that size group, since it makes it possible to know everyone personally, and noted that Twin Pines has won awards as top squadron for 10 years running.  Cadets fly single engine Cessnas.  Some have gone on from Twin Pines to the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard.  Some have also gone into ROTC programs, where they keep their CAP rank.

Twin Pines and other CAP squadrons also sponsor aviation education in the schools.  There are 4500 teachers involved with the program.  Twin Pines also collects food for Home Front, and works with Wreaths Across America to mark the graves of veterans.  Each year they sponsor a parade in honor of John Basilone, a US Marine and a Medal of Honor winner, who re-enlisted to fight in the Pacific and was killed there.

Questions from Symposium members drew out the information that the Twin Pines squadron flies from Lawrenceville airport, a grass field near Pennington circle.  The CAP is mostly Federally funded but individual squadrons raise additional funds.  The get some income each year from the Wreaths program, where $5 of the $15 charge goes to the squadron.  They also charge $49 annual dues.  While they expect each cadet to purchase the required uniform, they try to cover costs if this is a hardship, so that no one is prevented from serving by economic need.

CAP recruits mostly by word of mouth, and recruitment is a regular challenge to the organization.  Kids are attracted by the STEM education they receive, and also by chances to prepare for careers as engineers, in the military, and with NASA

Eliz kindly agreed to tell us about her own array of medals, before the group adjourned at 1:15, with thanks all around.

We will meet again on Monday, February 24, with a guest from the Trenton Water Works.

Respectfully submitted,

Shan Holt, Secretary