LEWISTON — The Civil Air Patrol and its earliest members will be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their contributions during World War II during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 10.
A bronze replica medal will be presented to each surviving CAP member, or a family member.
A local ceremony will be held at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport in late December for surviving CAP members and family members of deceased members who served in the Maine Coastal Patrol in the Portland No. 19, and the squadron in the Auburn-Lewiston area.
As WWII was waged in Europe, CAP was founded in the United States on Dec. 1, 1941, six days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to help secure the homefront.
According to a news release from Maj. Mary Story, Northeast Region Staff, Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, CAP anti-submarine coastal patrols flew more than 24 million miles, spotting 173 U-boats and attacking 57. They escorted more than 5,600 convoys, reported 17 floating mines, 91 ships in distress and 363 survivors in the water, according to Story.
These members, in many ways, helped discourage and eventually stop U-boat attacks that threatened U.S shipping, especially oil tankers off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Many used their own aircraft to conduct volunteer combat operations and other emergency missions under hazardous conditions.
Most of the early volunteers have since died. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the nation’s World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 670 per day. Fewer than 100 CAP members from that era are known to be alive today.