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Where does this great squadron come from???

A Historical Account of the Civil Air Patrol in Corpus Christi
By: Maj Jose E. Carrales, CAP

The Search

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     During the last part of July 2007, Maj Carrales undertook a daunting task. That task was to uncover the history of the Civil Air Patrol in Corpus Christi, Texas. It proved to be quite a challenge; many records from that era do not exist or were destroyed. Most of us, as per our physical existence, live in the present and don’t give much thought to record the regular goings on of what we consider “mundane” activities. In fact, our own present efforts in rebuilding our Squadron and maintaining it are in danger of being lost to history. If not for a few photos and the occasional story told by the more experienced CC-CAP members, the works and legacy of the unit is in danger of dissolving into oblivion. Because of that simple truism, the task of uncovering the history of the unit is a daunting one.

The 1930's and 40's in Corpus Christi, TX

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Chaparral Street in 1940

     We all know the story, it had been a dismal decade of Depression. An era of big band swing and silvery black-and-white films as war waged in Europe. Americans, isolated by two oceans, hoped for peace as events occurring overseas brought them closer and closer toward one of history’s more trying times. Corpus Christi, Texas was no different. It had long recovered from the devastating Hurricane of 1919 and now was poised to great things as one of the Nation’s burgeoning ports.

     Corpus Christi had built its first airport in 1928. Cliff Maus Municipal Airport (named for the Aviator that founded the airport and served as it’s manager until 1934) inaugurated air passenger service in 1929 and, by 1939, boasted air service from American Airways and Eastern Airlines.

     The world view of the citizens of Corpus Christi, however, was about to change. It was winter 1941, and that December the nation would be at war.

The Birth of Civil Air Patrol

     The storm clouds of war are not difficult for the farsighted to spot and, as General Aviation was shutting down all over Europe, aviation leaders in the United States were making plans to harness US General aviation for the defense of the nation. The Civil Air Patrol “movement” began to manifest itself in various locations across the nation and civil aviation pioneers, like Gill Rob Wilson, and civil defense advocates, like New York City mayor and World War I pilot Fiorello H. LaGuardia, lobbied for a national effort. Thus, the Civil Air Patrol was founded on Dec. 1, 1941. Its principal purpose in those days was to allow private pilots and aviation enthusiasts to use their light aircraft and flying skills in civil defense efforts.

     Within weeks, the need for a Civil Air Patrol became evident with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

South Texas CAP Gets Organized

     The worsening U-Boat threat convinced the military of the day that CAP should be used to defend the Coasts from the Germans. On 5 March 1942, when the CAP was given authority to conduct a 90-day “experimental” operations began on coastal patrols at two locations along the east coast. This gave CAP’s volunteers 90 days to prove themselves worthy of the trust placed in them – that of national defense. Before this period was over, CAP’s coastal patrol operations were authorized to expand, both in duration and territory.

     According to a chart in Robert E. Neprud’s book Flying Minute Men Coastal Patrol operations were authorized in Corpus Christi on 20 July 1942 and began operations on 7 August 1942. There is, however, much more to know about how people in South Texas organized their CAP. Research conducted at the Jernigan Library on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville revealed much of the story was chronicled in the Corpus Christi Caller Times. While Major Joe Ely Carrales has not totally conduced the research, what presented itself in those archives provided a plethora of information. Additionally, the American Memory Project at the Library on congress has digitized many images from the 1930s and 1940s, among these are photographs of the Coastal Patrol Base at Corpus Christi Texas.

     The First District meeting of the CAP in Corpus Christi was set for 2 January 1942. It was called by Group Commander H.F Clark at the Plaza Hotel.

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The Plaza Hotel (right), 1930

     Clark had selected his staff and had been appointed by Texas Wing Commander D. H. Byrd of Dallas Byrd had been appointed by Brig General (later Major General) John Curry. W. U. Paul was the executive officer of what was identified as the Corpus Christi District which according to the 2 January 1942 issue of the Corpus Christi Caller Times page 6-B “extends from the Colorado River on the North to Laredo on the south, east to Alice, Kingsville and Corpus Christi.” The article went on to describe some Wing level Officers.

     There was an urgent need for ground crews and the article called out for his need. There was also a need for private and commercial pilots, ground crews for airports and other men skilled in Aviation crafts. Additionally, delegations from “Alice, Kingsville, Laredo, Victoria and Houston, as well as other communities in the region” were expected.

     Wing Commander Byrd stressed the importance of quickly organizing a force that could begin patrols in an effective manner.

     According to the Corpus Christi Caller Times Saturday 3 January 1942 page 2, Section A, “Eighty-Three civilians, including 50 pilots and five licensed airplane mechanics, last night [2 January 1943] met on the Plaza Hotel Dock to hasten the organization of the Civil Air Patrol, air arm of the Civilian Defense Council.”

     The article documents the meeting’s purpose of outlining the duties of Civilian Pilots in CAP, including the fact that CAP members could not belong to the Texas Defense Guard’s air arm citing that CAP is a civilian project while the TDG was a military organization. The group also discussed how CAP would work and how it would relate to other agencies.

     The names of speakers was published along with their positions. W. U. Paul, acting Executive Officer for the Corpus Christi District presided under the auspices of Commander H.F. Clark. Speeches were made by Roy Wade of Austin, Executive Secretary of the War Duty Officer of the Texas DPS Capt George Schaucer, DPS Director of Public Safety H. K. Stanfield, Group Commander of the San Antonio District Les Mauldin, Brownsville Group Commander R. B. King and Civilian Defense Council Judge Joe D. Browning. Local Officials included Nueces Co. Defense Council Head Joe Fogaley, Vice Chair/coordinator of Corpus Christi Civilian Defense, Rod More (Acting Wing Adjutant of CAP), Dr. C. J. Connor (State Medical Officer), Stanton Bell (acting Communications Officer and a few others. Judge Cullen W. Biggs, Acting CAP Intelligence Officer, read a pamphlet on organizing a CAP unit.

     The article assured co-operation with local CAP efforts and other Civilian Defense Organizations. Commander Clark informed the group that the efforts were to have been organized later on toward the end of January, but the War in the Pacific move up their timetable. He also informed Pilots that an Inspector from the Civilian Aeronautics Administration would be there on 8 and 9 January 1943 to validate licenses. Pilots not validated were to be grounded if they had no CAP ID.

     Corpus Christi was Coastal Patrol Base 15 and it was operation on 7 August 1942. That date is now considered our Squadron's Anniversary.

The Man Who Saved Coastal Patrol Base 15 for Posterity

John Felix Vachon, 1942
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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

     A search of “Civil Air Patrol” tends to bring up lots of images for Bar Harbor, Maine, but as one scrolls, the images of Corpus Christi’s efforts are seen in stunning beauty. Many of these images were taken by photographer John Felix Vachon, 1914-1975, who’s papers are archived at the Library of Congress. During this period, Vachon worked as a junior photographer for the Farm Security Administration and later for the Office of War Information.
 
     After a stint as a photographer for Standard Oil of New Jersey, he served in the U.S. Army. After the Second World War he went of assignment for the United Nations and snapped photos for magazines. Ironically, sources reveal Vachon had no intention of becoming a photographer when he took his position in 1936, but as his responsibilities increased for maintaining the FSA photographic files, his interest in photography grew. This is fortunate for us, because his interest allows us to have a glimpse into Corpus Christi CAP Operations early in WWII.

The Corpus Christi District Office of CAP Opens

 

          According to the 4 January 1942 issue of the Corpus Christi Caller Times, Vol. 13, No. 29 page 1A, the Civil Air Patrol’s Corpus Christi District Office opened on 3 January 1942 at 301 Plaza Hotel. W.U. Paul, the Director of the local District, received applications and fingerprint cards for those interested in joining the “nonmilitary” Civil Air Patrol.

 

          That day, Group Commander H.F. Clark received a call from Civil Air Patrol founder, Gill Rob Wilson that training directors were to leave Washington that week to create a definite training program for the Corpus Christi District. At that point, the initial meeting had organized 83 pilots for the effort.

 

          The 16 January 1942 issue of the Caller Times mentioned a Unified Command that was to be established between the Texas Defense Guard’s air arm and Civil Air Patrol efforts in Texas. The Matter had been discussed between Maj. Gen John Curry and Governor Coke Stevenson.

 

          The climate of the time was geared to Civil Defense with must news stories focusing, justifiably, on war news from the front (remember, WWII began for the US in 1941, but had been waging since 1939 in Europe) and efforts informing people what to do in situations ranging from volunteerism to how to report Axis Aliens who posses Cameras and weapons. It was in this atmosphere that the Civil Air Patrol in South Texas organized.

Additional Photos

 

          As an addendum to this history Maj Carrales presented various images to supplement the history, however, they are images with only the most minor captions and not necessarily in the chronological order of the historical documents presented. Many do not have exact dates and the persons depicted are somewhat lost to history. As more information is uncovered it is our intention to redisplay the various images with the new information. Again, all of this will be compiled once the project is finished, hopefully by the 70th anniversary of the unit.

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Corpus Christi, TX Sergeant Pat Pate

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Corpus Christi, TX Sergeant Pat Pate

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Corpus Christi, TX 1Lt R.V. Montague

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Corpus Christi, TX CAP Mechanics

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Corpus Christi, TX Major W.G. Green

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Radio telephone technique

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