Delaware Military History
Civil Air Patrol
Delaware Wing


The Rehoboth Squadron along with the Atlantic City Squadron, were the first two Civil Air Patrol units
activated on February 28, 1942.  Rehoboth flew the first coastal patrol on March 5, Atlantic City following
on March 10. The Delaware Wing had three Squadrons at Wilmington, Dover, and Sussex County in
September 1943 in addition to the Rehoboth Squadron. The original Wing Commander was Holger
Hoiriis, with Allison F. Fleitas as Adjutant, Hugh R. Sharp was Training and Operations Officer.  

Delaware Wing has a long CAP history since CAP's inception in 1941. Delaware is home to one of the
original "Coastal Patrol" units, based in Rehoboth Beach. Using private aircraft, the "Flying Minute Men"
patrolled the Atlantic Ocean for German submarines. They operated off of a small, unpaved airport near
Airport Road in Delaware. Civil Air Patrol planes that crashed in the line of duty while patrolling the
East Coast during World War II were hauled to the historical Dover Post building, which was an aircraft
hangar at the time.

Delaware led the nation in percentage of pilots enrolled for duty in the early years of the war.

1st Lieutenant Harold Owen Swift, Stanton Delaware

1st Lieutenant Harold Owen Swift, of Stanton Delaware, of the Rehoboth Squadron, Delaware Civil Air
Patrol was found dead on a life raft in a storm tossed Atlantic Ocean thirty hours after he made a forced
descent on the water on March 6, 1943. His death was apparently caused by exposure, following a
snowstorm in which he was forced down, apparently because of engine trouble.  Both Swift and his
observer, Lieutenant Harvey P. Cannon of Utica New York got into separate life rafts, but the pair were
later separated. Cannon was picked up in five hours by a Coast Guard vessel.  Lieutenant Swift who
entered service on May 15, 1942 was awarded an Air Medal posthumously.

Another CAP pilot,
Bayard F. Henderson, of Blackbird Delaware was killed in a crash at Laredo Texas.  
He had been with the CAP for 18 months.  CAP Cadet
James W. Taylor of Claymont died while in camp
at Dover Army Air Base and was given a military funeral.

Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into World War II, but many Americans saw the AXIS threat
long before Dec. 7, 1941. Among them were nearly 150,000 men and women involved in aviation.
As early as 1938, they began to argue for the creation of an organization to harness their aviation
resources to aid the nation in the event America entered the conflict. Their efforts, led by writer-aviator
Gill Robb Wilson and supported by Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, resulted in the creation of the Civil Air
Patrol on Dec. 1, 1941 - one week before Pearl Harbor.

First organized under the Office of Civilian Defense, headed by former New York Mayor Fiorello
LaGuardia, Civil Air Patrol members became the "Minutemen" of World War II, volunteering their time,
resources, and talents to defend the nation's borders and fill the gaps as men and resources were being
mobilized to fight abroad.

The War Department, especially the Army Air Forces, recognized the important roles performed by CAP.
In April 1943, CAP was reassigned from the Office of Civilian Defense to the War Department and placed
under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Forces.

After the German surrender, one of Hitler's high-ranking naval officers was asked why the Nazi U-boats
had been withdrawn from U.S. coastal waters early in 1943. The answer was exploded in a curt guttural:
'It was because of those damned little red and yellow planes!' -- From Robert E. Neprud's Flying Minute
Men

These Flying Minutemen, all volunteers, performed valiantly during the war. They performed many
missions including coastal patrol to search for enemy submarines, search and rescue missions
throughout the United States, cargo and courier flights to transfer critical materials and personnel, and
even towing targets so Army Air Corps personnel could practice air-to-air gunnery techniques - a very
risky mission with new gunners.

In all, these volunteers amassed a stunning record - flying more than half-a-million hours, sinking two
enemy submarines, and saving hundreds of crash victims.

A thankful nation recognized the vital role CAP played during the war and understood the organization
could continue to provide invaluable help to both local and national agencies.

On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 that incorporated CAP as a benevolent,
nonprofit organization.

During the war, the CAP lost thirty fliers out of some 75,000 volunteers operating at about one thousand
airfields.  Seventy three airplanes were also lost, but more than 150 submarine sightings were recorded
and numerous rescues were performed.

There is a nice summary history of the Delaware Wing, Civil Air Patrol in “Delaware’s Role in World
War II, Volume II, by William Conner and Leon deValinger Jr. See pp.117-119.

Louisa Spruance Morse was a Civil Air Patrol ground instructor in World War II and rose to serve as
commander of the Delaware Wing for 23 years. Delaware’s first (and only) female commander, Colonel
Morse was named Wing Commander of the Year for 1969 among the 52 state commanders. She was the
first woman to serve on the CAP National Executive committee when she was appointed commander of
the seven-state Middle East region in 1976. She was appointed CAP national controller in 1979. She
founded CAP’s National Historical committee and continued to perform research into the organization’s
history.

Delaware Wing has had 20 Wing Commanders since the inception of Civil Air Patrol.

Commanders of the Delaware Wing
Commander's Name        Period of Service
Maj Holger Hoiriis        Dec 1941 - Aug 1942
Maj Herman S. Miller        Aug 1942 - Jun 1943
Maj Don Seevers        Jun 1943 - Oct 1944
Maj James P. Hanley        Oct 1944 - Dec 1944
Col William J. Simpson        Dec 1944 - Dec 1946
Col Walter A. Caskie        Dec 1946 - Mar 1951
Col Frank J. Lynch        Mar 1951 - Sep 1953
Col Louisa S. Morse        Sep 1953 - Jul 1976
Col William H. Everett        Jul 1976 - May 1977
Col Howard N. Pratt        May 1977 - Dec 1980
Col James W. Keener        Dec 1980 - Dec 1982
Col Herbert M. Wood        Dec 1982 - Dec 1984
Col Larry D. Tasker        Dec 1984 - Oct 1986
Col Herbert M. Wood        Oct 1986 - July 1989
Col David C. Driscall        July 1989 - Jan 1993
Col James H. Tazelaar        Jan 1993 - Jan 1997
Col Robert L. Vawter        Jan 1997 - Jan 2002
Col Raymond E. Harris        Jan 2002 - Aug 2003
Col Russell M. Opland        Aug 2003 - Sept 2007
Col Eugene L. Egry        Sept 2007–Present


See also the website of the Delaware Civil Air Patrol Wing:
http://dewg.cap.gov/