RALEIGH – During World War II, the arrival of the North Carolina Civil Air Patrol (CAP) dramatically reduced the German sinking of American vessels off the North Carolina coast. In recognition of the valuable service the Civil Air Patrol provided, a N.C. Highway Historical Marker will be dedicated on Saturday, July 21, at 10:30 a.m., in Manteo at the Dare County Airport, the former CAP base.
The federal Civil Air Patrol was established to serve as “flying minutemen” for the nation. Volunteer aviators in the state’s wing of the federal program conducted sea rescues, towed targets for military training, performed courier service, and fought forest fires. From dawn to dusk, pilots prowled up and down the Outer Banks and southern North Carolina beaches for German U-boats, sailors in distress, sea mines, debris, and other hazards. They also assisted the Navy and Coast Guard in protecting the East Coast.
The most significant mission of the CAP was antisubmarine duty in 1942 and 1943. North Carolina’s coast became known as “Torpedo Junction,” and German Adm. Karl Doenitz indicated that the area off of Cape Hatteras was particularly fruitful for his missions. By January 1942 at least 19 German U-boats were operating along the Atlantic Coast. That month, nine allied vessels went down off the coast; 54 more were lost over the next three months. The need for defensive action along the state’s coast led to establishment of the new CAP service in North Carolina.
North Carolina Coastal CAP bases were established in Manteo and Beaufort in 1942. By 1943 the volunteer aviator force numbered 1,100 members and 14 squadrons. Only two vessels were torpedoed by U-boats during the time of the CAP base operations, compared with 78 vessels sunk and 18 damaged prior to the CAP program. The record speaks volumes to the effectiveness of North Carolina’s Civilian Air Patrol.
For information on the marker dedication program and on the highway marker program visit online, or call Michael Hill at (919) 807-7290. The N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program is part of the Office of Archives and History in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.