Air Patrol (CAP), being made primarily of volunteer, unpaid
airmen and officers, has been serving the country since World War II.
Many members use (or at one time used) their own aircraft and radio
gear in the service of the country. Per the CAP website, "In the
late 1930s, more than 150,000 volunteers with a love for aviation
argued for an organization to put their planes and flying skills
to use in defense of their country. As a result, the Civil
Air Patrol was born one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor. Thousands of volunteer members answered America's call to
national service and sacrifice by accepting and performing critical
wartime missions. Assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction
of the Army Air Corps, the contributions of Civil Air Patrol, including
logging more than 500,000 flying hours, sinking two enemy submarines,
and saving hundreds of crash victims during World War II, are well
documented. After the war, a thankful nation understood that Civil
Air Patrol could continue providing valuable services to both local
and national agencies. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed
Public Law 476 incorporating Civil Air Patrol as a benevolent, nonprofit
organization. On May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law
557 permanently establishing Civil Air Patrol as the auxiliary of
the new U.S. Air Force. Three primary mission areas were set
forth at that time: aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency
By Frank Burnham
Mobile radios in cars and planes, plus fixed stations at CAP headquarters,
combine in daring flood rescue operation.
A CAP pilot uses his aircraft radio as a mobile control
"control" providing instructions to other CAP airplanes
which are engaged in the air search and rescue mission.
Pelting rain continued to come down as it had for more than 72 hours.
Three days of downpour turned the brooks into creeks, the creeks
into rivers, and the rivers into seas of raging destruction in western
Virginia, southern West Virginia, and southeastern Kentucky. Rising
water forced the Guyandot, Clinch, Kentucky, and Cumberland rivers
out of their banks. And the rain kept up.
In a 15,000-square-mile area dominated by rugged hills, narrow valleys,
and scores of soft coal mines the cry "flood" threw terror into
the hearts of the mining folk. For the next five days they lived
with terror. Death and destruction reigned in the shadow of the
Almost immediately state and federal relief agencies swung into
action. The American Red Cross marshaled its forces. The Federal
Civil Defense Administration ordered its field office to give all
possible support. Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler of Kentucky and
Governor Cecil H. Underwood of West Virginia asked President Eisenhower
to declare the region an emergency area.
Even earlier, however, a relatively unknown and unrecognized group
began emergency operations - operations which later were to prove
vital to the overall relief effort in "Operation Jupiter" as the
flood mission was to be called.
This group was made up of civilian volunteers wearing the familiar
blue uniform of the United States Air Force. Only the insignia was
different. The volunteers were members of the Civil Air Patrol,
official USAF auxiliary, and their part in "Operation Jupiter" was
to be a big one.
Lt. Col. Huston H. Doyle, 43-year-old CAA chief airways operations
specialist who commands the Civil Air Patrol's Kentucky Wing in
his spare time, prepared a message to all CAP units in Kentucky.
Especially to London and Hazard, in the path of the flood waters,
"Request your squadron provide all possible assistance ...."
The rolling tide of disaster unleashed by the heavy rains moved
faster than expected. As Doyle was preparing his message, Middleground
One Six, communications station of the Hazard Squadron, came on
the air with a desperate plea for help.
Lt. Bill Roll, 26-year-old Army veteran who wins the family bread
as an LP gas serviceman, was at the microphone. The building at
the Hazard airport which housed both the CAP headquarters and the
State Police was already under water. Roll was operating from his
home on high ground and on power supplied by a small, gasoline generator
kept for emergencies. His message, which was picked up as far away
as Atlanta, Ga., said:
CAP cadet ground rescue team boards Eighteenth Air Force
"Vertol" (H-21) helicopter to answer a distress call broadcast
by a Civil Air Patrol radio station during a recent flood
disaster. This is a typical CAP function.
"Hazard business district completely wiped out. Four feet of water
in Peoples' Bank. Five million dollars damage. Several hundred people
out of homes. Will be several days before contact possible by any
other means than CAP radio net."
The message was signed by Dewey Daniels, Kentucky state Republican
chairman. The Kentucky Wing immediately forwarded it to the office
of Governor Chandler. Meanwhile CAP communicators Capt. J. R. Patterson
and Lt. Peggy Wade, who had picked up the call in Atlanta, Ga.,
were also forwarding it to the Kentucky governor.
During the next four days Middleground One Six was the only contact
with the stricken community. When Army engineer companies from Fort
Knox broke through 48 hours after the first desperate message they
found Roll still on the job.
in Louisville Colonel Doyle was busy arranging for a high-priority
airlift of serum and vaccine to the flood area. CAP light planes,
picking up the life-preserving fluid at Lexington and Louisville,
transported it to London where a combined disaster operations headquarters
had been set up. Here the precious vials were put on helicopters
for the last leg of the journey into the area where nature had run
The first two days of the emergency Colonel Doyle made his headquarters
at the London, Ky., airport where CAP Maj. Roscoe Magee and the
London squadron had been on duty since Lieutenant Roll's dramatic
message went on the air. Through Lt. B. L. White, the squadron chaplain
and a ham operator (W4UVH), the London CAP communicators maintained
contact with Kentucky hams who also pitched in with an assist to
their troubled state.
Going on the air at 1930 CST on January 29, Middleground Eight,
the London Squadron headquarters station, stayed on the air continuously
until 0245 CST February 2. At times atmospherics prevented direct
contact with Hazard and a relay was set up with Blue Chip One Three,
Tennessee Wing, and Red Star Five, Georgia Wing.
"Operation Jupiter" turned out to be one of the largest missions
in the history of the CAP's Kentucky Wing. At its peak several hundred
CAP civilian volunteers - each one taking time off from his job
or business, mostly without pay - were manning the 18 fixed and
mobile radio stations, the relief teams, and the aircraft. They
weren't alone, however. In Virginia and West Virginia their counterparts
were doing their share to stem the tide of death and destruction.
At almost the same time Bill Roll was telling of the plight of Hazard,
the first word of immediate danger in Richlands, Va., was coming
in from Senior Member Mack Blankenship (Blue Flight Seven) of Bandy,
Va., six miles from Richlands in the heart of the soft coal fields.
Relayed by other Blue Flight stations, it. was received at Hampton
by Capt. Mildred Hicks, attractive wife of CAP Maj. Douglas Hicks,
Virginia Wing director of Communications. Mildred, who admits to
some "30-odd" years, is an ardent CAP communicator and keeps Blue
Flight Three-Virginia's alternate net control station - on the air
when her husband is working at his full-time civilian job as an
electronics engineer with the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics
at Langley Air Force Base.
The message which began "Operation Jupiter" for Virginia read:
A radio-equipped CAP jeep and a radio-equipped ambulance
aircraft work as a team evacuating simulated casualties
from an atom-blasted house situated less than a mile from
"Ground Zero" following a recent atomic test at Yucca Flat.
"Richlands under water. Severe damage except in business district.
Need blankets, food, and shelter."
Lt. Col. Alfred Nowitsky, deputy wing commander for Virginia, immediately
ordered the entire statewide CAP organization on 24-hour alert.
In Richlands Maj. Grady Dalton, commander of the Richlands Squadron,
who in private life is the vice-president and cashier of the Richlands
National Bank, already had his unit at work aiding in the evacuation
of citizens from flooded areas of the town. Two of Dalton's mobile
cars were on the air maintaining contact with CAP stations outside
the flooded region.
Another of the Richlands mobile cars, operated by Lt. Burkley Whited,
was on its way from the Whited home in nearby Swords Creek. It was
some time, however, before the 48-year-old carpenter reached Richlands.
Whited got as far as Reven, Va., when he found his way blocked by
flood waters. Turning back he found the flood had cut him off from
behind. Some minutes later other CAP stations in the area heard
"I've got a mile and a half of road and no place to go."
He spent the night on a low ridge between two roaring torrents of
water relaying messages for other CAP stations that were maintaining
the long vigil.
A Cadet operates an SCR-511 "Pogo Stick" high-frequency
transceiver, relaying instruction to CAP aircraft engaged
in disaster relief training mission. Cadets at left operate
a telephone switchboard tied into the local Civil Defense
One of the first orders issued by Colonel Nowitsky was to the Tazewell
Squadron - the CAP unit closest to Richlands. Immediately three
mobile radio cars operated by Lt. Sam Evans (Green Flight One Two
Three), Senior Member Aubrey McCracken, and Lt. Carless Chaffin
were dispatched to the aid of beleaguered CAP forces in Richlands.
Senior Member Walter Blankenship (Blue Flight Nine) was assigned
to coordinate the activities of the mobiles. During the periods
he was to be off duty in his capacity as a Virginia State Trooper
another CAP communicator, Lt. Luther Mercer, was to back Blankenship
None of the three mobiles was able to find a surface route open
into the stricken community. After several tries it was decided
that Chaffin and McCracken would return to their base of operations.
Evans planned to continue his search for a way into Richlands.
Over the radio Evans told Blankenship he would stock his outboard
motor boat with food and other supplies and would make another try.
At home Mrs. Evans overheard the conversation on their monitor receiver.
By the time he arrived at the house she had stripped the family
pantry, loading every available item of food into the boat along
with blankets and warm clothes. Stopping only for a word of thanks,
Evans hitched the boat trailer to his mobile radio car and headed
back toward the swollen Clinch River.
He might have a chance, he reasoned, to get through overland if
he tried the many narrow, winding mountain roads in the area. Perhaps
one of them would be open. Heading down Baptist Valley, he found
the bridge under water. Another road, another, and still another
was under water when he tried them. On his last try before taking
to the boat he found an open road. Reporting to Grady Dalton in
Richlands, Evans found it had taken him two hours to go 17 miles.
He found also that the route he used became impassable almost immediately
after he used it. It was two days before Chaffin, McCracken, and
the Tazewell CAP land rescue teams got through to relieve him and
Dalton's weary men.
Meanwhile Sam Evans' relief after 48 hours of duty in Richlands
was short lived. Sam went home and dropped exhausted into bed. The
next day he planned to return to his job as a telephone inspector
for the Pocahontas Fuel Co. At Bluefield, W. Va., however, a chain
reaction was beginning that was to demand more hard work and personal
sacrifice from Evans.
Most of that night CAP Capt. Jim Cheek, a 32-year-old Army veteran,
and his wife, Lt. Norma Jean Cheek, were busy moving emergency traffic.
Their powerful Lowland Four Four, alternate net control for the
West Virginia Wing, blankets most of western Virginia also with
a strong signal. It proved a perfect relay station carrying traffic
also for the Kentucky and Tennessee wings. Cheek is a salesman for
the Meyers Electronics Go. of Bluefield and the next morning, leaving
his wife to operate the station, he began a business trip to nearby
Grundy, Va., just across the state line.
At Oakwood, Va., Cheek was turned back by State Police who said
that the route was closed by flood waters.
Checking the situation, Cheek found that there were apparently no
open routes to Grundy. Returning to Bluefield, he went on the air
with a report of the situation to Blue Flight Three.
Colonel Nowitsky, Virginia Wing mission commander, immediately checked
with all state agencies in Richmond and found that there was no
contact with Grundy nor had there been contact for more than 12
hours. In a matter of minutes Sam Evans was under orders to proceed
toward Grundy keeping wing headquarters advised of his progress.
The State Director of Civil Defense asked Evans for an evaluation
of 'the situation if and when he got into the isolated community.
Civil Air Patrol communicators operate a high-frequency
rig installed in a surplus Air Force bus which has been
converted into a combination mobile communications station
and a mobile operations headquarters for directing rescue
Lt. Chaffin (Green. Flight Four Five) was sent to Short Gap, Va.,
a high point on the Buchanan County Line, to act as a relay. McCracken
and Mercer were detailed to assist Evans and another relief mission
was on. It took the mobile radio cars and the accompanying ground
rescue team vehicles until 10 that night to get into Grundy and
then only with the aid of heavy equipment of the State Highway Department.
Evans reported immediately to the office of Mayor W. B. Raines and
asked for an assessment of the situation. He then sent this message
- the first contact between Grundy and the outside world in two
"One road now open one way. The one we used to come in on. Need
clothing and bedding for 100 families. Water not contaminated. Power
back on. Water dropped from 30 feet above normal to 10 feet above
normal. Ten thousand miners out of work. Need Bailey bridges to
mines. No loss of life. No other communications available."
When Cheek asked Evans if he could handle the situation in Grundy,
the CAP citizen-turned-rescuer replied:
"Just tell my wife I'll be here until Sunday and that I'm all right."
Meanwhile West Virginia was having its own troubles with the Guyandot
River in Logan County. CAP Maj. James Singleton is the coordinator
for Civil Defense for the West Virginia Wing. He also is Logan County
"We have had experience with disaster in Logan County for a long
time," he explains, "mine explosions, floods, complete disruptions
of all types of communications caused by forest fires, and snow
and ice storms which cut us off from the world completely.
"Because of the continual rainfall for a 72-hour period we - the
CAP- dispatched a mobile radio car to the headwaters of the Guyandot.
We checked rainfall and water level in the tributaries also. This
was Monday. From past experience we determined that the river would
begin approaching flood stage about 10:30 Tuesday morning. The Logan
Squadron immediately made plans to meet the emergency.
"Communicators were alerted and were warned to have their mobiles
moved to high ground out of danger from the water so that they would
be usable if and when the flood struck. Four fixed stations and
14 mobiles went on the air.
"We sent CAP mobile cars through the probable high-water areas warning
citizens to evacuate to high ground and assisting in evacuation
wherever possible. Lt. Raymond Chapman (Overland Two Six) alerted
this area - Champanville. Man, W. Va., was alerted via radio and
CAP members there began warning the population."
Now the Red Cross, Civil Defense, State Police, and county law enforcement
agencies took over the actual disaster assistance work while CAP
stood by to provide emergency communication.
The work these civilian volunteers, like Singleton, performed in
"Operation Jupiter" isn't new. The precedent was established in
the early months of World War II when Nazi U-boats prowled our Atlantic
and Gulf coasts sinking Allied shipping within sight of the shore.
For several months tiny, light planes piloted by CAP's unpaid volunteers
ranged out to sea spotting the submarines and reporting them by
radio to the Army and Navy bombers which at that time were few and
Typical of the more than 5000 fixed stations used by the
CAP is this installation being operated by CAP 2nd Lt. Kenneth
Lofstedt, exec of the CAP Squadron 90.
For its wartime work the Civil Air Patrol was chartered by a grateful
Congress (Public Law 476, 79th Congress) to continue serving the
people of the United States - this time as a non-profit corporation
dedicated to furthering the principles of airpower and to using
the airplane as an instrument of help and succor.
For the past six years these civilians have performed more than
half of all the search hours recorded by all participating agencies
in aerial search and rescue missions flown at the direction of the
In California's disastrous 1955 Christmas floods; in the wake of
Hurricanes Hazel, Diane, and Connie; in the Michigan tornados; and
in "Operation Jupiter" CAP's emergency communications capability
At first communications in the Civil Air Patrol was a support function
to the aircrews just as it was in the Air Force. Today, however,
emergency communications is one of the CAP's assigned wartime missions
and from all accounts it is a mission in which CAP excels.
Operating on both high and very-high frequencies loaned by the Air
Force (Public Law 557, 80th Congress gave CAP auxiliary status),
the Civil Air Patrol today has nearly 14,000 stations in the 48
states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
and Alaska and Hawaii.
High-frequency stations include 2605 fixed, 4351 mobile, and 254
airborne. The v.h.f. facilities include 2510 fixed, 3926 mobile,
and 438 airborne. Frequencies used by CAP include 2374, 4467.5,
4585, and 4507.5 kc. At present only one v.h.f. frequency - 148.14
mc. - is authorized. Only A3 emission (voice) is permitted and all
CAP transmitters must be crystal controlled. All CAP stations are
FCC-licensed and all CAP operators must have at least a restricted
radiotelephone operator's license.
At wing level (equal to the states and territories) 400 watts h.f.
transmitter power output is permitted, 150 watts at group level,
and 75 watts at squadron level. On v.h.f. 50 watts is permitted
at all echelons. Mobile output is restricted to the power output
of the respective headquarters.
CAP communicators employ a conglomeration of equipment. Some of
it is surplus military equipment, mostly from World War II. The
majority of it, however, is commercial equipment purchased and maintained
at the expense of the individual member. "Globe Scout" and "Champion,"
Heath, Johnson "Viking," Gonset, and Aerotron are among the nameplates
to be found in CAP communications rooms. There you find BC-669,
ARC-5, ARC-4, BC-640, and SCR-522 equipment and perhaps even a few
sets you never knew existed. The important thing is that when the
chips are down the Civil Air Patrol always seems to turn in a whale
of a job no matter what it has to work with or what price must be
The value of their work in "Operation Jupiter" can best be told
in the words of people who watched the CAP in action - people like
Kentucky Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler. In a telegram to Maj.
Gen. Walter R. Agee, USAF, CAP National Commander, Governor Chandler
"Kentuckians are deeply grateful to the Civil Air Patrol for its
assistance during the recent disastrous flood in eastern Kentucky.
CAP members and their radio communications system performed nobly
in helping protect lives and property. CAP radio at Hazard, using
emergency generators when the city's power system failed, sent out
first calls for help from the stricken community. Then Hazard radio
working with CAP radio units in London, Middlesboro, and Louisville,
dispatched messages which brought in food, clothing, and medicines.
Throughout the flood crisis every Civil Air Patrol member involved
performed magnificently and they have certainly earned our undying
gratitude and esteem."
Posted November 19, 2013