The CAP Subchasers of WWII
As shipping losses mounted, the government finally permitted a 90-day test of three experimental anti-sub bases operated by CAP Coastal Patrol: Base 1 in Atlantic City, NJ; Base 2 in Rehoboth Beach, DE, and Base 3 in Lantana (near Palm Beach), FL.
The bases were so effective that the trial was concluded early and 21 Coastal Patrol bases were set up “From Maine to Mexico.”
Volunteer pilots equipped the bases with their own airplanes or whatever civilian airplanes were immediately available – sometimes bought right off the factory floor and flown in their original civilian paint jobs (CAP insignia added, of course.)
Fairchild 24s and Stinson 10As were mainstays, but any airplane with 90 hp or more was eligible.
In Coastal Patrol operations, the red propeller was removed from the circle and triangle insignia (as it was from insignia on any combat aircraft in May, 1942) so as not to be confused with the red ball (“Rising Sun”) on Japanese aircraft.
How could these small civilian planes defeat armed U-Boats?
The answer is simple… with the wider perspective of the world that flying offers.
The airplane is the natural enemy of the submarine (a stealthy vehicle to surface ships) because a sub can be seen at shallow depths from above. The mere presence of an aircraft (or CAP’s unarmed dives at attacking subs) was enough to cause U-boats to cut and run.
Besides, another key mission was to report sinkings and help coordinate rescue of survivors. CAP’s mission here was so critical that some tanker crewman refused to go back to sea until receiving assurances that CAP would be there to help in case of attack.
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