Before They Were WASP, They Were CAP

Did you know that many Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)—including Air Zoo Co-founder Sue Parish—first served as part of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP)?

Approved by the United States Commerce, Navy, and War departments in 1941, the CAP recruited American civilian pilots eager to use their aviation skills for national defense. Men and women answered the call and volunteered in many ways. They provided surveillance, missing aircraft searches, forest patrols, and much more. Prior to her WASP career, Sue Parish stood ready to fly on-call search and rescue missions. Kalamazoo’s Mabel Rawlinson helped establish our local CAP before she became one of the 38 women who gave their lives serving with the WASP. Teresa “Jamesy” James set up a CAP in her hometown, too, before becoming one of the very first WASP.

Following World War II, the CAP pivoted its energies to cadet programs, emergency services, and aerospace education. By the second half of the Cold War, the CAP flew military training route surveys for the Strategic Air Command and the Tactical Air Command. Later, they flew human tissue and organ transplant missions and made a difference during disasters including the Exxon Valdez oil spill, hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy, and national tragedies such as the attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, technology allows the CAP to participate in air defense intercept missions, communications exercises, cybersecurity, and unmanned aircraft missions.

Women like Sue, Mabel, and Teresa helped usher in a volunteer organization that in 2014, received a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of the over 200,000 World War II CAP members. And then they went on to serve their country proudly with the WASP! Interested in learning more about these intrepid women and others like them? Look out for our all-new WASP exhibit to debut in 2022!

Photo of Mabel RawlinsonSue Parish Photo

Learn more about the Women in Air and Space today!

Posted by Nikki Statler at 8:30 AM
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