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Civil Air Patrol celebrates 70th anniversary

Alaska Dispatch

On Dec. 1, 1941, right before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the U.S. entry in WWII, the Civil Air Patrol was formed and provided valuable wartime service. Today, the Air Force auxiliary has more than 61,000 members and performs search and rescues across the country.

According to a release from the organization, "only a few hundred" of the original Civil Air Patrol volunteers who provided air support using their own aircraft during World War II are still alive. It urges Congress to pass legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Civil Air Patrol members who served in WWII by providing coastal patrols and attacking dozens of enemy submarines.

In Alaska, the Civil Air Patrol began in 1948 and it plays a vital role in numerous search and rescue operations every year. Gov. Sean Parnell has declared Dec. 1, 2011 as "Civil Air Patrol Day."

"The modern day Civil Air Patrol has become one of the nation's premiere humanitarian volunteer service organizations," Parnell said in the proclamation, "promoting service opportunities, training, and aerospace education, developing youth as future leaders through cadet programs and participating in 90 percent of the Air Force's inland search and rescue and disaster relief missions."

The Civil Air Patrol said that Alaskans -- Jean White of Anchorage and Cy Hetherington of Manley Hot Springs -- have been identified as Civil Air Patrol service members during World War II and stand to earn the Congressional Gold Medal should the legislation pass both houses of Congress.