Patrolling the Coast – Civil Air Patrol

From: John Foard of the Blockade Runner Museum

The following is from a collection of articles first published in the Beach-O-Gram, and collected and reprinted in 2000 by Sandy Jackson.

U-boats along the NC CoastRecognition Past Due
Those who lived on the beach during World War II will well remember the noise and vibration from exploding torpedoes, the sky at sea lit by burning tankers that were unfortunate enough to be spotted by a German submarine, also oil-covered and burned seamen who were fortunate enough to make land.

Tankers and cargo vessels operated closer to the coastline than normal to avoid U-boats, but the U-boats also moved closer in to sit on the bottom and wait for a victim to come along. Forty-eight or more ships were torpedoed and sunk along our coastline. Many of the wrecks have been accounted for and their location inside the Gulf Stream marked. Many more probably lie beyond.

Among the unsung heroes of these times were the boys and men who maintained a patrol along the coast in small boats in an endeavor to spot a submarine and report its position.

Earl Page and his father, 1940’s

Earl Page and his father, 1940’s

Old and young pilots in the Civil Air Patrol also maintained a spotting action from small planes that actually had no business being offshore as far as some did go and in weather that normally would have kept them on the ground.

Boats operated from a temporary Coast Guard base at Wrightsville Sound where the Wrightsville Marina now is located.

I remember a small 38-foot Mathews Sport Fisherman coming in after several days of cruising offshore during a northeaster that would have made any peacetime boat operator head for the hills. These boats were only armed with hand guns and rifles, a few of the larger ones did carry a depth charge on the stern, or maybe a bazooka stored away. Their service was voluntary under the Coast Guard Auxiliary, such was also the case of the pilots flying their small planes under the Civil Air Patrol.

These small boats with their crews of three or four, and the pilots of the small planes did an admirable job in driving submarines from our shores. Many men from the torpedoed ships owe their very lives to the courage of these volunteers who did not hesitate in fair or foul weather to go to their aid. It is time they be recognized as the men and heroes they were.