Massachusetts aviator an unsung hero in World War II

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TAUNTON (AP) >> They were known as the "Eyes of the Home Skies," and during World War II, the volunteers who comprised the Civil Air Patrol served as unsung heroes.

Including Everett L. King.

King, of the family that founded the Taunton Municipal Airport, spotted while on flight patrol near Block Island an oil slick from a U-boat, a German submarine.

For his wartime service in the all-volunteer CAP, flying out of Base 18 in Falmouth, King was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Dec. 10, 2014. On that same day, other CAP veterans, living or deceased, were similarly honored. In its proclamation, Congress recognized the "200,000 founding members' service in protecting the homeland against deadly German U-boat attacks and for fulfilling many other critical humanitarian needs during World War II," reported Julie DeBardelaben in the Civil Air Patrol Volunteer magazine.

The CAP was created on Dec. 1, 1941, a week before the United States entered World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by Japan. True to its name, it was a group of civilians who created the air patrol. Little did they know how soon they would be needed.

A hangar outside the home of Sue King, Everett's daughter, offers a flashback to her father's and her family's past.

Related content Remembering the Civil Air Patrol's link to TauntonA 1946 model of a red and yellow Fairchild propeller plane weighing about 2,700 pounds is very similar to the propeller plane flown along the eastern Massachusetts coast by King during his CAP career.

The plane is a two-seater, with its dashboard designed by Packard Motor Car Co. There is a foot pedal that a pilot uses inside the plane while flying, and several stick shifts to control the plane as well. Roll-down windows give nod to early automobile design. Similarly, there is nothing automated on the plane's dashboard. Dials and meters are spread across the front of the plane.

King family friend Fran Soares comes in a couple of days a week to the hangar to dust things off. Soares points out parts of the plane to two visitors on this Christmas Eve afternoon.

The plane's size exemplifies its nimbleness in the air, at the hands of a skilled pilot such as King. King and the men with whom he flew missions over the Cape Cod coast and further south are now credited with significantly helping the war effort.

King was 26 when he flew planes as a volunteer Civil Air Patrol member. He couldn't enlist in the military because he was blind in one eye, which made him 4-F, or unfit for service, in the military's mind. He was already a pilot, however, and able to fly.

King worked in a Boston factory aiding the war effort. His job?

"Putting the fabric covering on the control surfaces and tail assemblies of the big Waco gliders that were to be used in the invasion of Europe," author Louis Keefer wrote in his book, "From Maine to Mexico: With America's Private Pilots in the Fight Against Nazi U-Boats."

Wartime laws enacted by the federal government once the country entered World War II prohibited all civilian, or private, planes from flying within 100 miles of the ocean.

Published in 1997, a chapter in Keefer's book details the Civil Air Patrol's Base 18, headquartered in Falmouth.

A friend suggested to King, the book notes, that he should go to the Falmouth coastal patrol base and join the men patrolling the area. King acted on the suggestion. He walked into the Falmouth base commander's office. Capt. Gordon Gibbs, the son of secretarial school founder Katherine Gibbs, was the base commander. King knew Gibbs because he had previously flown in several air shows for him. Gibbs made King a first lieutenant, pilot-in-command, per Keefer's book.

Everett King served in the Civil Air Patrol from Sept. 14, 1942, to April 6, 1945.

King recalls in the book one of his proudest moments in the CAP. King spotted an oil slick off Block Island while patrolling above the water.

"On the morning of January 9, 1943, the Army and Navy ordered a search of the area south of Block Island for suspected enemy submarine activity, and although the fog was heavy, six planes were sent aloft. Fifty miles out to sea from the island, two of the planes, carrying Everett King, former Taunton operator, Louis Ferrari and Walter Murphy, of Boston, and Don Reed, of Fort Madison, Iowa, spotted a long narrow slick which showed traces of all the colors the rainbow. Both planes were nearly out of gasoline, so the observers dropped aluminum marker bombs over the slick and the planes headed back to the base. ... (Though the U-boat was not found that day, other coastal patrol planes from Falmouth found a fresh oil slick the following day, and this time Navy ships arrived in time to hunt down and sink it)."

The Congressional Gold Medal design features two men looking to the right, casting a steady eye around them, one man holding a pair of binoculars. Above them, two propeller planes, one with a bomb attached to its undercarriage, glides between water and clouds. The war years— 1941 to 1945 —are part of the medal design, as is the Civil Air Patrol symbol on one plane, a triangle within a circle.

Within the three sides of the triangle, are three propeller blades.

Sue King, preparing to welcome family members for Christmas dinner, showed two visitors the medal, which she recently received from Washington, D.C.

Earlier, a 2011 ceremony in Massachusetts recognized Everett King's CAP volunteerism as well. King received the Air Medal from then President Harry S. Truman.

The citation accompanying the award of the air medal to 1st Lieutenant Everett L. King, 1-4-531 of the Civil Air Patrol reads:

"For meritorious achievement while participating in anti-submarine patrol missions during World War II. The accomplishment of these missions in light commercial type aircraft despite the hazards of unfavorable weather conditions reflects the highest credit upon this valiant member of the Civil Air Patrol. The high degree of competence and exceptional courage he displayed in the voluntary performance of a hazardous and difficult task contributed in large measure to the security of coastal shipping and military supply lines. His patriotic efforts aided materially in the accomplishment of a vital mission of the Army Air Forces in the prosecution of the war."

The White House

Harry Truman

Efforts to bring alive the memory of the coastal Civil Air Patrol during World War II are underway. The headquarters of the Massachusetts wing of the CAP is located at 30 Patrick Loop, Hanscom AFB, Mass., 01731.

Information from: Taunton Daily Gazette, http://www.tauntongazette.com


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