A Brief History of Civil Air Patrol in the Las Vegas Valley
A Brief History of Civil Air Patrol in the Las Vegas ValleyBy 1st Lt Dallas M Uonites
The Las Vegas Squadron (LVS) has had a varied history, especially during the Second World War, where it was utilized within the Greater Las Vegas Valley.
LVS was activated to search for a missing aircraft that left Tonopah, assisted in searches for missing persons and aircraft, and assisted training missions provided by the B-17 and B-25 Gunnery School at the Las Vegas Army Airfield (now Nellis AFB), the home of the 82d Flying Training Wing.
Nevada was considered almost ideal for aerial training. The state is 109,802 square miles and the 1940 census recorded 110,247 residents — 48th of 48 states in the lowest number of residents. At the time, Las Vegas boasted a population of 8,422 — and there were only 16,414 in all of Clark County.
Las Vegas Army Airfield was the first of the new flexible gunnery schools to begin accepting its first students in December 1941. Army Air Forces Gunnery Schools were World War II organizations for training personnel in the skill of aerial gunnery. "Flexible Gunnery" training developed diverse skills for various aircraft and differing positions within bombers, e.g., waist gunner, rear gunner, etc. The first B-17 Flying Fortresses arrived in 1942 and allowed the training of 600 gunnery students and 215 co-pilots from the field every five weeks at the height of the war. More than 45,000 B-17 gunners were trained.
Las Vegas Squadron was also activated on another mission, which was the second activation of the unit, to search for another aircraft that was reported missing in Southern Nevada. Before this activation, the unit was activated and provided outstanding service to the Utah Wing. This was an unusual search as the unit was searching for the aircraft in bad weather during extremely dangerous terrain.
The most entertaining mission of LVS was its use as a bond bomber in 1945. The squadron “bombed” the greater Las Vegas Valley with bond leaflets, which were used to fund the war. Not only did the pilots “bomb” their communities, but they were “bond-bombing” their communities to the tune of air raid sirens. One could only imagine the thrill of taking part in a unique opportunity during the Second World War.
In July 1945, training under regular army instructors, 14 Nevada Wing Civil Air Patrol cadets completed a two-week course at Las Vegas army airfield. Instruction on basic deflection and the moving base and small arms was the first day’s program. The second day included chemical warfare, crash procedure, and interphone training. The week also included communications, military drill, and parachute training. Simulated flying training and practice for the weekly military review. The highlight of the training was an orientation flight on a B-24 bomber, during which cadets operate intercommunication phones and explanation of bombing and aerial protection. A briefing on control tower operations, weather mapping and reading, and use of weather instruments and forecasting.
Although the squadron was utilized for unique activities during the war, it also persevered through its challenges. The Las Vegas Squadron and the Las Vegas provisional mounted troop were both disbanded in December 1942 for reasons beyond its control, as many members were called into service for their country. Maj. Eugene Howell, Nevada Wing Commander, felt it was imperative that recruiting and organizing new CAP units in Southern Nevada, including Basic townsite and Boulder City continue. “Southern Nevada is the scene of heavy air traffic and many war activities which demand the support of an active, efficient Civil Air Patrol organization. It is vital that we plan now to recruit and organize at least an air squadron, a mounted squadron, and a motorized unit in that area.”
The Las Vegas Squadron has had a colorful history and one that continually evolved and persevered. The squadron lived by the Civil Air Patrol Core Values of Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence, and Respect. The Las Vegas Squadron provided volunteer service not only for its community but for the war efforts that led the nation to victory. The Las Vegas Squadron provided excellence by provided outstanding service to another wing in need. The Las Vegas squadron was the epitome of the Southern Nevada squadron and helped to evolve into the Las Vegas Valley squadron as they are today.