Earle L. Johnson
By Col. Frank A. Blazich Jr.
While the basic history of Civil Air Patrol is broadly
known, few members are familiar with the man who led
and managed the organization during World War II. A
former football player at Ohio State University, diversified
businessman in Cleveland and three-time member of
the Ohio General Assembly, Earle Levan
involvement in politics and aviation would culminate in
March 1942 with his appointment as national commander
of CAP. Under his tutelage, the organization blossomed
during World War II into a viable instrument of homeland
security for the Office of Civilian Defense and later the
U.S. Army Air Forces.
Col. Earle L. Johnson, circa
Although predominantly civilian-cum-military
1946, served as national
commander from 1942-1945. For his
skillful use of his business and political skills
wartime leadership of CAP the U.S.
of persuasion, public relations savvy and perpetual
Army awarded him the Legion of
optimism maintained order and unity among 48 wings
Merit. Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Wing
and over 200,000 civilian volunteers from 1942-1945.
Johnson saw CAP originally designed as a temporary,
emergency measure through to congressionally
chartered incorporation before his untimely death.
These are military decorations of
as they would appear
he outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 and German
military success in Western Europe in 1940 stirred aviation
enthusiasts in the U.S. to action. Independently and then collectively,
people began to consider means to organize and use the civilian
aviators for defense purposes.
In Toledo, Ohio, Milton Knight, vice president of the Libbey-Owens-Ford
Citizens Serving Communities