Not only did the Civil Air Patrol spot 173 U-Boats, they attacked 57 of them, resulting in two kills, reported 91 ships in distress, assisted in rescuing 363 survivors of U-Boat attacks, and reportd 17 floating mines. From Wiki:
The footnote on that paragraph goes to this .pdf article, which describes the first kill on page 9. This ‘dot-gov’ site contains the same information. A link on the page quotes a book where it says that a Col. Earle visited a U-Boat commander and asked him, ‘[W]hat do you consider to be the most outstanding factor of your defeat off the Atlantic coast of America?’ The reply: ‘It was because of those damned little red and yellow planes!’
Until a couple of years ago, I’d always heard that the CAP sank one sub. I haven’t turned up any information on the second sinking, nor the identity of the first one. It would be interesting if someone could find that information. The Civil Air Patrol has been called ‘the best-kept secret in the Air Force’. There have been a couple of high-profile searches (JFK Jr. and Steve Fossett come to mind), but the CAP do their jobs with little fanfare. They only (reportedly) sank two subs in WWII, but their spotting efforts were an important part of our Coastal Defense off the East Coast and several aircrew were killed. Even today, CAP pilots risk their lives – and occasionally lose them – performing their duties. The only compensation they receive is for fuel and such, and only on actual missions.
In any case, it’s nice to see the Civil Air Patrol mentioned in the column.
Johnny L.A., former 2LT, Civil Air Patrol