WWII-era Civil Air Patrol members receive Congressional Gold Medal
February 25, 2020 — BALTIMORE — Civil Air Patrol officials awarded the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously to First Sgt. Gerald L. Hill and Master Sgt. Essie Mae Thompson Hill for their service during World War II on Feb. 23. The couple’s son, retired Navy Capt. George J. Hill, and grandson retired Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas D. Hill, Jr., accepted the medal in honor of the couple.
Approximately 60 family members, friends and dignitaries gathered at the Cathedral of the Incarnation for the event.
“My parents would be pleased today to know they have not been forgotten,” Capt. Hill said as he reflected on his parents during his remarks to the audience. He also expressed that both Gerald and Essie Hill were proud, humble and selfless individuals; and also enjoyed adventure.
In 1942, Gerald Hill joined Civil Air Patrol ranks shortly after purchasing a Piper Cub airplane with his friends and learned to fly. As a first sergeant, he led the Lisbon, Iowa, Flight of Civil Air Patrol. He also served in a combat zone in Europe as an American Red Cross field director.
In 1955, he became a major, commanding Civil Air Patrol’s Sioux Falls, S.D., squadron.
Hill said his mother, Essie Mae, balanced life as a housewife, mother, teacher, vocalist and author during her Civil Air Patrol service. She joined CAP alongside her husband and as a CAP member in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she taught Civil Air Regulations, meteorology and navigation to fellow CAP members. When she was a 1st lieutenant, Essie Mae commanded the CAP Cadet Squadron in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1955.
Dating back to the American Revolutionary War, the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor the United States Congress can bestow, with President George Washington as the first recipient in 1776. Since then, a group of over one hundred patriots, artists, athletes, explorers and scientists have been chosen by Congress for its highest honor as national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
On Dec. 10, 2014, the U.S. Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Civil Air Patrol in honor of its founding members’ roles in protecting the homeland and carrying out other vital wartime domestic missions. Through their service, sacrifice and heroism, WWII members instilled within Civil Air Patrol members the passion to serve fellow Americans and their country, often in the darkest hours of both.
Civil Air Patrol National Deputy Chief of Plans and Programs Col. John Knowles gave special recognition to the honors during his remarks at the ceremony. Knowles presented the medal to the Hill family. CAP Lt. Col. John Henderson, Maryland Wing vice commander for operations, made remarks and presided over the ceremony; and Maryland Wing’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite Squadron Color Guard posted and retired the colors.
A video from the day is available at https://youtu.be/2Q3VRzi6GGk
Nearly 1,500 members serve in Civil Air Patrol’s Maryland Wing. Last year, wing members flew 13 actual search and rescue missions. Overall, the Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the State of Maryland, flying 2,245 hours in all mission categories, and was credited with four finds. Volunteers contributed services estimated at $4.6 million. For information, contact the Maryland Wing at mdwg.cap.gov or follow the wing on Facebook.
Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 82 lives annually. CAP’s 61,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 25,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com or www.CAP.news for information.
1st Lt. Jeffrey Robertson, CAP
Public Affairs Officer, Maryland Wing