101 Year Old Colonel Compton Receives Challenge Coins from National Commanders
EVANSTON, IL (January 13, 2018)― One of the first volunteers of the Civil Air Patrol, a Congressional Gold Medal honoree, 101 year old Colonel Charles Compton was the proud recipient of two personalized challenge coins by Civil Air Patrol national commander General Mark E Smith and Brigadier General Edward Phelka on Saturday January 13, 2018. Major David Gillingham, current Commander of the Compton Composite Squadron in Evanston, Illinois which is named for the recipient, delivered the coins later that evening to a deeply honored and delighted Colonel Compton.
Military organizations have long honored members by presenting challenge coins with their insignia when members have met challenges and deserve recognition for their accomplishments within their organizations. Colonel Compton’s service record is historic and General Smith commented that the colonel “is a treasure for CAP”.
The volunteer Civil Air Patrol was formed just one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Its charter was to patrol U.S. coasts, providing surveillance and protection for military and supply ships. On May 30, 2014, President Barack Obama signed bill S. 309 into law, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Civil Air Patrol for its service during World War II.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by an individual, institution, or event and must have the support of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Flying more than 500,000 hours, spotting enemy submarines which posed convoy and border risks, while saving hundreds of crash victims from 1941 to 1945, 65 of the 120,000 CAP volunteers lost their lives.
“A number of us in the Civil Air Patrol realized that there were many who gave so much more,” said Colonel Compton. “We felt fortunate in our escort duty to return to a safe haven at night. But our thoughts were with the convoys that sailed off into harm’s way beyond the point where we could accompany them. We honor the work that they did.”
Colonel Compton flew out of the first operational CAP base in Atlantic City and provided submarine spotting and convoy protection along the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware. The CAP, assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army, patrolled the U.S. coasts and provided aerial escort for military convoys, oilers, and merchant ships bringing supplies to the Allies. CAP offered surveillance, warning, and bombing of German U-boats that came within shore sight, attempting to torpedo these high-value targets.
Colonel Compton entered the Civil Air Patrol in 1941 and went on to become the commander of the Evanston-Morton Grove CAP squadron, retiring from active duty in 1970. The squadron was later renamed to the Colonel Compton Composite Squadron. Although technically in retirement, Colonel Compton continues to serve his namesake squadron and in December he oversaw 7 Cadet Promotions as well as the promotion of senior member, Major Bret Lortie to Lt. Colonel. This year, the Civil Air Patrol is celebrating 70 years as the Official Auxiliary of the United States Air Force and 76 years of official service to our nation. Colonel Compton has been there for most of it.