Air Station Cape May, New Jersey

June 3, 2022

Air Station Cape May, New Jersey

Air Station Cape May, circa 1971

Original Location: 
Naval Air Station Cape May

Current Location:

Date of Commission:
29 October 1926

Second Commissioning: 16 June 1969

Decommissioned on 28 April 1998

Historical Remarks:

Air Station Cape May patchThe first permanent Coast Guard air station was commissioned at Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.

 Ever since 1917 the site now occupied by Coast Guard Air Station Cape May has been intimately involved with military aviation. Over half a century ago pilots of the First Marine Aeronautic Company were trained at Cape May. And during the remainder of World War I Navy seaplanes--and a lone dirigible-conducted antisubmarine patrols along the New Jersey coast from this site.  When peace arrived, the Navy converted the station to a construction site for lighter-than-air craft.  Nor is the Cape May Air Station new to the Coast Guard.  Of all the Service’s air stations, only Gloucester, Massachusetts, has an earlier place in Coast Guard aviation.

The first Coast Guard Air Station Cape May was commissioned in 1926 under the command of Carl C. Von Paulsen.  It was equipped with one seaplane and one amphibian aircraft -- both of which were used for rescue and anti-smuggling operations.  Chief Warrant Officer Charles Thrun flew the first of three amphibian biplanes into Cape May, New Jersey, on the 29 October 1926.  Originally assigned to Coast Guard Section Base 9, Cape May, these three aircraft and the men who flew them became Air Station Cape May.  Their original mission was to patrol the shores of New Jersey to locate rum smugglers during Prohibition.  The various types of aircraft which flew out of Air Station Cape May were hangared in a former Navy blimp hanger and launched into the harbor on a wooden ramp.

In the 1930s, an aviation school for enlisted men was set up at Cape May.  The Coast Guard maintained its operations until 1938 when the Navy returned.  During World War II Navy pilots trained at Cape May for operations on aircraft carriers.  Navy operations continued throughout the Second World War until 1946 when the station was returned to Coast Guard control.  In 1948 the site became the Coast Guard Recruit Training Center. 

A new Air Station was commissioned on 17 July 1969.  In the mid-1960s, the United States witnessed a rapid growth in recreational boating.  In response, Congress reestablished Coast Guard Air Station Cape May.  On July 17, 1969, Captain Thomas Carter assumed command of Air Station Cape May and simultaneously assumed the position of Commander, Group Cape May.  It was the first air station to utilize the "Group" concept wherein all operational units in a give area including the air station would be under a single command.  This reestablishment of Air Station Cape May included two HH-52 Sea Guards, 13 officers and 33 enlisted crew.  A third HH-52 was added to the Air Station’s complement in the early 1970s.

In 1987, the Coast Guard replaced the aging HH-52 with the HH-65 Dolphin.  Group-Air Station Cape May was instrumental in the test and design phase of several HH-65 upgrades.  Air Station Cape May was the first to have all its aircraft’s cockpit lighting made compatible with Night Vision Goggles making the H-65 infinitely more effective in night search and rescue.  A special camera was installed in the hoist boom to document hoisting.  A Traffic Collision Avoidance System was first fully implemented in Cape May aircraft.

 The Air Station closed on April 28, 1998.  Group-Air Station Atlantic City in its present form is the result of a Coast Guard aviation streamlining initiative to realign unit location with the capabilities of today’s modern aircraft. Air Station Brooklyn, New York and Group-Air Station Cape May, New Jersey resources were combined at the newly constructed $13 million facility at Atlantic City International Airport, which opened June 8, 1998.

Commanding Officers:

1995-98 CAPT Dale Goodreau

1992-95 CAPT James McKernan

1989-92 CAPT Peter Prindle

1986-89 CAPT N. E. King

1984-86 CAPT Patrick Wendt

1982-84 CAPT Lance Eagan

1980-82 CDR David Gemmel

1978-80 CAPT Joseph Tanguay

1976-78 CAPT Thomas Wedgewood

1973-76 CAPT Laurence Kindbom

1971-73 CDR Frederick Schubert

1969-71 CAPT Thomas H. Carter

1932-38 LCDR R. L. Burke

1932-32 LCDR Elmer Stone

1926-32 LCDR Carl C. Von Paulsen

Historic Photo Gallery

Unless otherwise indicated all photos are official U.S. Coast Guard photographs.  Any original caption information is included in the text beneath each photo, along with a date, if known.  Click on the thumbnail to access a 300 dpi image.

Air Station Cape May, circa 1935

Image scanned from page 16 of the May, 1935 issue of the Coast Guard Magazine.  The caption states: "At Cape May Air Station: Showing Coast Guard hangars and newly completed ramp."  Note the Fokker flying boats.

Air Station Cape May

No caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.  A view of the airship hangar, photo probably dated in the mid-1930s.

Air Station Cape May

Original caption: "Cape May Air Station, Looking W.S.W."; photo dated 4 May 1971; Photo No. 3CGD 09226901; photographer unknown.

Air Station Cape May, circa 1997

Original photo caption: "Coast Guard Air Station Cape May, N.J."; photo dated 3 June 1997; photo number 970603-A-3719T-001 (FR); photo by PA2 Thomas Blair, USCG.

Historical Sources:

Air Station Files, U. S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

Arthur Pearcy.  A History of U. S. Coast Guard Aviation.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989.