Ever wonder why Airport Road in Rehoboth Beach has no airport?
In 1942, German U-boats had been sinking ships along the East Coast and were lurking right off our shores. Most army pilots were busy overseas, so some brave civilians took on the job of patrolling our coast as part of the Civil Air Patrol. Based at a small unpaved airfield where the Rehoboth Shores Estates community now sits, and working around the clock, 35 pilots from all walks of life (chemists, carpenters, photographers, engineers and other professions) donned flying suits and climbed into small two-seater planes with no safety equipment other than life vests.
Often flying as low as 500 feet, these “Flying Minute Men” stalked the German submarines, reporting their positions and disrupting their missions. The result was a dramatic drop in the number of ship sinkings. When a German submarine commander was asked at the war trials why they stopped sinking ships in the Delaware Bay, he responded by saying, “It was those damn little red and yellow planes!”
This was dangerous work and lives were lost. Two men who saved a fellow pilot after a crash-landing were awarded the Air Medal by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was the first time the award had ever been given to a civilian.
The Rehoboth airfield closed in 1987, and the only reminder is a state historical marker on the side of Airport Road, near the former base for the heroic Flying Minute Men.