Hugh R. Sharp, Jr. (1909-1990) commanded Delaware Civil Air Patrol (CAP) submarine-hunting operations out of Rehoboth Beach in World War II and later flew in the U.S. Army Air Corps Air Transport Command (ATC).
He and Edmond I. (Eddie) Edwards were the first civilian recipients of the Air Medal for heroism. They were cited for the daring rescue of a fellow CAP airman whose plane crashed into rough seas off Maryland. The medals were conferred by President Franklin Roosevelt at the White House. (The rescue plane, a Sikorsky S-63 single-engine amphibian piloted by Sharp, is restored and on display in the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, Conn.)
Activated on Dec. 1, 1941, the CAP established 21 bases along the East and Gulf coasts on a 90-day experimental basis. Flying light aircraft at low level, the pilots' main mission was to locate Nazi U-boats, a job U.S. military forces were ill-quipped to do early in the war. The first bases were set up at Atlantic City and Rehoboth Beach. Major Sharp piloted the first Delaware CAP mission on March 5, 1942.
His fleet of 26 high-wing Stinsons and Fairchilds flew daily from dawn to dusk. Their effectiveness was instrumental in making the CAP an official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, which it is today
By summer 1943, Naval aviation was able to take over sub patrol, and the stop-gap civilian operation closed down. "We have done what we set out to do," said Sharp, who then joined the ATC where he served till war's end.
A career DuPont Company official, including a member of the board of directors, Sharp was active in major community organizations. He was on the board of trustees of the University of Delaware and served on the boards of several health care institutions. He served as chairman of the State Highway and Delaware Aeronautics commissions.
His wife Ada B. Wardrop Sharp died in 1983. They were the parents of H. Rodney Sharp III, Wilmington, William M. W Sharp of Coatesville, Pa., and daughter H. Donnan Sharp, Unionville, Pa.