Col. James L. Fletcher receives his Congressional Gold Medical replica from Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez at the medal gala Dec. 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Susan Schneider, National Headquarters
Fletcher boarding a 1942 Stearman PT-17.
Col. James Fletcher, believed to be the last surviving member of Civil Air Patrol’s World War II “Duck Club” as well as the last alumnus of Coastal Patrol Base 4 in Parksley, Virginia, died Dec. 2 at his home in Texas. He was 94.
Fletcher was promoted to the rank of colonel and made a lifetime CAP member when he attended the unveiling March 12, 2016, of a historical marker in Parksley honoring those who served at Base No. 4. Sixteen months earlier, on Dec. 10, 2014, he was one of the CAP World War II members saluted at a gala held in Washington, D.C., after the organization received a Congressional Gold Medal for its volunteer wartime service.
He qualified for the “Duck Club” – CAP pilots forced to ditch their planes at sea – in early June 1942 the plane he was flying in with two of his fellow first lieutenants experienced vapor lock. When the aircraft’s left tank ran dry after two hours of flight and the right tank refused to flow, the plane plunged into the Atlantic. Fletcher and the other two members were rescued within 90 minutes.
Fletcher logged over 850 hours patrolling for German U-boats along the Virginia and Maryland coasts and for that service was recognized with an Air Medal after the war.
Fletcher's wife, Maybelle, was a pilot as well. The couple bought their first aircraft together the day they were married in October 1945, her 21st birthday. They owned Eastern Shore Air Service in Parksley and, later, Fletcher Aviation in Houston. She preceded him in death by 45 days.