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Yorkville woman who served as co-pilot during WWII returns to skies

She flew on Civil Air Patrol missions patrolling rivers, Lake Michigan for enemy vessels

After more than seven decades, Phyllis Geib Harvey, 93, of Yorkville recently returned to her lifelong passion: flying.

Harvey, a veteran of the Civil Air Patrol during World War II, climbed aboard a CAP aircraft May 6 at the DuPage Airport and, once again, helped patrol the skies over the Chicago area.

Capt. Gary Brown, commander of the CAP’s Fox Valley Composite Squadron, and Harvey’s daughter, Carol Gardner, said Harvey appreciated and enjoyed every moment of her CAP flight.

Referring to Harvey, Brown said, “It was a true honor flying such a national treasure and foundation of our organization... and she was truly back in her element.”

Gardner, said her mom has always loved flying and appreciated the opportunity to participate on a CAP flight again.

She noted the flight was her mom’s first with the CAP since the war ended in 1945.

Harvey developed an interest in aviation as a young child, according to her daughter. In her early adulthood, she decided to spend her entire $25 weekly paychecks on flight training at the former Harlem Airport in southwest suburban Oak Lawn.

In 1943, Harvey joined the CAP to volunteer her new piloting skills to perform critical wartime missions for America. She was assigned to the Civil Air Patrol’s 631-1 Squadron at Harlem Airport where, for 18 months, she co-piloted airplanes on missions patrolling the rivers for any enemy vessels that may have made their way inland from coastal waters.

Harvey was ultimately awarded the rank of sergeant, from the Office of Civilian Defense, for her service in the CAP.

But Harvey’s wartime contributions didn’t stop there. In 1944, she went on to do flight research for Consolidated Aircraft, in San Diego, for their B-17, B-24 and B-29 bomber aircraft programs. The following year, she took an assignment with the 327th Army Air Force, at Drew Field in Tampa, performing security clearances and flight planning for aircrews flying sorties against enemy submarines.

After the war, she settled with her husband on a farm in Oswego Township, where they raised their family. Gardner said her mom has flown commercial flights over the years, but had not been in small planes since the war ended.

Since the flight, Gardner said her mom has spoken often of the flight and the technical improvements made in today’s small planes, particularly on the instrument panel in the cockpit.

Gardner said when Brown and her mother took off it was initially a bumpy flight.

“My mom didn’t mind though; she told him [Brown] that she had been through bumpy flights before,” Gardner said. “After the flight she commented on how smooth the rest of the flight was.”

During the 75-minute flight, Brown reported that Harvey once again acted as she did as a CAP aircrew member, co-piloting the flight patrolling the skies over the Chicago region.

According to Gardner, her mother still has a keen eye from the cockpit.

“She had the choice of taking a mission that would patrol out west [of DuPage Airport] or east toward Chicago and Lake Michigan and she chose to go east since that was her patrol area during the war,” Gardner said. “Once they got over Lake Michigan she spotted sailboats on the lake right away – just like she used to.”

The Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees. CAP, in its Total Force role, operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually.

The CAP’s 56,000 members nationwide also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.

Its members additionally play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program. Performing missions for America for the past 75 years, CAP received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014 in honor of the heroic efforts of its World War II veterans. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit gocivilairpatrol.com for more information.

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