Arlington, VA

Virtual Program: The Ground Observer Corp

Online

Virginia

Wake Up! Sign Up! Look Up! This was the tag line for the Ground Observer Corps (GOC), civilian plane spotters who searched the skies for enemy aircraft from 1951-1959. An integral part of civil defense, the GOC was comprised of an estimated 800,000 members who volunteered for shifts at local observation posts and filter centers that tracked aircraft reports. Deb Fuller will discuss the history of the organization, the people who watched our skies, and the impact it had on our region and in Arlington. This is a virtual event. For access and connection information, please register HERE. Please register before the end of the day on Wednesday, July 8.

The first Ground Observer Corps was a World War II Civil Defense program of the United States Army Air Forces to protect United States territory against air attack. The 1.5 million civilian observers at 14,000 coastal observation posts performed naked eye and binocular searches to detect German or Japanese aircraft. Observations were telephoned to filter centers, which in turn forwarded authenticated reports to the Aircraft Warning Service, which also received reports from Army radar stations. The program ended in 1944.

The second Ground Observer Corps was organized in early 1950 during the Cold War to make up for the gaps in the nation’s radar grid. It operated as an arm of the US Air Force Civil Defense service. Observations were telephoned directly to centers and the information was relayed to Air Defense Command ground control interception centers. This second program ended with the advent of automated Army and Air Force radar systems.

Our historian on this topic is Deb Fuller who runs the Ground Observer Corps blog and Facebook site. In February of 2019, she found a pair of Ground Observer Corp wings at an antique shop in Berkeley Springs, WV. From there, it was down the rabbit hole of research into this little known civil defense program of the 1950s. She has amassed a sizable collection of GOC artifacts, talked with former corps volunteers, and even found out that her own father worked in the filter center in Montgomery, AL. Ms. Fuller has a background in education and a master’s in museum studies. By day, she writes K-12 curriculum for a local educational publishing company. In the past, she’s worked for local museums and historic sites such as the Jerome Buddie Ford Nature Center, The Women in Military Service of America Foundation, and the National Air and Space Museum.

AHS usually hosts free monthly public events about a local history topic at Marymount University but due to the corona virus pandemic, that venue and all others are closed for the time being. So we are hosting this free on ZOOM. You will be able to ask questions and view the images our presenter will be showing along with her presentation-all from the comfort of your own home. For access and connection information, please register HERE. Please register before the end of the day on Wednesday, July 8.

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