WWII Civil Air Patrol Members Receive Congressional Gold Medals

Gov. Daugaard presents medals to two women who served in the 1940s.

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More than 70 years ago, two young women from South Dakota decided they wanted to do something to help their country during World War II. A lot has changed in the past seven decades, but their service hasn’t been forgotten.

On Monday, Gov. Dennis Daugaard presented Congressional Gold Medals to Pauline Brehe and Lois Schmidt for their contributions.

“I’m very humbled and honored,” said Pauline Brehe, medal recipient.

It was an overwhelming day for Pauline and Lois.

Governor Daugaard may have been commanding the room at the Capitol in Pierre, but the two women were the guests of honor.

“It’s very hard to believe,” said Lois Schmidt, medal recipient.

Pauline and Lois are part of a small group of women who served in the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol during World War II; something most girls weren’t doing in the 1940s.

“I think there was one other gal, she and I went in together,” said Lois.

Lois says it was her love of airplanes that led her to join the organization as a cadet when she was just 16-years-old.

“It was all study at that time. I still have my Civil Air Patrol book,” said Lois.

For Pauline, it was a way to help her country during a time of war.

“We had to learn to identify all the aircrafts. All our own, German and Japanese. So in case they flew over we would know what they were,” said Pauline.

Pauline went on to join the Army as a surgical technician.

“I worked in a hospital where the wounded were coming back,” said Pauline.

Years after the war ended, Lois went back to CAP.

“I had just lost a son and I needed something to do, and I joined and worked my way up,” said Lois.

Looking back, neither of them ever expected an honor like this.

Two Congressional Gold Medals for two women whose lives have gone in very different directions since 1945.

“I don’t feel like I deserved it at all but I’m glad I got it,” said Pauline.

The Civil Air Patrol is actively searching for other members who served during the World War II era who could qualify for the Congressional Gold Medal.

If you know of someone in your family living or deceased who served during that time, you’re asked to contact the organization.

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