South St. Paul veteran honored


Richard LaMotte was joined by his family for the award presentation on April 11. They were also joined by Congressman John Kline who helped present the award and Minnesota Wing Vice Commander, Lt. Col. Clark Carlson. At right, LaMotte was a member of the Civil Air Patrol squadron in South St. Paul from its founding in 1942 until he was called to active duty in 1950.

LaMotte, far right in back row, and Henry Howe, far left in front row, founded a Civil Air Patrol squadron in 1942.

LaMotte receives award for service during WWII

For Richard LaMotte, it was a surprise to find out he was being awarded the Civil Air Patrol Congressional Gold Medal. 

The 91-year-old South St. Paul resident was given the medal and award on Monday, April 11, at Fleming Field.

 

Years of service

When LaMotte was a Boy Scout leader he started an Aero Scout program. In 1942, Henry Howe, a teacher at South St. Paul High School, approached LaMotte about helping to start a Civil Air Patrol Squadron.

“We started out with eight people in the Civil Air Patrol,” LaMotte says. 

Serving as a warrant officer, LaMotte helped lead the Aero Scout cadets.

During World War II, LaMotte helped build parts for the CG-4 gliders being built in St. Paul.

Then in 1948, LaMotte was drafted into the Army on reserve status. He was called to active duty in 1950 when the Korean War began. 

When stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, LaMotte received a work assignment, but never got around to it.

That’s because, “the sergeant there says, ‘Anybody here know how to use a hammer?’ I raised my hand and he gave me eight men and said, ‘You got six barracks over there that you have to put back together,’” LaMotte says.

His carpentry and leadership skills were recognized, and he was promoted to corporal. He would go on to repair even more barracks at military bases in San Marcos, Texas, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

After fixing barracks, LaMotte was transferred to Sheppard Airbase in Texas for training in aircraft engineering and maintenance. Following this, he was transferred to Japan and then Korea for 14 months. 

LaMotte served in the Army until 1957, and earned a Bronze Star and Air Medals.

 

Always giving back

During his time in the Army Reserve, LaMotte was still part of the Civil Air Patrol and was working with the Aero Scouts.

“I wanted to teach them survival and all that stuff. Part of what I was teaching them as a Scoutmaster to make things and help them become better citizens,” LaMotte says. “If they got into the Army, they would know how to do things themselves.”

The cadets made model aircraft to assist in aircraft spotting. There were two Link Trainers for training and Piper Cub aircraft. The cadets also assisted the Navy with parachute packing. 

What kept LaMotte in CAP was his work as an instructor that kept him teaching people. It was his was his way to contribute.

 

Learning about the CAP award

LaMotte’s daughter Rochelle McDonald is working on a book. One day when LaMotte and McDonald were doing errands, McDonald asked to see where Fleming Field was and to see where the Civil Air Patrol office was.

While there, LaMotte and McDonald ran into George Supan, a CAP member. 

“They were talking and Supan said ‘You might qualify for this award,’” McDonald says.

Even though CAP was founded nearly three quarters of a century ago, this award is fairly new. Col. Kevin Sliwinski says six years ago a bill was introduced to Congress to recognize CAP members who served in WWII — including surviving family members of the 65 who died during the war.

In June 2014 the bill was signed into law, with all Minnesota congressional representatives supporting the bill.

To be considered for the award one must have served in CAP between Dec. 1, 1941, and Sept. 3, 1945, and have proof of service.

After LaMotte provided proper documentation, including his ID card, he was told he was eligible for the award.

 

Earning his recognition

Congressman John Kline was at the ceremony on April 11 to present LaMotte with the medal

“As a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps whose father served in World War II, it is a great honor to recognize Richard LaMotte for the sacrifices he made,” said Kline in a press statement. “The dedication of Corporal LaMotte and so many like him to provide important emergency, operational, and other homeland security efforts continue to this day. He is one of our nation’s true pioneers of the Civil Air Patrol.”

McDonald says it was great for her dad to earn some recognition for his efforts.

CAP is still around today, providing search and rescue, aerospace education and cadet program for youth.

LaMotte thinks it’s “a good deal” that the CAP still exists.

“We need to get our people advanced in knowing what aviation is, and also to train them into being pilots and mechanics and other types of things we need. If we don’t give them the schooling we won’t have the people we need in service,” LaMotte says. 

For more information on the Minnesota Wing Civil Air Patrol, call 651-291-0462 or email Sliwinski at gr@mncap.org.

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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