ISS1 2017

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 37 of 55

Coast Guard Lighthouses and the history of "The Flying Santa" Story by William h . Thiesen, Ph.D., h istorian, Coast Guard Atlantic Area Throughout the history of the U.S. Coast Guard's aviation branch, Service aircraft have come to the aid of the American public in emergencies and in time of need. However, the Holiday Season has provided a unique opportunity for private citizens to return the favor. Beginning in the Great Depression, aviator William "Bill" Wincapaw began the tradition of "The Flying Santa." Born in Friendship, Maine, Captain Wincapaw oversaw flight operations for the Curtiss Flying Service in Rockland, Maine. He came to admire Maine's lighthouse keepers and their families for standing the watch in isolated and often inhospitable locations. To show his appreciation for their dedication and self-sacrifice, Wincapaw decided to deliver gift parcels to local lighthouses on Christmas Day. Early in the morning on December 25th, 1929, Wincapaw loaded the packages of Christmas gifts into his vintage Travel Air A-6000-A airplane, featuring a single radial engine and wicker seats. That first year he airdropped Christmas gifts to a dozen lighthouses located along the Maine Coast. Wincapaw continued the tradition the next year and, over time, came to be known as "The Flying Santa" and the "Santa of the Lighthouses." He began to dress the part and enlisted his son, Bill Jr., to pilot additional Christmas Day flights. His gift parcels included basic items, such as newspapers, magazines, coffee, tea, candy, tobacco, soup, yarn, pens and pencils. By 1933, the program proved so popular that Wincapaw expanded it to include ninety- one lighthouses from Maine to Rhode Island and Connecticut. Portrait photograph of Captain William Wincapaw, originator of the Flying Santa program. (courtesy of Friends of Flying Santa) A Flying Santa Ford Tri-Motor delivers a parcel to Graves Light off of Boston. (courtesy of Friends of Flying Santa) Rese R vist Magazine a Light on Yeste RY ea R 36 RESERVIST � Issue 1 • 2017

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Reservist - ISS1 2017