The Ground Observer Corps (GOC) was a series of Civil Defense programs in the United States to protect against air attack. Its function was to supplement the radar warning network by visually searching the skies with naked eye and binoculars for enemy aircraft attempting to penetrate American airspace.
The GOC traces its roots to World War II when 1.5 million civilian volunteers were enrolled by the Army Air Force to man 14,000 Observation Posts positioned along the nation's coasts. With the declining threat to America from German and Japanese air forces. the GOC was disestablished in 1944.
As the Cold War with Russia intensified, Continental Air Command Cmdr. General Ennis C. Whitehead proposed the formation of a 160,000 civilian volunteer GOC to operate 8,000 Observation Posts in February, 1950. They would be scattered in gaps between a proposed network of radar sites, which would later become NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command).
In 1951, some 210,000 GOC volunteers manning 8,000 observation posts and twenty-six filter centers were tested for the first time in nationwide exercises. The plan was expanded to recruit more volunteers to man more Observation Posts on a continuing basis. This revised GOC plan. dubbed "Operation SKYWATCH," was initiated on July 24, 1952.
By the late 1950's, deployment
of the short-range radar warning and detection system, Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), resolved the problem of detecting low-flying planes. Due to the dramatic technological improvements provided by this new system, in November, 1958 the Air Forced decided the GOC posts were no longer needed. A letter was written to each volunteers stating the GOC would terminate their service and become inactive on January 31, 1959.