Terrorist Catch and Release

This image has been floating around the internet for at least two years. It usually is accompanied by the caption: "In 2003 the US Navy initiates its new 'Terrorist Catch and Release Program.'" Obviously the caption is a joke, and I'm guessing that the car has been photoshopped in. But what would the crowd be standing there for? Would it be safe for them to stand there as a plane was taking off?

Military Photos

Posted on Tue Mar 29, 2005


Thanks for the link, demdike. I watched the video. You're right. That's definitely not the same carrier as pictured above. Plus, they don't even use a catapult in the topgear clip.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sun Apr 03, 2005  at  05:02 PM
I was there for that launch. From my vantage point on the front of the waist cat, I took a full series of photos, from preparation, to traveling down the catapult, to the short air flight and water impact. It was a Ford Falcon that the Enterprise Weapons Department used to drive around Olongapo. In 1978 as the ship was leaving the PI to return to the States for an extended overhaul. The vehicle was no longer needed and was given a "burial at sea".
Posted by Rick in MI  in  West MI  on  Fri May 27, 2005  at  11:36 PM
Being ex-Navy myself, I never doubted it was a Ford Falcon. Given the old rivalry of the Air Force and Naval Air, I'm sure it was a flight test to see if a falcon could really fly.
Posted by Doug  in  Colorado  on  Thu Aug 04, 2005  at  04:49 PM
Well I can say categorically that this picture is NOT from BBC's Top Gear program! As Howard correctly said, HMS Invincible does not have a steam-catapult, and when launching her aircraft, they rely solely on the plane's enginge power and ski-ramp alone! Also, the Jag was launched off the bow, not the stern! The aim was to see if the Stig could manage to hit 100mph in 200m - he managed 109mph.

That's my griping over!
Posted by Allan  on  Wed Nov 09, 2005  at  11:19 AM
This photo is not from a TV show. It's not doctored. It really happened. It's not a "test". The US Navy may not do this any more, but they certainly did it that day!

I was stationed on the ship, and I was there on the flight deck. I took photos. The ship was the USS Enterprise, and we were leaving Subic Bay for the last time before an extended yard period. It was in late 1978.

It was a Dodge.
Posted by I was there  in  West Michigan  on  Tue Nov 22, 2005  at  11:44 AM
I was on the Cat crew that shot it. grin It was a '67 Plymouth Valiant. This picture is taken from the cruise book for the Enterprise WETPAC '78 cruise. I'm in a second picture in the book. The stories above are correct. It was the parts car for Heavy - 1, the Vigilante squadran. And they were being decomisioned upon return to CONUS. It was a POS so none of the other squadrans would buy it. This idea was thought up where all good ideas are thought up - in the Subic Bay O club. When this pic came out with the terrorist quote, I was able to hook up on line with the then LTJG who thought it up and sold it to the Big E skipper, after everone else in the chain of comand said no. The Skipper said do it! What Balls.
Posted by Curt  in  Florida  on  Wed Aug 09, 2006  at  11:47 PM
In spite of all the "I was there" info on the type of car, none of the above is totallt correct. It was a 1963 Plymouth Savoy, as identifiable from this pic:
Posted by Dave  on  Sat Sep 16, 2006  at  02:54 AM
this is not the top gear film. the one intop gear had a ramp at the end. derrrrr
Posted by me  on  Thu May 10, 2007  at  02:58 PM
I was on the ship as well and standing somewhere around the tractor when the photo was taken. Curt from one of the previous post was in my division. I thought it was so hilarious that I would see that photo after all these years. I recognized the car immediatley. it had the name of our division officers favorite sailor (Oliphant) on it as the pilot.
Posted by Eric  in  Detroit  on  Wed Jun 06, 2007  at  03:24 PM
I was on the boat too. As a Tiger Cruise member. My father was AO1 Jerry Cook. I was mad because I didn't actually get to see the launch. We were down in the galley eating and watching a movie. I'll never forget that cruise and loved every minute of it. At least those minutes I wasn't hanging out of the bunk puking in a 5 gallon bucket. LOL
Posted by Jeff Cook  on  Mon Sep 24, 2007  at  11:09 PM
I was standing next to the photographer when he took this photo. The car was shot off the deck of the USS Enterprise during the Tiger Cruise in 1978. It belonged to a squadron that was being decommissioned. The crowd is made up of sailors and dependants who were aboard.

If you can get a copy of the 1978 Enterprise Crusie Book you can find this you will see a series of photos as they prepare to launch the car. There is also a photo of a skinny long haired kid pretending to operate the signal light, thats me when I was 14.
Posted by Hal  on  Thu Nov 08, 2007  at  02:52 PM
Yup, not a photoshop, the air wing launched it when we were returning from the '78 West Pac. I remembered it as being a Dodge Dart, but hey, it's been a lot of years.
As far as environmental effect, it was a lot more benign than a LOT of the s*** we dumped in the ocean!
Posted by Bob Peterson  in  Rockford, IL  on  Wed Apr 16, 2008  at  07:37 AM
This is the USS Enterprise.

Starting in 2003 this photo circulated the Internet captioned as a Navy new "Terrorist Catch and Release Program."

In fact, it was taken in October 1978, as the Big E was leaving the Philippines to return to the US for what was considered "the most extensive and highly complex overhaul" of the ship's history to date (1979
Posted by Army_Brat  in  San Diego  on  Fri May 16, 2008  at  08:13 PM
Starting in 2003 this photo circulated the Internet captioned as a Navy new "Terrorist Catch and Release Program."

In fact, it was taken in October 1978, as the Big E was leaving the Philippines to return to the US for what was considered "the most extensive and highly complex overhaul" of the ship's history to date (1979
Posted by Army_Brat  in  San Diego  on  Fri May 16, 2008  at  08:15 PM
My dad was on the Forrestal carrier and yes, he told me they dis actually shoot cars off the flightdeck for testing and calibration purposes.
Posted by Zack  in  Texas  on  Mon Nov 17, 2008  at  03:57 PM
Picture not fake. The car was a 1962/3 Dodge, Plymouth or Chrysler purchased at NAS Cubi Point by RVAH-1, making their twilight cruise, for just this moment. They painted it in the squadron colors, added little stubby wings and a launch bar and it was fired off the pointy end in October, 1978 while returning from WESTPAC on USS Enterprise (CVN 65). I know..I'm one of the sailors standing on the deck watching.
Posted by ATCS(AW) S. J. McLeod, VS-38  in  Portland, OR  on  Wed Jun 10, 2009  at  06:54 PM
Ha that is funny, I was stationed on the big e from 98-02 we launched a 1978 camero off the pointy end, cat 1. I was the one that prepaired it for launch, I have a video of the whole process and the launch.
Posted by Tim Miller  in  holton, ks  on  Tue Oct 20, 2009  at  11:22 PM
As I recall, that is a Dodge Valiant.

The RA-5C Vigilante aircraft (a very high speed, carrier based reconnaissance aircraft) was coming to the end of its service life in the late 70's.

RVAH-1 (Heavy 1) was the 'Viggie' squadron embarked in USS Enterprise (CVN-65; note the big 65 painted on the bow) during the '78 WestPac cruise.

The car belonged to that squadron, and was their 'in port' car at Subic Bay (Philippines). I don't know how long the car had been there, or how many squadrons had owned it before them.

Just prior to our departure from Subic, heading home upon WestPac completion, the squadron had the car loaded aboard the boat--for the specific purpose of the catapault launch you see in the photo--as one of its final acts before their 1979 decommissioing. Here's a picture with supporting info:

The hype did not match the reality, unfortunately, as the car dropped very rapidly into the deep blue sea right after that cat shot. I didn't expect it to fly, of course, but it really dropped!

But, all in all, quite interesting.

I was a PR-1 in VS-38 during that cruise and was in that photo.

As asides, for those who remember:

We went to GQ the night before our Pearl Harbor port call, as a dozen or so Filipino stowaways had been discovered sometime during the Subic-Pearl transit.

VS-38 accepted 'Miss Piggy' (one of only a few US-3A COD aircraft at that time) from VS-33 during that cruise. I believe it was during that cruise that Miss Piggy's cargo blivet blew open on the flight deck, scattering mail of all kinds across the flight deck and into the sea.

Bob Corrow
PRCS USN (Retired)
Lake Tahoe, Ca
Posted by PRCS  in  Lake Tahoe, Ca  on  Thu Nov 26, 2009  at  11:38 AM
I was standing lookout up on the island when the car was shot off. Great times!
Posted by jeff  in  Pittsfield, Ma  on  Thu Jun 10, 2010  at  07:04 PM
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