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Before “Hot Shots”, There was This Crazy Gag Comedy Made By Carrier Air Group 12 Sailors

Warning: you are likely to lose track of time watching this film!

Today’s look back at aviation history is a real knee slapper that would probably never get made in this day and age. The film, “Launch ‘Em”, was made by Carrier Air Group 12 while returning to the United States after their 1955-1956 Far East deployment aboard the carrier USS Hancock (CV-19). A gag film in the finest traditions of Naval Aviation, this one will make you laugh out loud even if you’re not familiar with the goings on aboard an aircraft carrier. It is said that the film was made scarce during the 1960s because it was “politically incorrect” (they had that back then?) but I think the viewing public these days is sophisticated enough to realize the flick is a comedy from beginning to end- entirely unlike some of our more recently highlighted films such as Ready on Arrival.

AD-5 Skyraider of VA-125 Rough Raiders pictured on the flight deck of USS Hancock in 1955.

At the time of the making of this film, Carrier Air Group 12 consisted of VF-121 Pacemakers flying Grumman F9F-8 Cougars, VF-124 Gunfighters flying Vought F7U-3 Cutlasses, VA-125 Rough Raiders flying Douglas AD-5 and AD-6 Skyraiders, VMJ-1 Detachment G flying McDonnell F2H-2P (photo) Banshees, VC-3 Blue Nemesis Detachment G flying McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees, VC-6 Firebees Detachment G flying North American AJ-2 Savages, VC-61 Eyes of the Fleet Detachment G flying Grumman F9F-6P (photo) Panthers, VC-35 Night Hecklers Detachment G flying Douglas AD-5N (night attack) Skyraiders, VC-11 Early Eleven Detachment G flying Douglas AD-5W (early warning) Skyraiders, and HU-1 Pacific Fleet Angels Detachment G flying Piasecki HUP helos.

USS Hancock (CV-19) pictured during her 1955-1956 Far East deployment with Carrier Air Group 12 embarked.

VF-121 receives top billing in the film but it’s obvious many of the air group personnel and ship’s company were also involved in this celluloid caper. Thankfully the CAG wakes up from his exceedingly bad dream at the end of the film. Literally a laugh a minute, “Launch ‘Em” is the forefather of Fighter Fling, Rhino Ball, and other gag / cruise videos still being produced (and thoroughly enjoyed) today.

Thanks to Periscope Film for uploading a watchable copy of the film and to our Facebook followers for suggesting it.

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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