In 1976 I was assigned to cover the firing of the TOW Missile by Marines of the 2nd Marine Division to go with a story the Joint Public Affairs Office at Camp Lejeune was going to release. At first we found it difficult to catch the missile as it came out the tube, just before its rocket moto kicked in. I asked one of the officers at the site to describe what happens and what the timing is between the missile being launched and the motor kicking it. With the knowledge that the motor kicks in 1.5 seconds after the missile is kicked out of the tube, I was able to count one-one thousand, two— and then release the shudder to catch the missile. I had taken 5 rolls on a previous day and never had a single missile in the frame. We were not using motors or autowinders which were rarities in the military for photojournalist at that time. However, with the delay time I was able catch a missile in every frame of a 36 exposure role the next day, when this picture was taken. It is from my files. I later received a letter from Hughes Aircraft saying this was the first pictures they had seen of the TOW being fired, where you could see the missile as it was launched. The reason for the problem was that there was an explosion which kicked the TOW out of the tube, then 1.5 seconds later another when the rocket motor fired. A big enlargement of this picture at one time to hung over the doorway at Hughes, Culver City production facility.
After leaving the Corps (medically retired in 1977), I entered college and eventually went to work for The Arizona Republic. When the Iran/Contra Affair broke into the news. President Ronald Reagan mispoke when he described the TOW Missile, stating that it was a shoulder fired weapon. The Associated Press ran this picture to show it was a vehicular mounted weapons system, one that had been sold to Iran.
Doyle Sanders GySgt.