Commander in Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) was originally
provided a R6D-1Z (BUNO 128433) prior to 1958. This aircraft was transferred
to VR-1 in 1958 and replaced with a R4Y-1 aircraft (C-131, BUNO 141020).
When BUNO 141020 was assigned there was a contest within the office of CNIC
to come up with a name for the aircraft. At that time, Admiral C. R. Brown
was assigned the post of Commander in Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe. A
much beloved officer, he acquired the nickname of "CAT" as a youngster and
was known so during his long and illustrious naval career. The winning name,
"CATBIRD" was selected and the callsign was officially changed to "CATBIRD
On December 29th 1959, LT David Young, USN wrote to Walt Disney's public
relations director and asked if the art department could provide him with
several sketches of both a "leaping" and "Halloween" type cat because of a
lack of artistic ability in his unit. In February of 1960 Hazel Garner of
the Walt Disney Public Relations Department replied and sent 2 sketches of
cats along with 2 separate license's for each sketch. These license's gave
the US Government exclusive use and the right to reproduce the sketches as
long as the Walt Disney Copyright notice appeared along with the design.
This cost the government $1.00 for each drawing. In March of 1960, after a
little arm twisting the Admiral agreed to have the Cat insignia painted on
both sides of the vertical stabilizer.
In 1982 the R4Y-1 was replaced by a VP-3A aircraft (BUNO 150511). This was a
converted P-3A ASW aircraft. This aircraft was outfitted with executive
workspaces, communications suite, staff area, bunks, galley and head. Three
VP-3A aircraft have served as CATBIRD (BUNOS 150515, 150511, and 150496).
In 1999, a particular interest was generated about the historic value of
CATBIRD. The name and pictures were researched and with the help of a local
Italian aviation enthusiast and the Walt Disney archives, the CATBIRD design
was found. The Catbird name and original design from Walt Disney was
presented to ADM James O. Ellis with a request to reapply the art back onto
the aircraft for the 40th year anniversary of the "CATBIRD Unit." Not only
did he agree to the reapplication but also sent 2 brand new one dollar bills
as a renewal payment to the Chairman of Walt Disney and thanking him for an
"act of kindness" which created the logo 40 years earlier. The
reintroduction of the art on the aircraft not only preserved the history of
the unit but also served as a preservation of Naval Tradition.
In 2005, VP-3A (BUNO 150496) was replaced by a C-20A aircraft (BUNO 830500)
which continued to provide outstanding service throughout Europe, Africa and
other destinations in range.
In 2015, C-20A (BUNO 830500) was replaced by a C-20G aircraft (BUNO 165151).
The current CATBIRD team proudly continues this 60 year legacy of service.