An Afternoon On The Midway

img_5507One of the highlights of my trip to speak to federal judges in San Diego was the ability to finally visit the Midway aircraft carrier, which is now a floating museum. As many on the blog know, I am a military history nut so a visit to the Midway was a true “book list” item. It did not disappoint. I spent hours walking about the carrier and listening to both the audio tour and live tours.

The Midway was one of the longest-serving aircraft carrier designs in history. It was commissioned in late 1945 at the end of World War II but not decommissioned until 1992. It lasted through Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and was the flag ship of the Admiral directing air attacks in that campaign.

The carrier has a relatively narrow deck in comparison to the massive nuclear aircraft carriers. Indeed, in comparison to those modern carriers, the Midway seems also quaint. Yet, it was a lethal military vehicle. It is remarkable how primitive much of the systems now seem despite being used into the 1990s.

There is much to do onboard. I particularly enjoyed sitting in cockpits of various jets (a tight squeeze for most of us). There is also a large array of aircraft on the deck stretching over decades. It was also a thrill to sit in captain’s chair and look over the deck. There are presentations all over the ship, including films of landing on the carrier. The man who was speaking on landings was a retired aviator with hundreds of landings, including a large number of the precarious night landings.

I strongly encourage people to visit this amazing vessel with such a long history in defending the country.

Here are some of the pictures from my visit.

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20 thoughts on “An Afternoon On The Midway

  1. We have many visitors during our winters in San Diego. The zoo and the Midway are 2 places I am always happy to go to w/ guests. You have all seen the Midway in action. The infamous footage of helicopters being pushed off an aircraft carrier during the fall of Saigon was the Midway. The flight director was interviewed in the San Diego paper for the 40th anniversary. He ordered helicopters to be pushed off to save lives. There was no room for aircraft of fleeing families to land.

    What I think makes this tour so special is that the men @ each station, giving you the information, were stationed on the Midway. They do their job out of love, and it shows through clearly.

  2. I live here in San Diego and retired from the Navy here, but I’ve never been to this great museum. I have a client that volunteers on the Midway who recently offered to give me and my son a tour. I am going to take him up on that.

    My favorite memory about the Midway was playing softball against their ship team while I was on a Westpac deployment in Yokosuka, Japan in 1981. They were homeported there and we beat them handily although their ship’s company was 3-4 times ours. It may seem like a minor thing but these ship-to-ship competitions are taken very seriously. We were the USS Prairie (AD-15). That was an awesome cruise!🙂

    • Yes, the Midway and the Zoo are iconic San Diego sites. Another thing that visitors might enjoy is bike riding in Coronado, across the short bridge from San Diego. You can rent a bike on Orange Street in Coronado and in the rental time you’ll be able to circle virtually the entire Island, taking in the beach and coastal environment; and maybe stop by the world famous Hotel Del Coronado.

  3. The displays are under continuous expansion. Each year more of the ship is available for viewing and there are additional planes. The Hangar decks have new exhibits. Hard to believe that anyone doubted the success of the museum. ( I was on the fence )

  4. I watched its development with great interest. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but its projections of one million visitors in its first decade were met with something close to scorn. It had three million its first year, or something like that. Been aboard a couple times, and these guys have done an awesome job.

    As a ex-submariner, and in diesel boats at that, I was actually surprised by how small Midway is. Flight and hanger decks are big, but living spaces are not all that much bigger than what we lived in, and I find the ship all the more impressive for that.

  5. Good photos! I especially liked the one from above the flight deck looking across San Diego Bay to North Island Naval Air Station and to the two Nimitz-class nuclear carriers, which I assume are the Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and the Theodore Roosevelt (the “Big Stick,” CVN-71), which replaced the Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) last year. I don’t see any recent news of their deployment. Other carriers of the same class make port here for repairs from time to time, and I couldn’t see their hull numbers in the photos.

    I’ve been here long enough now to have seen the the Ranger (CV-61), the Independence (CV-62), the Kitty Hawk (CV-63, the last oil-powered US carrier), and the (Constellation (CV-64, steam turbine-driven), as well as several other Nimitz-class carriers including the John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and the Ronald Reagan at rest at the same docks in their home port of North Island NAS.

    • Steve,
      They are certainly impressive to see tied to a pier. It’s a whole different type of impressive to see them underway doing flight ops while doing plane guard on a destroyer.

      • Olly: “It’s a whole different type of impressive . . .” Yes, that must have been, and the organizational aspect of maintaining and administering a carrier group just boggles the mind, let alone the responsibility of protecting a carrier and the small city aboard her.

        We’re in good hands and, by the way, thank you for your service.

        • Thank you Steve. It took me awhile to understand just how complex at sea operations in a battle group were. The amount of training that takes place every day cannot be understated. Everyone I believe understands the dangers of flight operations (my dad was a Naval aviator on carriers) but what is rarely talked about is the process of doing underway replenishment’s (unreps). Having these large ships steaming side-by-side so close that shotlines can be fired across, refueling hoses connected and even hi-line transfers of mail and personnel is a sight in and of itself. Matching course and speed for an hour is an art and we always practiced emergency breakaways. Lot’s of fun!

  6. Great Photos and they bring back some fond memories. San Diego is a fantastic city with a huge US Naval presence. Spent some time there during my Navy career.

    My last shipboard assignment was aboard the nuclear carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which has since been decommissioned.

    I’m glad you took the time to do the tour and to appreciate the history of this fine Navy vessel.

    • Hey Chief, I spent most of my career in San Diego. NTC, ASW base, Amphib base, 32nd Street. BRAC really impacted the presence when RTC/NTC closed. Culturally so much has changed since I retired in 1999. The latest major shift is the SecNav’s elimination of the naval rating system. I thought it to be a huge mistake to interfere with our Chief Petty Officer initiation process, but this is another animal altogether. This will have a major fallout.

  7. Very nice photos thanks for sharing. I’m Vietnam Army Vet 66-67 and find our military museums interesting. When your on the east coast don’t miss the following: Udder-Hazy Center, Chantilly VA, The Marine Museum, Triangle VA and The Airborne & Special Ops Museum Ft. Bragg, NC and here is a little known location in Millville, NJ, The Millville Army Air Field Museum. During WW ll it was a training location for P-47 Thunderbolts & P-40 Warhawks.

  8. A majestic experience is watching an aircraft carrier return to port in San Diego. A dear friend of mine served in the navy in the Pacific theater during WW2. A few years back, this wonderful man, ravaged by Parkinson’s, asked me to take him to watch the Carl Vinson return. We went up to Point Loma, which is a treasure in and of itself to watch the return. For those who have never seen this, the sailors, in their dress uniforms, stand the perimeter of the huge vessel. It brought tears to my friend’s and my eyes. I gave the eulogy at this good man’s funeral. Having seen the horrors of war, Ray became a peace activist. Not one of those pain in the ass ones who don’t know squat. An informed, common sense, activist. He always despised Jane Fonda giving aid to the enemy during the Vietnam War. That tells you where Ray stood. He loved this country. He hated war.

    • Thanks, Nick. You always make me feel welcome here.

      I try to keep up reading this blog, but I do not always have time to comment. Been traveling a lot. Just got back from Peru, four days in the Amazon Jungle, and I spent a week in Cusco and Urubamba in the sacred valley. Hiked through the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Visited the Palomino Islands off Lima and swam with the Sea lions. Spent 4 days in Panama City, Panama. The three week trip exceeded my expectations.

  9. A carrier is an whole other vessel, and it’s a worthy part of sovereign territory unlike any other.

    That said, if anyone is in Seattle and has the time, take the ferry to Bremerton and visit the Turner Joy. While it is of the Gulf of Tonkin saga, it gives a sense of real life at sea for the earlier era of destroyer sailors who protect the “bird farms.” Not sure if any Fletcher class are still around, but did serve a brief stint on 681 before decomm. Oh and watch the TV documentary about Taffy 3 of WWII OR Google search.

    We’ve had a number of WWII flicks recently, but the Taffy 3 story deserves to be told. “Small boys” save the invasion of Leyte. USS JOHNSTON led the way in the face of huge odds and ships. I see the “Come Hell or High Water” may make it to theaters.

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