USS Midway Museum – Honoring the Legend

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San Diego, California.

In September, 1945, the USS Midway began it’s nearly fifty years of service. Named for the decisive victory at Midway Island in the Pacific in World War II, the aircraft carrier served proudly until she was decommissioned in 1992. Today, thousands of visitors stroll her main decks and climb the narrow stairs to the bridge. On October 16, 2015, my wife and I, accompanied by other family members and friends took our turn visiting the floating museum, now anchored in San Diego Harbor. Many question whether the ship is either grounded or somehow fastened to the dock. It is neither. The gangplanks are designed to move and tilt in response to the ship’s movements as it raises and lowers following the tide’s change in water level in the harbor. The USS Midway is truly a floating museum.

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The self-guided tour starts at the hangar deck where static displays of historic aircraft are up close and personal. Probably the smallest detail about the Navy’s ship construction was revealed to me. The USS Midway is numbered 41. As Navy ships are built, they are numbered in sequence. The newest Navy aircraft carrier in the fleet as this is being written is number 77, the USS George H. W. Bush. The USS Midway is over 1000 feet (305 meters) long and weighs around 70,000 tons (63503 metric tons).

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The giant chains in the image above support the pair of 20-ton (18,144 kg) anchors when they are not resting on the bottom of the ocean. According to a retired sailor, the anchor only holds the chain in place. The chain holds the ship. A chain’s length is measured in “shots”, (90 feet or 27 m), and each shot is color coded so sailors can tell at a glance the depth of the anchor. Three elevators shuttle aircraft from the hangar deck to the runway deck. The ship is configured to hold as many as 80 aircraft. The USS Midway was a small city when it was in full operation with a population of around 4500. The museum focuses on a working aircraft carrier. Important areas are made into dioramas that, with the use of mannequins, demonstrate working areas as in the example photo below.

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The hangar deck contains entertainment for all ages, including flight simulators and other attractions that, for an additional fee, will entertain the most disinterested museum attendees. The self-guided audio tour includes hand-held devices, with headsets, that describe each of the areas as you pass by. A sign near each area prominently displays a number that, when entered into the guide handset, generates an audio narration of the area being viewed. The self-guided tour is included in the price of admission to the museum.

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The floating city needed to supply 13,000 meals daily. That was accomplished through four kitchens. The main chow line is depicted in the image above. In her varied career, the USS Midway saw action in Vietnam and in the first Persian Gulf War. To find out current information, museum hours, ticket information and more details, check out the website here. The gallery of images below feature just some of the areas that are open to visitors to view. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

Note: One of my blogging friends, GP Cox features a blog about the World War II in the Pacific Theater. You can check out his site here.

John Steiner

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