Steel Beach Picnic
By Bruce Lonardo
Another cool memory that I have of the Midway is when we would have what we called a "Steel Beach Picnic" - usually towards the end of a long I.O. (Indian Ocean) cruise. A steel beach picnic is when the entire crew is on holiday routine and flight operations are shut down for the whole day. S-2 Division, the food service division aboard ship, caters an enormous cookout up on the flight deck for the crew. It is always a huge and righteous feast fit for King Neptune himself! On one particular steel beach picnic, after we had been out on Gonzo Station in the Indian Ocean for 97 days, the skipper authorized several crates of beer to be flown aboard and every man aboard the Midway was issued two cans of beer during our huge flight deck cookout! Well, in typical Jack-tar tradition of the stereotypical sailor with the proverbial appetite for spirits, many of the seasoned drinkers aboard the Midway just could not find adequate satisfaction with a mere two cans of beer so the non drinkers aboard ship were their salvation - for a price! I myself did not have an appetite for alcohol, so two cans of beer really didn't fascinate me in the least but I do believe that when opportunity knocks, one should answer. I sold my two cans of beer to a booze hound in my squadron for ten dollars each! (laughter)
The following morning, the day would begin on the flight deck with an especially thorough FOD walkdown. A FOD (Foreign Object Damage) walkdown is when all flight deck personnel line up elbow to elbow from port to starboard on the forward part of the flight deck. They then commence a very careful visual inspection of the flight deck from bow to stern to insure that there is absolutely not even the slightest trace of any objects of any kind, no matter how small, laying upon the flight deck, lest they be sucked into the jet intakes of aircraft operating up on the flight deck. If an object of even the smallest sort was sucked up into an aircraft's jet intakes, it could result in serious damage to the aircraft's turbine blades. This could even lead to a complete failure of the aircraft's engines which would inevitably result in the loss of the aircraft and perhaps even the pilot or flight crew. FOD walkdowns are an extremely serious procedure in the commencement of each day’s flight operations aboard ship.
One of the most spectacular sights of U.S. Naval sea power and of American pride that one could ever witness is the launching of naval aircraft off the catapults of a mighty aircraft carrier. It is truly an incredible sight that epitomizes and defines within itself all of the best aspirations of the United States Navy and its worldwide peacekeeping mission. There is no other kind of naval vessel that I would rather have served aboard. Upon my completion of boot camp, I had been assigned to a squadron aboard the Midway and I believe that I served aboard the greatest aircraft carrier, named after the greatest naval sea battle, which the world has ever known!