USS Midway ~ Fleet's Finest Carrier



Non-USS Midway Museum sourced news related

to USS Midway & the USS Midway Museum




October 17, 2007

San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum Changes Name

Today I was informed that the museum's name has changed. Instead of San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, the new name for the museum is: USS Midway Museum.


~ Troy Prince (



August 05, 2005

Midway Museum reaches milestone

By Gidget Fuentes

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum reached a milestone in late July when it welcomed aboard its millionth visitor — just over a year since it opened.

Midway , which opened as a museum in June 2004 and will turn 60 this year, has been a popular tourist attraction.

Visitors to the flattop, berthed at the Navy Pier downtown, have far exceeded expectations from organizers, many who had spent more than a decade trying to get Midway from the Navy to anchor a bayside museum.

“We hit the millionth visitor mark in just about 13 months, which is twice as fast as the rosiest projections,” said Scott McGaugh, marketing director.

In just the first year, 880,000 people visited the carrier.

The millionth visitors were the Goble family from Peoria, Ariz., who had waited in the ticket line before the museum’s 10 a.m. opening, McGaugh said. Plucked out of the line, the family received a personal tour, $500 shopping credit to use in the ship and museum store, lunch served on the fantail, a family membership for one year and a signed copy of Midway Magic, a history of the carrier written by McGaugh.

McGaugh estimates Midway
has surpassed the other 110 ships that provide tours or serve as museums. “It’s amazing,” he said, chalking it up to “12 years of community support and pent-up demand and interest.” About 3,000 to 4,000 people visit the ship daily during the summer, he said.

Its location along San Diego’s popular Embarcadero waterfront park, near downtown, the convention center, Petco Park and the airport helps draw visitors.

Midway’s popularity has meant more money for exhibits, simulators and programs. The carrier is home to 17 restored aircraft so far and hosts school groups on field trips. Every night, private parties enjoy the city lights from the bay front locale.



March 13, 2005

City at sea - USS Midway assumes new duty as a museum

By Dennis A. Cavagnaro, Correspondent
Ventura County Star

Before it was decommissioned in 1992, the USS Midway served 47 years in the U.S. Navy fleet from the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, through Operation Desert Storm and the first war against Saddam Hussein. For 10 years, it was the world's largest ship, the first ship too large for the Panama Canal.

Last June, the Midway became San Diego's newest aviation museum, 75,000 tons of floating airfield, now permanently anchored on the city's waterfront. This "City at sea" is just one block from the foot of Broadway and two from the beautiful Spanish-style Santa Fe Railroad Station, now served by Amtrak, the Coaster commuter trains and two San Diego Trolley lines. It is open daily.

The Midway was the first U.S. Navy carrier to have a jet take off from it, the first to sail an extended winter deployment above the Arctic Circle (Operation Frostbite), the first carrier on the line in the Persian Gulf and the first to launch aircraft in Operation Desert Storm. At the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Midway took aboard 3,073 refugees in Operation Frequent Wind.

With the Midway's bow pointed toward Naval Air Station North Island on Coronado, visitors enter the Midway on its starboard side through the hangar deck. Special-needs visitors are safely lifted by forklift. From the hangar deck to the 4-acre flight deck they get to ride up the ship's starboard side aircraft elevator. In the hangar, attendants fit visitors with headsets for the 29 station-plus self-guided audio tour. At many of the stations, the commentary is enhanced by the observations of sailors and pilots who served on the Midway
and other carriers.

Skyhawk station

My favorite is station No. 2, an A-4C Skyhawk, which I flew as a Marine Corps pilot (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard pilots are designated "naval aviators") in the Vietnam War. The A-4 was more famously flown by Sen. John McCain in 1967, when he self-described a "rendezvous with a surface-to-air missile" that ultimately put him in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.

All carrier airplanes except the Skyhawk are designed to fold their wings when not flying to save space on the decks. The relatively tiny Skyhawk was originally designed with short wings. Its original mission was to fly under the radar up rivers in the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and to deliver a 2,000-pound nuclear bomb.

The tour draws visitors into the sailors' tight living quarters and showers. Sailors were allowed only 2 minutes in the shower. The galley on the mess deck once served 13,000 meals daily. The post office was essential in pre-Internet days when "snail mail" was so important to crew morale.

A large-scale clear plastic Midway model graphically shows the ship's insides as it was in 1945. The commentary in the Aviation Weapons Movement Control Station (No. 7) addresses nuclear weapons. The Navy neither confirms nor denies that any ship carries nuclear weapons.

The bright yellow SNJ Trainer (No. 8) was the Navy's frontline trainer until the mid-1950s. It is described as "big and ugly, but forgiving." On the flight deck, but at the other end of the aircraft spectrum, is the sleek, powerful F-14 Tomcat. Many Tomcats are still flying.

Here also are a good number of simulators, Mach Combat. For $10, visitors can "fly" as fighter pilots in simulated aerial combat. A more sophisticated F-8 Crusader flight is available for $20.

The audio also invites visitors to climb a "ladder" to the 4-acre flight deck. Aft on the port (left) side is the Landing Signal Officer's platform (No. 17). The LSO controls the pilots as they attempt to land. The audio commentary asserts that because of the skill required to land a high-performance aircraft on a moving ship with a pitching deck, there are more heart surgeons in the United States than there are naval aviators.

Huge slingshots

These heavy jet aircraft need help to take off. The ship's two steam catapults forward on the flight deck at station No. 21 act like huge slingshots to thrust them airborne from 0 to 120 knots airspeed in two seconds. Ideally, in choppy seas, the planes are launched just as the ship's bow pitches up. As one pilot describes it at night on the audio, "there's nothing darker than the end of a carrier on a 'cat' shot at night." On the Midway
, an A-7 is spotted on the catapult. The Midway was controlled by its captain, the "air boss," and other officers up in the "island," the Midway's multi-story, starboard-side superstructure. Up here in "Pri-Fly" (No. 24, Primary Flight Control), jutting out and overlooking the flight deck, we can imagine ourselves directing flight operations as the feared air boss. The pilots sarcastically call the Pri Fly platform "Vultures Row."

After the tour, visitors may again visit the ship's fantail (aka to pilots as the "potato locker"), where the Gift Shop offers all things Midway
, Navy and aeronautical. There is also the Fantail Cafe with tables and chairs.



March 02, 2005

Firefighters accepting scholarship applications

By staff reports

Ventura County Star

The Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association is accepting applications for the Shane Kilgore Memorial Scholarship.

Two $1,000 scholarships have been awarded annually since 1991 in memory of Robert Shane Kilgore, a 1986 Simi Valley High school graduate and aspiring firefighter who was killed after an explosion on the USS Midway, where he was stationed in the U.S. Navy.

Kilgore studied fire science for two years at Moorpark College before joining the Navy, hoping to gain the experience that would lead to his joining the Ventura County Fire Department.

Kilgore graduated from the Naval A-School Damage Control Training School at the top of his class and was sent to the Midway and assigned to the Flying Squad. A damage controlman on the ship, Kilgore succumbed to severe burn injuries he received while battling a shipboard blaze. He died in 1990.

He was buried with full military honors and was posthumously awarded the Navy Commendation, one of the highest honors awarded in peace time.

Those eligible for the scholarships are any firefighter living in Ventura County and their children, or any Ventura County resident aspiring to become a firefighter. The applicant must be a graduating high school senior or high school graduate. Applicants may attend any two- or four-year accredited college or university, vocational school or accredited fire academy in the United States and may select any course of study.

Applications are due by April 1, and the recipients will be honored at a public ceremony April 22 in Simi Valley.

For applications or more information, contact the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association at 484-8844, or send an e-mail request to



February 13, 2005

SUCCESSFUL TAKEOFF - Aircraft carrier Midway finds itself awash in visitors

By Mark Sauer

Standing just aft of primary flight control, Felix Osuna gazed across the flight deck and shook his head in wonder, imagining what landing was like for jet-fighter pilots returning to the carrier Midway on a stormy night.

Thanks to vivid descriptions by Midway museum volunteers, Osuna said, it was easier to envision jets being catapulted into the blue and returning to a screeching halt on the 4-acre deck.

The storytelling comes naturally since many docents who explain the workings of the aircraft carrier-turned-museum berthed at Navy Pier along the downtown Embarcadero are retired carrier pilots and seamen.

"They're really great. They spent a lot of time answering every question from my 11-year-old son when we were here two weeks ago. He's really into this stuff," said Osuna, who lives in Anaheim not far from Disneyland.

"We're back with our friend from Georgia today because it's such a wonderful attraction."

That kind of enthusiasm is evident in the Midway's early turnstile success.

After a decade of raising funds and navigating through red tape, the Midway museum group piped the first visitors aboard last June. They estimated 440,000 people would tour the 968-foot aircraft carrier during the first year.

They were wrong.

Through mid-January, 575,000 people – 82 percent of them from outside the San Diego area, according to a survey – have already toured the gigantic "gray warrior."

Part of the initial success is due to timing.

The Midway museum undoubtedly benefited from opening at a time when downtown is attracting visitors as never before with the Padres new ballpark; the expanded Convention Center; extensive development in the Gaslamp, Little Italy, Marina and East Village districts; and more cruise ships making San Diego a port of call.

"But this prime location was the key," said Mac McLaughlin, the museum's chief operating officer. "If we had been made to locate someplace else on the bay, we're not having this victory-in-the-first-year discussion."

The idea of businessman Alan Uke to bring the nation's longest-serving carrier out of mothballs in Bremerton, Wash., and open it as a museum on the San Diego waterfront attracted no shortage of skeptics and critics.

Among the main concerns: The Midway would be an eyesore that would "wall off the bay"; the enormous ship would displace birds and harm the environment; and neighboring attractions, such as the Maritime Museum, would suffer as Midway sopped up potential customers.

In hearings and meetings stretching over years, Midway backers squared off against their critics.

They agreed to establish a free viewing spot on the carrier's bow; they agreed to mitigate the Midway's environmental damage by purchasing 14 acres in the South Bay and maintaining the area as a wildlife habitat; and they vowed to be a good neighbor by steering visitors to nearby businesses and attractions.

Judging the Midway's initial impact, some critics' have shed their misgivings. But others remain wary.

"The visual impact is even worse than we expected," said Diane Coombs, of the regional planning group C3, or Citizens Coordinate for Century Three.

"And I'm not sure people are aware they can go to the ticket office and ask to board and go to the viewing area for free. They should have a sign letting people know."

Museum officials acknowledged that few people take advantage of the right to view the bay for free from Midway's flight deck. But they said that's because most are content to take snapshots and enjoy San Diego Bay from the end of Navy Pier, which was closed to the public before Midway's arrival.

Some critics expressed concern the environmental-mitigation agreement was not being met. But museum spokesman Scott McGaugh said the South Bay tract has been purchased and the "environmental-enhancement process is under way."

Coombs said she is not surprised the museum is popular in its inaugural year. But she wonders if attendance will fall off once the bloom is off the rose. "I could be wrong, but I suspect the motivation to return will not be high," she said.

But McLaughlin doesn't think that will be the case. Among the 26 million visitors to San Diego each year, some seem eager to make return trips to see the Midway.

"One lady from the East Coast came up and asked me to speak to her husband on her behalf," he said. "She explained they had been in San Diego for five days and this was their fourth tour of Midway. Her husband had served on an aircraft carrier in the '40s and just loved it here."

Those dubious of a Midway museum noted that rust never sleeps, especially when it comes to the perpetual war between steel and salt water. They worried that maintenance could wind up being an overwhelming and cost-prohibitive task.

He and his staff, McLaughlin said, are "rather phobic about our maintenance."

A massive refurbishing project last year included removing 20 tons of debris accumulated since the carrier was retired in 1992 and the application of 3,500 gallons of haze-gray paint.

"We are developing an annual plan to stay on top of things. We realize we are occupying a premier piece of real estate and we want to stay looking pretty. One of the big concerns was that we would be a big, gray eyesore and we want to continue to dispel that."

McLaughlin can barely contain his glee when discussing how the flock of visitors to the carrier so far has been a boon to nearby restaurants, tourist shops and harbor excursions.

Ray Ashley, executive director of the Maritime Museum, said his collection of historic ships – including the Star of India – berthed along Harbor Drive just north of the Midway saw more visitors than ever in recent months.

The addition of Surprise, a replica British frigate used in the Russell Crowe swashbuckler "Master and Commander," certainly was a draw, said Ashley. But the tide of visitors to the Midway clearly raised all Embarcadero boats.

"We're a mom-and-pop operation and when Wal-Mart opens next door, you're naturally going to be concerned about the impact," Ashley said. "But in an average year we get about 125,000 visitors and we did 190,000 in 2004."

Ashley and McLaughlin both talk about the Embarcadero and its blossoming maritime attractions becoming known as a distinct tourist destination in San Diego, like the Zoo, Sea World and Balboa Park.

"We're discussing things like complimentary programs and exhibits and a joint ticket to the Midway and Maritime Museum," Ashley said. "We had our doubts, but (the Midway's arrival) has so far been a very good thing."

Working on the ship as a docent and telling the story of the Midway and the Navy is a labor of love for volunteers, especially old Navy men.

"This is better than canned beer," said Reid Carleton, a retired Navy carrier pilot who explains the workings of the flight deck to Midway visitors.

"People are thrilled to have the opportunity to see history, to touch it and feel it. The pay isn't great for us volunteers," he said with a chuckle, "but we're sure having a lot of fun."


USS Midway - San Diego

K.C. ALFRED / Union-Tribune
The aircraft carrier Midway, now a museum, sits just south

of Broadway and Harbor Drive. The gigantic "gray warrior"

has seen 575,000 visitors in its first year – well beyond


USS Midway - San Diego

K.C. ALFRED / Union-Tribune photos
Tourists walked past a H-46 Sea Knight on the

Midway, just south of Broadway and Harbor

Drive. "This prime location was the key" the

museum's success, said Mac McLaughlin, the

museum's chief operating officer.




December 25, 2004

It's been a great half-year for Midway museum

ATTENDANCE: More than 500,000 people have visited the aircraft carrier in San Diego.

By Henri Brickey

The Press-Enterprise

SAN DIEGO - Six months after opening to the public, the USS Midway aircraft carrier museum is operating full speed ahead.

"Attendance is way beyond the most optimistic of projections," Midway spokesman Scott McGaugh said earlier this month.

The San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau predicted that 440,000 people would board the Midway, officially known as San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, in the museum's inaugural year.

The floating museum already has attracted more than 500,000 visitors, McGaugh said. In the first 90 days, more than 8,000 people joined as annual members, three times what was initially expected, McGaugh said. And the ship is already over 50 percent booked for private events next year; reservations are already being made for 2006.

"We can declare victory," retired Rear Adm. Mac McLaughlin, the museum's president, said from aboard the ship earlier this month.

The former flagship of America's Pacific fleet, the Midway docked at the Navy Pier in San Diego's North Embarcadero in June.

~ Correction: Midway docked at Navy Pier in January.

The Midway served the Navy for 47 years and was retired in 1992 in Bremerton, Wash., to become part of the Navy's reserve fleet. A few years later, the Midway was decommissioned, and museum organizers began working to bring the ship to San Diego.

~ Correction: Midway was retired and decommissioned in San Diego in June 1992 and then placed in reserve at Bremerton, WA.

Early on, critics said the museum would be a flop, McLaughlin said.

Even the military had its doubts. Before donating the ship last year, the Navy required that museum organizers hold $500,000 in reserve funding in case the museum failed to attract visitors and the ship had to be towed away.

Doubters have since been proven wrong.

"It looks like we're going to exceed 800,000 the first year. That's a powerful attraction," said Reint Reinders, president of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Any museum would be licking their chops to get 800,000 visitors a year."

Another decommissioned aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid, is docked off New York City and attracts roughly 600,000 visitors a year.

For those who haven't seen the Midway since it first opened in summer, things have changed.

"What you saw in June is a tiny slice of a 10-year master buildout plan," said McGaugh, the spokesman. "It will be constantly expanding and changing every few months for years to come."

Two weeks ago, crews loaded four newly refurbished aircraft on the Midway's deck, bringing the total aboard the ship to 15. Three more aircraft will be added in March.

The two helicopters and two jets were hoisted onto the Midway this month after undergoing thousands of hours of rehabilitation at the hands of volunteers charged with their restoration.

Bob Modell, 63, served on the Midway in the early 1960s as an aviation electronics technician and now volunteers as a member of the Midway Aircraft Restoration Team. Altogether, about a dozen volunteers make up the team, and each member typically puts in between 20 and 40 hours a month, Modell said.

"Some of them come to us in good condition. Others are a mess," Modell said as he watched an F-4 Phantom lowered onto the aircraft carrier by crane.

By the time the aircraft make it to the Midway, they look like new.

Retired Cmdr. Chuck Smiley - who flew in five of NASA's Apollo recovery missions in a SH-3 Sea King helicopter, including the famous Apollo 13 mission - was aboard the Midway earlier this month when a restored Sea King was delivered.

"It's the best replica I've ever seen, and thanks to all of you who make it possible," Smiley told a crowd of pilots and museum volunteers who gathered on the ship's deck last week to celebrate the arrival.

Next month, three new exhibits will open on the Midway: an engine room, sick bay and forecastle.



October 13, 2004

It's full-steam ahead for Aircraft Carrier Museum

San Diego Source - The Daily Transcript

Mac McLaughlin keeps a copy of an article about the Midway museum's potential in his office for inspiration.

After years of debate and controversy over whether the decommissioned aircraft carrier would become a waterfront blight, the Midway arrived at its final port in January.

The magazine story titled, "Sink or Swim," laid out expectations for the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum's success. Critics predicted a flop.

The Navy's own estimates, based on the performance of the nation's five other carrier museums, put Midway's annual attendance at approximately 440,000.

Now, just four months after opening on June 7, McLaughlin, museum president and chief executive, happily reports that the Midway will have attracted 440,000 visitors by the end of October. From June through August some 3,000-plus people trekked through the carrier every day, bringing monthly attendance through summer to more than 100,000.

The recently retired Navy rear admiral predicts the museum will become a major success and contributor to San Diego's business, culture and educational resources.

"In five years we want the city of San Diego to look at the Midway and say, 'We're glad you're here.'"

Restaurants, shops and hotels nearby will hopefully say the same thing, if McLaughlin has his way. He is committed to not competing with his neighbors for business -- at least not food and beverage or overnight accommodations business. That's why the Midway museum does not have is own catering or restaurant beyond a small snack bar, and why the museum has refused requests for overnight visits from corporate groups.

Building on a string of successful special events, including the 1,500-seat Ronald Reagan black-tie dinner and dance July 23, the museum has become a popular spot for corporations and others to entertain, raise money or show off.

Rolls Royce's board of directors has reserved the ship's admiral's quarters for a meeting. The admiral's quarters, which include a lounge and meeting room and connects to the ship's war room, where the first air strikes against Iraq were launched during Operation Desert Storm, is not open to the general public.

McLaughlin said the museum has after-hours events booked on 250 dates through 2005. And a youth sleepover program -- an offering that opens in January and includes classroom work, special tours and keys to a flight simulator plus dinner and breakfast -- is booked through its first four months. The museum hasn't even begun marketing the feature, according to McLaughlin.

"We're just knocking 'em dead," McLaughlin said of the museum's performance.

Thanks to public interest and a great location along North Harbor Drive, the organization has raised enough revenue to have sufficient deposits, while operating on a positive cash flow basis monthly. The museum also has $2 million and $500,000 in cash reserves that the Navy required to cover the museum if it flopped and needed to be towed elsewhere.

Museum organizers incurred $8 million in startup costs, of which $2 million was raised through private contributors. The remaining $6 million was secured through a low-interest loan. McLaughlin said the museum is making enough money to accelerate loan repayment while continuing to expand exhibits.

A recently approved capital expansion will build public access to the ship's engineering section, forecastle (anchors and chains) and sick bay as well as bring three additional aircraft on board. Ultimately, the Midway's board of directors, chaired by real estate chieftain Malin Burnham, will determine how quickly to repay debt, McLaughlin said.

Meanwhile, he continues to work with government regulators and focuses his attention on his three top priorities: safety, fun and education.

To accommodate disabled "guests" -- a term McLaughlin borrows from Disney's playbook and favors over the more crude "customers" -- the organization is close to getting a potential sponsor for a $400,000 elevator. Disabled guests are now moved by forklift to the ship's aircraft elevator, which carries them up to the flight deck. It's not pretty, McLaughlin acknowledges, but it is safe and effective and only one visitor has complained. She got her money back.

Strolling the carrier with a reporter on a recent morning, McLaughlin stopped multiple times to greet some of the museum's 600-700 volunteer docents, pick up stray litter and encourage visitors to test ride a new flight simulator. He even participated in a home video being made by a museum visitor from Missouri who wanted a little background on the ship for his vacation records.

Commissioned in 1945, the ship was the first to be too large for the Panama Canal. The Midway and its crew over 47 years played a role in World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Persian Gulf War.


And while Midway's history makes for one giant social studies lesson, McLaughlin sees its more practical potential as proof positive that science and mathematics have exciting and, frankly, cool applications.

The museum recently hired a curriculum writer, who reports to education director Sara Mann Hanscom, to develop curriculum for local schools. The curriculum writer is now working with teachers to develop lessons for fourth and fifth graders and will gradually work up to high school level material.

And just over a year after overseeing the work of 88,000 people during his last military assignment as chief of the Naval Reserve Force Command, McLaughlin reports that managing the Midway is "The hardest thing I've ever done in my career."

He says his Navy friends often don't believe him. "I didn't know this was coming," McLaughlin said of his new job. Like many retired military officers, he expected to go to work in corporate San Diego. His wife Nora is a Chula Vista native and agreed to follow him around the world in the Navy as long as they made San Diego County their home post-retirement.



Friday, September 10, 2004

CPO Selects Restore Midway Foc’sle

Story and photos by JO2 Adrian Melendez
Navy Compass

SAN DIEGO - During this time of year it is not uncommon to see Chief Petty Officer (CPO) selects participating in athletic events as a group or doing volunteer work as part of their transition period from crows to anchors.

But this years CPO selects, in San Diego, had a unique chance to volunteer to restore the foc’sle onboard the Midway museum as part of their heritage project.

Chief Selects on the East Coast usually go to the USS Constitution (IX 21) for their heritage project, but until recently there hasn’t been a project of that caliber for the future chiefs on the west coast.

“This is a great chance to reconnect with the history of the ship,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW) Sharon Balcom.

Over 100 volunteers spent time after work and on weekends chipping paint, treating corrosion and moving heavy equipment to get the foc’sle open for public viewing.

“The place was a mess and there were a lot of safety hazards when we first got here,” said Chief Boatswains Mate Darrell Morgan, one of the Chiefs that helped organize the project with the Midway.

When the foc’sle is completed there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new exhibit to the public.

Everybody who helped restore the foc’sle will be memorialized with a plaque with every volunteer’s name that will be placed on the bulkhead.

“They will forever be memorialized for the hard work that they have done,” said CNOCM (SS) Bernard Jacques, Navy Region Southwest command master chief.

Jacques said that he hope the chief selects learn teamwork and get a sense of pride that links them to their Navy heritage.

“This is exactly what being a chief is,” said Jacques. “Doing a little bit extra and giving a little bit back.”

The chief selects in the future will continue to rehab different spaces every year including plans to rehab the chief’s mess for the next group of chief selects said Jacques. Future plans are also in the works for CPO selects to live on the ship for a week and perform drills for the public to show what life is like aboard a Navy ship.

“The Midway will continue to be a key factor in west coast CPO select training,” said Jacques.



USS Midway - San Diego

MM1 (SW/AW) Jimmy Aguimaldo wipes down Midway’s

anchor chain in preparation for corrosion treatment and

painting. Restoration of the anchor chain is one of the many

projects that needed to be done.

USS Midway - San Diego

GM1 (SW) Jeffrey Davis prepares to hoist

the anchor chain off the deck for easier

access for the restoration of the chain and

the deck underneath.

USS Midway - San Diego

ET1 (SW) Mark Kretschmer squeezes into

a tight spot to chip paint and corrosion

from the deck of Midway’s foc’sle. The

restoration project is being done by San

Diego area chief selects.

USS Midway - San Diego

Chief Selects applied corrosion treatment and preservative to

the anchor chain and windlass, one of the many jobs needed

to be done to help restore the foc’sle.

USS Midway - San Diego

More than 100 chief selects spent hours

after work and on weekends restoring the

foc’sle aboard Midway as part of their

heritage project during the transition

period to chief.

USS Midway - San Diego

San Diego-based Chief Petty Officers

(wearing blue) and Chief Petty Officer

selectees (wearing yellow) volunteer

aboard retired aircraft carrier USS Midway

before marching through downtown San

Diego to participated in events and





August 29, 2004

Old warriors recall serving aboard the USS Midway

By Tom Morrow Staff Writer

Fond memories were shared recently aboard the old aircraft carrier USS Midway, now permanently berthed in San Diego Harbor. Four North County warriors recalled their days aboard the huge ship some 50 and 60 years ago, when the carrier was a state-of-the-art naval vessel.

The Midway is America's longest-serving aircraft carrier and has been a floating home to more than 225,000 sailors and Marines during her 47 years of service.

The North County quartet went aboard the ship Aug. 20 to help videotape a documentary to be aired later this year on Oceanside's KOCT-TV station.

Oceanside's Anthony "Tony" Calderone said the best memory he has from 1948 was when he served aboard the USS Midway and was going on liberty in Naples, Italy, and traveling to his father's hometown of Messina, Sicily.

"I was able to visit my grandfather and sit at the family kitchen table and write my father in America about the experience," Calderone recalled. "I'll never forget that feeling of sitting at that table."

Calderone, who was a mess sergeant, is one of a number of Marines and sailors who served aboard the now-decommissioned aircraft carrier, which has been turned into a naval air museum in San Diego. He was a mess sergeant with the Marines' 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Division, serving a year aboard the ship.

Vista's Anthony Peyou, now 86, is a retired U.S. naval commander and former aviator. He proudly proclaims to be a "plank owner," which means he was among the first crew members aboard the new USS Midway when it made its maiden voyage back in 1945.

"I was a pilot in Torpedo Squadron 74, when we came aboard in 1945, right after she (Midway) was launched," Peyou recalled. "I made my 100th carrier landing aboard this ship."

Peyou said he had spent months stationed aboard the USS Marcus Island, which was an escort (jeep) carrier in the Pacific during World War II.

"This ship (Midway) seemed gigantic to us after being aboard that jeep carrier," he recalled.

Oceanside's Roger Bedard was a pilot aboard the USS Midway in 1952, flying AD-4-W "Guppy" attack fighter planes.

The 45,000-ton Midway is 968 feet long, more than three football fields, and had a top speed of 33 knots.

"I was in VC-12, which was an anti-submarine warfare squadron stationed out of Quonset Point, R.I.," Bedard said.

"I never did learn my way around this ship," he added, noting its huge size. "I couldn't find my way around then, and I certainly don't know where anything is today."

San Marcos' Jim Evans made it his business to know where everything was aboard ship. He was a Marine sergeant in charge of ceremonial duties, weapons and, the dreaded brig.

"We had a few people confined to the brig from time-to-time," Evans recalled. "It (the brig) usually was for someone who had over-stayed their liberty ashore."

Evans, who survived the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, said the small Marine detachment aboard the ship while he was assigned to the USS Midway from 1947-49, was a gun instructor aboard ship, and his Marines had a reputation of being very good anti-aircraft gunners.

"The front three turrets on the port side of the Midway were Marine guns," Jim recalled. "One day we shot down five drones, which were pretty expensive in those days. The Navy only had six, so when the last one came around, the Navy gunners told us not to fire, so they'd have a chance to knock one down."

The USS Midway Naval Museum is open seven days a week. Admission is $13 per adult; $10 for seniors, students and military with identification card, and $7 for children 6 through 17. Those 5 and under are admitted free.



July 5, 2004

San Diegans enjoy six displays from Midway museum

By Lisa Petrillo

As a surprise for his 7-year-old, Steve Grimaldo brought the towheaded boy smack in the center of where the rockets' red glare used to happen for real.

Here, on the 4-acre deck of the retired warship Midway in perhaps the best seat on San Diego Bay, father and son saw and felt the beautiful thunder of six flashy fireworks shows last night.

"It's so big, and I can't believe it's so close," said Issac Grimaldo, as he swung his legs happily from his red, white and blue deck chair aboard the Midway.

They were among 2,500 people who spent $5 to $10 to set up chairs and blankets on the 1,001-foot-long flight deck of the just-opened Midway Carrier Museum near Harbor Drive.

On this deck, captured Nazi V-2 rockets once were launched and refugees were saved during the fall of Saigon, Vietnam. But the bombs that burst in air last night were the happy kind, fired only in tribute to America's 228th birthday.

Families ate hot dogs and drank cocoa, and kids like Briana Bautista of Bonita raced around the deck with patriotic pinwheels.

For the shipboard party, retiree Violet Hoene of Encinitas came decked out in red suede shoes, Uncle Sam-striped capris and flag earrings. Daughter Lisa McKay sat beside her under a blanket featuring the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. They were thrilled that they got in on this deal, a first-of-its-kind event that sold only limited tickets.

Luckily for spiky haired, 16-year-old Matthew Anderson of East County, there were plenty of food vendors aboard so he could get a funnel cake while he complained, "My mother made me come."

His big brother, Danny, rolled his eyes for he and the rest of the family loved wandering around the deck, looking at the vintage war planes on display.

Like Thomas Jefferson said, it's all about liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Rebecca Darby, who attends Grossmont High School, wore her cowboy hat and brought along a Spanish exchange student for this most American of festivities. Her grandmother, Rebecca Sadler, sat beside her but was lost in her thoughts as she gazed upon the bay, the San Diego-Coronado Bridge and the boats with a faraway look. She said she was recalling the old days and other warships down at the harbor.

"I used to come down here to see the sailors when I was a teenager," Sadler laughed. "We had other kinds of fireworks back then.



July 01, 2004

Longest serving carrier docks in San Diego

Submitted by: MCAS Miramar
Story by: Cpl. T. D. Smith

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- San Diego is home to a wealth of entertainment, but now it has a little more "magic," as the museum's brochure promotes it, to offer Miramar Marines and Sailors. America's longest-serving aircraft carrier, the USS Midway, is now the San Diego Carrier Museum.

It offers a unique look into the vessel's history, which spans more than four decades of naval service to include the surrender of Japan in World War II to operations during Desert Storm.

The entertainment experience is educational and historically accurate with an audio-guided tour that features first-hand accounts from former crewmembers.

One account documents how two sailors were killed in the liquid oxygen plant station, when a Panamanian merchant ship, the Cactus, hit the Midway. The USS Midway was performing silent night maneuvers with out radar and communication, when the carrier collided in the black of night with the commercial boat.

While no significant harm was sustained by Midway's structure, three of the F-4 phantoms parked on the deck were damaged.

Crew accounts also include information on the capabilities of the ship. One such explanation describes what it is like using the ship's Fresnel lens and why landing pilots call it the "meatball."

The pilot illustrated how they knew the aircraft was on the correct path of approach when they could see an orange light or "the meatball."

Other features open to the public are one of the Midway's five galleys and the berthing spaces where the crew slept. These features provide perspective on what it was like to live on a city at sea.

The museum also highlights the fact that a majority of the Midway's missions were humanitarian. Such missions include "Frequent Wind" which took place during the fall of Saigon. Helicopters, from Midway's deck evacuated 3,073 U.S. personnel and Vietnamese refugees out of Saigon and brought them to safety.

After a South Vietnamese pilot asked permission to land, the Midway's crew cleared an angle of the deck where the pilot could safely land his Cessna O-1 Bird Dog observation plane with his wife and five children aboard.

The Midway's crew was subsequently awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and the Humanitarian Service Medal for her efforts.

One mission that was more combative was the historic launch of a captured German V-2 rocket. Operation "Sandy" took place September 6, 1947. The purpose of the maneuver was to see if a large rocket could be launched from a moving platform, like an aircraft carrier, without modifications.

This operation changed Naval combat in a significant way by including technologies of sea launched high power weaponry.

History and ship life are not the only attractions this majestic floating city has to offer. There are two varieties simulators available to visitors. The type featuring a cockpit with a hatch that closes costs $40 an hour and the 15 ft TV screen arcade model can be played for $10 for a half hour.

A unique dining experience can be found on the carrier's aft deck. The Fantail Café offers an assortment of beverages, cookies and sandwiches in an open-air setting.

The progress of the museum will continue as new exhibits such as the opening of the brig and sickbay become available to the public.

The Midway is open seven days a week to exclude major holidays and the hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fees are $13 for adults $10 for seniors, military ID and student ID card holders, and $7 for youths ages six to 17. Active duty military members in uniform and children under the age of six get in free.

The museum also features a gift shop where tourists and locals alike memorialize their Midway magic experience picking up clothing and other commemorative items.



Friday, June 25, 2004

Lincoln Sailors lend a hand at Midway Museum

By JO1 Joaquin Juatai - USS Abraham Lincoln

Navy Compass

SAN DIEGO - Amidst the many events planned to celebrate the grand opening of the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, located on the former USS Midway (CV 41), Sailors from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) brought a few pieces of Naval history to the museum to help complete the display.

According to Senior Chief Quartermaster (SW/AW) John Trail, who spearheaded the effort to acquire and deliver missing parts to Midway’s bridge, finding the extra parts was easier than he thought.

Trail had removed the parts, a navigator’s chair, compass binnacle and surface radar unit, from a Knox-class frigate at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard while preparing to build the ship exhibit at the Everett Children’s Museum and the bridge display commissioned as USS Charles E. Trail (DD 856) at Seattle’s Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center.

Trail met with one of the Midway Museum volunteers while attending a navigation school in San Diego.

“He asked me to look for anything missing from the bridge, and the stuff that we had was what was missing,” said Trail.

With the help of QM1(SW/AW) Eric Anderson, QM2(SW/AW) Lance Herndon and QM2(SW) Richard Medina, Trail delivered the missing pieces to the museum, June 7.
With a vintage World War II fighter plane in the background, Midway Chief Engineer retired Cmdr. Pete Clayton gratefully accepted the donation. “This will really fill empty spots on the bridge,” said Clayton.

According to Clayton, the Midway Museum was developed to promote the history of Naval Aviation and of the Navy. “It lets kids and their families see and touch history,” said Clayton.

Coincidentally, Lincoln pulled into San Diego and manned the rails while Midway hosted a commemoration of the Battle of Midway after which the ship was named. A flyover had been scheduled to occur during the ceremony, but flight conditions would not allow it. According to Rear Adm. Riley Mixson (ret.), executive director of the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, “Since the fly-over was cancelled, the Navy came through with the Lincoln.”

Lincoln was in port in San Diego following sea trials after an extended shipyard period. The ship is currently conducting training operations and renewing its flight deck certification off the coast of California.



June 18, 2004

MIDWAY MAGIC - New aircraft-carrier museum open for business in San Diego

Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story by: Lance Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr.

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Soft winds chill the face of patrons walking along the waters. Flags above the harbor rustle in the same winds marking the USS Midway as it berths in downtown San Diego.

After serving 47 years in the Navy and carrying over 200,000 sailors and Marines on her back, the Midway was decommissioned in 1992 and reassigned this month as a museum in San Diego. It was the longest serving carrier ever and its last major accomplishment was launching the first aircraft in Desert Storm and being the only carrier not to lose an aircraft in the conflict, according to the museum.

Across the harbor at North Island Naval Air Station, the Midway ceased her original duties before moving to her original resting place, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., May 12, 1992. The shipyard is known as the Navy's mothball fleet, named to reflect its collection of decommissioned ships that lie in wait.

August 29, 2003, acting Secretary of the Navy Hansford T. Johnson authorized the donation of the Midway to the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum.

According to the Department of Defense, the Navy donates ships as a way of preserving naval history and tradition, educating the public and commemorating the men and women who built and sailed these vessels. There are currently 46 museum ships displayed in 21 states across the country.

Midway, the largest of five aircraft carrier museums in the nation, took six months to restore and open once it berthed in San Diego.

The ship is named after the Battle of Midway, where the Japanese attempted to destroy a section of the United States' Pacific fleet. The Japanese lost the battle.



Accompanying Photos

Photos by Lance Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr.


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USS Midway

USS Midway

USS Midway

USS Midway

USS Midway




June 16, 2004

A Visit To The USS Midway ~ Fayette County Review

Lee Yancey (Oakland) and Les Shockey (Rossville) traveled to San Diego, California last week for a visit to the USS Midway.


They attended a special ceremony on June 4th for the "Circle of Midway Friends" which is the original group of financial supporters. The ship opened, as a museum, to the public on June 7th.

Mr. Yancey had served on the Midway (aka Midway Magic) in 1975 during which time it was based in Yokosuka, Japan. As a member of the "Liberty Bells" Squadron VAW-115, he worked as the on-board flight tech for the E-2B Hawkeye. The E-2 Hawkeye is noted for its enormous round disk "radome" that sits atop the plane.


USS Midway - San Diego

Les Shockey (left) and Lee Yancey (right) on the

flight deck of the USS Midway with the E-2C aircraft.




June 8, 2004

Midway 'shipshape' as museum opens

SAN DIEGO: The public and ex-crew members tour the carrier that was commissioned in 1945.

By Joe Vargo

The Press-Enterprise

SAN DIEGO - The former crew members who toured the aircraft carrier Midway on Monday said the opening-day visit to the warship-turned-museum was like a walk down memory lane.

There were good memories and bad for the ex-enlisted men and officers.

Serving in uniform, acting as a deterrent against communism, projecting American power around the globe and conducting humanitarian missions were among the good times. Long journeys, sometimes up to three years, away from home and loved ones always proved difficult, the former sailors said.

Several made long journeys to board the Midway as the 59-year-old ship went on public display for the first time.

"I had a great time aboard," said Bob Robinson, 68, of Boston, who served on Midway from 1958-61 and came to San Diego to be among the ship's first visitors. "There are a lot of memories for me. Things were active on board but the only time it got crowded was at lunch."

Robinson served on the hangar deck, where duties included getting Crusader, Demon and Fury fighters and radar planes ready for launch. His tours included ports of call in Hawaii, Guam, Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Midway was one of three carriers in her class. Her sister carriers, the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Coral Sea, have been scrapped, Robinson said.

Docents in yellow caps and other volunteers fanned out on the flight and hangar decks, bridge and crew quarters to answer questions from visitors, who began lining up about 90 minutes before Midway's official opening.

Getting around the carrier meant navigating steep stairways and ducking low ceilings. Those who made it to the bridge got a spectacular view of Midway's 4-acre flight deck, where up to 200 airplanes a day were launched and recovered.

Much work remains.

Most of the ship's 2,000 compartments remain off-limits and will be refurbished as time and money permits over the next several years, said docent John Folting, 62, of Point Loma.

Years in service

Midway's keel was laid in 1943 and she was commissioned in September 1945, just days after the Japanese surrender ended World War II. Midway historian Scott McGaugh said Midway's participation in "Operation Frostbite" in 1946 provided invaluable information about how ships and airplanes functioned at the near-zero temperatures of the Arctic Circle.

"The Navy didn't know how to fly through icebergs," McGaugh said. "World War II was a warm water war."

The following year, Midway launched the first missile from a ship during "Operation Sandy." The successful firing of the captured German V-2 ushered in the age of ship-based missiles, he said.

Throughout the 1950s, Midway patrolled the Mediterranean Sea and off the Chinese coast, serving as a deterrent to Soviet and communist Chinese aggression. During the Vietnam War, Midway planes carried out 11,000 missions. In 1973, she became the first carrier to be home-ported abroad, in Yokosuka, Japan.

She served as the flagship during the first Gulf War in 1991 and later that year, evacuated Filipino refugees following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. She was decommissioned in 1992.

Operation Frequent Wind

Former crew members Dave Scott, Vern Jumper and Dave Mattingly recalled Operation Frequent Wind, the most poignant mission they served on together.

In the closing days of the Vietnam War, as communist forces were overrunning the South Vietnamese capitol of Saigon, Midway was ordered to steam off the Vietnamese coast and pick up civilians desperate to escape to America.

The air became thick with helicopters as they flew from Saigon to the Midway, dropped off their human cargo and returned for more.

Jumper, 72, who was in charge of getting the helicopters safely to and from Midway, said that during April 29 and 30, 1975, Midway brought 3,073 refugees to safety.

Seven more arrived safely when a South Vietnamese pilot landed his family in a small airplane meant to hold two passengers.

Days later, the carrier picked up another 84 "boat people" fleeing in a rickety craft.

"Those poor people were scared to death," said Jumper, who also flew 120 combat missions in Vietnam.

Mattingly, 49, called the operation heart-rending but uplifting. It was tough knowing that America's efforts to aid South Vietnam ended in fiasco but it was inspiring to help fleeing refugees.

"You knew you were having an enormous impact on those peoples' lives," said Mattingly of Louisville, Ky., who served as an intelligence officer aboard Midway.

Scott, 62, of Bloomington, Ind., recalled seeing hundreds of Vietnamese sleeping on the hangar deck after their rescue. Many Midway sailors gave their own clothing to the refugees, who often fled carrying nothing. Others slept on the decks wrapped in plastic for protection.

Scott, a yeoman third class, pronounced the Midway ship-shape as he strolled the decks.

"They've done a real good job," he said of the volunteers who worked to restore Midway.

While the Midway represents a storied past in America's naval history, another carrier - the USS Ronald Reagan - is en route to San Diego, where she will be home-ported at the naval base in Coronado. The Navy's newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its 3,000 crew members are expected to arrive near the end of July.


USS Midway - San Diego

Jackson Fray, left, of Virginia and Charles Valliere of Indianapolis tour the USS Midway,

which opened as a military museum in San Diego. The two worked together on it in 1969-71.

Photo by Carrie Rosema / The Press-Enterprise




June 7, 2004



The decommissioned carrier Midway attracted long lines Monday when it opened to the public along San Diego's Embarcadero as a floating naval history museum, nearly six decades after the warship first went to sea.

About 600 people went aboard in the first hour, the museum's Scott McGaugh said.

"The line has been consistently to the end of the Navy Pier, but moving well," McGaugh said.

The queue had shortened by lunchtime, McGaugh said.

"It's amazing" how many people want to come aboard the ship, museum docent Tom Hollywood told KGTV. "People are just so jazzed to be here, finally."

People from all over the world have expressed interest in coming to visit the Midway, Hollywood said.

The 1,000-foot flattop, largest warship in the world when it was commissioned Sept. 10, 1945, in Newport News, Va., saw action in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm during 47 years of service.

Twelve years ago, the Navy decommissioned the carrier at North Island Nava Air Station and sent it to the mothball fleet in Bremerton, Wash.

Supporters had the Midway towed to San Diego six months ago and berthed at Navy Pier, where it underwent refurbishment for its new role as the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum.

It will be the fifth national carrier museum, joining the Intrepid in New York City; the Hornet in Alameda; the Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas; and the Yorktown at Patriots Point, S.C.

Special commemorative ceremonies will mark the opening at 3 p.m. each day this week.

Community contributions and private financing helped pay the roughly $8 million cost of relocation, refurbishment and pier improvement, according to the museum group.

The museum features restored aircraft, a below-deck theater, interactive exhibits and historical displays. It also will be used for community events.

"To see how big they are and to see all the things inside, that's the fun," volunteer Rich Eby told LOCAL 8 News.

Admission is $13 for adults; $10 for seniors, those with a military identification and college students; and $7 for youths under 17. The museum is free to children under 6 and active duty military in a uniform.



June 6, 2004

USS Midway Debuts As Museum in San Diego

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO - The menu in one of the USS Midway's galleys still offers macaroni and cheese, biscuits and gravy and apple cobbler in bright orange letters. It's a menu left from the Desert Storm era, when the aircraft carrier was decommissioned.

The ship debuts Monday as the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, the fifth such museum in the nation. The first major attraction to open in San Diego in decades, it's expected to draw about 400,000 visitors annually.

"Many of the exhibits focus around the theme of Midway being a 'City at Sea,'" said museum spokesman Scott McGaugh. "With a crew of 4,500, anything you find in a small town was aboard the Midway: surgeons, dentists, radio station, TV station, a jail, judge, law enforcement, daily newspaper, and a waterworks that produced a quarter of a million gallons of fresh water every day."

Getting the Midway cleaned and readied for its debut as a museum cost $8 million. It took 12 years of planning and a small army of volunteers and workmen to get the carrier out of mothballs in Washington state.

The Midway, launched in 1945, was showing signs of neglect after tours of duty in Vietnam and in Desert Storm.

"It needed a paint job in the worst way. It had bird droppings on the flight deck and patches of moss growing on the front of the flight deck," said Alan Uke, whose vision it was to bring the ship to San Diego.

Crews have been working seven days a week since the carrier was towed to its new home at Navy Pier in January. Additional access routes were added to the carrier's labyrinth of ladders and more than a decade's worth of dust and grime was scrubbed away.

Eight aircraft that flew off aircraft carriers, including an F-14 Tomcat and an F4 Phantom, were brought on board.

Visitors will be able to walk on the four-acre flight deck, sit in the captain's chair in the bridge, peer into the surprisingly spartan captain's at-sea cabin and imagine themselves sleeping in one of the ship's cramped berths. Also open are one of the ship's galleys, a machine shop, and an on-board post office.

"Most people have never been on a war ship. It is totally different from a commercial vessel. It is totally utilitarian and a really difficult environment," Uke said.

San Diego is the home port of the carriers USS Nimitz and USS John C. Stennis, but the public has not had access to active duty ships.

A recorded audio guide, included with admission, tells visitors about 30 different spots on the ship and has interviews with sailors who lived and worked aboard the ship. At certain stations volunteers, many of whom served on the ship, will be available to answer questions and tell their own stories.

Organizers hope to open more of the ship's 2,000 compartments to the public, including the jail and hospital. Eventually, they hope to bring 15 to 20 additional aircraft aboard and to exhibits Midway artifacts like the ship's newspaper, log books and manuals. In the fall, a sleep-aboard program will be started for children.

Even before the opening, the ship has proved popular. Since January, 350 event planners have inquired about renting the carrier, which will be available for private functions. That doesn't surprise Reint Reinders, head of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"The hangar bay - the big bay when you walk into the ship, where aircraft would be stored - it's the biggest ballroom we have in San Diego," he said.



June 5, 2004

Floating museum of Navy flight opens at 10 a.m. Monday

By Ronald W. Powell

Pete Clayton surveyed the freshly painted flight deck of the carrier Midway and offered this critique: "It's gone from junkyard to jewel."

Clayton, a retired Navy commander, should know.

He is in charge of restoring the flattop for its assignment as a floating museum of naval aviation history at Navy Pier on San Diego's North Embarcadero.

The museum opens to the public at 10 a.m. Monday.

Today, an invitation-only celebration will be held aboard the Midway to mark the historic naval battle for which the carrier is named. The battle between U.S. forces and Japan occurred June 4-7, 1942, near the Midway Islands and established U.S. superiority in the Pacific for the rest of World War II.

Midway veterans, former commanding officers, senior Navy officers and various dignitaries are scheduled to attend today's festivities on the carrier's newly restored flight deck.

Clayton, 54, began the renovation last July in Bremerton, Wash., where the vessel had been stored since its decommissioning in 1992. He walked onto a disaster.

The carrier's paint was chipped, peeling or pocked with orangish-brown rust. Many of its exposed surfaces were hidden beneath thick coatings of moss or bird droppings. The flight deck was faded and torn.

But over the months, in Washington, Oakland and San Diego, Clayton supervised paid workers and volunteers who brought a shine back to many parts of the vessel, commissioned in 1945, that the public will tour.

Additional sections will be painted, polished and opened to visitors in coming months in phases.

"This is an incredible achievement for all of us involved," said Clayton, the museum's chief engineer. "There are lots of most-valuable-players here."

Visitors can get a feel for flying in a simulated cockpit of a military jet and get an up-close view of restored jets and a helicopter.

They can walk the 4-acre flight deck and its control area, and check out a berthing space where sailors slept. On a docent-guided tour, they also can descend from the hangar deck to one of the engine rooms.

Many docents served aboard the Midway and will be available to regale visitors with stories from their cruises. There also will be 30 exhibits on Navy history.

Food and beverages will be available at the Fantail Cafe, and pins, T-shirts, jackets and other items will be on sale at a gift shop.

Clayton and his crew logged 12-hour work days as the Midway's debut approached.

Late this week, they were completing work on a phone system. Electricity was being wired to soda machines and a ticket office on the pier. Lighting for nighttime events is still needed on the flight deck.

A 480-volt generator is supplying all of the power aboard the ship, and Clayton said he wants to establish an onshore electrical connection in July.

Midway workers this week set up a lift system to provide ship access to people with disabilities. Wes Johnson, president of Accessible San Diego, a consulting company on access issues, endorsed the system after using it to board the Midway Thursday and yesterday.

Johnson said the use of a forklift and a platform for boarding is the same system once used by the old PSA Airlines.

"It is a great first step to getting people on board the boat," Johnson said.

Mac McLaughlin, the museum's chief operating officer, said he wants to raise $400,000 to install two elevators for people with disabilities. He would like one to operate from the pier to the hangar deck and a second from the hangar deck to the flight deck.

"I want everyone to be able to come aboard Midway independently," McLaughlin said.



May 31, 2004

Sailors' stories

By Ronald W. Powell

USS Midway - San Diego

Retired Capt. Walt Lester of Del Cerro said he believes

the museum's prime location will help make it a success.

Photo by Laura Embry / Union-Tribune

Retired Capt. Walt Lester, 66, served aboard the Midway for two months in early 1971, piloting helicopters during maneuvers off San Diego.

During his 34-year career as a naval aviator, he flew 428 helicopter missions in Vietnam. He later was a U.S. diplomat in Belgium and Spain.

The Del Cerro resident believes the Midway will provide visitors with a window to Navy life.

"Most people have no idea what the military is doing. This is a great way to tell the Navy story. The Navy is an integral part of San Diego."

Since 1999, two years before the California Coastal Commission approved the museum project, Lester and a band of volunteers have prepared Navy aircraft for display.

Six planes are on the flight deck now, and a helicopter Lester helped acquire was scheduled to be hoisted aboard before the museum opens.

Lester, a Baltimore native, has done more than volunteer his time. He is one of 41 people who each donated $25,000 to help establish the museum.

And he is one of about a dozen contributors in the Founder's Circle who each guaranteed a loan of $250,000.

The loan will not go into default unless the museum is a bust. Lester is confident that will not happen.

"It's like the real estate term location, location, location," he said. "Location means everything. And where we're located, I believe the museum will be a success."



USS Midway - San Diego

Retired Rear Adm. Rich Wilson of Del Mar visited the

bridge of the carrier he captained from 1987 to 1989.

Photo by Laura Embry / Union-Tribune


Rich Wilson went from a ranch in Elko, Nev., to the U.S. Naval Academy, the launch pad for a career as a naval aviator.

He graduated from the academy in 1963, then earned his wings within 17 months. From May 1965 to April 1973, he was deployed on four combat cruises to Vietnam and flew 347 missions.

"It's a challenge, and you feel good that not everybody can do that," said the 63-year-old resident of Del Mar. "You don't do it for the pay. There's nothing better than to come in for a night landing on a carrier after a mission and know that you did a good job."

Wilson's training and flying was a prelude to his assignment as captain of the Midway from April 1987 until February 1989. The job often required shifts of 16 or more hours. He was always on call.

"As captain, you're responsible. If something happened, you couldn't say you were asleep. That would end your career."

One of a captain's more crucial jobs is boosting morale – from the laundry workers to the galley cooks and from ship's engineers to the crew on the flight deck.

Many times a sailor in the laundry or galley would lament that his job was unimportant, but "I'd tell him that we've only got a finite amount of space on a carrier, and that every guy is extremely important. It's a team."

A captain also has to be a zero-tolerance disciplinarian.

Seven sailors, all members of the same unit, were caught trafficking in marijuana and discharged, and Wilson recalls that none of the remaining sailors in the unit complained when they had to pick up the slack until replacements arrived.

The short-handed crew kept the Midway, then in the twilight of its service, in top shape. The can-do effort, part of Navy lore, is something sailors call "Midway Magic."

Wilson was promoted to rear admiral and later served in the Pentagon before retiring in 1997. He hasn't forgotten what he told his successor as Midway's captain during their change of command. "I didn't put any dents in the side," he said. "And I didn't scrape the bottom."



USS Midway - San Diego

Vern Jumper of La Mesa was in charge of flight operations aboard the

Midway during the fall of Saigon in 1975, when refugees flooded the ship.

Photo by Laura Embry / Union-Tribune


Almost 30 years later, the relief is evident still in Vern Jumper's voice.

He was the carrier's air boss, in charge of takeoffs and landings in late April 1975 during the fall of Saigon. Americans were bringing thousands of South Vietnamese refugees aboard the Midway and other vessels.

Jumper had joined the Navy in 1951 during the Korean War, an only child leaving his parents behind in Los Angeles.

He had been active in his family's businesses, helping his dad land albacore, halibut and rock cod from the deck of his commercial fishing boat and helping his mother sell pastries behind the counter at a bakery.

He completed boot camp at the Naval Training Center in San Diego in the spring of 1951, then completed a number of shipboard assignments before deciding to become a naval aviator. He earned his wings in mid-1956 and flew everything from propeller-driven aircraft to the fastest jets.

His stateside assignments included 16 years at Miramar Naval Air Station and a combat cruise aboard the Midway in 1965.

Jumper was stationed in enough places to fill several travelogues. The numbers prove it: His family moved 22 times in 32 years.

His career path led him back to the Midway in mid-1973 as assistant air officer. By the time Saigon fell, he was in charge of flight operations.

During one three-day period, 3,071 refugees were evacuated to the Midway on Jumper's watch.

"Our Hueys (helicopters) would be loaded with 30 or more people stacked like cord wood," Jumper recalled. "The people were scared to death. I remember seeing a sea of people sleeping on the hangar deck."

There were harrowing moments when it appeared a helicopter wouldn't have space to land, causing fears that it would crash or that the rotor blades would shear off like so many pieces of shrapnel to kill or maim anyone on the flight deck.

"The beauty of that operation is that we didn't kill anybody," Jumper said.

Jumper, 72, retired in 1982 as a commander and lives in La Mesa. His affection for the Midway is undiminished.

"For most sailors, your ship is like your mother," he said. "You love her."



USS Midway - San Diego

Vic Vydra served aboard the Midway as a chief petty officer; he volunteers as

a greeter and helps with security at the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum.

Photo by Laura Embry / Union-Tribune


Vic Vydra's job was to help sailors fight boredom and boost their morale by providing them with music and televised entertainment.

Vydra (pronounced Vee-dra) was assigned to the Midway in 1971 and served two combat tours during Vietnam. On those cruises, he was in charge of the ship's television and radio programming.

The Cleveland native followed two older brothers into the military after graduating from high school in 1964.

"At the start of boot camp, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into," he recalled. "I got yelled at and screamed at and disciplined by everybody around me. But being a young, scared kid, it's probably what I needed at that time in my life."

Vydra would program eight to 10 hours of daily viewing to be shown on small television sets scattered throughout the ship. Situation comedies, movies or replays of baseball or football games were the fare for sailors not on duty.

And, as a disc jockey in an era before compact discs or MP3s, Vydra played vinyl recordings on a turntable – everything from Sinatra to Led Zeppelin. "I even played 'Jesus Christ Superstar,'" he recalled.

There were times when the reality of war could not be overcome by an uplifting song or by a sitcom's laugh track.

Vydra said that happened on the flight deck in 1972.

A bomber was returning from a nighttime mission when it crashed onto the deck. The pilot survived, but the bombardier-navigator had ejected and was lost at sea.

"A couple of people got killed on the flight deck, and a couple of others got cut up real bad," he recalled. "Everybody handled it in their own private way. The mood on board was subdued.

Vydra's memories aren't dominated by deadly accidents, though.

In his spare time, he volunteers as a greeter at the Midway museum and assists with security.

In those hours, the Santee resident, who retired in 1984 as a chief petty officer, remembers the carrier as a floating home for an outsized family of Americans.

"It gives you a sense of pride that your ship was chosen for this final mission," he said.



May 2004


The San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum will educate and entertain visitors starting June 7

By Barry Schwartz Downtown News

A pilot has just finished a combat mission in the rain, flying 150 miles per hour toward a ship that is moving up, down and sideways as much as 50 feet. He must hit one of three cables in a space the size of a tennis court to avoid plunging into the ocean.

Thousands of naval aviators have accomplished just that on the deck of the USS Midway during its 47 years of active service. The public will be invited to board the floating city to experience what those pilots felt as the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum opens June 7.

A recent tour of the ship with a group of event planners from around the country provided a chance to see the ship. The interaction between the group members was also indicative of the future visitors. Two men found out that they served in the same area and time in Vietnam, when Midway made perhaps her biggest impact.

A crew of 4,500 occupied the ship at sea, starting on Sept. 10, 1945, two weeks after the end of WWII, up until it was decommissioned in 1992. Many of the 225,000 Americans who were stationed on board will want to return to her decks to show loved ones where they spent so much time.

Even though turning a carrier into a museum has been done before, (Lexington, Intrepid, Hornet and Yorktown) this will be the first one in a city with as much tourism and naval history as San Diego. The organizers have models to follow, but are still battling unique challenges.

“This is a 60-year-old warship, we’re still trying to figure out which outlets work,” said Midway Public Relations Director Scott McGaugh. “The toughest thing for us to do is get all the people in here that want to have events.”

More than 300 volunteers have been helping the aging 70,000-ton beast get ready for her coming-out party. Countless gallons of paint have to be applied to every surface, much the way sailors would have coated the metal on a regular basis while in service. Some of the helpers have been active military, those who want to give back, as well as see a part of U.S. Naval history up close and personal.

“I wanted to see an older ship,” said ABE-2 Michelle Brown from North Island. “I’ve only been on CVNs (nuclear-powered carriers) and I thought it would be cool to see what this was like.”

Brown has already worked on painting the flight deck for four weeks, and has no plans of stopping until the ship is ready to show both kids and adults what life was like aboard this 1,000 foot vessel. Of the estimated $4.5 million annual operating budget, more than $1 million is slated for maintenance such as painting.

Overall, there is 80,000 square feet of space available for public use, 50,000 on the flight deck and the rest in the two hangars directly below.

Because it is a functional warship, aesthetics are not a concern, with exposed wiring and pipes jutting out all over the place.

Some concessions have been made, such as adding restrooms and running a new sprinkler system. There is a functional fire system in place, but it was designed to be used in conjunction with the 4,500 man fire crew while at sea.

“We’re not going to put in drop-ceilings and make the rooms into a Southwest motif,” McGaugh said. “This is a naval warship and we’re damn proud of it.”

A tour of the ship reveals many wonders, such as the bunk room near the bow where 400 sailors slept in metal triple-bunks with built-in lockers. The mess halls served 13,000 meals each day, but also acted as areas to work on bombs and other ordnance since space was at a premium.

A dinner menu still sits on one wall, showing meatloaf, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, applesauce, biscuits and gravy with cherry cheesecake and Jello-O for dessert. A few comments about a lack of concern for cholesterol could be heard in the cafeteria.

Many ideas are floating around, including a “youth live-aboard” program in which school kids will have the opportunity to spend the night on the vessel. The volunteers are excited to teach children about military history as well as use the facility to give math and science lessons.

The museum already has many groups interested as well as many events booked to complement the $13 adult admission ($10 for seniors, $7 for youth) which will include a tour of 30 stations with a 60-minute audio guide. For more information about the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum visit



April 2004



This summer, a downtown aircraft carrier museum finally opens for business. Supporters are sure the Midway will float as a tourist attraction. But to some, the numbers don’t reach the water line.

By Nicole Sours Larson San Diego Magazine

At dusk on January 5, retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway rounds Ballast Point and enters San Diego Bay. By the time it arrives - delayed by mechanical failures on the lone oceangoing tug towing it south from Oakland - the ship is reduced to a darkened silhouette eerily illuminated by city lights. The carrier spends five days at North Island before it’s pushed across the bay to its final berth at Navy Pier on San Diego’s North Embarcadero.

The carrier is being readied for a public opening on June 5 (the anniversary of World War II’s Battle of Midway). Midway’s arrival was the culmination of a dozen years’ effort by Alan Uke, founder of the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum (SDACM), its board of directors and politically connected proponents. These include most of the last decade’s state and local elected and appointed officials, as well as leaders in the San Diego business and tourism establishment.

Bringing Midway here was the brainchild of Uke, 51, a multimillionaire Del Mar entrepreneur and inventor. A visionary with marked persuasive abilities and the self-described project “arsonist,” he lit a fire under a core group of committed supporters of the power elite and retired senior naval retirees.

The museum concept emerged from Uke’s failed 1992 congressional campaign. It retains marks of a disciplined political operation, with spokesmen staying carefully on message.

“This is a big Navy town,” says Uke. “An outsider would expect a huge naval museum.” About 40 percent of the region’s population has direct or indirect naval connections, supporters note. Uke says San Diego, with its naval history, presence and status as the cradle of naval aviation, must have a naval museum located on an aircraft carrier at Navy Pier.

“I want this museum to talk about culture and trade and history,” he says. He wants to educate children about the realities and carnage of war, and help them understand most wars are not as antiseptic and casualty-free as Operation Desert Storm.

A group of about 35-40 well-placed volunteers spearheaded efforts to transform Midway into a floating naval museum. John DeBlanc, retired group vice president for government relations for General Dynamics in San Diego, was an early Uke recruit. DeBlanc has an emotional tie: “It was my dad’s ship, and there was so much family history involved.”

For Rear Admiral Riley Mixson, USN (Retired), who spent 22 months “married” to Midway - skippering her from 1984 to 1986 - it’s been a labor of love. “We’re trying to keep the historical nature and have attractions ... to try to bring the ship to life and not be a dry museum,” he says.

The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (ConVis) has been one of the strongest Midway boosters. “One of the most common questions [from meeting planners] is ‘How do I get my group on a carrier?’” says Sal Giametta, ConVis vice president for community relations.

Many view the event business as a “zero-sum game,” but ConVis president and CEO Reint Reinders says convention planners are always looking for new venues, and that other attractions and event facilities will not suffer significant losses because of Midway. He says creating onboard exhibition and meeting space will cost $15 million over 10-15 years. Reinders anticipates defense-related corporations will underwrite many high-dollar exhibit spaces in exchange for naming rights.

Ed Fike, former editorial page editor of the old San Diego Union, who joined the executive committee of SDACM at the outset, is likewise enthusiastic about Midway’s prospects. “Nothing’s been built in San Diego that wasn’t opposed,” he says. “Great projects excite opposition.”

And there has been opposition. Installing the 968-foot-long Midway at Navy Pier stirred controversy from the beginning. For some, the carrier’s late arrival under cover of darkness seemed a metaphor—slipping into their consciousness much as a stealth-marketing campaign hits unsuspecting consumers.

Former San Diego Union-Tribune critic-at-large Welton Jones, a longtime skeptic and retired Coast Guard Reserve captain, remains unconvinced of the ship’s value and historic character.

“This thing is a real white elephant,” he says. “Carrier veterans told me off the record that using this ship as a museum was an insult to the history of naval aviation. It’s not heroic. It has no association with San Diego.”

It’s not even particularly historic, Jones says, countering supporters’ claims of illustrious wartime service, from Korea through Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. “This ship has never had a shot fired at it in anger. It’s never had any enemy action against the ship. ... It sat off the coast and sent bombers off.

“People are not that interested,” he says. “I am here to tell you this is a flop in the making.”

Other local critics have stepped back from open opposition and adopted the attitude “It’s here now; we have to deal with it.” Some say their patriotism was questioned when they publicly opposed the Midway.

A cadre of downtown residents objects to the giant carrier “walling off the bay.” That was a central objection in the February 2000 California Coastal Commission staff report, which recommended rejection of the Midway proposal unless significant changes (later adopted) were made. At the final commission hearing in March 2001, emotional appeals from “a roomful of cheering veterans in aloha shirts, waving American flags,” as one observer recounts, helped influence the final unanimous vote of approval.

Resentment lingers among recreational boaters. They believe Uke’s $8 million procurement from the state’s Harbors & Waterways Revolving Fund in 2001—to pay for repairs to Navy Pier to accommodate Midway—was an orchestrated raid. Promoted by former state Senator Steve Peace, then chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, this last-minute acquisition of tax revenue—paid by California boaters into a special fund normally reserved for building and repairing recreational boating facilities—still rankles boating advocates.

“We tried to stop it, but Mr. Peace had too much muscle for us,” says Harry Monahan, government relations consultant for the Southern California Marine Association.

Midway supporters frequently cite a 1990s poll indicating 85 percent of San Diegans support bringing Midway into San Diego Bay. The current level of support is hard to quantify. For the ship’s well-publicized arrival, and the move across the bay to Navy Pier, crowds seemed to number in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

Like it or not, Midway is here. So can it become economically viable? It’s tough to predict. The museum’s finances are complex.

Start-up and build-out cost estimates for an aircraft carrier museum range “upwards of $20 million,” says Channing M. Zucker, executive director emeritus of the Historic Naval Ships Association in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“By grand opening, we will have spent $6 million in improvements—in getting Midway here, refurbishing it and outfitting it as a museum,” says spokesman Scott McGaugh. He says transporting and opening the ship is an $8 million project, including $2 million in cash reserves required by the Navy, a condition of donating the ship to the museum association.

Of that $8 million, about $2 million was raised through contributions prior to the ship’s arrival. The remainder is in a low-interest bank loan personally guaranteed by board members, according to Uke and McGaugh. SDACM’s Form 990s—nonprofit tax returns—and other sources confirm SDACM has raised about $2.5 million in cash.

Museum government relations chair DeBlanc says fund-raising more than doubled after the Navy announced transfer of the ship. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to raise large chunks of money until we had the ship,” he says. Plans for major donor and membership programs were developed by consultants who designed successful programs for the San Diego Zoo and the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.

“The real fund-raising campaign is starting right now,” says Reinders. “The projections are achievable. We have very good terms on our loan, and a lot of people in the community are standing behind the loan.”

Uke and McGaugh say the multimillion-dollar loan can be paid off from business income. But that income also has to cover operating expenses, such as maintenance. Particularly on the hull, maintenance costs are an ongoing issue for any large ship. The Navy normally dry-docks active carriers every five years.

Rust never sleeps. Museum officials say the hull is in excellent condition. But the ship was last dry-docked in 1986—18 years ago.

Ongoing maintenance is critical. While none of the four other carrier museums in operation in the United States has ever been dry-docked, deferred hull maintenance can result in catastrophic expenses. Historic ships expert Zucker says the museum battleship U.S.S. Texas, before dry-docking in 1988 after 40 years in the water, was nearly lost. Repairs cost more than $11 million.

Uke anticipates an annual budget of $6 to $8 million, depending upon actual revenues. Several studies prepared for SDACM during the planning stages proposed maintenance budgets in the million-dollar range.

Where will the revenue come from?

CIC Research, which conducts studies for ConVis and the San Diego Port District, developed attendance projections for SDACM in the 650,000-780,000 range. During the Navy review process prior to the ship’s transfer, that estimate was revised downward, at the Navy’s insistence, to 440,000. Visitation of 440,000 at the average ticket cost of $10.50 would bring in more than $4.6 million per year.

Mindful of the high cost of carrier maintenance, Uke is organizing a separate foundation. “My plan is to have a $30-$50 million endowment fund [raised over the next five years], with $20 million reserved to kick off $1 million annually for maintenance, and another $20 million fund to pay for educational programs,” he says. Uke intends to provide adequate resources to dry-dock the carrier every 10-20 years.

Only two museums in San Diego have anything approaching this level of support: the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Uke says that San Diego icon Malin Burnham’s “committee is going to raise $10 million,” and Wal-Mart heir John Walton has agreed to take a leadership role in the foundation. Uke says he has “several commitments of multimillion-dollar bequests” from former naval officers who “made a lot of money and want to do some things.”

Few local fund-raising professionals would speak on the record about Uke’s plans. One pro believes raising that much money might be possible over 10 years but that a shorter period was “unrealistic.” Another notes it’s easy to raise $1 million but very hard to raise $10 million.

Sara Wilensky, vice president for marketing communications for the San Diego Foundation, thinks it’s possible. She points to a new awareness of the importance of endowing nonprofits, as well as the sentimental nostalgia attached to the contributions of the now-disappearing “Greatest Generation” of World War II.

“It depends on how compelling the cause is for the individual involved,” Wilensky says. “[Endowing Midway] might appeal to this generation.”

Some more numbers: The nearby Maritime Museum of San Diego, which exhibits five historic ships including the Star of India, averages 150,000-200,000 annual visitors. Tickets are $5-$8; group rates are lower. In 2002, Arts & Culture Commission data show the museum brought in nearly $660,000 with 159,000 paid admissions.

Of other local museums, only the Reuben Fleet Space & Science Center in Balboa Park draws numbers similar to what the Midway is projecting. In 2002, the Fleet had nearly 513,000 paid visitors, producing nearly $3.2 million. The San Diego Museum of Art was next, with 256,000 guests bringing in almost $622,000.

Midway supporters point to the zoo’s approximately 3.2 million visitors a year (down from 3.5 million three years ago), and Sea World’s 4 million annual visitors—but those are attractions and theme parks, not museums.

How do attendance figures at the four other aircraft carrier museums in the country stack up to Midway’s projections?

Hornet, the newest of the carrier museums, opened in 1998 and is sited in Alameda on San Francisco Bay. Off the beaten track for tourists, it receives about 140,000-150,000 visitors a year, with $500,000 in admissions. Initial projections called for 600,000-800,000 annual visitors.

Intrepid in New York City draws the most of any carrier museum, about 531,000-650,000 annually. It has the added attraction of being paired with a destroyer, a submarine and now a Concorde aircraft. Yorktown, also grouped with several other ships outside Charleston, South Carolina, pulls in about 332,000 each year. Lexington, a single-ship carrier museum located in Corpus Christi, Texas, draws about 309,000.

But optimism abounds. SDACM executive committee member Fike has no doubts about the museum’s success. He says the museum developed its attendance and financial projections based on a consultant’s study.

“The nation is full of Navy veterans, perhaps a million within an hour’s drive of San Diego,” Fike says. “This was a professional survey. You have to put some faith in these professionals. We’ve done everything to base our attendance and income on conservative projections. We have every reason to be optimistic. We can’t fail.”

The Port District, it should be noted, is not taking any chances. Rich Gannon, real estate asset manager for the Port, says that while the Port has confidence the museum will be a success, it has in hand a letter of credit from the Bank of America guaranteeing $500,000 to remove Midway and return it to Bremerton, Washington, should the museum fail.

“That was a condition of the permit,” he says. “This is a start-up business. We have no idea if this will be successful or not. We needed to have an exit strategy to have enough money to return it to the Navy.”

Nobody likes to talk about exit strategies. But in this case, it seems practical to know there is one.