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
~ Troy Prince (MidwaySailor.com)
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.
, 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
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
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
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
and other carriers.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
February 13, 2005
SUCCESSFUL TAKEOFF - Aircraft carrier Midway finds itself awash
By Mark Sauer
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
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
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
That kind of enthusiasm is evident in the Midway's early turnstile
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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."
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
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
By Henri Brickey
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
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
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
The Navy's own estimates, based on the performance of the nation's five
other carrier museums, put Midway's annual attendance at
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
"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
"We're just knocking 'em dead," McLaughlin said of the museum's
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
NCTimes.com 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,
"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
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
July 5, 2004
San Diegans enjoy six displays from Midway museum
By Lisa Petrillo
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
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
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
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
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
Like Thomas Jefferson said, it's all about liberty and the pursuit of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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 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
June 18, 2004
MIDWAY MAGIC - New aircraft-carrier museum open for business in
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
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
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.
Photos by Lance Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr.
Please click a thumbnail to view the larger
Images will open in a new window.
June 16, 2004
A Visit To The USS Midway
goFayette.com ~ Fayette County Review
(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.
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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.
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
USS MIDWAY OPENS AS NAVAL MUSEUM
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
June 5, 2004
Floating museum of Navy flight opens at 10 a.m. Monday
By Ronald W. Powell
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
May 31, 2004
By Ronald W. Powell
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
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."
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
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
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
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."
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
Photo by Laura Embry / Union-Tribune
Almost 30 years later, the relief is evident still in Vern Jumper's
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
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
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
Vic Vydra served aboard the Midway as a chief petty officer; he
a greeter and helps with security at the San Diego Aircraft Carrier
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
"It gives you a sense of pride that your ship was chosen for this final
mission," he said.
ALL HANDS ON DECK!
The San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum will educate and entertain
visitors starting June 7
By Barry Schwartz
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
“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
“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
SINK OR SWIM
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
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,”
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
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
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
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
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,
“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
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
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
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
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.