Welcome aboard the USS Midway (CV-41)

The USS Midway (CV-41) is a former US Navy aircraft carrier that served from 1945 to 1991. Today she sits at the San Diego waterfront as a museum (opened in 2004) in tribute to the US Navy servicemen and women who served on aircraft carriers either as sailors, pilots, air crew or marines.

USS Midway (CV-41) Yokosuka Japan 1984
USS Midway in 1984
USS Midway CV-41 San Diego California
USS Midway today

The USS Midway is a massive ship and an impressive place to take a look around. She is 296 metres / 972 feet in length, with a beam of 41.5 metres / 136 feet and the flight deck width is 75.5 metres / 238 feet and powered by 12 boilers and four geared steam turbines with four shafts producing 212,000 shaft horsepower capable of  a speed up to 33 knots. In her final operational years Midway would typically carry 68 aircraft (36 F/A-18 Hornets, 18 A-6 Intruders, 4 EA-6 Prowlers, 4 E-2 Hawkeyes and 6 Sh-3 Sea King helicopters), a complement of  over 4,700 personnel (2,828 crew, 1,860 air wing and 72 marines) and total displacement weight was 67,000 tonnes fully loaded. Modern day nuclear carriers are even bigger. The Nimitz class nuclear carriers for example are 333 metres / 1,092 feet in length, weigh 88,000 tonnes, carry around 80 aircraft and have a ships complement of over 5,000 personnel (crew of 3,000-3,200, air wing of 1,500 and 500 others such as Marines etc.).

Vought F-8 Crusader  USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Vought F-8 Crusader you are clear for takeoff

The Midway served with distinction on a number of tours during the Vietnam War (April to November 1965, May to October 1971, April 1972 to  February 1973 – apart from combat missions, 48 rescue missions of downed pilots were also conducted by helicopters from Midway during this last tour). The Midway and Carrier Wing CVW-5 received the Presidential Unit Citation (Navy) from Richard Nixon for extraordinary heroism displayed during the period of 1972 to 1973 on the carriers last combat tour of Vietnam.

USS Midway 1963
USS Midway 1963

Midway pilots from Fighter Squadron VF-21 “Freelancers flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II scored the first 2 air to air kills of North Vietnamese MiG’s (MiG-17’s) by US forces on June 17th, 1965; and the last air to air kill of that war on January 12th, 1973 (also a MiG-17) was achieved by the crew of an F-4B Phantom II from Fighter Squadron VF-161 “Chargers“. Air to air combat was not a major function of Navy pilots during the Vietnam War but Midway crews were credited with 8 confirmed air to air victories and the aircraft silhouettes are still painted on the ships island today (6 MiG-17’s and 2 MiG-19’s of the North Vietnamese Air Force).

F-4B "MiG Killer" of VF-161 USS Midway CV-41
F-4B “MiG Killer” of VF-161
USS Midway MiG Kills Vietnam War
USS Midway MiG Kills (Source: http://www.midwaysailor.com)
USS Midway Island Mig Kills
The “Island”

Although combat operations for USS Midway ceased in Vietnam in 1973, she performed one last major mission in that theatre in 1975, Operation Frequent Wind.  Following the full invasion of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army in 1975 the carrier was despatched to the South China Sea with only helicopters onboard to assist in the evacuation of hundreds of US personnel and South Vietnamese citizens on April 29th, 1975.

Operation Frequent Wind 1975 USS Midway
Operation Frequent Wind 1975
Operation Frequent Wind 1975 USS Midway
Operation Frequent Wind 1975

One amazing incident during Operation Frqequent Wind was the landing by South Vietnamese Air Force Major Buang-Ly in a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog aircraft that had onboard not only himself but his wife and 5 children! He dropped a message onto the deck stating who was onboard and navy personnel actually pushed millions of dollars worth of helicopters over the side of the carrier into the sea so he could land safely! He and his family made it!

A South Vietnamese UH-1 is pushed overboard on the USS Midway in 1975
A South Vietnamese UH-1 is pushed overboard on the USS Midway in 1975
Major Buang lands his O-1 on the Midway Operation Frequent Wind 1975
Major Buang-Ly lands his O-1 on the Midway
A recreation of that famous O-1 landing aboard the Midway today
A recreation of that famous O-1 landing aboard the Midway today

After the people were rescued and safely deposited on other ships, 100 South Vietnamese helicopters and aircraft were either landed or transported onto the deck of the Midway and transported to Guam. Saigon fell and the rest is history.

South Vietnamese UH-1 helicopters aboard USS Midway in 1975
South Vietnamese UH-1 helicopters aboard USS Midway in 1975

The Midway served on many more missions and tours around the globe, including the first Gulf War in 1991. This was to be the last combat tour before this proud ship of the US Navy went into retirement.

It is fantastic that today as a museum the USS Midway still serves in a way and people can get a hands on experience of carrier operations. You can go on guided and unguided tours around the ship and there are numerous presentations to explain carrier operations. You can enter the crew quarters, operations rooms, officers quarters, the captains quarters and the Admirals rooms (the latter quarters are much more roomier than the general crew quarters!).

Crew Quarters USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Crew Quarters – crowded to say the least (but not bad compared to submarines)!
Junior Officer Quarters USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Junior Officer Quarters
Flight Commanding Officer Quarters USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Flight Commanding Officer Quarters
Captains Quarters USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Captains Quarters
Captains Dress Uniform USS Midway
Captains Dress Uniform
Admirals Quarters USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Admirals Quarters
Admirals Quarters USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Admirals Quarters

One of the engine rooms is open for display and you can even enter the brig (an onboard jail). Dont miss the pilot ready rooms either. These were where pilots and crews would be briefed or debriefed on missions and contain lots of memorabelia and models (most are accessed by stairs on the side of the flight deck).

anchor chains USS Midway
The massive anchor chains
Engine Room Number 3
Engine Room Number 3
Engine controls USS Midway
The controls for Engine 3
USS Midway Brig
The Brig
Communications Room USS Midway CV-41
Communications Room
F-4 Phantom II Ready Room USS Midway CV-41
F-4 Phantom II Pilot Ready Room
F-4 Phantom II Ready Room
F-4 Phantom II Pilot Ready Room door symbol
Pilots Gear USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Pilots Gear

Today the USS Midway is not only a museum in which you can tour the inner workings and flight deck of the carrier, it also has on display 29 former US Navy aircraft and helicopters that served on carriers from World War Two and throughout the Cold War to the present day. Aircraft are located on both the flight deck and hangar deck.

Douglas SBD Dauntless USS Midway CV-41 San Diego USA
Douglas SBD Dauntless
Vought F4U Corsair USS Midway CV-41 San Diego USA
Vought F4U Corsair
USS Midway CV-41 San Diego USA
A busy flight deck
A-4 Skyhawk USS Midway CV-41 San Diego USA
Douglas A-4 Skyhawk
Grumman F-14 Tomcat USS Midway CV-41 San Diego USA
Grumman F-14 Tomcat
F/A-18 Hornet USS Midway CV-41 San Diego USA
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet Aggressor
North American A-5 Vigilante  USS midway
North American A-5 Vigilante
A-1 Skyraider, F9F-8P Cougar & A-5 Vigilante USS midway
An A-1 Skyraider, F9F-8P Cougar & A-5 Vigilante

The aircraft displayed on the Midway represent some of the greatest naval aircraft to ever take off from a US aircraft carrier. They are beautifully restored and well maintained.

S-3 Viking USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Lockheed S-3 Viking
A-6 Intruder USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Grumman A-6 Intruder
Grumman E-2 Hawkeye USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Grumman E-2 Hawkeye
USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Flightdeck and “The Island”
USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
The flight deck is always busy
USS Midway flight deck
Its a long way from end to end on the flight deck
Vought A-7 Corsair II USS Midway
Vought A-7 Corsair II
Helicopters USS Midway San Diego
Helicopters are an integral asset to carrier operations
Navy Helicopters USS midway
Navy Helicopters
F9F-8P Cougar USS Midway
Grumman F9F-8P Cougar used for photo recon
Douglas A-3 Skywarrior USS Midway CV-41 San Diego
Douglas A-3 Skywarrior

Once you are done looking at all the aircraft on the flight deck you can go up into the carriers “island” on a guided tour to see where she was controlled and where flight operations were monitored. This area gives a great view of the entire flight deck. All in all the USS Midway is a very interesting place to spend a day.

USS Midway launch deck
The launch deck view from “The Island”
Flight Deck USS Midway San Diego
The view of the flight deck from “The Island”
Flight Deck USS Midway CV-41
The view of the flight deck from “The Island”
Flight Deck USS Midway
The view of the flight deck from “The Island”

Across the bay from USS Midway you can see the current super carriers that serve in the US Navy on Coronado Island. On my recent visit I saw USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and USS Nimitz (CVN-68 – with her full complement of aircraft on deck and ready to sail). The past and the present are never far apart in San Diego bay.

Looking across from USS Midway to USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz San Diego bay
Looking across from USS Midway to USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz
USS Midway (CV-41) San Diego California USA
The Past: USS Midway (CV-41)
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) San Diego
The Present: USS Nimitz (CVN-68) loaded up and ready to go
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in dock San Diego
The Present II: USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)
USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) San Diego CA
The Present III: USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70)
US Navy Seahawk
A US Navy Seahawk keeping a watchful eye
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