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USS Midway

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The U.S.S. Midway

The U.S.S. Midway
The Midway

San Diego Bay's latest star.  During the first week of New Year that was 2004, San Diego acquired a new star to grace its harbor, the United States Navy Carrier Midway (CVB-41). 

Laid down in '43 and commissioned in '45, the Midway was in commission longer than any other carrier in the US Navy history.  At the time she was launched she was the largest ship in the world.  While she no longer holds this distinction, the Midway is still a mighty big ship!
A mighty big ship!  Click on the image to see just how big!
On Sunday, January 11th 2004, I had the opportunity to take in this fine ship as it was docked alongside the Navy Pier undergoing preparations to become San Diego's latest floating museum.
A fine ship
The Midway was upgraded and modernized continuously throughout its long service life.  One of the most obvious indications of this was the addition of the angled deck.  Prior to this, aircraft landed aboard the carrier aligned straight from aft to bow.  With the angled deck it made things much safer for everyone aboard as it was now possible for planes to land on the carrier with a clear space ahead of them through which they could take back off again if they failed to catch one of the arrestor cables.  There's a lot more to this than I'll go into here but suffice to say that the angled deck was a major step forward in carrier design and it was something we have the British to thank for as they came up with it first.  On the Midway you can see the angled deck as it projects off the port side.
Angled Deck overhang
This shows just how far out the angled deck projects from the side of the ship.  From what I understand, as the Midway wasn't built with the angled deck, adding it required some complicated reworking of the ship's balances.  To this end, the engineers had a bunch of compartments on the other side of the ship filled with concrete to counterbalance the weight of the angled deck.
Aft side elevator
Here's a shot of the port side elevator.  This massive thing would raise and lower aircraft from the hangar deck to the flight deck.  The doors to the flight deck are closed in this shot.

The Midway is obviously not a new ship.  It was decommissioned about a decade ago and has but recently undergone renovations in order to make it a functional structure to serve as our museum.  The renovations are still very much underway.
Scrapes and such
I'd wager that these paint scrapes were picked up on her transit from Oakland down the coast here to San Diego.  The stress warping though, must have taken both some time and some forces to acquire.  You can see its effects in the photo below here.  Those hull plates should all be nice and smooth - not dimpled inwards as they actually are.  Since I first put this page up I've been informed that such dimpling/ warping is a pretty natural thing that reflects the state of shipbuilding technology of the day - with that day being more than a half century ago.  There's also the fact that the Midway has seen many decades in service and that service was far from genteel in its nature.
Stress warping
The Midway is an aircraft carrier and such ship's primary purpose is to operate airplanes.  One system to assist with this was a series of light indicators which visually showed pilots how their landing approach was faring.  Below here is part of that system.
Landing light system
Due to the way the Midway was docked, and due to the renovation work still be ongoing, her starboard side was not as accessible as her port side.  This therefore was about as close as I could get.  You can see the starboard elevator and the "island" up on the flight deck.
Starboard view
San Diego is a Navy town.  Aside from having a full blown aircraft carrier as museum to prove this we also are the home port of three of the nation's most modern aircraft carriers.  Two of these were visible across the bay as they were moored to piers at the Naval Air Station North Island.
The USS Nimitz (CVN 68) undergoing refit
This is the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and this ship is now undergoing refit after having come back from its latest deployment late last year.  My friend Beth served aboard her as this ship went to war during our fighting in Iraq.
The other carrier docked at North Island is the USS Stennis (CVN 74) and looks to be working up for its next deployment.
The USS Stennis (CVN 74)
One thing I found interesting was the security changes now visible.  When I first arrived here in San Diego I thought it a pretty cool thing that the harbor was so open.  Had I a mind of it, I could've taken a boat almost directly alongside any one of the mighty carriers the Navy had docked at the various bases in San Diego Bay.  9/11 has changed all that.  Now there's this:
Security boom
Those aren't hot dogs afloat in a bathtub.  Instead, they're some pretty hefty floating barriers strung alongside the perimeter of the Navy's carrier docking area.  Additionally, the Navy also now keeps patrol boats out along the barriers to make sure no one gets close to them either.
I thought it a rather nice touch for the Midway to be docked where it was as that placed it nicely in view of the Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial.
Midway and the Memorial
This makes for some rather nice symbolism.  The Midway is named after the US Naval victory which marked the turning point of the Pacific War and the Leyte Memorial which marks the battle that was the last major naval engagement in that war.  The Leyte Memorial also reminds us of the price we paid for that victory.
I'm looking forward to the renovations being completed and the Midway Museum opening to show off both the ship and aviation heritage that will be on display aboard her.  As this takes place I'll be sure to update this page.  Soon we'll have a nice counterpoint to New York's Intrepid Museum.
There's a lot more about the USS Midway than I'll try and put here.  A lot of others have told this ship's tale far better than I could so looking to them to tell that tale would be worth your while.  One excellent place to start though would be, naturally, the US Navy's USS Midway page.
Another place to go for more information about this fine ship is the new site put up by the Midway Museum itself.  The San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum site is now the place to go for information about this new museum coming on line.
And the cool links, they just keep coming!

Today (26 Jan 04) I got a message from Troy Prince.  Turns out he served aboard the Midway and also has a site up it and his experiences in the Navy during those years.  Aside from being one of the crew that made the Midway Magic happen he was also one of the dogs - the damn dirty lucky dogs - to get an invite to be aboard the Midway as she was towed across the San Diego Bay from her temporary North Island berth to her new home at the Navy Pier.  He only went through fourteen rolls of film during that brief hop! 

Seriously though, he's got a great site and it's well worth checking out for his pics of this fine ship and for all the other details that only a Midway crewman could know!

Troy's Midway Sailor site.


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This page was last updated on: 26 January 2004