USS ''Midway'' (CVB/CVA/CV-41) is an aircraft carrier
, formerly of the United States Navy
, the lead ship
of her class
. Commissioned a week after the end of World War II, ''Midway'' was the largest ship in the world until 1955, as well as the first U.S. aircraft carrier too big to transit
the Panama Canal
. She operated for 47 years, during which time she saw action in the Vietnam War
and served as the Persian Gulf flagship in 1991's Operation Desert Storm
. Decommissioned in 1992, she is now a museum ship
at the USS ''Midway'' Museum
, in San Diego, California
, and is the only remaining inactive U.S. aircraft carrier that is not an .
Early operations and deployment with the 6th Fleet
''Midway'' was laid down
27 October 1943 in Shipway 11 at Newport News Shipbuilding
Co., Newport News, Virginia
20 March 1945, sponsored by Mrs. Bradford William Ripley, Jr.; and commissioned
on 10 September 1945 (eight days after the Surrender of Japan
) with Captain Joseph F. Bolger in command.
in the Caribbean, ''Midway'' joined the U.S. Atlantic Fleet
training schedule, with Norfolk
as her homeport. From 20 February 1946, she was the flagship
for Carrier Division 1
. In March, she participated in Operation Frostbite testing the Ryan FR Fireball
and helicopter rescue techniques for cold-weather operations in the Labrador Sea
. In September 1947, a captured German V-2 rocket
was test-fired from the flight deck
in Operation Sandy
, the first large-rocket launch from a moving platform, and the only moving-platform launch for a V-2. While the rocket lifted off, she then tilted and broke up at .
On 29 October 1947, ''Midway'' sailed for the first of her annual deployments with the 6th Fleet
in the Mediterranean. Between deployments, ''Midway'' trained and received alterations to accommodate heavier aircraft as they were developed.
In June 1951, ''Midway'' operated in the Atlantic off the Virginia Capes
during carrier suitability tests of the F9F-5 Panther
. On 23 June, as Cdr. George Chamberlain Duncan attempted a landing in BuNo ''125228'', a downdraft just aft of the stern caused Duncan to crash
. His plane's forward fuselage
broke away and rolled down the deck, and he suffered burns. Footage of the crash has been used in several films, including ''Men of the Fighting Lady
'', and ''The Hunt for Red October
In 1952, the ship participated in Operation Mainbrace
, North Sea
maneuvers with NATO
forces. ''Midway'' had an angled runway painted on the flight deck in May for touch-and-go landing
s following the pioneering trials of the technique aboard . Successful demonstration of the possibilities caused widespread adoption of the angled flight deck
in future aircraft carrier construction and modifications of existing carriers.
[ On 1 October, the ship was redesignated CVA-41.
''Midway'' cleared Norfolk 27 December 1954 for a world cruise, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope for Taiwan, where she became the first large carrier in the 7th Fleet for operations in the Western Pacific until 28 June 1955.] [ During these operations, ''Midway'' pilots flew cover for the evacuation from the Quemoy-Matsu crisis from the Tachen Islands of 15,000 Chinese nationalist troops and 20,000 Chinese civilians, along with their livestock.
Controversy arose during the cruise when ''Midway'' docked in Cape Town, South Africa. Democratic senator Herbert Lehman sent a telegram to Secretary of the Navy Charles Thomas when he learned of a supposed United States Navy plan to segregate 400 non-European members of the crew of ''Midway'' while she was in Cape Town. Fellow Democratic senator Hubert Humphrey soon joined Lehman, additionally sending a letter to the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, asking that "immediate steps be taken to see that equal treatment is given to American service personnel allowed shore leave in South Africa, or eliminate Cape Town as a port of call", and that: "To me this is a shocking act of discrimination that should not be tolerated by our Government. Every American soldier or sailor is an American regardless of race, colour or creed, and is entitled to be respected and treated as such anywhere in the world."
An anonymous Navy official stated that the Department of the Navy did not know of the arrangements that were to be made between the officers of ''Midway'' and South African authorities, and that African-American members of the crew would not be segregated while still aboard ''Midway''.
Clarence Mitchell Jr. also urged Thomas not to allow ''Midway'' to dock at Cape Town. James H. Smith Jr., Acting Secretary of the Navy at the time, replied that the stop at Cape Town was merely to "satisfy an operational logistic requirement" and that it was customary to observe local laws and regulations while visiting foreign ports.
Captain Reynold Delos Hogle of ''Midway'' stated that while in port, ''Midway'' would be United States territory and federal United States laws would apply. In the end, the crew of ''Midway'' were not made to abide by Apartheid, saying that "At Hartleyvale (Stadium) this afternoon and at the concert to-night, European and non-European members of the crew have been asked to attend. There will be no segregation whatsoever".
On 28 June 1955, the ship sailed for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where ''Midway'' underwent an extensive modernization program (SCB-110, similar to SCB-125 for the ''Essex''-class carriers). ''Midway'' received an enclosed hurricane bow, an aft deck-edge elevator, an angled flight deck, and steam catapults, returning to service on 30 September 1957.
Home ported at Alameda, California, ''Midway'' began annual deployments bringing McDonnell F3H Demons, North American FJ-4 Furys, Vought F-8 Crusaders, Douglas A-1 Skyraiders, and Douglas A-3 Skywarriors to the 7th Fleet in 1958, and into the South China Sea during the Laotian Crisis of spring 1961. During the 1962 deployment, ''Midway'' recorded her 100,000th arrested landing] [ as the ship's aircraft tested the air defense systems of Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Taiwan. ''Midway'' again sailed for the Far East 6 March 1965, and from mid-April flew strikes against military and logistics installations in North and South Vietnam including the first combat use of AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-surface missiles. On 17 June 1965 two VF-21 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs flying from ''Midway'' were credited with the first confirmed MiG kills of the Vietnam conflict using AIM-7 Sparrow missiles to down two MiG-17s. Three days later, four of ''Midways'' A-1 Skyraiders used the World War II Thach Weave tactic to down an attacking MiG-17.] [
''Midway'' lost an F-4 Phantom and two A-4 Skyhawks to North Vietnamese S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missiles before returning to Alameda on 23 November to enter San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard on 11 February 1966 for a massive modernization (SCB-101.66), which proved expensive and controversial. The flight deck was enlarged from 2.8 to 4 acres (), and the angle of the flight deck landing area was increased to 13.5 degrees. The elevators were enlarged, moved, and given almost double the weight capacity. ''Midway'' also received new steam catapults, arresting gear, and a centralized air conditioning plant. Cost overruns raised the price of this program from $88 million to US$202 million, and precluded a similar modernization planned for . After ''Midway'' was finally recommissioned on 31 January 1970, it was found that the modifications had hurt the ship's seakeeping capabilities and ability to conduct air operations in rough seas, which made further modifications necessary to correct the problem.] [
Return to Vietnam
''Midway'' returned to Vietnam and on 18 May 1971, after relieving on Yankee Station, began single carrier operations. ''Midway'' departed Yankee Station on 5 June, completing the vessel's final line period on 31 October 1971, and returned to the ship's homeport on 6 November 1971.
''Midway'', with embarked Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW 5), again departed Alameda for operations off Vietnam on 10 April 1972. On 11 May, aircraft from ''Midway'', along with those from , , and , began laying naval mines off North Vietnamese ports, including Thanh Hóa, Đồng Hới, Vinh, Hon Gai, Quang Khe, and Cam Pha as well as other approaches to Haiphong. Ships that were in port in Haiphong had been advised that the mining would take place and that the mines would be armed 72 hours later.
''Midway'' continued Vietnam operations during Operation Linebacker throughout the summer of 1972. On 7 August 1972, an HC-7 Det 110 helicopter, flying from ''Midway'', and aided by planes from the carrier and from , searched for the pilot of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft from ''Saratoga'' who had been downed the previous day by a surface-to-air missile about inland, northwest of Vinh. Flying over mountains, the HC-7 helicopter spotted the downed aviator with her searchlight and, under heavy ground fire, retrieved him and returned to an LPD off the coast. This was the deepest penetration by a rescue helicopter into North Vietnam since 1968. At the end of 1972, HC-7 Det 110 had rescued 48 pilots, 35 in combat conditions.
On 5 October 1973, ''Midway'', with CVW 5, put into Yokosuka, Japan, marking the first forward-deployment of a complete carrier task group in a Japanese port, the result of an accord arrived at on 31 August 1972 between the U.S. and Japan. The move allowed sailors to live with their families when in port; more strategically, it allowed three carriers to stay in the Far East even as the economic situation demanded the reduction of carriers in the fleet. CVW 5 became based at the nearby Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
For service in Vietnam from 30 April 1972, to 9 February 1973, ''Midway'' and CVW 5 received the Presidential Unit Citation from Richard Nixon. It read:
Aircraft from Midway made the first MIG kills in the Vietnam War, and the last air-to-air victory of the war. On 17 June 1965, aviators of ''Midway''s Attack Carrier Wing 2, VF-21 downed the first two MiGs credited to U.S. forces in Southeast Asia.] [ On 12 January 1973 a combat aircraft from ''Midway'' made the last air-to-air victory of the Vietnam War.] [
Operation Frequent Wind
On 19 April 1975, after North Vietnam had overrun two-thirds of South Vietnam, ''Midway'', along with ''Coral Sea'', ''Hancock'', and , were sent to the waters off South Vietnam. Ten days later, U.S. 7th Fleet forces carried out Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon. For this, ''Midway'', which had offloaded half of the ship's regular combat air wing at NS Subic Bay, Philippines, steamed to Thailand and took aboard eight U.S. Air Force CH-53 from 21st Special Operations Squadron and two HH-53 helicopters from 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. As Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, these helicopters ferried hundreds of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese people to ''Midway'' and other U.S. ships in the South China Sea.
On 29 April 1975, Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF) Major Buang-Ly (also spelled Buang Lee) loaded his wife and five children into a two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird Dog and took off from Con Son Island. After evading enemy ground fire, Buang headed out to the South China Sea, found ''Midway'', and began to circle overhead with his landing lights turned on. ''Midway''s crew unsuccessfully attempted to contact the aircraft on emergency frequencies. When a spotter reported that there were at least four people in the two-seater aircraft, all thoughts of forcing the pilot to ditch alongside were abandoned. After three tries, Major Buang managed to drop a note from a low pass over the deck: "Can you move the helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly for one hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me! Major Buang, wife and 5 child." Captain Larry Chambers, the ship's commanding officer, ordered that the arresting wires be removed and that any helicopters that could not be safely and quickly moved should be pushed over the side. He called for volunteers, and soon every available seaman was on deck to help. An estimated worth of UH-1 Huey helicopters were pushed overboard. With a ceiling, visibility, light rain, and of surface wind, Chambers ordered the ship to make into the wind. Warnings about the dangerous downdrafts created behind a steaming carrier were transmitted blind in both Vietnamese and English. To make matters worse, five more UH-1s landed and cluttered up the deck. Without hesitation, Chambers ordered them scuttled as well. Captain Chambers recalled that
Buang was escorted to the bridge where Chambers congratulated him on his outstanding airmanship and his bravery in risking everything on a gamble beyond the point of no return without knowing for certain a carrier would be where he needed it. The crew of ''Midway'' was so impressed that they established a fund to help him and his family get settled in the United States. The O-1 that Major Buang landed is now on display at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Major Buang became the first Vietnamese pilot ever to land on an aircraft carrier deck.
Upon completion of ferrying people to other ships, ''Midway'' returned to Thailand and disembarked the Air Force helicopters at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield. The CH-53s then airlifted over 50 RVNAF aircraft to the ship. With almost 100 helicopters and aircraft of the former RVNAF aboard, the ship steamed to Guam where the aircraft and helicopters were offloaded in twenty-four hours. While transiting back to the Philippines to pick up the ship's air wing, ''Midway'' was rerouted to act as a floating airfield in support of special operation forces rescuing the SS ''Mayagüez''. ''Midway'' picked up the ship's regular air wing again a month later when the aircraft carrier returned NAS Cubi Point, Philippines.
On 21 August 1976, a Navy task force headed by ''Midway'' made a show of force off the coast of Korea in reaction to an unprovoked attack on two U.S. Army officers who were killed by North Korean soldiers on 18 August. (The U.S. response to this incident was Operation Paul Bunyan). ''Midway''s participation was part of a U.S. demonstration of military concern vis-à-vis North Korea.
''Midway'' relieved ''Constellation'' as the Indian Ocean contingency carrier on 16 April 1979. This unscheduled deployment was due to colliding with the tanker ''Liberian Fortune'' near the Straits of Malacca, with ''Midway'' taking over ''Ranger''s mission while she went in for repairs. ''Midway'' and her escorts continued a significant American naval presence in the oil-producing region of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. On 18 November, the aircraft carrier steamed to the North Arabian Sea in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran. Militant followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had come to power following the overthrow of the Shah, seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran on 4 November and held 63 U.S. citizens hostage. On 21 November ''Kitty Hawk'' arrived, and both carriers, along with their escort ships, were joined by and her escorts on 22 January 1980. ''Midway'' was relieved by ''Coral Sea'' on 5 February.
Missions in the 1980s
Following a period in Yokosuka, ''Midway'' relieved ''Coral Sea'' 30 May 1980 on standby south of the Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan following the potential of civil unrest in the Republic of Korea.
While transiting the passage between Palawan Island of the Philippines and the coast of Northern Borneo on 29 July, the Panamanian merchant ship ''Cactus'' collided with ''Midway''. ''Cactus'' was southwest of Subic Bay and heading to Singapore when she struck near the carrier's liquid oxygen plant; two sailors working in the plant were killed and three were injured. ''Midway'' sustained light damage and three F-4 Phantom aircraft parked on the flight deck also were damaged.
On 17 August, ''Midway'' relieved ''Constellation'' to begin another Indian Ocean deployment and to complement the task group still on contingency duty in the Arabian Sea. ''Midway'' spent a total of 118 consecutive days in the Indian Ocean during 1980.
On 16 March 1981, an A-6 Intruder from VA-115 aboard ''Midway'' sighted a downed civilian helicopter in the South China Sea. ''Midway'' immediately dispatched HC-1 Det 2 helicopters to the scene. All 17 people aboard the downed helicopter were rescued and brought aboard the carrier. The chartered civilian helicopter was also plucked out of the water and lifted to ''Midway''s flight deck.
On 25 March 1986, the final carrier launching of a Navy fleet F-4S Phantom II took place off ''Midway'' during flight operations in the East China Sea. The Phantoms were replaced by the new F/A-18 Hornets.
''Midway'' continued serving in the western Pacific throughout the 1980s. In order to alleviate persistent seakeeping issues, ''Midway'' received hull blisters in 1986. During her 1986 refit (named "Extended Incremental Selected Repair Availability"), blisters were added to improve the ship's stability. The modification proved unsuccessful, and actually increased the ship's instability in rough seas. She took water over the flight deck during excessive rolls in moderate seas, thereby hampering flight operations. Before another $138 million refit was approved to rectify the stability problems, it was even proposed to decommission ''Midway''. Nevertheless, she had earned herself the nickname "Rock'n Roll carrier." During a typhoon while in the Sea of Japan during the Olympic Games in Korea, on 8 October 1988, ''Midway'', which was not supposed to be able to survive more than 24 degrees of roll, sustained a 26 degree roll.
On 30 October 1989 an F/A-18 Hornet aircraft from ''Midway'' mistakenly dropped a general-purpose bomb on the deck of during training exercises in the Indian Ocean, creating a hole in the bow, sparking small fires, and injuring five sailors. ''Reeves'' was south of Diego Garcia at the time of the incident.
Tragedy struck ''Midway'' on 20 June 1990. While conducting routine flight operations approximately northeast of Japan, the ship was badly damaged by two onboard explosions. These explosions led to a fire that raged more than ten hours. In addition to damage to the ship's hull, two crew members were killed and 9 others were wounded; one of the injured later died of his injuries. All 11 crewmen belonged to the at sea fire-fighting team known as the Flying Squad. When ''Midway'' entered Yokosuka Harbor the next day, 12 Japanese media helicopters flew in circles and hovered about above the flight deck. Three bus loads of reporters were waiting on the pier. About 30 minutes after ''Midway'' cast her first line, more than 100 international print and electronic journalists charged over the brow to cover the event. The news media made a major issue out of the incident, as it happened amid several other military accidents. It was thought that the accident would lead to the ship's immediate retirement due to her age, but ''Midway'' was retained to fight in one last major conflict.
Operation Desert Storm and the 1990s
On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait and U.S. forces moved into Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield to protect that country against invasion by Iraq. On 1 November 1990, ''Midway'' was again on station in the North Arabian Sea being the carrier of Battle Force Zulu (which included warships from the U.S., Australia, and other countries), relieving . On 15 November, the aircraft carrier participated in Operation Imminent Thunder, an eight-day combined amphibious landing exercise in northeastern Saudi Arabia which involved about 1,000 U.S. Marines, 16 warships, and more than 1,100 aircraft. Meanwhile, the United Nations set an ultimatum deadline of 15 January 1991 for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.
Operation Desert Storm began the next day, and the Navy launched 228 sorties from ''Midway'' and in the Persian Gulf, from en route to the Gulf, and from , ''Saratoga'', and in the Red Sea. In addition, the Navy launched more than 100 Tomahawk missiles from nine ships in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Desert Storm officially ended 27 February, and ''Midway'' departed the Persian Gulf on 11 March 1991 and returned to Yokosuka.
In June 1991, ''Midway'' left for her final deployment, this time to the Philippines to take part in Operation Fiery Vigil, which was the evacuation of 20,000 military members and their families from Clark Air Base, on the island of Luzon, after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. ''Midway'', along with twenty other U.S. naval ships, ferried the evacuees to the island of Cebu, where they were taken off the ship by helicopter. After taking part in the evacuation, the aircraft carrier once again returned to Yokosuka.
In August 1991, ''Midway'' departed Yokosuka and returned to Pearl Harbor. There, she turned over with ''Independence,'' which was to replace ''Midway'' as the forward-deployed carrier in Yokosuka. Rear Admiral Joseph Prueher and the staff of Carrier Group ONE cross-decked from ''Independence''. Prueher was the last admiral to break his flag on ''Midway''. She then sailed to Seattle for a port visit. There the ship disembarked "tigers" (guests of crew members) before making her final voyage to San Diego.
As museum ship
''Midway'' was decommissioned at Naval Air Station North Island on 11 April 1992 in a ceremony in which the main speaker was Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. During decommissioning, ''Midway'', her sailors, and their families were filmed for the movie ''At Sea'', a documentary on carrier life shown only at the Navy Museum in Washington, D.C.. The ship was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 17 March 1997.
On 30 September 2003, ex-''Midway'' began her journey from the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, Washington, to San Diego, California, in preparation for use as a museum and memorial. The aircraft carrier was docked in early October at the Charles P. Howard Terminal in Oakland, California, while work proceeded on the Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego. On 10 January 2004, the ship was moored at her final location, where she was opened to the public on 7 June 2004 as a museum. In the first year of operation, the museum had 879,281 visitors, double the expected attendance.
On 11 November 2012, a college basketball game between the Syracuse Orange and the San Diego State Aztecs was played on the flight deck. The Orange won, 62–49.
On 15 July 2015, museum personnel were evacuated from ex-''Midway'' due to smoke caused by an apparent fire. The San Diego fire department responded quickly, but no fire was found, and the museum was able to open for the day on schedule.
Awards and decorations
* List of aircraft carriers
* List of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy
* McGaugh, Scott ''Midway Magic: An Oral History of America's Legendary Aircraft Carrier'', CDS Books, New York, 2004, .
USS ''Midway'' Museum
USS Midway Museum
* ttp://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675069507_evacuation-of-refugees_Americans-and-South-Vietnamese_USS-Midway_Cessna-aircraft Footage video clip of Major Buang landing on USS ''Midway''
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