The USS Midway was the largest warship in the world for the first decade of her service. Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Company in Newport News, Virginia, the Midway, designated as CV-41, was commissioned on September 10,1945 with Capt. Joseph F. Bolger in command. The Midway entered service on October 12, 1945. Once at sea, the carrier successfully conducted its first arrested landing of a Chance Vought F4U- 4 Corsair, followed by a successful Caribbean shakedown cruise.
Engaged in naval operations ranging from World War II to Korea and Vietnam and in conflicts as recently as Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, the Midway remained in service until it was decommissioned in April 1992.
During 2003-2004, the Midway was converted to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and it is now on public display in San Diego, California. Visitors may take self-guided audio tours throughout the ship’s many exhibits, which include: the primary flight control center on the bridge that towers above the flight deck, the pilots' ready rooms, the crew's sleeping quarters, a massive galley, the engine room, the ship's jail, officer's country (officer's quarters), the post office, and the ship's machine shops. The audio tours are narrated by Midway sailors who were aboard the ship, during its active duty days.
Parked on the carrier’s deck
for visitors to view is an impressive collection of meticulously restored
aircraft that flew combat missions during its years of service. Visitors
may climb aboard some of these planes for closer looks, sit in the cockpits,
and even experience flight simulators.
Among the restored World War II aircraft aboard the Midway are an SBD Dauntless dive bomber and a TBM Avenger. Planes that fought in the Korean War include an F9F- 8P Cougar and an AD Skyraider. Aircraft deployed during the Vietnam war include an F- 4 Phantom and a Huey gunship. Fighters that engaged the Iraqi air force during Desert Storm, include an A-6 Intruder and an F/A-18 Hornet - the aircraft currently flown by the Navy’s Blue Angles flight demonstration team.
The USS Midway was named after the famous naval victory fought by the American Navy against the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific off the Midway Atoll between June 3rd and June 7th 1942. The Midway Atoll is the westernmost atoll in the Hawaiian chain.
The Japanese had planned to lure the United States' aircraft carriers into a trap, then occupy Midway as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in the Pacific and eliminate the United States as a strategic power there. This operation was also considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii.
Fortunately, American codebreakers intercepted Japanese communications and were able to determine the date and location of the planned Japanese attack, which enabled the U.S. Pacific Fleet under the command of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to set up an ambush of its own with planes launched from the Hornet, Enterprise and Yorktown carriers.
During this famous battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers under the command of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto - the Akagi, the Kaga, the Soryu, the Hiryu and a heavy cruiser - were destroyed. These carriers had been part of the six carrier force that had launched the infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor six months earlier. During the battle of Midway, the Japanese lost 292 aircraft, and suffered 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost 145 aircraft, and suffered 307 casualties. The American fleet lost only one aircraft carrier, the Yorktown, and a destroyer, the USS Hammann.
The American Navy’s triumph in the Battle of Midway eliminated the Japanese threat to Hawaii and the West Coast and forced Japan into defensive operations for the remainder of World War II. This defeat foreshadowed Japan’s final surrender. Success of American fighter aircraft in this battle proved the potential of naval aviation for use in warfare.
The USS Midway CV-41 was the third U.S. Navy ship and second aircraft carrier to bear the name of Midway. The first Midway, which was a fleet auxiliary, was renamed Tanay in April 1943. The second ship bearing the name was a Casablanca-class escort carrier, CVE-63, whose name was changed to Saint Lo in September 1944. The Saint Lo was subsequently lost in action, when she was hit by two kamikazes and bombs at the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944.
The Midway was the lead ship of three 45,000-ton Midway class CVBs, followed by USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, CVB-42 and USS Coral Sea, CVB-43. These carriers had armored flight decks and heavy anti-aircraft batteries designed to defend the ships against aircraft attack.
During operations, the Midway carried a complement of 4,675 personnel. The carrier spans 1,000 feet and has a displacement of 74,000 tons. Its beam is 238 feet and its draft is 35.5 feet. The Midway has 212,000 horsepower and a maximum speed of 33 knots. Through the years, the carrier underwent numerous modifications and upgrades. Aboard the carrier were 137 aircraft. In their early years, the Midway class carriers were the only ships capable of operating nuclear strike aircraft.
The Midway deployed with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean in October 1947 with F4U- 4B Corsairs and SB2- C-5 Helldivers on deck. During that year, an at-sea test launching of a German V-2 ballistic missile was conducted from the Midway’s flight deck.
In 1952, The Midway participated in North Sea maneuvers with NATO forces and was reclassified an attack aircraft carrier, at which time, her hull number was changed from CVB- 41 to CVA- 41.
Late in 1954, Midway joined the Seventh Fleet in the Far East. In September 1955, following this cruise, she entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to be modernized with an enclosed bow and a secondary angled flight deck, three steam catapults, and other features that enabled her to better operate high-performance aircraft.
In 1958, The Midway began annual deployments with the 7th Fleet from her home port at the Alameda Naval Base - with tours of duty in the South China Sea.
In March 1965, the carrier’s aircraft were prepared for combat operations against military and logistics installations in North and South Vietnam. She returned to Alameda in November that year, then entered San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard in February 1966 until mid-1970 for extensive modernization, which included the installation of a greatly enlarged flight deck.
Upon her return to commissioned service, the Midway again took part in Southeast Asian combat operations. In October 1973, her home port was changed to Yokosuka, Japan, which allowed the Navy to maintain a greater carrier presence in the Far East than would have been possible from a U.S. base. During this time, she was active in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf areas. The ship was redesignated CV- 41 in June 1975. In 1986, the Midway underwent another major refit.
The Midway participated in Operation Desert Shield in 1991 in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In 2003, the carrier engaged in Operation Desert Storm - the coalition war against Iraq to disarm its alleged, "weapons of mass destruction."
After additional activity in the Philippines and other areas with the Seventh Fleet, the Midway departed Yokosuka, Japan in 1992 for the last time, steaming toward her first United States port call in almost 18 years.
After the carrier was decommissioned at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, California in April 1992, she was placed in the Reserve Fleet, then stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in March 1997. As part of her decommissioning inspection process, the Midway launched her last aircraft, an F/A-18 Hornet, with Captain Patrick Moneymaker, the Commander of Carrier Air Wing Fourteen, at the controls.
During its 50-year operational history,the Midway exemplified the ability of a carrier to adapt to new technologies, systems, platforms, and operational needs. Its fighter squadrons evolved from piston-driven propeller aircraft to the Navy's most modern, multipurpose strike-fighters. Its original axial-deck design was modified to add an angled-deck, its original hydraulic catapults were replaced with more powerful steam catapults, and the ship’s original electronics systems were replaced by advanced sensors and communications equipment.
Now a prominent attraction in San Diego, the USS Midway Museum attracts thousands of visitors every year.
For more information,
Edited by Mel Fenson
from information derived from
USS Midway by I.B. Clayton
and web sources, including: