Thursday, July 19, 2012

Midway Museum Love, Part One

Midway Part 1

As I mentioned yesterday, this wasn’t my first time to the San Diego area. I’ve been here several times for work, but I’ve always had to work. It left no time for play. Rude, I know. But just last week while visiting San Diego for work, I had the chance to finally play!

And boy, oh boy, was it wonderful.


So, of course, I make a direct route to the USS Midway Museum located on the pier in San Diego Bay. I’ve always wanted to come here and was even considering an extended weekend trip this fall with Hubby, until I realized that only one of us would really dig walking through a giant ship covered in airplanes.

I can’t think of anything more romantic, but I have to consider his needs, too. It’s that whole married-thing, you know?

For today’s post, I will focus mainly on the lower decks of the ship itself. We will get to the good stuff airplanes over the next few days. This museum could easily take a full week’s worth of posts. I’m fine with that if you are.


Much to Hubby’s relief, I’m sure, I was able to visit the museum in person while I was “working” in San Diego. I didn’t even blink an eye when it came to coughing up $18 for admission to the museum.

It is certainly more than I usually pay to walk around historic aircraft carriers, but I thought it would be even more worth it because admission brought with it an audio tour using a headset and personal listening device.

Wow, $18 and the only ticket that they can provide is a fuzzy picture with a bar code on back? Fine, I’m not one to complain. *snort*

Well, thank you. I feel welcomed.


After a quick test to ensure the headset was working properly, we started this party out right by walking past an FU-4 Corsair. They beef up these wings to allow for the gigantic prop to clear the ground. It’s really hard to fly an airplane when the prop can’t spin, you know?

I love this airplane, and it played such a huge part in our winning the war.


So let’s go check out the ship! I just hope that I can remember all of the useful information that I heard over my headset as I walked. The whole experience was so educational, and I left in awe of what was accomplished from the decks of this ancient aircraft carrier.

I was pretty excited to be here. Did I mention this was a dream come true? If I had a written bucket list, this would be on it in a bright-red Sharpie. It felt so wonderful to finally be able to see the Midway in person.


Since there were upwards of 4,500 crewmen on board, a store was simply necessary. Please don’t be alarmed (like I was) by this mannequin. Apparently, to make the ship  tour feel more creepy life-like, the museum donation box dropped a whole lotta money on countless dummies made to look like they were in service on the ship.

Yeah, it caught me off guard, too. Luckily, no one was around me when I “met” this first lifeless friend. I wish I could say that it gets better.


I did approve of the prices of goods for sale, though.

Though not as small as some submarines that I’ve been on, the interior walkways of this ship were still petite. Of course, the average height of an American man back then (the ship began construction in 1942 and was commissioned in 1945) was 5’6”.

See? You’re learning something already! It was tight in here. Subs are worse, but I don’t think ships in general are for people who like wide-open spaces.

This is why I will happily never consider myself a spelunker.

Talk about cramped quarters! These were the sleeping bunks of the enlisted sailors. And that little tiny locker housed all of their personal belongings. I can already tell that I wouldn’t make a very good enlisted sailor.

But that wouldn’t have been a concern during the service of this ship. Women were forbidden in battle positions until 1994, and this ship was decommissioned in 1992.

That’s right, folks. A woman never served aboard the Midway! Isn’t that crazy?


Not too far from the enlisted bunks was the anchor room where the massive chains and anchors were stored. This hole was used to put the chain through to lower the anchor. I just liked the pretty water below.


Each link weighs 130 pounds. I didn’t try to lift them to test this little tidbit of information. Sometimes, you just have to trust what the little voices in your head tour headset tells you.

I guess the sailors used to make bets on the exact second the anchor would drop into the water when arriving at port. It was a sound so loud that it could be heard by everyone on the ship. The men would pool their money, and whoever was the closest to the time got the whole pot. This just meant he had more to spend on liquor when he went ashore for liberty.

Hey, they don’t say “He drank like a sailor” for nothing. There was probably some truth to that statement.


This was one of my favorite rooms down below. It’s one of four flight briefing rooms on the aircraft carrier. The ship often hosted several different flight squadrons flying different airplanes to and from the deck. This was just one of the four rooms where pilots received their briefing for what the day held in store.

I loved that the actual men who used these rooms way back when paid for their exact seats to be restored for the museum. On the back of each seat was their name and rank. I can’t believe that I didn’t take a picture of that, since I thought it was so cool.

If you’ve ever seen Top Gun, (and who hasn’t?), then this room will look familiar to you. It’s where all the action takes place before all the action takes place.


We’re back above on the mid-deck again. This is that same Corsair from the beginning of the tour. The headset and bright yellow numbers told me to come here to cross the deck to complete the below-decks tour on the other side of the ship.

Just for the record, I would certainly get lost in this place without the signs telling me where to go. You wouldn’t believe how many passages and tunnels were stuffed into this ship. I kept waiting to find the remains of a sailor from long ago who had the same navigational dilemma as me, but no such luck.

I guess they knew where they were going? Luckys.


Now that we’ve crossed the deck, let’s descend below again to see the rest of the below-decks tour.


Ahhhh! Creepy! If you can look past the mannequins, you’ll recognize that this is the Brig. I was actually surprised at how many jail cells they had in this place. But I guess when there are as many people on board as my home town, there is bound to be a need for more jail cells than one.

I don’t know what this guy did, but he’s getting written up for something. His bad posture may be a direct representation of how ashamed he feels…for being caught.

Something that I didn’t know before the tour is that there are Marines on board the ship, in addition to the Navy sailors and officers. The Marines are the guards in the Brig, and they also protect the uppity-ups of the ship and their quarters.

I think this guy took extra bacon at breakfast. Here he is, considering his terrible decision-making skills. Oh, Bacon.


Sweet! Let’s go see how this massive aircraft carrier plugs along, shall we?


So, this is the steam panel. This huge ship runs on steam power created by several massive boilers. It was really fascinating to hear the whole description from the sweetest little old man who actually served on the sister ship to the Midway in the forties and fifties.

He was so adorable, and his name tag said that he had over 7,000 hours of volunteer time helping tourists in the engine room.

No one talked to him. His face lit up when I started asking him questions. He even got out a steam diagram that he had tucked away to show me how everything worked. It was awesome. We are losing treasures like this man, who actually served and know how the war truly was.

Though they look like wheels to turn the ship’s rudder, these wheels help control the amount of flow of steam to adjust the speed. This giant aircraft carrier can chug along happily at 33 knots. For water, that is pretty dern fast!


I wanted to get a picture of my guide without offending him, so I pretended to take a picture of this massive steam pipe. My engine room guide is on the left. He was so happy to share his engine room experiences with anyone who would listen! It just warmed my heart.


Of course, with all that steam going on through the ship, things are bound to get nice and toasty. And lots of radios and electronics were on board that created a ton of heat. That’s where these archaic air conditioning units come into play. They helped keep the ship cool and bearable…with an emphasis on bearable.

From the stories I heard over my headset, I doubt that it ever got “cool” on this ship unless they were sailing through the north Atlantic.

And maybe not even then…


We will end today’s tour of below-decks on the Midway with a fun little information sheet on what this ship could do. I think that these figures represented its later years of service, in the 1980s and early 1990s, before it was finally decommissioned after forty-seven years of faithful service.

Look at that monthly payroll! Holy cow!

More Midway tomorrow. Are you as excited as me?!


  1. So cool! I can't even imagine being aboard something like that for months at a time--my claustrophobia would require a long stay in the brig! I would go crazy! Your little tour guide sounds so cute! I'm glad you stopped and listened to his stories.

  2. I served aboard this great Lady as a steam engineer from early '83 thru late '85. I love surfing various arenas looking for images and text of this ship. I can't seem to get enough lol. It was such an important time in my life. I really appreciate your time and impute. I enjoyed my time on your blog.

    Thanks again...Teddy.

    1. Hi Teddy! I'm so glad that you found this post. I was blown away by such a wonderful ship. I just hope that I got all of the facts right! I wrote several posts about the Midway, in case you couldn't find them all...

      Thanks for serving for our country. We are free because of you. Thanks, Teddy!


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