Friday, July 20, 2012

Midway Museum Love, Part Two

Midway Part 2

Yesterday, we got to see the lower decks of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum ported in the San Diego Bay. Have you been enjoying the tour as much as I did last week when I saw it in person? It’s fun to go through the pictures…I feel like I’m experiencing it for the first time all over again.


I was up on the mid-deck for a walk to another section of the ship that required more stairs down below. We are now on our way to see the living quarters of the fancy-schmany officers of the ship.


But first, a few teaser airplanes. These are on the mid-deck and are oh-so-beautiful. I had to walk past them to get to the officer quarters down below. This is the Douglas SBD Dauntless, which was the choice dive bomber of the Navy from 1940-1943.

And this is the TBM Avenger designed by Grumman (and built by General Motors during the War…who knew?). I love these old radial engines, and I love how they sound, too. Look how those wings fold up so that even more airplanes can fit on the carrier! Actually, most Navy ship airplanes have some sort of transformation to make them smaller while being stored below.

You didn’t know that transformers existed in real life, huh?

Space is everything when you’re dealing with just four acres on the flight deck.


This is a SNJ Trainer, but most people know it as the Texan. This airplane served in every branch of the military and was a little workhorse. I still see them at airports, as they’ve become quite popular to collect and restore. They come in every color now!


Also on the mid-deck, next to these few teaser airplanes, were several full-motion simulators for people to try. In this particular section, people were flying the F-18 Hornet. I think it cost an additional $20 for a spin. I get to fly cool airplanes all the time, so I didn’t bother to stop here longer than to snap a picture.


OK, so now we’re back down below again! But this is an entirely different section of the boat from where we saw the enlisted men living yesterday. And you can see the difference right away in the cafeteria food. This place serves meals around the clock, and they are pretty gourmet. Well, as gourmet as a ship cafeteria can be, I suppose.

Was this where the bacon was stolen by our brig guy?


It pays to be a chaplain! Look at the living quarters for the priests on board the ship. There were three non-denominational chaplains on board to take care of all the religious needs of the men serving on the aircraft carrier.

Minus the creepy mannequins, I really liked how they staged the rooms throughout the museum. They had actual items from the people who served on board. It was neat to see it all displayed like it was still in use.


This is the chapel on the ship where people can pray it up. I really love that they recovered this stain glass window from the original ship and had it restored for the museum. They really did a great job on the whole carrier. It’s worth the visit!


This is the bedroom of one of the XOs, or Executive Officer. These guys help the ship’s captain complete all of the day-to-day operations. They are quite often aviators, too. So I would probably like them.

The first thing I would ask if I moved in is, “Can I stain these cabinets?” Wooo-weee!


This is the dining room near the officers’ living quarters. This is also the room where everyone hangs out when not flying or on-duty. It could be considered a giant living room for all of these officers.

It’s just too bad that they didn’t get real plates to use during meals, huh?


A movie reel is attached to one of the walls in the same dining room. Each evening, a few movies would be shown to keep the Navy men entertained.


With so many people on board the aircraft carrier, there was bound to be lots of laundry piling up. Room after room of laundry equipment was near the men’s quarters. Here we see our creepy friends ironing the pants in one shot. I need one of these machines in my house!


I liked this seal of the Navy hanging on the wall. Anchors away!

You can get anything done on this city-of-the-sea, including a hair cut. Although I doubt that they can get much more creative than a clippers buzz. Maybe they do nails here, too?


So a neat story about this dining room. This is where the CPOs (Chief Petty Officers) eat their meals. Even the Admiral of the entire Navy won’t come inside this area until invited by the lead CPO. I thought that was fascinating.

Everything in here was better…lobster and shrimp instead of mystery meat and fake mashed potatoes. If you have to be at sea, this is the place to be. It was the Ritz-section of the Midway.


Here is their fancy food. Or the plastic versions of their fancy food, anyway.

I loved this American flag. It was actually flown on the Midway way back when. If you count the stars, there are only forty-eight. Which means that this flag existed before we got Hawaii and Alaska in 1959.


I don’t know what possessed me to go down here. You know how I feel about dentist chairs. And hospitals aren’t exactly my favorite places in the world. But I was on the ship and didn’t want to miss out on anything. So away I went.


My audio tour said that the most common surgeries done on board the Midway were stitches to the head for sailors who forgot where the low bulkheads were when they were in a hurry. SMACK!

The real interview with one of the surgeons said that they were always stitching someone up! I really liked that I could listen to additional stories from the people who were actually on the ship.


I don’t know what happened to this guy, but the dummy is playing a sick sailor so well that I forgot he was fake!

Actually, on some of the mannequins, they had hydraulics moving their lungs so it looked like they were breathing. I guess they didn’t want us to think that he had already died? Cracked me up!


And back in the day, it obviously wasn’t necessary to be protected from X-rays shooting through bodies. Other than the safety precautions that were apparently ignored by these two dummies, it was rather impressive that they could do X-rays on board. This ship can do everything!


No, this isn’t the dentist chair. But close.

The Midway prided itself on being able to manufacture any metal part needed at sea. It wasn’t always possible to ship over-night (Ok…it was never possible), so the Midway needed the ability to make anything that could break on the ship.

With the tools in this metal shop, they could do it. And do it well, too, according to the metal workers that I listened to on the audio tour. Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it! These guys were really proud of the work that they accomplished.


I won’t even attempt to name this machine. It’s fancy, though, and it helped them get their part-making job done.

Metal press? Dang it, sorry.


This is the prison post office on the ship. Here I heard some stories from the Navy wives who said goodbye to their husbands for countless six-month deployments. Yuck. I’ve been gone two weeks straight from Hubby and can’t wait to see him tomorrow. Six months would probably make my little heart explode.

The post office was an important place because it kept up the morale of the sailors by processing treats from home.


Inside the post office, we find my favorite dummy from the entire ship.

For some reason, this guy is pulling a Tim-Tebow-Prayer moment over this mail. I didn’t realize that letters for the men were this important! I just love it. Even dummies can be funny!


Woohoo! We’re finally done below decks, after seeing the enlisted men’s quarters as well as where the officers lived while at sea. I’m ready to see some blue sky again, so let’s head upstairs.

I passed this pod, which can keep twenty-five sailors alive if the ship goes down. There were several hundred of these pods attached to the outside of the flight deck. It contained water bottles, iodine, a 25-man life raft, life vests, and MREs for two days. If the ship is sunk, these pods automatically opened when touching the water. All you have to do is get to it.

No pressure.


They even had a bucket inside this pod that was used to dish water out of the life raft. The last thing that you want is water sinking your life raft when you’ve just come from a sunken aircraft carrier!


This is the stairway to heaven, my friends. Let’s go look at airplanes up on the flight deck!

Can you believe that you have to wait all weekend for such wonderful eye candy? I don’t mean to be mean…

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?!

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