Monday, October 3, 2016

Bullets, Bombs & Ancient Mariners

The View From the Bridge
Three years ago we visited San Diego California while on another cruise through Panama Canal. We saw the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, but did not have time to actually visit. On this trip we decided to devote our day in the city to a visit to this attraction.

The cruise ship terminal in San Diego is conveniently located right downtown and almost next door to the permanent mooring for the Midway, so a short walk along the waterfront put us at the museum. Actually between our ship and the Medway was a tourist information Kiosk, where we were able to purchase tickets (even got the “Senior Discount”), and we were able to walk right in avoiding the long queue for tickets at the museum entrance.

The Midway is a huge ship, and remained the largest vessel of any type for ten years. Built during the last part of the World War Two, it never actually saw action in battle, although provided air support in the Vietnam and Gulf wars before being decommissioned in the early 90’s. It spent a few years in the boneyard where anything useful or still serviceable was salvaged, and was scheduled to be scrapped when it was decided to turn it into a floating museum honoring the many airmen lost and to provide a picture of the Marine Aviation section of the US military.

All Armed?
A lot of work has gone into bringing this huge carrier back to some semblance of its former glory, but the ship is a museum, not an accurately “restored” vessel. Many aspects of the ship have been modified to accommodate the public and allowing access to the many exhibit areas and displays. For example, the hanger bay accommodates only a few planes and a lot of fun exhibits such as flight simulator games and a large gift shop, and the huge elevator used to lift planes from the hanger to the flight deck is now a dining area. Keeping to the theme however, the chrome chairs and tables share the space with a restored fighter plane.

The flight deck houses an impressive collection of many of the planes that were launched from the carrier fleet, and most seem to be nice restorations or genuine “survivors”. Under the Flight Deck and Hanger, a very well organized self guided tour snakes through the ship showing how life aboard an aircraft carrier would have been for the thousands of young men serving on the ship. I was surprised at the extent of the dental department, which rather than just serving dental needs, actually was set up to improve the dental health of the sailors.
Don't Mess With Huey!

Like the Hamilton “War Birds” museum, this museum is operated by a dedicated army of volunteers, most of who were once servicemen, and many served on the Midway. One enthusiastic senior who gave us a wonderful detailed history of the ship while we waited to take a tour of the bridge, admitted when asked that he actually only served on the midway for two weeks, but you would never have guessed from his evident pride in this museum. All through the ship were these ancient mariners giving their time with pride and enthusiasm to help people enjoy touring the Midway museum. I was told that as funds and material became available, other sections of the ship were being opened to the public and since the ship opened to the public in 2004, it has grown to the 6th ranked museum in the United States, just behind the Smithsonian.

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