At first glance, the shear mass and majesty of USS Midway as you approach from the adjacent parking lot at the edge of San Diego Harbor is overwhelming, looming more like a giant building complex with a jumble of offices next to an airport than a fast, ocean-crossing aircraft carrier.
Named for the Battle of Midway, the ship’s moniker honors American service members who won the first major World War II victory in the early months of the war. Nearly a quarter million enlisted members and officers served aboard the carrier before she was finally retired in 1992, nearly half a century after she entered service.
As you ascend the gangway, gradually taking in the myriad side decks and radio antennas big and small, you marvel not only at the sheer size of the top deck, but at the variety of historic fighter jets and other aircraft, all looking as if they are prepared to spring back to life and engage in aerial combat right before your eyes.
The hangar deck below offers a look into the past, from the Korean War through the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, where the ship provided support with fighter jets and medical evacuation aircraft for our troops engaged in ground combat.
Some aircraft in the hangar are propped up as if in midflight in a battle at sea, their noses aiming downward, poised for attack. You wander past these marvelous machines, imagining what it was like to pilot or crew on such audacious defenders of freedom.
You then arrive at the Battle of Midway Theater to view “Voices of Midway,” a history of the brief conflict that inspired the name of the carrier, launched in 1946. The film follows the main events of the Battle of Midway in 1942, when losses included nearly 400 American troops, one carrier, one destroyer and 144 aircraft.
The entire self-guided audio tour is available in six different languages to enable as many patrons as possible to enjoy the theater, nearly 30 restored aircraft, flight simulators and other attractions.
After exploring the ship’s sites, you can visit the Jet Shop to stock up on Midway merch, picking your way through T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, souvenir medallions, stuffed dolls, model airplanes and even little bags of USS Midway mixed nuts and chocolates!
You can also stop for a light lunch at Café 41, which offers an array of American, Mexican and Italian fast food. According to local buzz, their Italian hero sandwich is absolutely fantastic!
Beyond its decks, USS Midway works with schools by offering educational programs, including distance learning and support for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. These resources are available to all schools and anyone who has Internet access.
USS Midway opened to the public in 2004, rapidly becoming one of San Diego’s most popular attractions and serving upwards of a million visitors every year. Out of all the museums in North America, USS Midway is the fifth most popular, ranking closely behind the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
What’s more, USS Midway is ranked Number 1 on Trip Advisor’s “480 Things to Do” in San Diego, with nearly 98% of the site’s reviews giving the naval attraction 4 or 5 stars. If you are looking forward to experiencing this attraction, check out the ship’s website at www.midway.org to plan your visit to this memorable living page in American maritime history.