Visit the rich history of the Midway Museum in San Diego

The USS Midway Museum, moored in San Diego Bay, is an aircraft carrier museum. Midway was named for the Battle of Midway in June 1942 of World War II which turned the tide of the war between the United States and the Empire of Japan.

I have prepared this Midway Column as a volunteer on behalf of the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation, although my efforts have been facilitated with great interest and substantial assistance by my brother, Retired Captain Dennis W. Irelan , whose career spanned 29 years in the US Navy.

Denny was deployed as a Navy pilot aboard Midway from 1981 to 1984, during which time he recorded 360 catapult launches or takeoffs and return landings stopped by an aircraft carrier. He volunteers to share information with visitors as a guide aboard Midway.

Commissioned in September 1945, just days after World War II, the Midway was the largest ship in the world for 10 years. He served the US Navy in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea until his transfer to the Pacific Ocean in the early 1950s.

In 1973, after serving in the Vietnam War, it was assigned a new home port at Yokosuka, Japan, to become the forward-deployed naval aircraft carrier for the United States. .

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In 1991, the Midway served as the flagship in the Persian Gulf, and after Desert Storm she returned to the United States with the Navy order to be decommissioned in 1992 in San Diego – after 47 years of service. Upon retirement, the Midway was towed to the US Navy’s Inactive Vessel Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash.

In recognition of Midway’s service and historic significance, many community leaders in San Diego, with the support of members of the nonprofit Midway Foundation, team members ran a 12-year campaign. to collect the charitable donations necessary for Midway’s return to San Diego.

After the California Coastal Commission approved Midway’s positioning in San Diego Bay, it reopened as a museum on June 7, 2004. At present, Midway is one of the world’s premier floating ship museums. most renowned, economically viable and visited in the United States, with an average of about 1.3 million visitors per year.

Features of the Midway Museum include self-guided audio tours and volunteers assigned to provide various storytelling at numerous locations around the ship, such as the flight deck and hangar stops, as well as to identify and discuss ship operations. over 30 museum planes aboard Midway. .

Docent-led tours are also offered, ranging from the below-deck engine rooms, squadron prep rooms, air boss’s main flight control, navigation office space, and the captain’s navigation bridge.

Over 500 volunteer docents are available to help tell the story of Midway, its operations, crew responsibilities and safety requirements. Human-like videos and animatronic characters that educate museum visitors, especially civilian visitors unfamiliar with Navy ships, complete the storytelling materials.

Some of the most interesting presentations from the Midway docents describe onboard flight operations, particularly catapult launches and carrier landing systems and procedures for fixed-wing aircraft.

When Midway was commissioned as an operational aircraft carrier, it normally embarked with around 69 aircraft, performed around 80 flights per day during day and night flight operations, with a crew of around 4,500 officers and crew members.

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Like all aircraft carriers in the US Navy, he represented the United States wherever he was posted by the National Command Authority and naval commanders. Remaining in international waters, except during visits to foreign ports, a normal deployment from the home port lasted six months.

During deployments at sea, Midway has maintained readiness to conduct offensive and defensive missions aligned with U.S. national interests, such as power projection, close air support to ground troops, freedom of navigation of ships and humanitarian aid, disaster relief operations and peace. -time presence.

All US Navy aircraft carriers are normally accompanied on deployments by other naval force ships – cruisers, destroyers, combat logistics force ships (food, fuel, and ammunition supply ships) – to form an aircraft carrier strike force.

Historically, the USS Langley, in service from March 1922 to February 1942, was the first aircraft carrier of the US Navy, and the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most recent aircraft carrier. Today’s US Navy aircraft carrier force consists of 11 aircraft carriers.

The USS Midway served actively from September 10, 1945 until April 11, 1992 and became the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum to preserve its historic legacy and showcase enduring American freedom, strength, and determination.

For more information on the Midway Museum, visit

Don Irelan retired in 2017 from the city of Santa Barbara and began volunteering with the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation in 2018.

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