CV-41 USS Midway C-1A Trader Model
Fly of the deck of the USS Midway in this handcrafted C-1 model. Each piece is carved from wood and handpainted to provide a piece you’ll love.
USS Midway (CVB/CVA/CV-41) was an aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, the lead ship of her class. Commissioned a week after the end of World War II, Midway was the largest ship in the world until 1955, as well as the first U.S. aircraft carrier too big to transit the Panama Canal. She operated for 47 years, during which time she saw action in the Vietnam War and served as the Persian Gulf flagship in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. Decommissioned in 1992, she is now a museum ship at the USS Midway Museum, in San Diego, California, and the only remaining U.S. aircraft carrier commissioned right after World War II ended that was not an Essex-class aircraft carrier.
Midway was laid down 27 October 1943 by Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia; launched 20 March 1945, sponsored by Mrs. Bradford William Ripley, Jr.; and commissioned on 10 September 1945 (eight days after the Surrender of Japan) with Captain Joseph F. Bolger in command.
After shakedown in the Caribbean, Midway joined the U.S. Atlantic Fleet training schedule, with Norfolk as its homeport. From 20 February 1946, it was the flagship for Carrier Division 1. In March, it tested equipment and techniques for cold-weather operations in the North Atlantic. In September 1947, a captured German V-2 rocket was test-fired from the flight deck in Operation Sandy, the first large-rocket launch from a moving platform, and the only moving-platform launch for a V-2. While the rocket lifted off, it then tilted and broke up at 15,000 feet (4,600 m).
On 29 October 1947, Midway sailed for the first of its annual deployments with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. Between deployments, Midway trained and received alterations to accommodate heavier aircraft as they were developed.
In June 1951, Midway operated in the Atlantic off the Virginia Capes during carrier suitability tests of the F9F-5 Panther. On 23 June, as Cdr. George Chamberlain Duncan attempted a landing in BuNo 125228, a downdraft just aft of the stern caused Duncan to crash. His plane’s forward fuselage broke away and rolled down the deck, and he suffered burns. Footage of the crash has been used in several films, including Men of the Fighting Lady, Midway, and The Hunt for Red October.
In 1952, the ship participated in Operation Mainbrace, North Sea maneuvers with NATO forces. On 1 October, the ship was redesignated CVA-41.
Midway in 1965 after SCB-110
Midway cleared Norfolk 27 December 1954 for a world cruise, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope for Taiwan, where it joined the 7th Fleet for operations in the Western Pacific until 28 June 1955. During these operations, Midway pilots flew cover for the evacuation from the Quemoy-Matsu crisis from the Tachen Islands of 15,000 Chinese nationalist troops and 20,000 Chinese civilians, along with their livestock. On 28 June 1955, the ship sailed for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where Midway underwent an extensive modernization program (SCB-110, similar to SCB-125 for the Essex-class carriers). Midway received an enclosed hurricane bow, an aft deck-edge elevator, an angled flight deck, and steam catapults, returning to service on 30 September 1957.
Home ported at Alameda, California, Midway began annual deployments with the 7th Fleet in 1958, and in the South China Sea during the Laotian Crisis of spring 1961. During the 1962 deployment, the ship’s aircraft tested the air defense systems of Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Midway again sailed for the Far East 6 March 1965, and from mid-April flew strikes against military and logistics installations in North and South Vietnam.
Returning to Alameda on 23 November, Midway entered San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard on 11 February 1966 for a massive modernization (SCB-101.66), which proved expensive and controversial. The flight deck was enlarged from 2.8 to 4 acres (11,300 to 16,200 square metres (122,000 to 174,000 sq ft)), and the angle of the flight deck landing area was increased to 13.5 degrees. The elevators were enlarged, moved, and given almost double the weight capacity. Midway also received new steam catapults, arresting gear, and a centralized air conditioning plant. Cost overruns raised the price of this program from $88 million to $202 million USD, and precluded a similar modernization planned for Franklin D. Roosevelt. After Midway was finally recommissioned on 31 January 1970, it was found that the modifications had hurt the ship’s seakeeping capabilities and ability to conduct air operations in rough seas, which required further modifications to correct the problem.
Air-to-air kills in Vietnam
On 17 June 1965, aviators of Midway’s Attack Carrier Wing 2, VF-21 downed the first two MiGs credited to U.S. forces in Southeast Asia. On 12 January 1973 a combat aircraft from Midway made the last air-to-air kill of the Vietnam War.
Return to Vietnam
Midway returned to Vietnam and on 18 May 1971, after relieving Hancock on Yankee Station, began single carrier operations. Midway departed Yankee Station on 5 June, completing the vessel’s final line period on 31 October 1971, and returned to the ship’s homeport on 6 November 1971.
Midway en route to South-East Asia in April 1972
Midway, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW 5), again departed Alameda for operations off Vietnam on 10 April 1972. On 11 May, aircraft from Midway, along with those from Coral Sea, Kitty Hawk, and Constellation, continued laying naval mines off North Vietnamese ports, including Thanh Hóa, Đồng Hới, Vinh, Hon Gai, Quang Khe, and Cam Pha as well as other approaches to Haiphong. Ships that were in port in Haiphong had been advised that the mining would take place and that the mines would be armed 72 hours later.
Midway continued Vietnam operations during Operation Linebacker throughout the summer of 1972. On 7 August 1972, an HC-7 Det 110 helicopter, flying from Midway, and aided by planes from the carrier and from Saratoga, searched for the pilot of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Saratoga, who had been downed the previous day by a surface-to-air missile about 20 mi (32 km) inland, northwest of Vinh. Flying over mountains, the HC-7 helicopter spotted the downed aviator with its searchlight and, under heavy ground fire, retrieved him and returned to an LPD off the coast. This was the deepest penetration of a rescue helicopter into North Vietnam since 1968. By the end of 1972, HC-7 Det 110 had rescued 48 pilots, 35 in combat conditions.
On 5 October 1973, Midway, with CVW 5, put into Yokosuka, Japan, marking the first forward-deployment of a complete carrier task group in a Japanese port, the result of an accord arrived at on 31 August 1972 between the U.S. and Japan. The move allowed sailors to live with their families when in port; more strategically, it allowed three carriers to stay in the Far East even as the economic situation demanded the reduction of carriers in the fleet. CVW 5 became based at the nearby Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
For service in Vietnam from 30 April 1972, to 9 February 1973, Midway and CVW 5 received the Presidential Unit Citation from Richard Nixon. It read:
For extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against enemy forces in Southeast Asia from 30 April 1972 to 9 February 1973. During this crucial period of the Vietnam conflict, USS MIDWAY and embarked Attack Carrier Air Wing FIVE carried out devastating aerial attacks against enemy installations, transportation, and lines of communications in the face of extremely heavy opposition including multi-calibre antiaircraft artillery fire and surface-to-air missiles. Displaying superb airmanship and unwavering courage, MIDWAY/CVW-5 pilots played a significant role in lifting the prolonged sieges at An Lộc, Kon Tum, and Quảng Trị and in carrying out the concentrated aerial strikes against the enemy’s industrial heartland which eventually resulted in a cease-fire. By their excellent teamwork, dedication, and sustained superior performance, the officers and men of MIDWAY and Attack Carrier Air Wing FIVE reflected great credit upon themselves and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Operation Frequent Wind
See also: Operation Frequent Wind
On 19 April 1975, after North Vietnam had overrun two-thirds of South Vietnam, Midway, along with Coral Sea, Hancock, Enterprise and Okinawa, were sent to the waters off South Vietnam. Ten days later, U.S. 7th Fleet forces carried out the Operation Frequent Wind evacuation. Midway, which had offloaded half of the ship’s regular combat air wing at NS Subic Bay, Philippines, steamed to Thailand and took aboard eight CH-53 from 21st Special Operations Squadron and two HH-53 helicopters from 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. As Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, these helicopters ferried hundreds of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese people to Midway and other U.S. ships in the South China Sea.
On 29 April 1975, Republic of Vietnam Air Force Major Buang-Ly (also spelled Buang Lee) loaded his wife and five children into a two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird Dog and took off from Con Son Island. After evading enemy ground fire, Buang headed out to the South China Sea, found Midway, and began to circle overhead with his landing lights turned on. Midway’s crew unsuccessfully attempted to contact the aircraft on emergency frequencies. When a spotter reported that there were at least four people in the two-seater aircraft, all thoughts of forcing the pilot to ditch alongside were abandoned – it was unlikely the passengers of the overloaded Bird Dog could survive the ditching and safely get out before the plane sank. After three tries, Major Buang managed to drop a note from a low pass over the deck: “Can you move the helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly for one hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me! Major Buang, wife and 5 child.” Captain Larry Chambers, the ship’s commanding officer, ordered that the arresting wires be removed and that any helicopters that could not be safely and quickly moved should be pushed over the side. He called for volunteers, and soon every available seaman was on deck to help. An estimated US$10 million worth of UH-1 Huey helicopters were pushed overboard. With a 500-foot (150 m) ceiling, 5-mile (8.0 km) visibility, light rain, and 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) of surface wind, Chambers ordered the ship to make 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) into the wind. Warnings about the dangerous downdrafts created behind a steaming carrier were transmitted blind in both Vietnamese and English. To make matters worse, five more UH-1s landed and cluttered up the deck. Without hesitation, Chambers ordered them scuttled as well. Captain Chambers recalled that
the aircraft cleared the ramp and touched down on center line at the normal touchdown point. Had he been equipped with a tailhook he could have bagged a number 3 wire. He bounced once and came stop abeam of the island, amid a wildly cheering, arms-waving flight deck crew.
Buang was escorted to the bridge where Chambers congratulated him on his outstanding airmanship and his bravery in risking everything on a gamble beyond the point of no return without knowing for certain a carrier would be where he needed it. The crew of Midway was so impressed that they established a fund to help him and his family get settled in the United States. The O-1 that Major Buang landed is now on display at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Major Buang became the first Vietnamese pilot ever to land on an aircraft carrier deck.
Upon completion of ferrying people to other ships, Midway returned to Thailand and disembarked the Air Force helicopters. The CH-53s then airlifted over 50 Republic of Vietnam Air Force aircraft to the ship. With almost 100 helicopters and aircraft of the former Republic of Vietnam Air Force aboard, the ship steamed to Guam where the aircraft and helicopters were offloaded in twenty-four hours. While transiting back to the Philippines to pick up the ship’s air wing, Midway was rerouted to act as a floating airfield in support of special operation forces rescuing a pirated cargo ship (see Mayagüez Incident). Midway picked up the ship’s regular air wing again a month later when the aircraft carrier returned NAS Cubi Point, Philippines.
On 21 August 1976, a Navy task force headed by Midway made a show of force off the coast of Korea in response to an unprovoked attack on two U.S. Army officers who were killed by North Korean guards on 18 August. (The U.S. response to this incident was Operation Paul Bunyan). Midway’s response was in support of a U.S. demonstration of military concern vis-à-vis North Korea.
Midway relieved Constellation as the Indian Ocean contingency carrier on 16 April 1979. This unscheduled deployment was due to USS Ranger colliding with tanker Liberian Fortune near the Straits of Malacca, with Midway taking over Ranger’s mission while it went in for repair. Midway and its escorts continued a significant American naval presence in the oil-producing region of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. On 18 November, the aircraft carrier arrived in the northern part of the Arabian Sea in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran. Militant followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had come to power following the overthrow of the Shah, seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on 4 November and held 63 U.S. citizens hostage. Midway was joined 21 November by Kitty Hawk, and both carriers, along with their escort ships, were joined by Nimitz and its escorts on 22 January 1980. Midway was relieved by Coral Sea on 5 February.
Missions in the 1980s
Following a period in Yokosuka, Midway relieved Coral Sea 30 May 1980 on standby south of the Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan following the potential of civil unrest in the Republic of Korea.
While transiting the passage between Palawan Island of the Philippines and the coast of Northern Borneo on 29 July, the Panamanian merchant ship Cactus collided with Midway. Cactus was 450 nautical miles (830 km) southwest of Subic Bay and headed to Singapore. The collision occurred near the liquid oxygen plant and two sailors working in the plant were killed and three were injured. Midway sustained light damage and three F-4 Phantom aircraft parked on the flight deck were also damaged.
On 17 August, Midway relieved Constellation to begin another Indian Ocean deployment and to complement the Dwight D. Eisenhower task group still on contingency duty in the Arabian Sea. Midway spent a total of 118 days in the Indian Ocean during 1980.
On 16 March 1981, an A-6 Intruder from VA-115 aboard Midway sighted a downed civilian helicopter in the South China Sea. Midway immediately dispatched HC-1 Det 2 helicopters to the scene. All 17 people aboard the downed helicopter were rescued and brought aboard the carrier. The chartered civilian helicopter was also plucked out of the water and lifted to Midway’s flight deck.
On 25 March 1986, the final carrier launching of a Navy fleet F-4S Phantom II took place off Midway during flight operations in the East China Sea. The aircraft was manned by pilot Lt. Alan S. “Mullet” Colegrove and radar intercept officer Lt. Gregg “Ichabod” Blankenship of VF-151. ABF (Aviation Boatswains Mate Fuels) handler, Paul Frederick Morehead, Jr. of the V-4 Division, was the last sailor to fuel “Triple Sticks”, because the tail number was 111. Paul F. Morehead, Jr. is from Parkersburg, West Virginia. Phantoms were being replaced by the new F/A-18 Hornets. Midway continued serving in the western Pacific throughout the 1980s. In order to alleviate persistent seakeeping issues, Midway received hull blisters in 1986. The modification proved unsuccessful, and actually increased the ship’s instability in high seas.
On 30 October 1989 an F/A-18 Hornet aircraft from Midway mistakenly dropped a 500 pounds (227 kilograms) general-purpose bomb on the deck of Reeves during training exercises in the Indian Ocean, creating a 5-foot (1.5 m) hole in the bow, sparking small fires, and injuring five sailors. Reeves was 32 miles (51 km) south of Diego Garcia at the time of the incident.
Disaster struck Midway on 20 June 1990. While conducting routine flight operations approximately 125 nautical miles (232 km; 144 mi) northeast of Japan, the ship was badly damaged by two onboard explosions. These explosions led to a fire that raged more than ten hours. In addition to damage to the ship’s hull, two crew members were killed and 9 others were wounded; one of the injured later died of his injuries. All 11 crewmen belonged to an elite fire-fighting team known as the Flying Squad. When Midway entered Yokosuka Harbor the next day, 12 Japanese media helicopters flew in circles and hovered about 150 feet (46 m) above the flight deck. Three bus loads of reporters were waiting on the pier. About 30 minutes after Midway cast its first line, more than 100 international print and electronic journalists charged over the brow to cover the event. The news media made a major issue out of the incident, as it happened amid other military accidents. It was thought that the accident would lead to the ship’s immediate retirement due to its age.
Operation Desert Storm and the 1990s
Four US Navy carriers form “Battle Force Zulu” following the 1991 Gulf War; Midway (top left) cruises with Ranger (bottom left), Theodore Roosevelt (top right) and America (bottom right)
On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait and U.S. forces moved into Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield to protect that country against invasion by Iraq. On 1 November 1990, Midway was again on station in the North Arabian Sea being the carrier of Battle Force Zulu (which included warships from the US, Australia, and other countries), relieving Independence. On 15 November, the aircraft carrier participated in Operation Imminent Thunder, an eight-day combined amphibious landing exercise in northeastern Saudi Arabia which involved about 1,000 U.S. Marines, 16 warships, and more than 1,100 aircraft. Meanwhile, the United Nations set an ultimatum deadline of 15 January 1991 for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.
Operation Desert Storm began the next day, and the Navy launched 228 sorties from Midway and Ranger in the Persian Gulf, from Theodore Roosevelt en route to the Gulf, and from John F. Kennedy, Saratoga, and America in the Red Sea. In addition, the Navy launched more than 100 Tomahawk missiles from nine ships in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Desert Storm officially ended 27 February, and Midway departed the Persian Gulf on 11 March 1991 and returned to Yokosuka.
In June 1991, Midway left for its final deployment, this time to the Philippines to take part in Operation Fiery Vigil, which was the evacuation of 20,000 military members including their families from Clark Air Base, on the island of Luzon, after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Midway, along with twenty other U.S. naval ships, ferried the evacuees to the island of Cebu, where they were taken off the ship by helicopter. After taking part in the evacuation, the aircraft carrier once again returned to Yokosuka.
In August 1991, Midway departed Yokosuka and returned to Pearl Harbor. Here, it turned over with Independence which was to replace Midway as the forward-deployed carrier in Yokosuka. RADM Joseph Pruher and the staff of Carrier Group ONE cross decked from Independence. RADM Pruher was the last admiral to break his flag on Midway. Midway then sailed to Seattle for a port visit. The ship then embarked “tigers”, guests of crew members for the final voyage to San Diego. Midway was decommissioned at Naval Air Station North Island on 11 April 1992 in a ceremony in which the main speaker was Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The ship was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 17 March 1997. During decommissioning, Midway, its sailors, and their families were filmed for the movie At Sea, a documentary on carrier life shown only at the Navy Museum in Washington, D.C.