The USS Midway Museum is a historical naval aircraft carrier museum located in downtown San Diego, California at Navy Pier. The museum consists of the aircraft carrier Midway, which was America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. The interactive museum is an unforgettable adventure, visitors explore a floating city at sea, the amazing flight deck and its 29 restored aircraft, flight simulators, and are inspired in the Battle of Midway Theater.
USS Midway (CVB/CVA/CV-41) is an aircraft carrier, formerly of the United States Navy, the lead ship of her class. The USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century. Named after the climactic Battle of Midway of June 1942, Midway was built in only 17 months, but missed World War II by one week when commissioned on September 10, 1945.
Midway was the first in a three-ship class of its kind large carriers that featured an armored flight deck and a powerful air group of 120 planes. 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 is the only remaining inactive U.S. aircraft carrier that is not an Essex-class aircraft carrier.
The USS Midway having played host to 225,000 sailors over the course of its life. The ship museum now houses an extensive collection of aircraft, many of which were built in Southern California. This historical relic offers patrons the opportunity to explore 60 different exhibits and 29 restored aircraft aboard, including some that have flown in World War II, Operation Desert Storm and the Korean War.
During the self-guided audio tour, you’ll see the crew’s sleeping quarters, the engine room, the ship’s jail and the primary flight control room, among other areas of the 4-acre flight deck. The audio guides are informative, but they also recommend stopping to listen to the knowledgeable volunteer docents,many of them military veterans, some of which served on the ship, stationed throughout the museum.
Midway is also an opportunity to experience the uniqueness of San Diego, original home of TOP GUN. After receiving support from the Navy, the film TOP GUN, was mainly filmed on the aircraft carrier and San Diego. After the film was released in 1986, it was a huge success and attracted a large number of young people to join the Navy as pilots.
The USS Midway was the United States’ longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, from 1945 to 1992. Approximately 200,000 Sailors served aboard the carrier, known for several naval aviation breakthroughs as well as several humanitarian missions. It was the only carrier to serve the entire length of the Cold War and beyond. It is currently a museum ship in San Diego, California.
From the beginning of its service, the Midway played key roles in the Cold War. In 1946 it became the first American carrier to operate in the midwinter sub-Arctic, developing new flight deck procedures. The following year Midway became the only ship to launch a captured German V-2 rocket. The trial’s success became the dawn of naval missile warfare. Just two years after that, Midway sent a large patrol plane aloft to demonstrate that atomic bombs could be delivered by a carrier.
Midway served with the Atlantic Fleet for ten years, making seven deployments to European waters, patrolling “the soft underbelly” of NATO. A round-the-world cruise took Midway to the west coast in 1955, where it was rebuilt with an angled deck to improve jet operations.
Midway’s first combat deployment came in 1965 flying strikes against North Vietnam. Midway aircraft shot down three MiGs, including the first air kill of the war. However, 17 Midway aircraft were lost to enemy fire during this cruise. In 1966 Midway was decommissioned for a four-year overhaul.
Over a chaotic two day period during the fall of Saigon in April 1975, Midway was a floating base for large Air Force helicopters which evacuated more than 3,000 desperate refugees during Operation Frequent Wind.
As potential threats to the Arabian oil supply grew, and to relieve strain on U. S.-based carriers, Midway transferred to Yokosuka, Japan, making it the first American carrier home ported abroad.
In 1990 Midway deployed to the Persian Gulf in response to the Iraqi seizure of Kuwait. In the ensuing Operation Desert Storm, Midway served as the flagship for naval air forces in the Gulf and launched more than 3,000 combat missions with no losses. Its final mission was the evacuation of civilian personnel from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines after the20th century’s largest eruption of nearby Mount Pinatubo.
On April 11, 1992 the Midway was decommissioned in San Diego and remained in storage in Bremerton, Washington until 2003 when it was donated to the 501(c)3 nonprofit San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum organization. It opened as the USS Midway Museum in June 2004.
Midway opened as a museum on 7 June 2004. By 2012 annual visitation exceeded 1 million visitors. As of 2015 Midway is the most popular naval warship museum in the United States. The museum has over 13,000 members, and hosts more than 700 events a year, including more than 400 active-duty Navy retirements, re-enlistments, and changes of command. The museum also hosts approximately 50,000 students on field trips and 5,000 children in its overnight program annually.
Admission includes a self-guided audio tour, narrated by former Midway Sailors to more than 60 locations, including sleeping quarters, engine room, galley, bridge, brig, post office, foc’s’le, pilots’ ready rooms, officers quarters, primary flight control, and “officers country”. Other features include climb-aboard aircraft and cockpits, videos, flight simulators, and a narrated audio tour for youngsters.
In addition to private events, the museum has hosted several events, including a nationally broadcast NCAA basketball game between San Diego State University and Syracuse University in 2012. American Idol has filmed an episode on Midway, as have the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, FOX News, The Bachelor, Extreme Makeover, History Channel, and Military Channel. The nationally televised annual “Battle on the Midway” collegiate wrestling showcase has been staged each November on the flight deck of the museum since 2017.
Membership has grown to more than 25,000. A high definition, holographic movie theater, “The Battle of Midway Theater”, was added in 2017, and in 2019 the museum is adding a virtual reality flight simulator ride in addition to its existing four flight simulators. The GI Film Festival and the San Diego International Film Festival have scheduled screenings at the museum.
With more than 30 restored aircraft, and nearly 10 acres of exhibits and displays, the Midway brings you the most complete cross-section of carrier aviation in the world. From high up on the bridge down to the main engine room, taking you on a unique warship journey that engages this symbol of American.
Inspect restored WWII era aircraft and climb aboard real cockpits. Experience the breathtaking Battle of Midway Theater and interactive displays. Experience the expanse of a floating Hangar Deck, home to the Battle of Midway Theater and the Combat Information Center. Examine vintage aircraft from World War II, explore a special display on the humanitarian rescue off Saigon, and climb into actual aircraft cockpit trainers.
Battle of Midway Exhibit – Interactive displays on the Battle of Midway, including carefully restored F4F Wildcat fighter and SBD Dauntless dive bomber aircraft.
The Bird Dog – Operation Frequent Wind display encapsulates a unique part of the Midway’s history: her special role in saving refugees as Saigon fell in 1975. Perched directly above this exhibit is an example of the Bird Dog light plane that contained an entire family which made a desperate landing on the Midway’s Flight Deck.
The Engine that Won the War – Unique among displays, examine the complex inner workings of a World War II era R-2800 Twin Wasp engine, specially arranged to exhibit how its components interacted to produce the horsepower for historical aircraft like the F4U Corsair.
WWII Aircraft – Although missing World War II by weeks, the Midway deployed wartime aircraft designs in her early career, such as F4U Corsair, TBM Avenger, and SNJ Texan utility plane.
Enlisted Sailor’s Bunks – See the tight quarters where the crew slept! Lay down in one of the bunks to see what it was like to sleep under the Midway’s busy Fight Deck.
Gallery Deck Exhibits – Explore the world of the carrier aviator with our Squadron Ready Rooms, watch the evolving history of the Midway’s Carrier Air Wing, see the story of naval helicopters, and learn how the pilots and supporting staff lived and worked just inches below the flight deck.
Fo’c’sle (Anchor Chain Room) – Step into the fo’c’sle of the ship, where you can take a look at the anchor chains of the ship. Also in this space, learn and practice how to tie a variety of knots!
Command Information Center (CIC)- Walk through the Command Information Center (CIC) the tactical center of the ship.
Carrier Air Group (CAG) – Carrier Air Group spaces detail the every day operations of the Midway Air Wing.
Helicopter History Exhibit – Explore the history of the helicopter and their importance to Naval Aviation then and now.
Over 20 Aircraft populate the massive Midway Flight Deck. Take a tour of the Bridge and Captain’s and Admirals Cabins. Walk up and touch the fighters, bombers, and helicopters that took naval aviation into the jet age. Find out first hand what it takes to take off and land on the world’s most compact airport. Beneath the bustle of the Flight Deck, discover how the Midway’s admiral fought Operation Desert Storm in his high tech command center, examine the global radio communications complex, and sample the amenities of the Captain’s Inport Cabin.
Midway Airwing – The Midway’s Flight Deck features 26 skillfully restored carrier aircraft, including jet fighters, attack aircraft, helicopters, and specialist designs.
Meatball Exhibit – In addition to a restored Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System, the exhibit includes an interactive display explaining how this special light rig helps pilots land aboard the Midway.
Pilot Ready Rooms – The Midway offers seven pilot ready rooms, each sponsored and exhibited by dedicated volunteer organizations to bring you inside the special world of carrier aviation.
Ship’s Island / Bridge – Up in the Midway’s Island superstructure you can explore the Island/Bridge, where the carrier is steered and where the Captain oversees flight operations.
Captain’s and Admirals Country – Step just below the Flight Deck to examine where the admiral lived and the command center where Operation Desert Storm was orchestrated. See the complex Radio message center and where the Midway’s captain entertained dignitaries in his Inport Cabin.
Explore the spaces where the crew lived, worked and played aboard ship. Walk through mess halls, galleys, chapel, laundry services and much more. Descend into the immersive world of a sea-roving community of thousands. Climb into the narrow bunks young sailors called their own, see what it takes to prepare more than 14,000 meals a day, visit a floating hospital ward, and descend below the waterline into a massive engine room and the facilities that kept it running.
Chow Line / Galley – Explore what it takes to feed a small city at sea every day in with Chow Line and Galley displays below decks.
Midway Chapel – Learn about how the spiritual needs from the many faiths represented by the Midway’s crew were addressed by visiting the Midway’s Chapel.
Wardroom – Examine how the Midway’s officers dined and socialized in Wardroom exhibit, including a special silver service set display, and the informal “Dirty Shirt” Wardroom frequented by the pilots.
Sick Bay / Dental – See how the health needs of the Midway’s crew were met, from surgery to routine dental checkups in Sick Bay and Dental exhibits.
Engineering – Delve several decks into the Midway to explore restored Engine Room and Main Engine Control. Learn what it was like to work in the extraordinary conditions of a steam engine room powering an aircraft carrier.
The USS Midway has more than 30 restored aircraft and helicopters displayed on our Hangar and Flight Decks. They span decades from the Battle of Midway in 1942, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, to today’s tactical aircraft. Carefully restored, each one represents an aspect of the USS Midway’s long career.
Battle of Midway Theater
Experience Midway’s 90-seat theater, featuring a riveting multimedia movie about the Battle of Midway “Voices of Midway”. This 15 minute immersive film tells the story of one of the most important naval battles of WWII. The battle is relived through the eyes and voices of the heroes that bravely took part in this historic episode of American history.
Live the life of an aviator aboard the USS Midway. Launch off the flight deck, engage the enemy and then return safely. Midway features one type of optional flight simulators for all ages.
Air Combat 360 – Two people enter the state-of-the-art simulator for a pulse-pounding aerial combat ride where you control all the action. Air Combat 360 pilots can roll, somersault, spin and loop as they fly missions.
Virtual Reality Flight Experience: Screaming Eagles – Do you have what it takes to be a F/18 pilot? If you have nerves of steel, join the men and women in the Training Exercise “Screaming Eagles”. Be prepared to launch your F/18 off the aircraft carrier, hit every target, complete your air to air mission and land safely.
Guided Island Tour
A special tour onboard, led by one of Midway’s world-class volunteer Docents. An aircraft carrier’s island is the command center for flight deck operations, as well as the ship as a whole. The island is located on the flight deck and rises above all the aircraft aboard ship. Midway’s guided Island Tour takes you up serpentine ladders through the navigation and flight control sections of the ship. Expert Midway Docents will lead you through to explain Air Operations, Pri-fly, Navigational chart room, Captain’s Bridge, and Captain’s at sea cabin.
Junior Pilot Program
Follow Airman Sam Rodriguez as he takes you and the youngsters on an amazing and entertaining audio tour to more than 30 locations throughout the aircraft carrier. Once the kids complete Sam’s tasks, they will be treated to a ceremony performed by one of Midway’s volunteer Docents, where they will earn their Junior Pilot Wings.
Catapult & Trap Talks
Learn how aircraft landed and took off from carrier decks from volunteer Docents who have actually done it. Launching off and landing on an aircraft carrier is one the most dangerous and exhilarating experiences for a Navy pilot. Our expert Docents, many of them former Navy pilots themselves, explain the difficult process of taking off (catapult) and landing (trap) on the short flight deck of an aircraft carrier.