Inspiration and Education from a City at Sea

So the one thing that I sometimes forget working in the biotech industry here is that San Diego is a military town.  Practically from its founding, it has had an important military presence.  And it still does today– there are several busy and important Navy and Marine bases here in town. 
This past weekend, while the Beloved’s folks were visiting, we came across an absolute jewel of a museum that both educates and inspires – The USS Midway Museum.

The Midway (CV-41) is an aircraft carrier that exemplified the change in naval strength from battleships to aircraft carriers in the second half of the 20th century.  Completed at the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Midway and its crew served nearly 50 years – from the post-war years, to Korea, Vietnam and as well as in Operation Desert Storm.

It was decommissioned in 1992 and now serves as a museum that shows what life was like aboard one of these “cities at sea” (let me tell you: it’s cramped) in the 1940s and through the oncoming decades – highlighting crew quarters, mess halls, sick bays, etc and the enormous operational complexity of keeping such an endeavor "ship-shape".

The museum also has aircraft of the last fifty years in its hangar deck and on its flight deck, highlighting the multitude of training aircraft, fighters, torpedo bombers and helicopters that have operated from its deck.


The audio tour is the best that I’d ever experienced in any museum and I highly recommend it. In addition, the Midway is also staffed by volunteers (docents, I guess you’d call them) who had served on her or other Midway-class vessels.  It was a thrill and an honor to speak with these vets about their time served and hear their real-life stories.

(One of my favorite parts was that from the deck you had a great view of the two carriers that are currently in port, the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76))

I’ve never served in the military, but have always had a respect for the difficult and occasionally monumental tasks they are asked to make routine.  The Midway highlights one facet of that endeavor and does a great job of integrating the technical and the personal – and it has gone to the top of my “must-see” list for anyone coming to San Diego.

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20 thoughts on “Inspiration and Education from a City at Sea

  1. Very cool. I love touring things like that. We actually went on a tour of the USS North Carolina on our mini-moon in Wilmington because Dan had never seen it. I'll have to post the pictures. My favorite part was reading the anecdotes about daily life on the ship. It was much more interesting than I remember it being at age 12.

  2. If I'm ever in SD, I'm definitely taking this tour. I'm such a history buff, especially when it has to do with the military. I've never been on a carrier before, either.

  3. [this is way cool] Something about being in a museum/memorial like this always makes me feel like I'm experiencing history. This definitely looks worth the time, and how cool to actually get to talk to the vets who can tell you what it was really like!
    <I’ve never served in the military, but have always had a respect for the difficult and occasionally monumental tasks they are asked to make routine.> You said it!

  4. Dude! My Office Wife was there with her in-laws this weekend too! I wonder if you guys saw each other.I've been wanting to go to the Midway for a while but have never gotten around to it. I guess since I'm moving I can do all the fun touristy things that I never do while I'm living here.

  5. We toured the Midway when we were in SD last December – definitely a great tour. The kids enjoyed it too.My DH served on a submarine in the late 80s/early 90s, and I found it kind of funny that you thought it was cramped. It's nothing compared to the living space on a sub. When I was on the Midway, my thoughts were, "Wow, that's a lot of space for a ship," and I know Rob thought the same thing. Shows how different one's perspective can be, eh?

  6. Great post. I almost swung a training class in SD for December, but alas, I'm stuck in the frigid "ping pong" between Nashville and Columbus….but would LOVE to get out there and see the sights!

  7. I'm not a military history enthusiast, so it probably wouldn't normally be on my list of things to see. But I went to this museum when my parents were visiting, and I found it delightful. The audio tour was great — I especially liked hearing from a pilot who described the experience of getting launched off the deck. It was riveting.

  8. i went to the Entrepid museum once in NYC, and i barely remember it . . . but i feel like this would be similar. i agree with previous comments, i'm not necessarily a military history buff, but i think i'd like to see something like this as an adult when i can appreciate it more.also, one of my dearest friends works on a sub in the navy right now, and i'm sure he'd agree with the sentiment that it looks spacious. even still, i'm a land-lubber, and wouldn't be able to exist in such small spaces without grass and trees. another reason why i had to leave Manhattan. :)

  9. My cousin was a naval air pilot, and his description of landing on an aircraft carrier deck at night was enough to keep me from getting behind the stick.
    We have the USS New Jersey in Camden, across the river from us. That battleship was first commission in 1942, and served as an active ship, on and off, up until 1992.

  10. Nacwolin — your designated hitter served on a submarine?? (Clearly, I'm missing something there)…
    I've heard that the sense of claustrophobia on a submarine can be pretty remarkable. I bet by comparison a carrier seems spacious indeed.

  11. ancora impara — you know I'm embarrassed to say that as a native New Jerseyan (ite?) AND Camden-ite, I haven't yet been to see the New Jersey. I had sort of middling expectations for this trip and was really impressed much more than I thought I would be — maybe next time I'm back in NJ, I can convince my brother to go with me.

  12. Patricia — I haven't been to Little Italy that often in recent years, but each time we drive near it, The Beloved and I always think "oh, we should spend some time there…" — I will definitely look for your uncle's place next time I'm there.

  13. If you go, ask for Domenick or Lonnie. Those are my first cousins and they run the place. (Lonnie is huge and loud, but don't let that intimidate you – he's a sweetheart) tell them Patricia sent you. I know that sounds silly, but they would be thrilled and at the very least you'll get a free slice of pizza out of it. You have never tasted pizza like that, I promise you. My uncle made the recipe over 50 years ago and it's delicious. He's just passed on and now his sons run the bakery. He actually started Little Italy down there. I'm not joking and he made it what it is today. This past summer, during the annual Italian festival they had a tribute to him. We all miss him more than I can tell you. I love San Diego's Little Italy – it holds so many happy memories for me. Go when you get a chance and tell me about it. : )

  14. DH = "dear husband" :-)Yeah, subs are pretty cramped. I went on a dependent's cruise once, and as long as you don't think about the fact you are many feet under water in an enclosed tube, it's not that bad!

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