The only remaining non-Essex-class US Navy ship of the World War II period, the USS Midway is now decommissioned, and has been turned into a museum, known as the USS Midway Museum. It was the lead ship of its class, and the first to be commissioned after the end of World War II. No ship in the world was as large as this till 1955.
It participated in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. It was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Corporation, Virginia, and was commissioned on September 10, 1945. It had a revolutionary hull design, which was based on the Montana-class battleships. The design gave the ship better maneuverability than the former warships.
In the beginning, Norfolk was the home port of the ship. Soon after the ship got commissioned, its equipment and technology was tested in the cold weather conditions of the North Atlantic in 1946. In 1947, its training in the Caribbean Sea was highlighted by Operation Sandy, in which a captured German V-2 rocket was test-fired from its flight deck.
It was the first such test from a moving platform. In October 1947, the Midway sailed to the Mediterranean Sea for its first annual deployment with the 6th Fleet. The ship underwent training during the deployment, and many alterations were made so it could accommodate heavier aircraft. There, it was titled as CVA-41.
It was out of commission from June 28 to September 30, 1957, as it underwent a massive modernization program, receiving a deck-edge elevator, an angled flight deck, and steam catapults. In 1958, it was home-ported to Alameda, California, and was deployed with the 7th Fleet, this time in the South China Sea.
In 1965, its aircraft were prepared for combat operations against military and logistic installations in Vietnam. It returned to Alameda in 1966, and again underwent massive modernization, which proved to be expensive and controversial.
This time, its flight deck was enlarged from 2.8 to 4 acres, elevators were reinstalled with their capacity doubled, a centralized air-conditioning plant was installed, and an arresting gear was put in place.
It was deployed intermittently in Vietnam. It left for Vietnam from Alameda on April 10, 1972. Its aircraft, along with the ones from Coral Sea (CV-43), Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and Constellation (CV-64), laid minefields in the following significant Vietnamese ports: Thanh Hoa, Dong Hoi, Vinh, Hon Gai, Quang Khe, and Cam Pha.
The most challenging successful operation carried out from Midway was the search and rescue of an aviator, who was downed by a surface-to-air missile in North Vietnam. The operation was carried out with the help of an HC-7 Det 110 helicopter, which flew from the Midway.
The helicopter, aided by planes from the USS Saratoga (CV-60), flew over the mountains, and despite receiving heavy gunfire, rescued the aviator. In October 1973, the ship was stationed at Yokosuka, Japan. This marked the first deployment of a complete carrier task force. The legacy was followed by Kitty Hawk and George Washington, among others.
Operation Desert Storm
In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Hence, US forces moved into Saudi Arabia, as a part of Operation Imminent Thunder, an eight-day combined landing exercise that saw 1000 US Marines, 16 warships, and more than 1100 aircraft, move in.
Operation Desert Storm was launched in January 1991, when Iraq did not meet the United Nations (UN) deadline to withdraw its forces from Kuwait. The operation involved 228 sorties from the Midway and Ranger from Persian Gulf.
Other ships like Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Saratoga, and America were also involved in the operation. About 100 Tomahawk missiles were fired from nine different ships in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean Sea. The operation ended on February 27, 1991.
The Midway sailed to Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, where it was decommissioned on April 11, 1992. It was opened to public on June 7, 2004, at Broadway Pier, San Diego. People came in unexpectedly huge numbers to visit the museum; the figure of more than 800,000 visitors in the first year was more than twice what was expected.
Today, people are allowed to tour the ship's flight deck, bridge, hangar, engine room, and other quarters. For its impressive history and active role in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, the USS Midway will always be remembered fondly.