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USS Midway (CV-41)

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Title: USS Midway (CV-41)  
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Subject: Midway-class aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42), USS Ranger (CV-61), Gonzo Station, VF-21
Collection: 1945 Ships, Aerospace Museums in California, Cold War Aircraft Carriers of the United States, Gulf War Ships of the United States, Landmarks in San Diego, California, Midway-Class Aircraft Carriers, Military and War Museums in California, Museum Ships in California, Museum Ships in San Diego, California, Museums Established in 2004, Naval Museums in the United States, Ships Built in Newport News, Virginia, Vietnam War Aircraft Carriers of the United States, World War II Aircraft Carriers of the United States
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USS Midway (CV-41)

USS Midway (CV-41)
USS Midway (CVA-41) sailing through the Western Pacific in November 1974.
United States
Name: USS Midway
Namesake: Battle of Midway
Ordered: 1 August 1942
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Laid down: 27 October 1943
Launched: 20 March 1945
Commissioned: 10 September 1945
Decommissioned: 11 April 1992
In service: 1945
Out of service: 1992
Struck: 17 March 1997
Nickname(s): Midway Magic
Fate: Museum Ship
Status: Museum ship at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, California
Notes: Only Carrier Museum that is not of the Essex-class
General characteristics
Class & type: Midway-class aircraft carrier
  • 45,000 tons at commissioning
  • 64,000 tons at decommissioning
Length: 972 ft (296 m)
  • 121 ft (36.9 m)
  • 136 ft (41.5 m); 238 ft (72.5 m) at flight deck after modernization
Draft: 34.5 ft (10.5 m)
Propulsion: 12 boilers, four Westinghouse geared turbines[1]
Speed: 33 knots (60 km/h)
Complement: 4,104 officers and men
Aircraft carried: 137 theoretical, 100 (1940s-50s), 65 (Vietnam-retirement)

USS Midway (CVB/CVA/CV-41) was an aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, the lead ship of its 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. A revolutionary hull design, based on the planned Montana-class battleship, gave it better maneuverability than previous carriers. It operated for an unprecedented 47 years, during which time it saw action in the Vietnam War and served as the Persian Gulf flagship in 1991's Operation Desert Storm. Decommissioned in 1992, it is now a museum ship at the USS Midway Museum, in San Diego, California, and the only remaining U.S. aircraft carrier of the World War II era that is not an Essex-class aircraft carrier.


  • Early operations and deployment with the 6th Fleet 1
    • Air-to-air kills in Vietnam 1.1
  • A return to Vietnam 2
  • Operation Frequent Wind 3
  • After Vietnam 4
  • Missions in the 1980s 5
  • Operation Desert Storm and the 1990s 6
  • A final cruise and then on to life as a museum 7
  • Awards and decorations 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early operations and deployment with the 6th Fleet

Midway in drydock at Newport News, just prior to launch in March 1945
Midway after commissioning in September 1945

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.

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 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.[2]

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 1963 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[3] from the Tachen Islands of 15,000 Chinese nationalist troops and 20,000 Chinese civilians, along with their pigs, cows and chickens. On 28 June 1955, it sailed for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where it 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, its aircraft tested the air defense systems of Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Taiwan. It 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 m²), 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 (CV-42). 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 USS Midway's Attack Carrier Wing 2, VF-21 downed the first two MiGs credited to U.S. forces in Southeast Asia.[4] On 20 June 1965 pilots from VA-25, flying A-1H Skyraiders (Korean-War-era, propeller-driven aircraft), scored a kill on the fifth MiG of the war, using their 20mm cannon.[4] On 12 January 1973 a combat aircraft from USS Midway made the last air-to-air kill of the Vietnam War.[4]

A return to Vietnam

Midway returned to Vietnam and on 18 May 1971, after relieving Hancock on Yankee Station, began single carrier operations. It departed Yankee Station on 5 June, completed its final line period on 31 October 1971, and returned to its homeport on 6 November 1971.

USS 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 USS 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.

For its service in Vietnam from 30 April 1972, to 9 February 1973, the USS MIDWAY (CVA-41) / ATTACK CARRIER AIR WING FIVE (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." [5]

Operation Frequent Wind

A South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) UH-1H is pushed overboard to make room for Major Buang to land his Cessna O-1.

Midway, Coral Sea, Hancock, Enterprise and Okinawa responded 19 April 1975 to the waters off South Vietnam when North Vietnam overran two-thirds of South Vietnam. Ten days later, Operation Frequent Wind was carried out by U.S. 7th Fleet forces. During this operation, Midway had offloaded fifty percent of its regular combat air wing at NS Subic Bay, Philippines. It steamed to Thailand, whereupon eight CH-53 from 21st Special Operations Squadron and two HH-53 helicopters from 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron[6] were loaded for the purpose of ferrying people from Saigon out to the fleet cruising in the South China Sea. Hundreds of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese were evacuated to waiting ships after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese.

Major Buang's O-1 touching down.

On 29 April 1975, South Vietnamese Air Force Major Buang-Ly 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 Major Buang headed out to sea and spotted Midway. Midway's crew attempted to contact the aircraft on emergency frequencies but the pilot continued to circle overhead with his landing lights turned on. 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 egress 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 relocated should be pushed over the side. To get the job done he called for volunteers, and soon every available seaman was on deck, regardless of rank or duty, to provide the manpower to get the job done. An estimated US$10 million worth of UH-1 Huey helicopters were pushed overboard into the South China Sea. With a 500-foot ceiling, five miles visibility, light rain, and 15 knots of surface wind, Chambers ordered the ship to make 25 knots 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 additional UH-1s landed and cluttered up the deck. Without hesitation, Chambers ordered them scuttled as well. Captain Chambers recalled in an article in the Fall 1993 issue of the national Museum of Aviation History's "Foundation" magazine that

Major Buang's O-1 after landing aboard Midway during Operation Frequent Wind. Also, two of the deck crews are seen clapping their hands in joy.
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.

Major Buang was escorted to the bridge where Captain 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.[7] The O-1 that Major Buang landed is now on display at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.[8]

Upon completion of ferrying people to other ships, it returned to Thailand and disembarked the Air Force helicopters. The CH-53s then airlifted over 50 South Vietnamese Air Force aircraft to the ship. With almost 100 helicopters and aircraft of the former South Vietnamese Air Force aboard, it steamed to Guam where the aircraft and helicopters were offloaded in twenty-four hours. On its way back to the Philippines to pick up its air wing it was rerouted to act as a floating airfield in support of special operation forces rescuing a pirated cargo ship (see Mayagüez incident). It picked up its regular air wing again a month later when it returned NAS Cubi Point, Philippines.

After Vietnam

An Il-38 "May" of the Soviet Navy makes a pass over Midway during the ship's 1979 Indian Ocean cruise

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 escort ships continued a significant American naval presence in the oil-producing region of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. On 18 November, it 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 (CV-63), and both carriers, along with their escort ships, were joined by the Nimitz and its escorts on 22 January 1980. Midway was relieved by Coral Sea on 5 February.

Missions in the 1980s

Midway berthed at Yokosuka in 1983

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, Midway collided with the Panamanian merchant ship Cactus. The 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.[4] On 17 August, Midway relieved Constellation to begin another Indian Ocean deployment and to complement the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) task group still on contingency duty in the Arabian Sea. Midway spent a total of 118 days in the Indian Ocean during 1980.

Midway at the center of a UK-US Battle Group in the Indian Ocean in 1984

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. Phantoms were being replaced by the new F/A-18 Hornets.

Midway conducting an underway replenishment with Iowa in the Persian Gulf in 1987

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 the Midway mistakenly dropped a 500 pounds (227 kilograms) general-purpose bomb on the deck of Reeves (CG-24) during training exercises in the Indian Ocean, creating a five-foot 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.[9]

Disaster struck the Midway on 20 June 1990. While conducting routine flight operations approximately 125 nautical miles 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;[10] one of the injured later died of his injuries.[11] 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 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, it 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, the 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 AB, on the island of Luzon, after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The 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, it once again returned to Yokosuka.

A final cruise and then on to life as a museum

Midway departing Yokosuka for the last time in August 1991
10 January 2004, Midway prepares to moor at its final resting place at Navy pier in San Diego.
Aerial view of the USS Midway Museum in 2011.

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. Midway then sailed to San Diego where it 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. It was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 17 March 1997. During decommissioning, the ship, 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.

On 30 September 2003, Midway began its journey from the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, Washington, to San Diego, California, in preparation for use as a museum and memorial. It was docked in early October at the Charles P. Howard Terminal in Oakland, California, while work proceeded on the Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego. On 10 January 2004, the ship was moored at its final location, where it was opened to the public on 7 June 2004 as a museum. In the first year of operation, the museum saw 879,281 visitors, double the expected attendance.

On 11 November 2012, a college basketball game between the Syracuse Orange and the San Diego State Aztecs was played on the flight deck. The Orange won, 62-49.[12]

On 15 July, 2015, museum personnel were evacuated from the Midway due to smoke caused by an apparent fire. The San Diego fire department responded quickly, but no fire was found, and the museum was able to open for the day on schedule.[13]

Awards and decorations

Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Silver star
Silver star
Bronze star
Presidential Unit Citation Joint Meritorious Unit Award Navy Unit Commendation
with three stars
Meritorious Unit Commendation
with two stars
Navy E Ribbon with
wreathed Battle "E" device
Navy Expeditionary Medal
with three stars
China Service Medal American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal Navy Occupation Service Medal National Defense Service Medal
with two stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
with six stars
Vietnam Service Medal
with four stars
Southwest Asia Service Medal
with two stars
Humanitarian Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
with sixteen stars
Republic of Vietnam Meritorious
Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross)
Republic of Vietnam Campaign
Kuwait Liberation Medal
(Saudi Arabia)
Kuwait Liberation Medal

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Duncan's F9F. Retrieved on 2010-11-25.
  3. ^ Historical Center Seeks Quemoy-Matsu Crisis Veterans
  4. ^ a b c d "The History of Midway's Magic". Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  5. ^ A copy of the PUC and a letter from the Department of the Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations dated 1 June 2011 confirmed the above citations.
  6. ^ Tilford, Earl (1980). Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia 1961-1975. Office of Air Force History. p. 143.  
  7. ^ Shiel, Walt (1995). Cessna Warbirds, pp 119-120. Jones Publishing. ISBN 1-879825-25-2.
  8. ^ "Aircraft on display" Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  9. ^ ReevesUSS NavSea DC Museum – Retrieved 16 June 2009
  10. ^ David Butts (1990-06-22). "Navy Recovers Bodies of Two Sailors Killed in Carrier Fire in Pacific". The Daily Gazette. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  11. ^ "Midway Sailor Dies; death toll now 3". The Pittsburgh Press. 1990-06-30. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  12. ^ [2]. Retrieved on 2012-11-12.
  13. ^ Botelho, Greg; Watts, Amanda (15 July 2015). "Firefighters converge on USS Midway, an aircraft carrier-turned-museum". (USA). Retrieved 21 August 2015. 

Further reading

  • McGaugh, Scott Midway Magic: An Oral History of America's Legendary Aircraft Carrier, CDS Books, New York, 2004, ISBN 1-59315-027-X.

External links

  • USS Midway Museum
  • USS
  • (CV-41)MidwayUSS at Historic Naval Ships Association
  • (CV-41) USS
  • A Podcast from Speaking of History about a tour of the USS Midway in July 2006
  • Footage video clip of Major Buang landing on USS Midway

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