The USS Midway may have opened as a museum in a San Diego harbor in 2004, but its story begins in a much earlier period—back to 1945 when it made history as the first in a three-ship class of large carriers with an armored flight deck that could hold 120 planes.
The ship played important roles during the Cold War, as it was the first American carrier to operate in the midwinter sub-Arctic as well as the first to launch a captured German V-2 rocket. The Midway was the longest-operating aircraft carrier of the 20th century, serving the Atlantic Fleet for 10 years and deploying to European waters seven times throughout its career. It was also the takeoff point for more than 3,000 naval air force combat missions during Operation Desert Storm.
As the sturdy ship withstood nearly a century of war and rescue missions, it’s emerging strong again as the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic wash over the world. It was built to prevail. And the museum’s marketing director Dave Koontz says that while the attraction reopened July 1, areas that don’t accommodate social distancing are off limits.
“The USS Midway Museum is only offering its flight deck and hangar deck to visitors,” he says. “For guests’ safety, the museum did not open confined spaces, including the Battle of Midway Theater, flight simulators and virtual reality experiences, aircraft cockpits, and any below-deck tour spaces.”
Staff members also instituted health and safety protocols for visitors, including installations of more than 170 hand-sanitation stations, non-invasive temperature checks before boarding the ship, face cover requirements, and 6-foot physical distancing guidelines.
“Guests will see the museum’s cleaning crew constantly wiping down all high-touch surface areas and restrooms. A touchless transaction process was activated, and plexiglass contact barriers were placed at point-of-sale locations,” Koontz says. “A number of the museum’s military aircraft were relocated on the flight and hangar decks.”
As it proves difficult to keep some guest experiences dark while waiting for conditions surrounding the virus to improve, Koontz expresses his excitement for the newest addition.
“The USS Midway Museum is now exhibiting a full-scale model of a TBD Devastator torpedo bomber aircraft that was used in the making of the 2019 ‘Midway’ motion picture,” he says. “The Devastator is now on display on the hangar deck.”
Photo by USS Midway