Aircraft Carrier

CV 41   -   USS Midway

 

USS Midway  (1982)

US Navy photo

Type, Class:

 

Aircraft Carrier; Midway – class;

Builder:

 

Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia, USA

STATUS:

 

Laid down: October 27, 1943

Launched: March 20, 1945

Commissioned: September 10, 1945

Decommissioned: April 11, 1992

Fate: USS Midway is serving as a museum in San Diego, California

Homeport:

 

-

Namesake:

 

named after the battle of Midway, Midway Island; June 4 – June 7, 1942

Crest Motto:

 

-

Displacement:

 

approx. 45000 tons (as built)

Length:

 

295 meters

Beam:

 

34,45 meters

Draft:

 

10,67 meters

Propulsion:

 

4 geared steam turbines; 12 boilers; 4 shafts; 4 screws;

212000 shaft horsepower (shp);

Speed:

 

30+ knots (55+ km/h)

Crew:

 

ca. 4100

Armament:

 

1945: 18 5-inch (12,7 cm) 54 caliber guns, 84 40mm guns and 68 20mm guns

1950: 14 5-inch (12,7 cm) 54 caliber guns and 40 3-inch (7,6 cm) 50 caliber guns

1957: 10 5-inch (12,7 cm) 54 caliber guns and 22 3-inch (7,6 cm) 50 caliber guns

1961: 10 5-inch (12,7 cm) 54 caliber guns

1963: 4 5-inch (12,7 cm) 54 caliber guns

1970: 3 5-inch (12,7 cm) 54 caliber guns

1985: 2 Mk-25 launchers for Sea Sparrow, 2 Phalanx CIWS Mk-15

Aviation:

 

full flight deck with island

LINK:

 

 

also see: INFO > Midway – class Aircraft Carrier

 

images

USS Midway – 1945

USS Midway – 1952

The Midway Islands

USS Midway – 1971

Photo credits: US Naval Historical Center, Defense Visual Information Center

 

Namesake & History:

The Battle of Midway:

 

The Battle of Midway took place on June 5, 1942 (June 4 – June 7 in U.S. time zones). Only one month after the inconclusive Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy defeated a Japanese attack against Midway Atoll, marking a turning point in the Pacific War (1937–1945).

The Japanese attack on Midway, which also included a feint to Alaska by a smaller fleet, was a ploy by the Japanese to lure the American carrier fleet into a trap. The Japanese hoped to avenge the bombing of the Japanese home islands two months earlier during the Doolittle Raid (an air raid on Tokyo), plug the hole in their Eastern defensive perimeter formed by U.S. control of Midway, finish off the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and perhaps even take Hawaii. Had the Japanese achieved their objective at Midway, the northeastern Pacific Rim would have been essentially defenseless against the Japanese Navy, since the remaining U.S. naval ships were fully deployed halfway around the world in the North Atlantic. However, the Midway attack, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, was not part of a campaign for the conquest of the United States mainland, but for the elimination of the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, in order to gain for Japan a free hand in establishing regional hegemony, its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

 

Before the Battle:

Midway itself was not especially important in the larger scheme of Japan's intentions: they were keen on concentrating on invading New Caledonia, the Samoa Islands, and Fiji, in order to isolate Australia, so as to help expand and consolidate their newly-acquired SE Pacific territory. However, the Midway Islands were the closest remaining U.S. base to Japan, and would therefore be strongly defended by the U.S.

7 December 1941

On 7 December, 1941 two destroyers "Sazanami" and "Ushio" commanded by Commodore Koname Konishi started a 23 minute artillery bombardment. The Sixth Marine coastal defense battalion returned fire with 76 mm and 127 mm artillery and scored hits on both enemy ships.

 

The Plan:

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's battle plan was typically complicated and intricate. Like most Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) strategic doctrine, it was designed, in part, to lure major parts of the U.S. Fleet into a fatally compromising situation. Yamamoto's main force of battleships and cruisers trailed his carriers, and was intended to take out whatever part of the U.S. Fleet might come to Midway's support. The execution was rushed in response to the "Doolittle Raid" on Tokyo by U.S. Army B-25's flying from a U.S. carrier in April, a severe psychological shock, demonstrating the Japanese military could not prevent attacks against the Japanese home islands. Yamamoto's plan was predicated on the idea that Enterprise and Hornet, forming Task Force 16, were the only carriers available to the US Pacific forces at the time, since Lexington had been sunk and Yorktown had been severely mauled at the Battle of the Coral Sea just a month earlier; and Saratoga was unavailable, undergoing repairs on the West Coast after taking torpedo damage.

 

U.S. Intelligence:

U.S. naval intelligence (in cooperation with the British and Dutch) had been reading parts of the primary Imperial Japanese Navy communications system (JN-25, an enciphered code) for some time, and since the most recent version changed just before the Pearl Harbor attack, had made considerable progress on the new version. The abundance of radio intelligence harvested from the Japanese Navy’s "wild-goose chase" of the Doolittle Raid task force, further compromised JN-25. By May, the Americans knew that the Japanese were preparing to launch a massive offensive in early June, and could hope to ambush them. One code element was unclear, however. Location AF was clearly to be the major point of attack, but it was unclear where AF was. Some at Hypo were convinced it was Midway; others, mainly at OP-20-G in Washington, believed AF to be in the Aleutian Islands. However, there was no cryptographic way of settling the issue. An ingenious suggestion by a young officer, Jasper Holmes, at Station Hypo, helped discover the Japanese plan. He asked the Midway base commander Midway radio Pearl Harbor, in a compromised cypher, reporting drinking water was running low, due to a breakdown of the water plant. An intercept not long after noted AF had fresh-water problems, and the attack force should plan accordingly. AF was therefore identified.

Information from JN-25 decrypts came in slowly, and not until the very last minute CINCPAC Admiral Chester Nimitz had enough information to put together an ambush for the Midway attack force. He had Vice Admiral William Halsey's two-carrier task force—but Halsey himself was stricken with skin disease, and had to be replaced with Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (Halsey's escort commander).

Nimitz called back Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's task force from the South West Pacific Area. Yorktown (CV-5) had been severely damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea, but Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard worked around the clock to patch up the carrier. In 72 hours Yorktown was transformed from a barely-operational wreck, headed for a long stay at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, into a working (if still compromised) aircraft carrier. Her flight deck was patched, whole sections of internal beams were cut out and replaced, and a new air group was put on her, from the naval station's own planes. Admiral Nimitz showed total disregard for established procedure in getting his third and last available carrier ready for battle—repairs continued even as Yorktown sortied. Just three days after pulling into drydock at Pearl Harbor, the ship was again under steam, as its band played "California, Here I Come".

Meanwhile, as a result of their participation in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku was laid up, at Truk in the Caroline Islands, waiting for an air group to be brought to her to replace her destroyed planes, while the lightly damaged Shokaku was awaiting repairs. Yamamoto's haste placed scouting submarines out of position and left insufficient time to refit Shokaku, while his dispositions, in keeping with typical naval doctrine at the time, put his carriers in the van, his battleships well back for the "decisive battle" (per Mahan). This crippled Nagumo's scouting (most scout planes were with the battleship escort force); when Nimitz did not react exactly as Yamamoto had planned, Nagumo would not know until it was too late. (Yamamoto, at sea in Yamato, would be unable to warn him in any case, for fear of breaking radio silence.) Nimitz, by contrast, knew exactly where Nagumo was, thanks to the (often-neglected) PBYs, and kept Fletcher (his "senior officer present afloat") in the picture from shore headquarters (where Yamamoto should have stayed).

 

The Battle:

Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo launched his initial air attacks at dawn on June 4; Japanese carrier aircraft bombed and heavily damaged the U.S. base on Midway. American long-range bombers based on Midway, including B-17s, made several attacks on the Japanese, with little effect, and Midway-based fighter pilots, many flying outmatched obsolete Brewster F2As (British name, Buffalo), made a heroic defense of Midway. These efforts by Midway-based aircraft led the Japanese strike leader to signal Nagumo another mission would be necessary to neutralize the defenses, before the landing task force (proceeding independently from the southwest) could land troops.

Land-based planes from Midway had also attacked the Japanese task force, including six TBF Avengers in their first combat operation (five were shot down), B-26 Marauders (armed with torpedoes), and high-flying B-17 Flying Fortresses. The Japanese shrugged off these attacks with almost no losses or battle damage.

Coupled with these attacks, the message from his air group commander persuaded Nagumo to order his on-deck reserve planes (armed with torpedos, in case American ships were sighted) be taken below and re-armed with general purpose contact bombs for use on land targets. Now, Yamamoto's flawed dispositions and Nagumo's inadequate scouting resources came to roost. Partway through rearming, a scout plane from the cruiser Tone, which had been delayed 30 minutes due to catapult problems, signalled the discovery of a sizable American naval force to the east.

Nagumo now had half his reserve force armed with contact bombs (which would be useless in an attack on armored ships), and the initial strike winging back for its return. The admiral made the fateful decision to wait for his first strike force to land, then properly remount his forces for an overwhelming strike on the newly-sighted enemy ships, even though Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, leading Carrier Division 2 (Hiryu and Soryu) and considered the heir to Admiral Yamamoto, signalled to Nagumo that he recommended striking immediately with the forces at hand.

With fuel hoses snaking across their hangar decks as refuelling operations were hastily completed, the Japanese carriers were at their most vulnerable. Adding to their peril, the change from torpedoes to bombs and back again resulted in volatile munitions being simply stacked on the deck and not returned and stowed safely in the magazines.

With Fletcher in overall command from Yorktown, but led by Spruance in Enterprise, who had better knowledge of the present operational situation, U.S. carrier forces had the advantage of knowing, through decryption of Japanese Navy communications, the enemy plans and intentions. Spruance had launched a pre-emptive attack from his carriers Enterprise and Hornet against the Japanese carriers. Anti-aircraft fire and fighters shot down 35 out of 41 TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, including every plane of Hornet's Torpedo Squadron 8 (see also George Gay). These slow and vulnerable torpedo-bombers had gotten separated from the other American carrier planes, including their protective fighter screen, and were thus attacking unescorted, and barely above sea level.

The only hope the Americans had was their dive bombers, of which squadrons from the three US carriers were in the air. Some pilots had lost their bombs, however, after testing new electric arming switches over the ocean, and pilots had not been given accurate directions to the Japanese fleet. Following a Japanese destroyer which had been attacking an American submarine (the Submarine Force's only significant contribution to the battle), Commander Wade McClusky managed to put his SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from Enterprise overhead just as refuelling was completed and aircraft for the second strike were about to take off.

The eight earlier attacks had brought the defending Zeros fighters down low, almost to sea level. A cascade of lucky breaks gave the US dive bombers a clear run at their targets, devoid of air cover and covered with aviation fuel and stacked ordnance. In an incredible six minutes, the SBDs made their attack runs and left three Japanese carriers—Akagi, Kaga and Soryu— ablaze from stem to stern, scoring multiple dive-bomb hits. All three carriers would be abandoned and sunk. The core cadre of elite Japanese pilots, painstakingly trained in the prewar years, and responsible for much of the Japanese success of the first six months of the war in the Pacific, were killed or incapacitated, while still aboad their ships.

During the events of the morning, Hiryu had become separated from the three other now-sinking carriers. Undamaged, this carrier was able to launch a small strike on Yorktown, which was severely damaged. Yorktown survived both this and a second attack, only to be sunk during salvage efforts by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine on June 7. The same torpedo salvo sank the destroyer Hammann, which had been assigned to remain with Yorktown. With Yorktown damaged and abandoned, full command of the battle passed from Fletcher to Spruance. Aircraft from Enterprise in turn attacked Hiryu and set her ablaze, and damaged the destroyer Isokaze.

As darkness fell, both sides took stock, and made tentative action plans. Yamamoto initially decided to continue the effort, and sent a cruiser raiding force to bombard the island that night. Having lost four carriers, which were both the heart of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the air cover for his surface forces, however; he changed his mind and recalled the force.

Spruance, in tactical command, decided to maintain his position off Midway, close enough to intercept any Japanese moves toward the island, but maintaining enough distance so as to not run into a night action with the more powerful Japanese surface forces still in the area, which his carriers were impotent against at night.

While beating its retreat in close column at night, the Japanese cruiser Mogami failed to adjust its course correctly for a column turn, and rammed the port quarter of the cruiser Mikuma. The following morning, Spruance's scout planes discovered the two crippled cruisers, and Spruance launched a strike. Mikuma was sent to the bottom, while Mogami managed to successfully fend off the bombers, and live to fight another day.

 

USS Midway (CVB 41 / CVA 41 / CV 41):

 

The third Midway (CVB-41) was laid down 27 October 1943 by Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Va.; launched 20 March 1945; sponsored by, Mrs. Bradford William Ripley, Jr.; and commissioned 10 September 1945, Capt. Joseph F. Bolger in command.

After shakedown in the Caribbean, Midway joined in the Atlantic Fleet training schedule, with Norfolk her homeport. From 20 February 1946 she was flagship for CarDiv 1. In March, she tested equipment and techniques for cold weather operations in the North Atlantic. East coast and Caribbean training was highlighted by Operation Sandy, in which in September 1947, she test fired a captured German V-2 rocket from her flight deck, first such launching from a moving platform.

On 29 October 1947, Midway sailed for the first of her annual deployments with the 6th Fleet, mighty peacekeeping force in the Mediterranean. A powerful extension of sea/air power, Midway trained between deployments and received alterations necessary to accommodate heavier aircraft as they were developed.

From 26 to 29 May 1952, the feasibility of the angled deck concept was demontrated in tests conducted on a simulated angled deck aboard Midway by Naval Air Test Center pilots and Atlantic Fleet pilots in both jet and prop aircraft. Midway also participated in North Sea maneuvers with NATO forces, and on 1 October was redesignated CVA-41.

Midway cleared Norfolk 27 December 1954 for a world cruise, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope for Taiwan, where she joined the 7th Fleet on 6 February 1955 for operations in the western Pacific. This was the first operation of ships of her class in the western Pacific. Midway remained with the 7th Fleet until 28 June 1955 when she sailed for overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Here, she was out of commission until 30 September 1957, while she was modernized and such new innovations as an enclosed bow and an angled flight deck were installed.

Homeported at Alameda, Midway began annual deployments with the 7th Fleet in 1958. On 8 December 1958, the first firing of a Sparrow III air-to-air missile by a squadron deployed outside the U.S. was conducted by VF-64, based aboard Midway. The carrier was also on duty in the South China Sea during the Laotian crisis of spring l961. During her 1962 deployment, her aircraft tested the air defense systems of Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

The carrier continued its role as a research and development platform. On 13 June 1963, Lt. Cmdr. Randall K. Billins and Lt. Cmdr. Robert S. Chew Jr., of Naval Air Test Center Patuxent River, Md., piloting an F-4A Phantom II and an F-8D Crusader respectively, made the first fully automatic carrier landings with production equipment on board Midway off the California coast. The landings, made "hands off" with both flight controls and throttles ooperated automatically by signals from the ship, highlighted almost 10 years of research and development and followed by almost six years the first such carrier landings made with test equipment.

When Midway again sailed for the Far East 6 March 1965, her aircraft were prepared for combat operations, and from mid-April flew strikes against military and logistics installations in North and South Vietnam. On 17 June 1965, while escorting a strike on the barracks at Gen Phu, North Vietnam, Cmdr. Louis C. Page and Lt. Jack E.D. Batson, flying F-4B Phantoms of VF-21, deployed aboard Midway, intercepted four MiG-17s and each shot down one, scoring the first U.S. victories over MiGs in Vietnam.

Returning to Alameda 23 November 1965, she entered San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard 11 February 1966 for extensive modernization, for which she was placed in Reserve, in commission special, 15 February 1966. She was recommissioned 31 January 1970 following the four-year conversion-modernization at the shipyard.

Midway returned to Vietnam and on 18 May 1971, after relieving USS Hancock (CVA 19) on Yankee Station, began single carrier operations which continued until the end of the month. She departed Yankee Station on 5 June, and completed her final line period on 31 October. She returned to her homeport on 6 November.

Midway, with embarked Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW 5), again departed Alameda for operations off Vietnam on 10 April 1972. On 11 May, aircraft from Midway along with those from USS Coral Sea (CV 43), USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), and USS Constellation (CV 64) continued laying minefield in ports of signicance to the North Vietnamese — Thanh Hoa, Dong Hoi, 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 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 USS Saratoga (CV 60), conducted a search and rescue mission for a downed aviator in North Vietnam. The pilot of an A-7 aircraft from Saratoga had been downed by a surface-to-air missile about 20 miles inland, northwest of Vinh, on 6 August. The HC-7 helo flew over mountainous terran to rescue the pilot. The rescue helicopter used its search light to assist in locating the downed aviator and, despite receiving heavy ground fire, was successful in retrieving him and returning to an LPD off the coast. This was the deepest penetration of a rescue helicopter into North Vietnam since 1968. HC-7 Det 110 continued its rescue missions and by the end of 1972 had successfully accomplished 48 rescues, 35 of which were under 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 as the result of an accord arrived at on 31 August 1972 between the U.S. and Japan. In addition to the morale factor of dependents housed along with the crew in a foreign port, the move had strategic significance because it facilitated continuous positioning of three carriers in the Far East at a time when the economic situation demanded the reduction of carriers in the fleet.

Midway, USS Coral Sea (CVA 43), USS Hancock (CVA 19), USS Enterprise (CVAN 65) and USS Okinawa (LPH 3) 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. Seventh Fleet forces. Hundreds of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese were evacuated to waiting ships after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. One South Vietnamese pilot landed a small aircraft aboard Midway, bringing himself and his family to safety.

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. Midway's response was in support of a U.S. demonstration of military concern vis-à-vis North Korea.

Midway relieved USS Constellation (CV 64) as the Indian Ocean contingency carrier on 16 April 1979. Midway and her escort ships continued a significant American naval presence in the oil-producing region of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. On 18 November, she 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 USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), and both carriers, along with their escort ships, were joined by USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and her escorts on 22 January 1980. Midway was relieved by USS Coral Sea (CV 43) on 5 February.

Following a period in Yokosuka, Midway was again on duty, this time relieving USS 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. On 17 August, Midway relieved USS Constellation to begin another Indian Oean deployment and to complement the USS 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.

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.

Midway continued serving in the western Pacific thoughout the 1980s. 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. Cosgrove and radar intercept officer Lt. Greg Blankenship of VF-151. Phantoms were being replaced by the new F/A-18 Hornets.

On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded its neighbor 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, relieving USS Independence (CV 62). On 15 November, she 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.

President George H.W. Bush addressed the nation on 16 January 1991 at 9 p.m. EST and announced that the libration of Kuwait from Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, had begun. The Navy launched 228 sorties from Midway and USS Ranger (CV 61) in the Persian Gulf, from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) enroute to the Gulf, and from USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66) 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. At 9 p.m. EST on 27 February, President Bush declared Kuwait had been liberated and Operation Desert Storm would end at midnight. Midway departed the Persian Gulf 11 March 1991 and returned to Yokosuka.

In August 1991, Midway departed Yokosuka and returned to Pearl Harbor. Here, she turned over with USS Independence (CV 62) which was replacing Midway as the forward-deployed carrier in Yokosuka. Midway then sailed to San Diego where she was decommissioned at North Island Naval Air Station on 11 April 1992. She was stricken from the Navy List on 17 March 1997.

On 30 September 2003, Midway began her journey from the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, Wash., to San Diego where she will be a museum and memorial. She was docked at the Charles P. Howard Terminal in Oakland, Calif., during the first week in October while the construction of her pier in San Diego was completed. The carrier was towed from Oakland to San Diego, and arrived on 5 January 2004. She docked at the Naval Air Station North Island to load historic aircraft for display. She will be part of a major museum devoted to carriers and naval aviation.

 

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