Posted: 12/29/2003 4:41:26 AM EDT
Aircraft carrier setting sail for San Diego and its new life as a floating museum
Rick DelVecchio, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, December 29, 2003
A handful of volunteers at the Oakland waterfront scurried from fore to aft on the Midway Sunday as they readied the storied aircraft carrier for its new life as California's latest floating naval history museum.
The 1,000-foot long Midway was scheduled to leave Oakland under tow at about 9:30 a.m. today, passing between Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco before clearing the Golden Gate on its way to its final home in San Diego.
Its scheduled departure Sunday was postponed after a tugboat developed mechanical problems. The delay thrust retired Navy Cmdr. Pete Clayton, who led the ship's restoration effort, and a small crew of volunteers into the role of deckhands.
They worked fast to tie up the giant ship before aexpected Pacific storm could cause any trouble.
"I was a propulsion engineer for 30 years, not a deck mate," Clayton said as he muddied his clothes wrestling three-inch-thick lines in the ship's forecastle.
Clayton, who served as chief engineer on the carrier Ranger during the first Gulf War, stuck his head through an opening in the deck to guide the last line to its handlers on the dock 45 feet below. An older gent working on the crew paused to take a flash photo of the darkened space, where sailors served from 1945 to 1992 in three wars and numerous peacetime missions involving the projection of American power abroad.
The Midway is a product of World War II and the greatest generation, Clayton said.
"At the time it was built, it was the largest ship in the world," he said. "It's a piece of America."
The Midway is scheduled to arrive at North Island in San Diego on Jan. 3. It will remain there a week, taking on restored aircraft from the 1960s and 1970s.
On Jan. 10, it will cross San Diego Bay to its final destination at Navy Pier, at the foot of the city's revitalized downtown.
Organizers hope to open the Midway for daily admission in late spring and hold a public celebration in early June to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which crushed Japan's naval power in World War II.
San Diego promoters, led by entrepreneur Alan Uke, have been working on landing the Midway as a museum almost since the Navy decommissioned the ship in 1992.
It took a nonprofit corporation more than 10 years to complete the paperwork needed to gain custody of the ship, which was moldering in Puget Sound.
Five months ago, the ship was towed to Oakland to complete its $6.5 million renovation.
The Midway will become the 12th naval ship to serve as a floating museum in California and the second aircraft carrier.
The Hornet museum has been open in Alameda since 1998.
More than half again as heavy as the Hornet, the Midway was the namesake for the last class of carriers developed during World War II. Japan surrendered before the Midway went on active duty, but the ship served three tours during the Vietnam War and led the air bombardment of Iraq during the first Gulf War.
The Midway was based in Alameda from 1958 through the Vietnam War.
It was later home ported in Japan, and one of its main tasks was showing American force in the Far East.
"Midway stood right in the crosscurrent of almost every international crisis or situation in the latter half of the 20th century," said Scott McGaugh, spokesman for the museum group.
McGaugh has interviewed more than 300 Midway veterans for a book on the ship and has turned up some little-known asides in naval history. In 1946, for example, the ship secretly fired one of Hitler's V-2 rockets and proved that missiles could be launched at sea.
Navy veteran Wayne Boykin of Pacifica worked on the Midway as a civilian shipyard worker at Hunter's Point and Alameda. He recalled with pride how his crew was flown to the Middle East to repair a faulty catapult mechanism on the Midway and completed the job in 25 hours. If the new custodians of the Midway plan to fix the catapult, Boykin said he wants to be part of it.
"We had a great crew in Alameda," he said. "Everyone just busted their butts to get the job done."
As it should be instead of being sunk as an artificial reef somewhere. History should be preserved, not hidden away where others cant learn from it.
LOL, I hope that those hull blisters don't cause it any problems when it is towed from SF to SD.
Midway’s heavy steel plating made it sit low in the water. Sailors recall how it plowed through waves instead of riding on top of them. Even in moderate seas, waves broke over the bow. "Rock-and-roll," they called it.
Winky White, 46, now a civilian safety officer at Yokosuka, served a 2½-year tour as an aviation electrician’s mate aboard Midway in the mid-1970s. "Rock-and-roll" gave him one of his most vivid Navy memories.
"My shop was … right underneath the angle [deck]," he said. "I used to go out on the catwalk. Everything you could see was just ocean. Slowly it would recede, and then it was just sky."
At the Navy’s request, dubious Japanese workers at Yokosuka’s Ship Repair Facility installed "blister packs" — air-filled compartments mounted along the hull. They did lift the ship out of the water. But they made her roll even more.
"The thing bobbed around like a fishing bobber," White said.
Nylander said the deck crews learned to launch aircraft as the ship nosed down into the waves, so by the time the jet left the carrier the deck would be pointed toward the sky again. Once, he said, the crew miscalculated. He saw a fighter speed right into wall of water — and fly out the other side, undaunted.
"Even in moderate seas, it would roll 10 to 15 degrees," Nylander said.
Amazing...a ship designed and built in WWII launching the first air strikes of GWI.
Now THAT, folks, is PMS in action! [;)]
PMS - Planned Maintenance System. What did you think I meant? [:D]
She hit 24 degrees one time.
Originally Posted By MiG-21:
She hit 24 degrees one time.
Big woop! My cruiser passed 45 degrees on more than one occaision! Scared the stuffing out of us!
Still, 24 degrees on a CV must have been eith one HARD turn or some SERIOUS sea state! If it was the latter, I TRULY feel sorry for her escorts!