As part of my Lemonade week, I decided to go visit the Midway Museum in San Diego with Tyler. I had been once before on a work event, but it didn’t give me a lot of time to look around, take photos, etc.
The USS Midway was the lead ship of her class and operated for 47 years. She was in the Vietnam War and served as the Persian Gulf flagship in Operation Desert Storm. She has a rich history and I highly recommend going to see the museum if you are ever in San Diego.
The USS Midway Museum is an aircraft carrier located at Navy Pier in San Diego. You can tour different areas of the ship and they also have a vast array of fixed wing airplanes, jets, and helicopters on display. Given the number of airplanes that Tyler and I have dove, I thought it would be fun to see them in person and not under the ocean.
Even though the Midway is a different design /class than the USS Oriskany that I was planning to dive, it was still interesting exercise to go see some of the rooms that I was planning to visit on the Mighty O.
In case you couldn’t figure it out, aircraft carriers are basically floating cities. They have everything you can possibly imagine from barber shops, dentist offices, operating rooms, post offices, etc.
They are also the ultimate show of force. Imagine one of these showing up in your backyard full of jets and missiles and bombs just ready to reign down terror. They allow countries to basically have a moveable air force base that can be dynamically repositioned and project power into forward zones. They also usually travel with a group of other ships designed to protect them (destroyers, subs, etc).
If you want to get a glimpse into how aircraft carriers re-shaped warfare, read The Battle of Midway (Pivotal Moments in American History) by Craig Symonds (or any of the other excellent books on the battles of the Pacific in WW II) and Who Can Hold the Sea: The U.S. Navy in the Cold War 1945-1960 by the late James D. Hornfischer. Both are excellent and provide a good arc of the evolution of the aircraft carrier.
Airplane / Jet / Helicopter Photos
This is probably the biggest attraction at the Midway and a primary reason for our visit. It is very cool to see the actual airplanes on land that we have been diving underwater. I will reference the above water photo to a story and pictures from a wreck where possible.
SBD “Slow But Deadly” Dauntless
The impact of the SBD Dauntless on the war in the Pacific in WWII is well documented. Below are a few pictures and a closeup of the infamous air-brakes on the trailing edge of the wings. It is a very easy way to identify this airplane.
Tyler located and identified a SBD Dauntless that I also had the opportunity to dive. Unfortunately, it is a debris field. I also saw them in the Kwajalein and those were dumped as unrepairable. We have located a number of SBD Dauntless airplanes in the “Pt Loma Junkyard” Posts.
This is probably my favorite airplane of all time (along with many other people).
We have done a number of stories about Corsairs, including the Airplane Junkyard posts linked above. In addition, we dove a site where a P-38 and a Corsair got into a dogfight and then we also correctly identified a Corsair wreck using photogrammetry and pictures. And, of course, there is also the Corsair south of Pt Loma. I will be publishing a photogrammetry model of that sight very soon.
We have dove a number of TBM Avengers in Southern California. The most famous one is probably the TBM that is about 250 feet deep off Point Loma. It used to be an almost intact wreck but has been damaged throughout the years and by the time I got to dive it, the whole fuselage behind the cockpit was collapsed. The TBM is a much bigger plane than you realize when you get next to one.
We also recently found AND identified a new TBF Avenger off Point Loma.
Douglas A-1 Skyraider
Tyler spent a long time looking for the Skyraider in San Diego. Somebody else had found it but had not published the location. Tyler used some detective work and lot of test dives and finally found it!
The Phantom is an almost mythical jet. It was used by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. There were 5,195 of them built and we have one that crashed off of Torrey Pines, California. One of the distinctive features of this jet is the cowling at the tail end of the jet where the exhaust exits. If you look through the story linked below, you can see some pictures of the twin jet turbines and that cowling.
Sea King SH-3 / Helo 66
The Sea King that we found and initially believed to be Helo 66 is probably our most popular blog post of all time — “The Tale of the Tail Code.” We ended up finally identifying the correct wreck and documenting it. We also took a trip to the wreck site with the surviving pilot and the spouse and relatives of the co-pilot who died in the crash.
Of course, they have a number of other airplane types that we haven’t dove YET!
I wanted to get a feel for what it would be like to maneuver and dive inside the Oriskany. As you would expect, there is a lot of overhead obstructions (pipes, ducts, etc.), a lot of things to get gear caught on (valves, door handles, hinges, etc.), most spaces are pretty cramped, and the doorways and stairwells are narrow, The ceilings are a little over 6 feet tall (Tyler had to duck almost the entire time we were below deck). This all adds up to complex penetrations on the Oriskany.
Most of these spaces are places I plan to visit on the Oriskany.