USS Midway Celebrates 20th Anniversary

On June 7, 2004, the USS Midway Museum opened to the public as a floating naval aircraft carrier museum. Over the past 20 years, Midway has not only become the most popular, but the most visited naval ship museum in the world, with more than 20 million visitors. Proudly known as America’s Living Symbol of Freedom, Midway has become a treasured icon for the city of San Diego. 

An Experience to Remember

Located on San Diego Bay, Midway is dedicated to providing engaging, inspiring and educational experiences. A visit to Midway not only lets guests enjoy more than 80 years of naval aviation history, but discover what it’s like to be a naval aviator.

Guests to the museum experience firsthand the legacy of this amazing aircraft carrier museum through Midway’s extensive collection of restored military aircraft. The museum’s flight simulators and virtual reality experience put visitors in the pilot seat. Visitors are also captivated by the ship’s award-winning audio tour and the world-famous Midway volunteers who bring the flight deck to life with gripping stories of launching and landing naval aircraft, as well as tales of high-seas adventure.

The Battle of Midway Theater transports guests back to 1942 through the eyes and voices of American heroes to relive how the U.S. Navy turned the tide to victory in the Pacific during World War II.

Programs & Education

Midway’s education and youth programs have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of students through its on-board field trip program, overnight sleepover program, and virtual distance-learning program. The Midway Institute for Teachers collaborates with universities around the country to create an unparalleled professional development experience for teachers.

Established in 2016, the USS Midway Foundation’s mission is to help fund education programs, organizations, and initiatives that support America’s core values of service and sacrifice in the name of freedom. Through the “No Child Left Ashore” program, millions of dollars in scholarship support has been provided to students throughout San Diego County.  The Foundation also developed the “Pillars of Freedom” granting program, which has supported organizations whose primary focus is improving the lives of veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders. Since its inception, this program has granted nearly $4 million to more than 50 organizations.

In partnership with the Port of San Diego, Midway is now embarking on the creation of the largest veterans park on the West Coast. When completed in 2028, “Freedom Park at Navy Pier” will tell the story of everyday heroes who served our country and preserved our freedoms. The inspirational park will be a tremendous addition to the San Diego bayfront, and will honor the military tradition of San Diego.

While the USS Midway Museum proudly celebrates two decades in San Diego, the museum is looking forward to its next 20 years of excellence.

Midway 2003 vs. 2023

USS Midway History


Midway was built in only 17 months, but missed World War II by one week when commissioned on Sept. 10, 1945.

Named after the Battle of Midway of June 1942, the battle that turned the tide in the war in the Pacific during World War II.

The USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century.

Midway was the first in a three-ship class of large carriers that featured an armored flight deck and a powerful air group of 120 planes.


Midway became the first American carrier to operate in a midwinter sub-Arctic environment off the coast of northeast Canada, developing new flight-deck procedures during Operation Frostbite.


Midway became the first U.S. naval ship to fire a ballistic missile while at sea. During Operation Sandy, the test launch of a captured World War II German V-2 rocket was seen as the dawn of naval missile warfare.


Midway launched a large patrol plane aloft to demonstrate that atomic bombs could be delivered by an aircraft carrier.

Midway served with the Atlantic Fleet for ten years, making seven deployments to Mediterranean and European waters.


An around-the-world cruise took Midway to the west coast in 1955, where it was refitted and upgraded with an angled deck to improve jet operations.


Midway received emergency orders to the Taiwan Strait to deter aggression by communist-led Chinese forces who were threating two small island off the coast of Taiwan. Midway’s presence curtailed a crisis that was bordering on nuclear war.


Naval aviation history was made when an F-4A Phantom II and an F-8D Crusader made the first fully-automatic carrier landings with advanced electronic equipment installed on board Midway.


Midway’s first combat deployment came in 1965 flying combat missions against North Vietnam. Midway aircraft shot down three MiGs during the deployment, including the first MiG kill of the war. 


Midway was decommissioned for a four-year overhaul.


Midway conducted two more combat deployments to Vietnam in the early 1970s.

An F-4 Phantom from Midway was credited with the last MiG kill of the war in 1973.

As potential threats to the Arabian oil supply grew, and to relieve strain on U. S.-based aircraft carriers, Midway transferred to Yokosuka, Japan in 1973, making it the first American carrier to be homeported at a foreign naval base.


Over a chaotic two day period during the fall of Saigon in April 1975, Midway was a floating base for large U.S. Air Force helicopters which evacuated more than 3,000 desperate refugees from South Vietnam during Operation Frequent Wind.


Midway deployed (final deployment) to the Persian Gulf in response to the Iraqi military invasion of Kuwait. In the ensuing Operation Desert Storm, Midway served as the flagship for naval air forces in the Gulf and launched more than 3,000 combat missions with no losses.


Its final mission was the evacuation of U.S. miliary personnel, their families and pets from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines after the 20th century’s largest eruption of nearby Mount Pinatubo in 1991.


On April 11, 1992, Midway was decommissioned in San Diego and sat silently in the ghost fleet at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Bremerton, Washington until 2003 when it was donated to the 501(c)3 nonprofit San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum organization.


It opened as the USS Midway Museum on June 7, 2004.


USS Midway Celebrates 20th Anniversary!

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