Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for the pilgrims for hacking out an existence in the great American wilderness and gaining a toe-hold for freedom and individualism.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two great planes that go great together!

The planes in question are the rocket powered Bell X-1 and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. I meant to post this on October 13th, which would have marked the 61st anniversary of catching the demon. A great moment in history. Chuck Yeager is a hero. What better way to commemorate the event than with a video of the coolest model airplane I've ever seen:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pappy Boyington as a prisoner towards the end of the war

Another, possibly the last, installment (pgs 289-290) from Baa Baa Black Sheep - though there are plenty of other excerpts worthy of posting. In this episode Boyington has been a prisoner for about a year (January 1945). The first significant air raids over the Tokyo Bay area have just begun with a carrier based strike. Ofuna, the interrogation camp where Boyington is stationed, is about 10 miles from Yokosuka:

After the New Year’s incident [see book for details – ed.] life seemed to go on much the same as before until the latter part of February 1945. Then all hell appeared to break loose over our peaceful country valley. It all started by hearing the distant wail of air-raid sirens, which we prisoners paid no attention to because we hadn’t dreamed this could be anything but a drill. But in a matter of some twenty everybody in Japan came to the realization that this was no drill. Just twelve miles from our camp the large Jap naval base of Yokosuka was taking a thumping something terrific.

Dive bomber after dive bomber started down, the hills between the target area and our camp momentarily chopping each bomber from view, making it appear as though they were diving into the hills. But in a few seconds we saw them pull out about the same time we heard the ka-lumph of the exploding bomb. Even at this distance the noise from so many engines sounded much the same as a gigantic waterfall – a steady roar. Obviously this was not a moral strike like the Doolittle raid; this was concentrated, and we knew that this carrier raid was the beginning of the end for Japan.

Prisoners were ordered by the guards to go to their cells, and to keep away from the windows or they would be beaten. This order was analogous to asking a person to stop breathing, one can stand it only so long. None of the guards bothered me, as I was in the kitchen, and I was able to get an eyeful.

What a sight, I thought, as I saw a Zero scooting low along the hilltops directly over our camp, being chased by a Navy F6F. An old familiar feeling came over me, causing a tingling to run through my body, as I watched the F6F pour his .50-caliber machine guns into the hapless Zero, which belched flame and crashed into the hillside as the F6F pulled skyward. I knew he was looking for new prey, for I felt close enough to the action, while standing there on the ground, almost to feel that I was thinking for that Navy F6F pilot.

I was thrilled by the sights of two more shootdowns before one of the guards shooed me inside through the back door of the kitchen. As much as I wanted to remain and continue watching, I had seen enough, so I didn’t mind.

Curly, the cook, was frightened half to death, and he was pleading: “What is the best thing to do? Where is the safest place?”

“Flat on your belly is the safest place I know of.” I tried to console this excited and frightened man. Curly must have taken me as an authority when I spoke, for he was flat on his face before I had finished.

After the racket had subsided and nothing was visible but a huge column of smoke rising behind the hills in the direction of Yokosuka, Curly looked up from the deck like a little child and said: “Is it all right to stand up now, Major?” And this was the first, last, and only time the little cook ever addressed me by my rank.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pappy Boyington and the sweet and charitable Obason

Still more Boyington. There will be one or two more posts yet from his exceedingly impressive Baa Baa Black Sheep. For almost the last two years of the war he was a captive with the Japanese. Not a P.O.W., but a "special prisoner," which meant that word of his survival was not sent to the U.S. via the Red Cross. Conditions were harsh, as one would expect, but Boyington points out that his own treatment wasn't as horrendous as what others endured. Still, it was unimaginably bad. Yet, Boyington recognized that the Japanese weren't bad people. He ran across several moments of kindness, mostly from civilians and the military personel that spoke English. Obasan (correct spelling) was one that really stuck out. In this episode, Boyington has been a captive of the Japanese for several months. He's being held at the interrogation center at Ofuna - between Yokohama and Sagami Bay, a few miles from Yokosuka, where the U.S. Naval Base is today:

Most people, especially in America, just simply do not know what it means to spend one’s days dreaming and thinking of food. it is not their fault that the do not know, and may they never have to know. But We of the World Who Have Known Real Hunger know. And that is why our imaginary club should be such an understanding one, between member and member.

As another idea of how hungry a human can get, once I had soup-bone as big as my fist and it took me only two days to devour all of it, completely.

Prior to being captured, if I had been told that a large hungry collie dog could have gotten away with all of a soup-bone as large as this one, I would have considered that informant crazy. But I got away with it, every bit of it, within two days.

After nine months of capture – and with my weight down to almost a hundred pounds – I met one of my most unforgettable characters. She was a Japanese grandmother, and I called her “Auntie.”

But the reason I am especially thinking of her this evening is, perhaps, that I have helped my wife set the table for supper. And it is always in regard to food somehow that I remember Auntie the most. The Japanese word for “Auntie” is Obason, and this is what I called her.

After all this time as a captive the Nips were finally through questioning me two or three times a week, and I was getting to be rather an old prisoner around the Ofuna camp. So I was given the job in the kitchen to work from four-thirty in the morning until nine o’clock at night. For my servicesI was allowed an extra bowl of barley and a bowl of soup a day. It happened that I was not able to get along with even this additional ration because I was lugging heavy barrels of water and sacks of rice around that weighed close to two hundred pounds. For strength to do this I had to resort to other methods.

I guess everybody is inherently dishonest in some shape or form, or manner, so I stole food. I never stole any of the prisoners’ food, of course, but I stole the Japanese food, which was a great deal more nourishing, and more tasty.

I decided when I went into the kitchen after nine months of starvation that I was going to eat four times as much as any Japanese guard got of the same kind of food. Many times I had to vomit it up and many times I had other troubles, such as a little diarrhea, but I maintained that diet during all the six months I was in the kitchen.

Now due to the help of the little old civilian lady who worked there, by watching out the door to see that none of the guards was looking, and my own kleptomaniac ability, I went from my hundred or so pounds to my normal hundred ninety. I could determine my weight because in the kitchen we had some kilo scales, and the kilo is 2.2 pounds.

This little lady, who watched the door so carefully to see that no Japanese guards were around, was the only sweetheart I ever had in Japan….

….She didn’t know a word of English and she had never been outside Japan. If any of you mothers have given things to any of the war prisoners in the United States here, you were in a way repaid, for this little old lady certainly did help me out. To her I was just a starving boy. The fact that I was from America, the outfit that was sinking her sons on land, air, and sea, had nothing to do with it.

Of course, in her conversations when the guards were around, she would damn all prisoners. The poor little old thing felt she had to do that. But when the guards were away, she would continue letting me sneak out the guards’ food; although she would have been beaten too, like anybody else, if she had been caught doing this for me. So when the guards were away, she would let me walk over to their lard barrel, the stinkingest old stuff anyone could imagine. I would get some fish also. Naturally I would look around too, while doing all this, for I wasn’t trusting too much on her tired old eyes, for if one of these guards had caught me it would have meant a beating session that might cost my life. I would scoop out a big handful of this stinking lard, shove it in my mouth, and gulp it down in a second. Even though it did stink, nevertheless to me it tasted like honey.

And occasionally, when very important persons were expected, they baked fish in the kitchen. To get one of these, Obason and I had to co-operate to the fullest, almost like a quarterback and a fullback on a football field. For we weren’t allowed all the time we had with the lard snatching. We had to fool a kitchen full of people. Much the same as a quarterback, Obason would nudge me, and say “
Gomen nasi, Boyingtonson,” for the guard’s benefit, when means: Pardon me, fellow, for bumping into you. I would then put a free hand underneath a fairly high working table in the kitchen, and there in the spacious folds of Obason’s apron was a hot backed fish.

The first time she ever handed me one of these hot fish I stuffed it immediately down my throat to avoid detection. The thing was so hot I had to grab the tail between my front teeth in a futile effort to stop it from sliding on down and burning my stomach. And there I stood – tears running out of my eyes, a guard asking: “
Nunda” – while I was pretending to blow my nose and still keep from choking on the hot fish.

The reason I needed this food of some sort was that, before I worked in the kitchen, all of us had to do compulsory athletics twice a day. And when we prisoners bent over for our calisthenics we could hear these knee-joints, and ankle-joints and elbows snap, crackle, snap, just like a dry forest of twigs going off.

During those days in the kitchen we usually had a lull in the midmorning and mid-afternoon when the civilian cook and the guards were not there. This was when the little old lady would say to me in exceptionally polite Japanese: “Let’s have a

This meant she and I would have tea together, and in addition she would fix up a few Japanese pickles. She would get us a tiny amount of sugar, too, which was kept on hand only for those high-up naval officers who frequently visited the camp to quiz us. And she would steal a little bit of this sugar for our tea.

And it was during the winter months that I worked in the kitchen, from September to April, and it was cold, bitterly so. Yet these ovens are kind of Dutch-oven affairs, with big rice pots in them, and we would open up the oven doors. Of course, during the midmorning and mid-afternoon periods nothing was cooking in the ovens. The big pots merely were inside of them. So we would put a little stool in front of each oven and she would start to talk.

Only with her did I dare speak Japanese, for I never did around the guards, because we could get our war information better from them by pretending we knew nothing about their language. She was too old, or would forget, when talking to the guards about me, that I spoke practically perfect Japanese to her and understood it.

We would have this sweet tea and she would break out a little old pipe with some of this hair tobacco we had. The bowl of the pipe was about the size of the end of my little finger, and I would reach in my pocket and pull out a can and sort around fro my skeleton of tobacco from it. My own selection of tobacco consisted of what the Japanese threw down in front of the guard stove. The tobacco consisted of snipes. But they were sanitary because I had made a cigarette holder from a piece of bamboo. I would adjust one of these snipes in the end of my bamboo holder, much like Freddie the Free-loader, and take a sliver of bamboo and reach it through the open doors that were warming us, getting a light for Obason and myself.

So we would sit there, Obason smoking her tiny pipe and I smoking my snipe, and sipping this sweet tea. And as we sat talking and smoking, Obason would tell me, oh, how bad that war was, and how she longed for the day when it would be over.

She would say: “You can’t buy any candy, you can’t get any cloth to make clothes out of.” For all of these people were in rags, officers and everybody. There was hardly a person in all Japan who was not dressed in rags.


Anyhow, Obason said she longed for the days when the automobiles were going up and down the streets. For months before the war there was nothing but a few of those coke-burning trucks that have to be pushed up every hill, and they all carried a crew of about ten men, and every time they would come to a slight hill, they would have to shove the truck up the hill. They would go all right on the level provided they had practically no load.

Then she would ask me: “How is everything in
Baykoko?” – Baykoko meaning the United States.

I was, of course, just like every other G.I. whether in England, France, Italy, Burma, or anyplace else. I liked to brag, so I said: “Oh gee, Obason, it’s great. We have all the tires in the world, all the gas, everyone has an automobile he can just ride everywhere he wants, everybody has a big ranch.”

I would kink of kid her because she seemed to enjoy the tales so much, so I said: “Well, how do you liked that as far as you’ve heard? You come back and take care of my kids for me, as I don’t have a wife.”

Old Obason would giggle and answer: “Oh, I’m afraid you might change your mind and shove me off the boat on the way back.” Wherewith she clasped her hands, dipped her knees quickly, and giggled – as she always did with a joke.

And this is the way we would talk over our tea and tobacco during the lulls when the guards were not around.

On several occasions two or three of Obason’s daughters came around. One of them had a child strapped to her back. Her appearance was almost angelic, her actions the same. One could not believe that she was what we thought of as “Nips” or “Japs” – especially with the guards we knew in camp.

When nobody was around this daughter would say the one or two expressions she knew in English. They were “I love you,” or something like that. Then she too would giggle. Of course, she didn’t mean it that way, but she had heard it from motion pictures they had shown in Japan. And the baby with her, a little kid with bangs, had the appearance of an ivory doll. The complexions of the women and children are, I thing, the nicest complexions in the world, nothing like our American women. The skins were as smooth as if they had just been covered with cream.

But one day I did an awful thing to Obason, and without meaning to.

The prison camp was to be visited again by some of those naval intelligence officers who cam out to ply us with questions, with there $64 questions. My, how time progresses, for we now have a $64,000 question.

In preparing the meal in advance for these higher-ups Obason wanted everything just so. Her pride and joy was some China dishes, and on these dishes she carefully arranged pickles and everything, including the fish.

But the more I kept thinking of these higher-ups, and all their questions that once again might be thrown at me, the less I must have remembered Obason. These intelligence bastards would be out here in a little while trying to pump military information out of us, and so, feeling mad about it, I deliberately selected this moment to clean out the stoves, allowing the grit to go all over their food on those pretty dishes.

The old lady screamed: “
Boyingtonson, Boyingtonson. Yamai, yamai!” Which roughly means “Stop, stop!” And she screamed: “You’re getting toxon gomai!” which roughly means “much dirt.”

So I stopped, but it does show how, just as in all wars, the innocent must suffer just because somebody (in this case me) had a mad on.

She forgave me, but I haven’t quite forgiven myself. So when I first got back to the United States and heard that some of my Black Sheep pilots were going out to Japan, I gave them Obason’s address. At least, I gave the best address I knew and told them to be sure and give her some money and some candy.

Yet the most I could do – even now – would be but the smallest of tokens for her kindnesses to me.

In fact, while sitting here in the den awaiting supper, I cannot help imagine how it would be if the old lady, through some miracle, should suddenly arrive, as if out of the skies, for one of our old “teas” again. We would sit and talk and discuss and smoke. Only in my case it would not be snipes any more. And then, just when we were about to eat, she quickly would say: “
Boyintonson, Boyingtonson, Haitison,” which means “Look out, Boyington, the guards.” Wherewith, at her joke, she would clasp her hands just as she used to do, dip her knees, and giggle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pappy Boyington over the Pacific

More Pappy from his book, Baa Baa Black Sheep (pages 131-137). This time he's in the Pacific with his newly formed (and unorthodox) squadron, the famous VMF-214 Black Sheep flying the great Chance-Vought F-4U Corsairs. Their legitimacy as a permanent squadron hangs in the balance as Pappy desperately tries to find some enemy action in the hope that they can impress the brass and keep their borrowed squadron designation. In this excerpt, the Black Sheep's mission is to escort some dive-bombers (Douglas SBD Dauntlesses and Grumman TBF Avengers) on a strike over the Solomon Islands:

Take-off time – the last Dauntless had wobbled lazily into the air, starting to turn in one gigantic join-up circle. We took off in pairs down the snow white coral strip at about twenty-second intervals, which was a feat in itself, because none of us had more than approximately thirty hours in these powerful new speed birds.

As we climbed, in shorter radii than the bombers, we gradually came abreast of the bomber leader, pulling up above and behind him. Radio silence was in effect. We had no intention of broadcasting our departure to the Japanese. The squadron was spread out like a loose umbrella over the bombers by use of hand signals. A reminder of lean out and reduce prop r.p.m. was passed along to all hands, in order to conserve precious fuel.

We settled down to the monotony of flying herd on the bombers. Our huge paddle-blade propellers were turning so slowly it seemed as if I counted each blade as it passed by. Hour after hour, it felt. The magnetism of counting those blades was so great I was tempted on several occasions to blurt out over the radio: “Who could ever believe this damn ocean could be so damn big!”

The group commander, leading the bombers, was responsible for the navigation. I didn’t have that worry. Finally the monotony was to be broken up, because we were flying above fleecy layers of stratus that demanded all my concentration to hold the shadowy forms of the bombers below in sight. Actually, the reason we had this cloud separation was that the bombers had to fly between stratus layers too. There wasn’t enough space for us to fly in the visual part of the sandwich and still remain above the bombers.

Thoughts of how we might louse up the all-important rendezvous after take-off were far behind. We had made that. And the rendezvous ahead, after our mission was accomplished, certainly couldn’t have bothered me. For the Brass couldn’t possibly see that, only the Nips could. And I don’t believe I gave too much thought to them.

A new worry took its place. The clouds being the way they were, no Nip planes could find us. No action. The high command would undoubtedly have us all back as replacement pilots, and there I’d be directing traffic once again. I thought: “Damn the luck… Why do I persist in planning the future when I know I can’t?”

Hardly had I gotten through feeling sorry for myself when I noticed the dive-bombers had all disappeared from sight.

“What in hell goes? W e must be over the mission.” I thought: “Jee-sus, if I lose these bombers, never showing back at home base would be the best fate I could hope for.”

I lowered the squadron through a thin layer of stratus to try to find the bomber boys. Upon breaking clear, the noise from my earphones almost broke my eardrums. One thing was for darn sure. There was no more radio silence in effect. After a few sensible words like: “Stop being nervous. Talk slower.” Words came back more shrilly and faster: “Who’s nervous? You son of a bitch, no me-ee.” Then communications settled down to a garbled roar.

Avengers and Dauntlesses, which appeared to be streaking downward in dives at all angles, were making rack and ruin upon what I realized suddenly was Ballale. Some had already pulled out of the their dives. Others were just in the process of pulling out. And still others were in their dives.

Huge puffs of dirt and smoke started to dot the tiny isle. A white parachute mushroomed out amid the dirty grayish puffs. Of course I realized it was at a higher altitude. Then a plane crashed. Avenger or Dauntless? How was I to know?

There were enough thick clouds over nearby Bougainville so that I did not expect any Nippon Zeroes to intercept us from there. I don’t know what I was thinking right at that particular moment. Or what I was supposed to be doing. Maybe, as the proverbial saying goes: “I sat there – fat, dumb, and happy.” Perhaps I was watching the boy below in much the same manner as I witnessed the Cleveland Air Shows many times. Anyhow, for certain, high cover was about as close as I ever expected to get toward heaven. So we started down.

To add to my bewilderment, shortly after we cleared the last bit of fluff, I saw that we were right in the middle of about forty Jap fighters. As for us, we had twenty planes that day.

The first thing I knew, there was a Japanese fighter plane, not more than twenty-five feet off my right wing tip. Wow, the only marking I was conscious of was the “Angry Red Meat Ball” sailing alongside of me. But I guess the Nip pilot never realized what I was, because he wobbled his wings, which in pilot language, means join up. Then he added throttle, pulling ahead of my Corsair.

Good God! It had all happened so suddenly I hadn’t turned on my gun switches, electric gun sight, or, for that matter, even charged my machine guns. All of which is quite necessary if one desires to shoot someone down in the air.

It seemed like an eternity before I could get everything turned on and the guns charged. But when I did accomplish all this, I joined up on the Jap, all right. He went spiraling down in flames right off Ballale.

The burst from my six .50-calibre machine guns, the noise and seeing tracer bullets, brought me back to this world once again. Like someone had hit me with a wet towel. Almost simultaneously I glanced back over my shoulder to see how Moe Fisher, my wingman, was making out, and because I saw tracers go sizzling past my right wing tip. Good boy, Moe – he was busy pouring an endless burst into a Nip fighter, not more than fifty yards off the end of my tail section. This Nip burst into flames as he started to roll, minus half a wing, toward the sea below.

In these few split seconds all concern, and, for that matter, all view of the dive-bombers, left me again. All that stood out in my vision were burning and smoking aircraft. And all I could make out were Japanese having this trouble. Some were making out-of-control gyrations toward a watery grave.

A few pilots I had run into before, and some since, can relate every minute detail about an enemy aircraft they came in contact with. But I’ll be damned if I can remember much more than round wing tips, square tips, liquid-cooled, air-cooled, and of course the horrifying Rising Sun markings.

After a few seconds of Fourth-of-July spectacle most of the Nip fighters cleared out. Then we streaked on down lower to the water, where the dive-bombers were reforming for mutual protection after their dives prior to proceeding homeward. We found a number of Nip fighters making runs on our bombers while they were busy reforming their squadrons.

While traveling at quite an excessive rate of speed for making an approach on one of these Zeros I opened fire on his cockpit, expecting him to turn either right or left, or go up or down to evade my fire after he was struck by my burst. But this Zero didn’t do any of these things. It exploded. It exploded so close, right in front on my face, that I didn’t know which way to turn to miss the pieces. So I flew right through the center of the explosion, throwing up my arm in front of my face in a feeble attempt to ward off these pieces.

I didn’t know what happened to my plane at the time. Evidently my craft didn’t hit the Nip’s engine when his plane flew apart. But I did have dents all over my engine cowling and leading edges of my wings and empennage surfaces. With this unorthodox evasive action Moe and I were finally separated, as by this time, I guessed, everyone else was. Certainly this wasn’t the procedure we followed in the three-week training period.

Something else entered my mind after the initial surprise and fright were over, something I realized much more keenly than any of the pilots accompanying me on this mission. I am positive, for I had been involved in this deadly game with Mars for two long years. What I knew only too well was that the average pilot gets less than one chance in a hundred missions of being in a position to fire a killing burst. And furthermore, when this rare chance comes, the one in a hundred, nine out of ten times the pilot is outnumbered, which cuts down his chances still further. Insight into these odds came to me very vividly, for I had tried my best for over two years. Yet my score to date was six. A great number of my previous mistakes suddenly came before me. Realizing that there was meat on the table that might never be there again, as far as I personally was concerned, I was determined to make hay while the sun shined.

Long after the bombing formation had gone on toward home, I found a Zero scooting along, hugging the water, returning to his base after chasing our bombers as far as he thought wise. This I had gotten from the past. When an aircraft is out of ammunition or low on fuel, the pilot will hug the terrain in order to present a very poor target.

I decided to make a run on this baby. He never changed his course much, but started an ever-so-gentle turn. My Corsair gradually closed the gap between us. I was thinking: “As long as he is turning, he knows he isn’t safe. It looks too easy.”

Then I happened to recall something I had experienced in Burma with the Flying Tigers, so I violently reversed my course. And sure enough, there was his little pal coming along behind. He was just waiting for the sucker, me, to commence my pass on his mate.

As I turned into this pal, I made a head-on run with him. Black puffs came slowly from his 20-millimeter cannons. His tracers were dropping way under my Corsair. I could see my tracers going all around this little Zero. When I got close enough to him, I could see rips in the bottom of his fuselage as I ducked underneath on my pass by. The little plane nosed down slowly, smoking, and crashed with a splash a couple seconds later, without burning or flaming.

Efforts to locate the other Zero, the intention of my initial run, proved to be futile. In turning east again, in the direction of our long-gone bombers, once more I happened upon a Zero barreling homeward just off the water. This time there was no companion opponent with the plane. So I nosed over, right off the water, and made a head-on run from above on this Japanese fighter. I wondered whether the pilot didn’t see me or was so low on fuel he didn’t dare to change his direction from home.

A short burst of .50s, then smoke. While I was endeavoring to make a turn to give the coup de grace, the plane landed in the ocean. When aircraft hit the water going at any speed like that, they don’t remain on the surface. They hit like a rock and sink out of sight immediately. For the first time I became conscious that I would never have enough fuel to get back to home base in the Russell Islands, but I could make it to Munda New Georgia. Ammunition – well, I figured that must be gone. Lord knows, the trigger had been held down long enough. Anyhow, there would be no need for more ammo.

But the day still wasn’t ended, even though this recital of the first day’s events may start seeming a little repetitious by now. And God knows I was certainly through for the day, in more ways that one. Yet when practically back to our closest allied territory, which was then Munda, I saw one of our Corsairs proceeding from home along the water. I tried to join up with him.

And just then, as if from nowhere, I saw that two Nip fighters were making runs on this Corsair at their leisure. The poor Corsair was so low it couldn’t dive or make a turn in either direction if he wanted to, with two on his tail. There was oil all over the plexiglass canopy and sides of the fuselage. Undoubtedly his speed had to be reduced in order to nurse the injured engine as far as possible.

In any event, if help didn’t arrive quickly, the pilot, whoever he was, would be a goner soon. I made a run from behind on the Zero closer to the Corsair. This Zero pulled straight up – for they can really maneuver – almost straight up in the air. I was hauling back on my stick so hard that my plane lost speed and began to fall into a spin. And as I started to spin, I saw the Zero break into flames. A spin at that low altitude is a pretty hairy thing in itself, and I no doubt would have been more concerned if so many other things weren’t happening at the same time.

It was impossible for me to see this flamer crash. By this time, I was too occupied getting my plane out of the spin before I hit the water too. I did, however, shoot a sizable burst into the second Zero a few seconds later. This Zero turned northward for Choiseul, a nearby enemy-held island but without an airstrip. The only thing I could figure was that his craft was acting up and he planned upon ditching as close to Choiseul as he could. Anyhow I didn’t have sufficient gas to verify my suspicions.

Also, I was unable to locate the oil-smeared Corsair again. Not that it would have helped any, or there was anything else one could do, but I believed Bob Ewing must have been in that Corsair. For Bob never showed up after the mission. And one thing for certain, that slowed-down, oil-smeared, and shell-riddled Corsair couldn’t have gone much further.

This first day of the new squadron had been a busy one, all right. It had been so busy I suddenly realized that my gas gauge was bouncing on empty. And I wanted so badly to stretch that gas, registering zero to somewhere close to Munda I could taste it.

I leaned out fuel consumption as far as possible, and the finish was one of those photo ones. I did reach the field at Munda, or rather one end of it, and was just starting to taxi down the field when my engine cut out. I was completely out of gas.

The armorers came out to rearm my plane and informed me that I had only thirty rounds of .50-caliber left, so I guess I did come back at the right time.

But I was to learn something else, too, in case I started to think that all my days were to be like this one, the first one. For this first day – when I got five planes to my credit – happened to be the best day I ever had in combat. However, this concerned us naught, for one would have thought we won the war then and there.

Opportunity knocks seldom. But one thing for certain, people can sense these opportunities if they are halfway capable of logical thinking, and, of course, are willing to take the consequences if things go dead wrong.

[A note on the pictures: not all are related to the 214. The three pictures below the one of Pappy are of the 214, though. The lead photo and the last photo show the coral surface tarmac the seabees were so good at constructing on many Pacific islands during the war.]

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pappy Boyington escorting the Cheks

Another excerpt from Pappy's Baa Baa Black Sheep - during his Flying Tiger days:

As we scrambled into our P-40s, with their hideous shark-faces painted on their noses, we could see a farewell reception gathering next to the DC-2 transport waiting for the famed couple.

A jeep messenger came up to us at the last minute with some instructions from good old Harvey, but not enough of them. The instructions were merely that we were to circle in sections of two at three thousand feet and then put on a demonstration, and "make it good." It was this last phrase in the order that helped cause the havoc, for when pilots are told in addition to "make it good," then believe me, they usually will take up the stinging sort of challenge and everybody else had better watch out.

Off we went in the shark-faces, and as we circled the field, climbing, we could see the official cars stop and let out Madame and the Generalissimo. Much bowing and handshaking could be detected in the tiny forms down on the field, the official party next to the transport.

At a signal from the leader the shark-faces moved into a Lufbery column. In turn each of us dove at the far side of the field at full throttle. Each pilot leveled out just off the ground. As the planes approached the official party, they started to roll, so that by the time they arrived over the transport each plane was on its back.

And this is where we overdid it. The lead planes were so low that all the figures on the ground - and this included the famous pair and our own boss - threw themselves flat on their faces, and stayed that way. And we knew then what Chennault and his dignified guests must be thinking about us, or saying about us, as they lay there. But it was too late.

One pilot with very limited flying experience told us afterwards that he had rolled quite naturally to the upside down position by merely following the P-40 in front of him, but when the time came to roll right side up again, he was a total loss because the P-40 in front of him had left his vision by pulling up. He said the only thing that saved him was remembering: center the needle and then the ball, which was taught him in instrument-flying school.

With this novice, and another pilot whose baggage door flew open, the distinguished pair Had only a Higher Power protecting them from their own airplanes. Yet all this was but the beginning of a long series in what could be termed a "comedy of errors" - except that the comedy was lacking, at least at the time.

No sooner had we finished "making it good" in regard to the demonstration, and were back up in formation, than the formation leader saw that he couldn't continue with his open baggage door and motioned for me to take over for the escort mission.

As I recall, one other plane dropped out of formation, too, leaving only six of us. The tired old P-40s were weak from lack of spare parts and from other ailments.

Finally the DC-2 transport was loaded with the dignitaries and took off. And now it was my turn, as leader of the escorts, to wish that I had been informed of where we were going. I just simply did not know, and neither did the other escorts. It had all happened so fast. But on top of all this my compass was not working, and I couldn't hear anything on my radio. As the trip progressed, I divided my time between scanning the sky for Nip fighters and trying to pick out some landmark, any landmark at all, on this unfamiliar, rugged terrain of interior China. We had, for all practical purposes, just arrived in this interior country, it must be remembered, and had not had a chance to fly around much. What few charts any of us had were virtually worse than useless.

We had flown for about two hours when it finally dawned on me that the precious load in the transport might be bound for Chungking. Thick, billowy clouds were forming rapidly, and no longer were the rugged mountain peaks visible at all. We were flying through a windstorm, and this would never do, for our little fighter planes did not carry enough gas for much of this. And what a storm it was we were to learn later, when told that the wind in this particular locality often reached the velocity of a hundred miles per hour. And we were in such a storm now, with cross winds.

Knowing that no Japs could possible find a DC-2 in that cloudy weather, I wobbled my wings good-by to the transport pilot and started my own fighters back from home or some landing place. But with my compass not working, and my radio not working, and no familiar landmark anywhere, all I could do was to try to guide our way back out of the thick clouds and be able to see something. The whole thing became a race between the clouds and our remaining gas.

The gas finally won, but only by ten minutes. This is all the supply of gas I had left when at last we broke out of the heavier clouds and I spotted what appeared to be a tiny field in a valley between rugged peaks. On flying by for quick inspection the field turned out to be not a field at all but a hill with the top flattened off. In reality it turned out later to be a Chinese cemetery way up there in the mountains. But it would have to do, even though it was much too small to land anything as fast as a P-40, and especially at the distance above sea level, six thousand feet. Yet this cemetery was our last and only chance.

So one by one we dropped over the edge of this tiny clearing, and each landing was disastrous to the plane, for all feet of drop-off, and we had to set our planes down with the gears retracted. A couple pilots tried it the conventional way but were far worse off than those who didn't.

Each plane, on being stopped in this manner, would skid along on its belly, damaging the landing gear even though it was retracted, and either one or the other wing tip in some cases. But what surprised us after that was the speed with which we immediately became surrounded by a horde of Chinese. All of us had not yet had a chance to drag ourselves from the damaged planes before the Chinese began pouring in around us. We did not know at the time where so many could be coming from, but it turned out that they were coming from a neighboring village and there were hundreds and hundreds of them. None of them seemed to understand English, but they stood there and stared back at them.

Finally a young Chinese came up to me and in very broken English explained that he was the only man who could speak our language. Among other things he tried to tell us, while all the horde stood round jabbering, was that the nearby village was Wenshan and no white man had been there for more than ten years. This man had learned English from missionaries when he was a boy.

The village, we further found out, was only a few miles from the Japanese-occupied border. In other words, I had barely missed becoming a captive of the Emperor of Japan two years before I finally did become one.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy - as told by Pappy Boyinton

From Pappy Boyington's book Baa Baa Black Sheep. Before he formed the VMF-214 Black Sheep, Greg Boyington volunteered with the Flying Tigers in Kunming, China. At one point his fighter group is assigned to Rangoon:

Here at Rangoon I was to meet two of the most genuine friends I hope to have. For two semi-portly gentlemen in their fifties, showing signs of years of good living, came across my path. I didn't realize then that, no matter where a person goes or what kinds of problems he may have, he always has friends.

Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy did everything a little differently from the way other wealthy colonials acted there in Rangoon. They came out to Mingaladon in person and picked up six of us AVG pilots. It was very cute, I thought, the way the inseparable pair worked together. Later, I learned, they had continued this relationship, which started when they served together in World War I. As two young men, they had realized the lack of opportunity in Scotland and had struck out to the colonies to better themselves, remaining there ever since. Jim and Bill were in the oil-refining business in Burma. Both were bachelors and always had been. And both of them had selected picturesque knolls in suburbs of Rangoon, where they had constructed their dream estates, approximately a half mile from one home to the other. The construction, the landscaping, the servants, everything appeared to blend in peaceful harmony. Jim Adams came directly to the point when they picked us up at the field, and asked us to come live with them. He said: "Bill and I have spent most of our lives in comparative comfort. But we know what the other side is like. And we decided it was awfully selfish of us, not sharing our homes with you fellows, who are the only reason we are able to live in them."

By this time all of the pilots had been billeted with different colonials in their homes. However, the six of us, living with Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy, were the only pilots whose hosts had insisted that no room and board be paid. Furthermore, they dropped everything of importance to make us feel at home, and we became inseparable.

That the best things in life are free certainly was applicable with the Adams-Tweedy homes, for at no time previously had I lived with a feeling of complete comfort. And to think of the misery of the countries we were in, with war going on full blast. The enjoyable routine still lingers in my memory, or I wouldn't bother to talk about it. And after a day's stand-by or work at the field, we would park our P-40s for the night in close-by rice paddies that had no water, just before sunset. We did this so there would be nothing but an occasional bomb crater to be filled on Mingaladon the following morning. Even lightning cannot strike something that is not there.

After our P-40s were bedded down, I would drive home to Jim Adam's lavish abode. Always, without exception, I found one, or sometimes both, of the kindly Scots with the pilots, seated about the patio next to one of the hilltop estates.

"Chota Peg" or "Burra Peg," came the friendly invitation just after darkness had set in. These were names of scotch and soda out there. The "Chota" was a single. The "Burra" was a double. Bill Tweedy laughed one night and said: "You chaps even caused us to change the name of one of our drinks. When have had to change the name of our 'Burra Peg' to 'the American Drink.'"

These evenings out of doors were augmented by typical Southern California weather that February of 1942. After we briefly accounted for the day, we downed our Burra Pegs and excused ourselves, then retired to our quarters to freshen up before continuing the enjoyable evening with our hosts. For these two Scots were the same as foster parents.

Each pilot had his own spacious bedroom with the customary large paddle-blade fan hanging from the ceiling and a large, soft four-poster bed, covered with a roomy mosquito netting. Even Angus, Jim's black dog, a great Dane, had his own bedroom and his own mosquito net.

Each household had approximately ten domestics, Indians and Burmese, ranging from gardener, chauffeur, and number one boys to first, second, and third cooks. The Indian servants lived in quarters separate from the main house, while the Burmese commuted from Rangoon.

Every bedroom adjoined a good-sized bath that was serviced from an outside door. It was baffling that with so many servants and all the attention to make your living so smooth you rarely saw more than one at a time, almost as if these servants were accomplishing the job with mirrors, as they moved soundlessly about on their bare feet.

Usually I entered the bedroom relieving myself of my dirty, sticky clothing as I walked. And by the time I entered the bathroom there was always a hot tub waiting, and the proper temperature for me. Perfect coordination, regardless of the hour I arrived. And Anto, a husky Burmese, the number-one boy, had already left unseen through the outside bathroom entrance. Nor do I remember ever calling for Anto to serve me; he must have had telepathy in addition to all his other fine attributes. If not before, I soon discovered, after I had eased myself into this refreshing tub, that cigarettes, matches, and a cool, fresh "Burra Peg" were within easy reach.

It was a king like feeling when, in fresh linen, I rejoined my associates and hot out on the tastefully shrubberied patio. As we sat around, delightfully passing the time of day, I was almost positive at times that my glass had been empty when I last set it down. But each time I picked up my glass, shaking it to be positive, I discovered that Anto or some other servant had replenished it unobserved.

Some of the evenings before dinner, which was never served before ten o'clock, Jim would ring next doore on the telephone. And the conversation would go like this: "I say, Hurumph. Hurumph. Are you there, old boy?" Blank "Sir Archibald Wavell speaking." Another blank "Would you do me the honor of cocktails and dinner this evening?"

We would alternate back and forth sometimes, with all eight of the two households at either one home or the other. Jim's Indian cook, tall and thin, was a true artist, and he served the most tasty meals I have ever experienced. This was the number-one cook, who did all of the marketing, also.

Jim explained that, owing to the higher wages in Burma, an Indian could work three years away from India, then return back home and live a year without working. Several of the Indian servants had been going back and forth for a couple generations.

The mornings, even though I was awakened before sunrise, were equally pleasant - no clanging alarm clock, no bugler, merely the delightful aroma of freshly brewed tea. This came from a teapot and a poured cup upon a table beside my pillow. And for once in my life I was able to get out of bed by degrees and enjoy myself. The cup of tea was very nearly consumed by the time I had finished a cigarette and had gotten my other slipper on my foot. Then into the bathroom for a shave and a toothbrush I went. Upon returning to my bedroom I found fruit, ham and eggs, marmalade and toast, and more tea, placed upon the little table beside my bed. What a way to live! How could I ever forget this part?

Later in the book, as Boyington and some other AVG pilots are trying to get back to the States to rejoin their respective branches, they get to Calcutta, which seems to be a holding spot for refugees:

The four of us Flying Tigers had military preference, or we would not even have slept in a hotel room with eight cots in it. Here in Calcutta I was once again to run into my two old friends Jim Adams and Bill Tweedy from Rangoon.

Jim and Bill insisted upon my coming to their room for a couple of "Pegs" for old times' sake. I couldn't help feel sorry for these two sweet Scots, who, after nearly thirty years of comfortable living, were in a ten-by-twelve room with no bath.

These Scots had really touched my heartstrings by the manner in which they had take me into their homes at Rangoon. As a matter of fact, they had been the only people who had made part of my time in the Flying Tigers enjoyable. And when I mentioned earlier, as Jim and Bill were leaving Rangoon, how relative things are, I didn't have any idea of comparing twin estates to one crummy room in Calcutta.

How can I ever forget? Jim and Bill were left sitting upon the edge of their beds clad only in shorts, balding and perspiring. They informed me that they couldn't even get any money out of England, let alone passage, for the bank accounts were frozen.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

George McGovern as a B-24 pilot

I just finished reading Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue about the 741st Squadron in the 455th Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force (whew - AAF designations are a bitch) - particularly the crew of the Dakota Queen - George McGovern's crew. It's a helluva story guaranteed to leave the reader in awe of the young men that won the war, a great companion piece to Ambrose's Band of Brothers. The following passage wasn't the only one that stuck with me, but I thought it was worth sharing. After a bomb run over the railway marshaling yards at Wiener Neustadt, Austria. One of the bombs in the plane did not drop (if you plan on reading the book anytime soon you might want to avoid the two excerpts below):


The crew left the bomb bay doors open and Sergeant McAfee and Lieutenant Cooper went to work, trying to trigger the little steel catches on each end of the bomb, hoping to pry them open so the bomb would drop. McGovern remembered: "It was scary as hell. If the plane suddenly made a lunge when the 500-pound bomb dropped..."

McAfee and Cooper were doing their work standing on the catwalk, less than a foot wide, hanging in the center of the bomb bay. McGovern looked behind him to see how they were doing, "but about all I could see was the top of their heads and their back."


As McAfee and Cooper labored, McGovern throttled back to slow down the Dakota Queen and they began to lose altitude. "I didn't want to drop a bomb in front of other airplanes," he explained. "Also, I wanted to give McAfee and Cooper undivided time. I didn't know how long it would take to get rid of the bomb..."

Dakota Queen descended to 12,000 feet, several thousand feet below the formation, which was pulling ahead in any case. Then Cooper yelled something "and all of a sudden the plane jumped and I knew the bomb had been cut loose." They were approaching the Austrian-Italian border. McGovern watched the bomb descend, "a luxury you didn't have at 25,000 feet. It went down and hit right on a farm in that beautiful, green part of Austria. It was almost like a mushroom, a big, gigantic mushroom. It just withered the house, the barn, the chicken house, the water tank. Everything was just leveled. It couldn't have come in more perfectly. If we had been trying to hit it we couldn't have hit it as square. you could see stuff flying through the air and a cloud of black smoke."

Sergeant Higgins watched the bomb descend. He commented, "It just blew that farm to smithereens. We didn't mean to do that, we certainly didn't try to do that."

McGovern glanced at his watch. It was high noon. He came from South Dakota. He knew what time farmers eat. "I got a sickening feeling. Here was this peaceful area. They thought they were safely out of the war zone. Nothing there, no city, no rail yard, nothing. Just a peaceful farmyard. Had nothing to do with the war, just a family eating a noon meal. It made me sick to my stomach."


After the bomb fell, McGovern closed the bomb bay doors and headed home. On the intercom, he and Cooper talked. McGovern asked, "What's the highest elevation between here and where we are going?"

Cooper looked at his map, did his calculations, and replied, "Eight thousand feet, George. Eight thousand feet." In an interview he admitted, "Actually, it was only 7,000 feet, but I added another 1,000 feet because I was engaged to get married." Cooper grinned, then added, "As George was expecting his first child, he added another 1,000 feet on top of that."

Back at Cerignola, it was an easy landing. There had been no flak on the milk run over Wiener Neustadt. There was not even a scratch on the
Dakota Queen. No one had been hurt. McGovern jumped into a truck and rode over to the debriefing area, where the Red Cross women gave him coffee and a doughnut. An intelligence officer came running up to him - the same officer who had handed him a cable back in December that told him his father had died. This time, however, the officer was grinning from ear to ear. As he handed a cable to McGovern, he said, "Congratulations, Daddy, you now have a baby daughter."


"I was just ecstatic," McGovern said. "Jubilant." But then he thought, Eleanor and I have brought a new child into the world today - at least I learned about it today - and I probably killed somebody else's kids right at lunchtime. Hell, why did that bomb have to hit there?

He went over to the officers club and had a drink - cheap red wine. He was toasted and cheered. But, he later said, "It really did make me feel different for the rest of the war. Now I was a father, I had not only a wife back home but a little girl, all the more reason why I wanted to get home and see that child." He returned to his tent and wrote Eleanor a long letter. He did not mention the farmhouse but he couldn't get it out of his mind. "That thing stayed with me for years and years. If I thought about the war almost invariably I would think about that farm."


Pretty rough baggage to carry for years and years and a key passage in the book. However, (again: spoiler alert) the story finds a happy resolution at the very end of the Epilogue (pages 262-3):


In 1985, McGovern was lecturing at the University of Innsbruck. A director of Austrian television's state-owned stationed contacted him to ask if he would do an interview for a documentary he was producing on Austria in World War II. He wanted McGovern to talk about what it was like bombing Austrian targets. McGovern was not inclined but finally let himself be talked into it. A woman reporter did the interview. She said that Senator McGovern was known around the world for his opposition to the war in Vietnam, and especially the bombing of South and North Vietnam. Yet he had been a bomber pilot in World War II. The reporter asked, "Senator, did you ever regret bombing beautiful cities like Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and others?"

McGovern answered, "Well, nobody thinks that war is a lovely affair. It is humanity at its worst, it's a breakdown of normal communication, and it is a very savage enterprise. But on the other hand there are issues that sometimes must be decided by warfare after all else fails...I thought Adolf Hitler was a madman who had to be stopped.

"So, my answer to your question is no. I don't regret bombing strategic targets in Austria. I do regret the damage that was done to innocent people. And there was one bomb I've regretted all these years."

The reporter snapped that up. "Tell us about it."

McGovern told her about the bomb that had stuck in the bomb bay door and had to be jettisoned, on March 14, 1945. "To my sorrow it hit a peaceful little Austrian farmyard at high noon and maybe led to the death of some people in that family. I regret that all the more because it was the day I learned my wife had given birth to our first child and the thought went through my mind then and on many, many days since then, that we brought a young baby into the world and probably killed someone else's baby or children."

When the documentary appeared on Austrian TV, the station received a call from an Austrian farmer. He said he had seen and heard McGovern. he knew it was his farm that was hit, because it was high noon on a clear day and exactly as McGovern described the incident.

"I want you to tell him," the man went on, "that no matter what other Austrians think, I despised Adolf Hitler. We did see the bomber coming. I got my wife and children out of the house and we hid in a ditch and no one was hurt. And because of our attitude about Hitler, I thought at the time that if bombing our farm reduced the length of that war by one hour or one minute, it was well worth it."

The television station called McGovern and told him what the farmer had said. For McGovern, it was "an enormous release and gratification. It seemed to just wipe clean a slate."

Friday, July 04, 2008


Earlier this spring my parents took a trip to San Diego and visited the USS Midway - now the most visited floating museum in the world. It was a special event, particularly for my dad, who'd served on the Midway as an A-6 pilot in the mid-70s.

What follows are a couple of things: a general history of a remarkable ship; a history of a remarkable squadron; an overview of aircraft that have served on the Midway, and a series of slides from 1974 to 1977 - snapshots of the Cold War from a squadron perspective - a pilot's perspective.

To ensure the accuracy of these posts, I invite any reader who stumbles across an error or notices an omission to bring the matter to my attention and I will make the appropriate adjustments. You can do so by leaving a comment on the post or by sending me an email here.
* * * * * * *
The USS Midway
The Tip of the Sword: A Brief History of the USS Midway
Gator Control: The VA-115
Aircraft of the USS Midway

On the Deck and In the Air, 1974-77
Pollywog to Shellback: Crossing the Line, 1975

Japan: A Forward-based Homefront
Home: Yokosuka and Nagai
Japan: Kamakura, Fuji and Izu areas
Ports of Call
Subic Bay
Hong Kong

The Tip of the Sword: A Brief History of the USS Midway

Like her name suggests, the USS Midway was born out of battle hardened experience and wartime ingenuity. There is something almost organic about her life - even during the earliest moments of construction the Midway was adapting to a changing world. For 47 years she went through a variety of modernizations that kept her and her men at the vanguard of U.S. naval power, responding to crises and providing service well beyond the scope of her planners' intentions. Today's role of aircraft carriers, in no small degree, is born out of what the Midway did as experimentation and precedence. She's been a nuclear deterrent, a scientific guinea pig, an escape for refugees, a symbol of American power and humanity, and, of course, a lethal weapon. The Midway has handled WWII era warbirds and today's Hornet and a good chunk of everything in between and has been a showroom of seafaring aviation. All in all, the Midway’s story serves as a microcosm of U.S. Naval evolution during its most dynamic and tumultuous period in terms of technological advancement and political importance to the world. If you wanted to get an idea at what the U.S. Navy was up to at any given time from 1945 to 1991, taking a look at what the Midway was doing would give you a pretty good glimpse.

The Midway’s hull, ordered in 1942 and laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock, was originally planned for a new Montana class of battleship. It incorporated innovations and ideas picked up after the early battles in the Pacific War - thicker steel and more transverse bulkheads - innovations that provided extra protection against torpedo attacks. In the wake of the Battle of Midway and other action, the Navy had also noticed the rise in importance of aircraft carriers and focused more urgent construction towards them. Using the Midway's giant battleship hull for a new larger class of carrier was a tricky endeavor, but made sense during the rushed wartime construction of 1943. The unique design gave the Midway excellent maneuverability, uncommon for a carrier, but those same features also caused her to pitch and roll excessively. The weight of the flight deck further aggravated her ability to launch and retrieve aircraft in heavier waters. Athough six Midway class carriers were planned, only three were actually built and, for the first ten years of her life, the Midway was the largest ship in the world - the first of a succession of carriers to be too large to pass through the Panama Canal.

The Midway was commissioned days after the Pacific War ended in 1945 sponsored by Mrs. Bradford D. Ripley II, the widow of a naval aviator who died in the war (she was also known as Heiress Barbara Cox Anthony, one of the richest women in Hawaii). She was accompanied by Lt. George Gay who was part of VT-8, a squadron that was almost entirely wiped out during the Battle of Midway. Lt. George Gay was the only survivor of 30 men. While he floated in the water, he witnessed the American attack that sank three Japanese carriers and instantly turned the tide of the war before being picked up the next morning by a PBY. Lt. Gay later served with the VT-11 over Guadalcanal, a squadron that years later would serve on the Midway for two decades as the VA-115.

Norfolk was the Midway's first home. After a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean, she served in the Atlantic as the Flagship for Carrier Division 1. During Operation FROSTBITE (1946) the Midway sailed in the Labrador Sea, near the Arctic Circle, testing carrier flight operations in extreme cold conditions, often with 3 to 4 inches of snow and ice on the deck. This operation was made particularly relevant by the prominence of the Soviet navy who operated in similar waters. The Midway's stability concerns, first perceived during the shakedown cruise, became more acute in the choppy North Atlantic waters.

The Midway was back in the Caribbean in September of 1947 for Operation SANDY, in which a captured V-2 rocket was launched off the carrier's unmodified flight deck. It was the first time a rocket had been fired off a moving platform or a ship at sea. In this regard, Operation SANDY was the dawn of naval missile warfare. Given the unpredictable nature of the V-2, the launch was an extremely dangerous venture. The V-2 cleared the ship's conning tower, then tilted off course and was destroyed before it could reach any nearby islands.

From November of 1947 to March of 1948, the Midway made the first of seven voyages to the Mediterranean. On the second Mediterranean cruise, from January to March of 1949, the Midway launched a large P2V Neptune on a nonstop 25 hour 4,800 mile flight to San Diego with a detour over the Panama Canal and Corpus Christi to display its nuclear strike capability. The Navy had modified twelve Neptunes to launch from one of the three Midway class carriers. They were too large to use the ships' hydraulic catapults and had to use booster rockets for take-off. Nor could the Neptune land on the carriers. At the time, however, the Neptune was the only aircraft available that could make a carrier launch, even under such particular conditions, carrying a 9000 lb. atomic bomb.

The Midway returned to the North Atlantic in 1949, this time operating within the Arctic Circle and earning her entry into the The Royal Order of the Blue Nose. By 1950 she was back in the Mediterranean and was the Flagship of Air Group Four. When war broke out in Korea, the Midway, instead of rushing to the scene, was kept in the Mediterranean to maintain the nuclear deterrent against the Soviet Union. At the time, only the Midway class carriers were capable of handling the planes large enough to carry nuclear bombs, and the need for her to guard NATOs southern flank was more urgent than providing air support in the Korean theater.

Returning to Norfolk after a fourth cruise to the Mediterranean, the Midway received several modifications - namely the removal of some guns to reduce weight and extra reinforcement to the flight deck so that she could handle heavier jet aircraft as well as the composite engine Savage, which replaced the P2V Neptune. In January of 1952, the Midway was back in the Mediterranean for the fifth time - this time with Air Group Six - participating in a NATO exercise called Operation GRAND SLAM.

In December of 1954 the Midway transferred to the Pacific after a round-the-world cruise and joined the Seventh Fleet. She reached Taiwan during the first Taiwan Straits Crises in February of 1955. Days after the U.S. Senate ratified the Formosa Resolution on 28 January, which called for U.S. intervention in the event of a Communist invasion of Taiwan, the Red Chinese, after weeks of threatening the nearby Tachen Islands (then controlled by the Nationalists), started shelling Tachen in preparation for an invasion. The Seventh Fleet, with the Midway as the flagship of Carrier Division Four, immediately took action. The USS Stoddard rushed to Okinawa to retrieve Rear Admiral Ruble, the commanding officer of the evacuation effort, and brought him to the Taiwan Straits. On 7 February the admiral and his staff were transferred via cable to the lead ship in the evacuation effort, the Midway, in seas so rough that the move left the admiral and his aides drenched.* During the crisis the Midway provided air cover as 24,000 military personnel and Tachen civilians (along with their livestock) escaped the island and the communist onslaught. After the operation the Midway continued to patrol the Taiwan Straits into June before completing the last leg of her round-the-world cruise. She arrived in Alameda on July, 1955.

In October the Midway relocated to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and was decommissioned in order to receive the first of what would eventually be three major modernization projects. When she emerged and was recommissioned in September 1957, she was practically a brand new ship. Much of her WWII era armor and anti-aircraft guns, now obsolete, had been removed. She received an enclosed "hurricane" deck, an expanded bridge and, most significant of all, an angled deck which allowed the Midway to launch and retrieve aircraft simultaneously, whereas a traditional straight deck could only perform one operation at a time, a vulnerability the Japanese learned too well during the Battle of Midway. Along with the angled deck the Midway moved and enlarged her three elevators for improved efficiency and to handle larger and heavier aircraft. Three steam catapults were installed, two at the bow and one on the angled portion of the deck. The Midway's flight deck also received jet blast deflectors, improved arresting equipment and the largest aviation crane ever put on a carrier at that time.

With her new flight deck, the Midway was able to accommodate supersonic aircraft for the first time. In August of 1958, when she departed for the Western Pacific, she contained, as part of Air Wing 2, a squadron of F-8 Crusaders (the VF-211 Red Checkertails), and a squadron of F3H Demons (the VF-64 Free Lancers), both supersonic aircraft. During that first cruise, a Demon from the Free Lancers became the first Navy fighter to fire the new Sparrow missile.

In late August of 1958, the Quemoy-Matsu crisis (the second Taiwan Straits crisis) began. Again, the Red Chinese threatened the Chinese Nationalists by attempting to seize Quemoy and Matsu, two islands occupied by the Nationalists near Taiwan. The Communists had actually shelled the islands back in 1954 through April of 1955 as a diversion for their invasion of the Tachen Islands. Whereas the U.S. was unwilling to include the Tachen islands in the Formosa Resolution, it did re-affirm that Quemoy and Matsu, which held a quarter of Chiang Kai Shek's forces, were both defensible by the Seventh Fleet and would fall under the security umbrella of the resolution. The fleet, with the Midway, this time as the flagship of Carrier Division Five, sailed to the Taiwan Straits as a show of support for the Nationalists. With the memory of over a million men lost during their last entanglement with U.S. forces in Korea and in light of a few deliberately placed remarks from Eisenhower regarding the use of nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan, the Red Chinese backed down from their attempt to seize Matsu and Quemoy.

From August 1958 to May 1964 the Midway embarked from Alameda on five cruises to the Western Pacific. The average cruise was about six months. In 1961 the Midway responded to the Laotian crisis and operated off the coast of Vietnam. In 1962 she participated in exercises to test the air defenses of Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. In 1963, while off the coast of California, the first fully automated landings on a carrier took place on the Midway when an F-4 Phantom and F-8 Crusader both touched down on her deck.

The Midway embarked on her first combat cruise to Vietnam on 6 March 1965. Over the next eight months, during the course of that cruise, the Midway's aircraft flew just shy of 12,000 combat missions. On 17 June, F-4 Phantoms from the VF-21 Free Lancers were credited with two kills of MiG-17s over Vietnam (a possible third was unconfirmed). Three days later, two pair of Skyraiders from the VA-25 Fist of the Fleet were intercepted by two MiG-17s. The Skyraiders, prop driven planes far slower than the MiGs, dropped their load and, flying low to the jungle canopy for cover, managed to shoot down one of the MiGs. These three kills constituted the first MiG 17s shot down over Vietnam. When the Midway returned to Alameda in November of 1965, she received the Navy Unit Commendation Medal as well as the Battle Efficiency "E".

In February of 1966, the Midway was decommissioned a second time for another massive modernization program. This time, her deck was expanded from just under 3 acres to just over 4 acres. Her elevators and bow catapults received increased weight capacity to handle ever heavier jets. To reduce weight, the third catapult on the cross deck was removed. The angle of the cross deck was changed from 10 degrees to 13 degrees and she received improved arresting gear to go along with a longer run out, causing less stress on the landing aircraft and allowing the ship to handle planes a third heavier than before. She also received a sophisticated computerized tactical data system. The Midway reemerged 4 years later, again, as the most modern conventionally powered carrier in the fleet. But because the program had gone 230% over budget, it was controversial and had an impact over the fate of other carriers that had been considered for similar modernization programs.

After spending 1970 going through refresher training and shakedown, the Midway headed out to Yankee Station for her second Vietnam combat cruise. During the intense flight operations during this cruise, the Midway's crew was sending up to 150 sorties a day. Because of a North Vietnamese invasion into South Vietnam, the Midway was hurried back out to Yankee Station for a third combat cruise. The Midway's aircraft played a crucial role in stopping the North Vietnamese from resupplying men and equipment into South Vietnam. Also of note during this cruise, a HH-3A chopper from the HC-7 Seadevils flew twenty miles behind enemy lines through mountainous terrain and enemy fire to retrieve a downed A-7 pilot - the deepest penetration for a rescue mission by a helicopter since 1968. And on 12 January 1973, an F-4 from the VF-161 Chargers scored the last MiG in the war, three days prior to the ceasefire.

Over the following two decades, the Midway distinguished herself in yet another way. Departing Alameda for Yokosuka on 11 September 1973, she became the first and only forward-based carrier in the U.S. Navy as a result of an agreement with Japan. The agreement was made during a trend in Japan of closing and consolidating U.S. bases. In 1951, shortly after the peace treaty, the U.S. operated 3,848 military facilities in Japan. That number dropped significantly at the end of the occupation (by about 1000) and continued to drop until, by 1972, the number of U.S. military facilities was around 100. Although leftist Japanese opposition to the Japanese-American alliance had lost influence since its peak in 1960, it nevertheless still made a lot of noise. To these groups, any tidbit was reason enough to charge that the Americans were violating the trust of the Japanese. For example, when goats appeared in the grassy fields around Atsugi, opposition groups claimed it was proof positive that chemical weapons were illegally being stored there despite U.S. denials, and that the goats were being used as an early detection system for possible leaks. As it turned out, the goats were used as cheap lawnmowers. In another instance, opposition groups discovered that a phone directory at a Marine base in Iwakuni referenced a unit with a name alluding to something nuclear. Again, the opposition groups charged that this was proof of a violation and that nuclear weapons were stored at the facility. In reality, the unit was simply providing training in the event of a nuclear attack. Still, the charges persisted until a Japanese inspection team was called in to verify the American claims. These groups consistently harassed and tried to obstruct U.S. military operations, but after the handover of Okinawa back to the Japanese, much of the wind was taken out of their sails. Nevertheless, prior to the agreement, Yokosuka, which had served as a key U.S. naval facility, was slated to be handed over to the JSDF. That Yokosuka (and Atsugi, already predominately occupied by Japanese forces) so quickly became a focal point of a new long term commitment which allowed the U.S. to strengthen its presence in the region indefinitely was a remarkable development and speaks to the strong partnership evolving between the two countries. The agreement, including the Navy's Overseas Family Residency Program, was a win-win for both sides. Financially, it meant that the economy surrounding the base housing complex would not dry up, but it also meant a continuation of the close cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the JDFS. For the U.S., it meant we could maintain a carrier presence in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean and meet all our security commitments at a fraction of the cost during a time when the U.S. Navy was having to cut back on the total number of carriers in the fleet. The Family Residency program was also important for morale and retention rates. The transition from a conscription system to a fully volunteer force meant that the Navy would have to find innovative ways to maintain enlistments. Having a program that allowed sailors to keep their families closer to their area of operation was a godsend in a variety of ways.

The U.S., however, was not permitted to have nuclear weapons in Japan. This stipulation meant the carriers must find another location to keep their nuclear arsenal when not at sea. That location, in the case of the Midway, was the Philippines. Understandably, the possession of nuclear weapons was the Midway's most sensitive matter and at no time was the presence of nuclear warheads disclosed publicly. Weapons were carefully cataloged. If an A-6 took off from Cubi Point with a bomb, the serial number would be scrupulously checked upon departure and re-checked upon arrival to the Midway and vice-verse. The weapons were carefully stored under lock and key and Marines were dispatched to guard them. Strict guidelines were used in handling of the weapons. For instance, while on board ship, only aviators traveling in pairs could enter the area to check on the ordnance before or after a flight. When the weapons were brought on deck, only authorized personnel were able to even look at them while other personnel were ordered to get down and face the deck until the weapons were no longer in the vicinity. Meanwhile, the Marines in charge of the security had strict orders to enforce.

Though maintaining her nuclear ability was one of the Midway's most sensitive logistical concerns, it was not the only one. Keeping a carrier home based in the Far East meant that the supply lines, when not simply outsourced, needed to stretch across the ocean. It also meant that the considerable maintenance of the ship would have to be done thousands of miles away from the States. Regarding the former, it was somewhat convenient for the Midway that the U.S. Navy maintained a policy of refueling and resupplying its ships entirely at sea - at the time the only navy in the world to do so. About every two or three days the Midway would take on fuel for herself and her air wing. Resupplying was done side by side with the supply ships, often in heavy seas. There was a danger inherent in this system (evidenced by some of the accidents detailed below) but it kept the fleet at its peak readiness. Regarding the maintenance: the Midway utilized her neighborhood ports. Her flight deck routinely received a new surface while in port in the Philippines, using Filipino contractors. In Hong Kong, Chinese crews would give the ship a new coat of paint. Her electrical work was done in Yokosuka by Japanese electricians. This system benefited everyone. The U.S. received the maintenance work at a fraction of of cost while the work created many jobs for the local economies.

It also required some coordination as well. During one cruise, perhaps the first since the Japanese electricians received the contract for the Midway - she wasn't out to sea a day when she tried to switch to her own power only to end up powerless, dead in the water. The reason? The American design of the ship meant that her ground wires came off a negative current, whereas in Japan, the custom is to make the positive the ground. However, once such issues were resolved, the system resulted in a more efficient upkeep for the Midway. And in Japan, it meant that the community in Yokosuka directly took part in the Midway's operations - feeling pride in the ship and not just observing a foreign ship in its port.

It is somewhat noteworthy and speaks to the benevolence between the Japanese and the Americans that a U.S. aircraft carrier named after the pivotal battle in the Pacific War would now find a gracious home in Yokosuka - a place that had been a station for kamikaze squadrons just twenty-eight years before.

In April of 1975, the Midway was called to Vietnam again, though this time it was to save refugees from the onslaught of Communist forces during the fall of Saigon. During Operation FREQUENT WIND, the Midway, after sending much of her air wing to the Philippines and bringing on extra H-53 helicopters, brought on board 3,073 U.S. personnel and Vietnamese refugees. In a dramatic moment, while they had the bulk of the refugees already on deck, a South Vietnamese pilot, flying a small Cessna, circled the Midway asking permission to land. After learning that the pilot had his five children stored on the aircraft and that having the plane touch down on the ocean was not possible, the Midway's crew pushed every available helicopter overboard and allowing the Cessna enough room to land. Once the Cessna, known as Bird Dog 1, touched down, crew members stopped it. When the children emerged from the storage compartment, the Midway's crew burst into applause. Today, the same Cessna is displayed at the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum to commemorate the moment.

Throughout the 1970s, the Midway participated in exercises and war games with other carriers and other vessels. The Midway, because of its forward based status, prided itself as the ship that was ever ready and got the job done while other ships were merely tourists. Even before the forward based deployment, the Midway maintained a certain pride in their efficiency and accuracy. As Midway veteran Scott Smith retells, during a multi-prong competition she had with the Kitty Hawk in the early sixties, the Midway's Skyraider attack squadron (the VA-25 Fist of the Fleet) resorted to innovative tactics to win the rocket competition:

"The competition was for the best score by a division (four planes) dropping three bombs and firing three rockets. At that time, we were still using the WW-II HVAR rockets fired from the zero-length launchers on the wings. They had a very poor fire rate because time and salt air had corroded the electrical pigtails. This was a little hairy, because unfired rockets often came off their launchers during recover. Then they went skipping up the deck and, hopefully, over the side. I figured we could get 100% firing only by loading each aircraft with six rockets. Sure enough, the flight of Arabs (VA-115) had several misfires. Our guys got off three rockets from each plane. We won the bombing competition by a few feet and won the rocket competition by default. My hedge against misfired rockets brought the trophy to Midway."

Although there was some grumbling on behalf of the Kitty Hawk crew since this singular competition had determined the entire contest, which had been tied up to that point, it was nevertheless deemed legal.

Ironically, the competing squadron on the Kitty Hawk, the VA-115 Arabs, would soon be deactivated in 1967, not long after the Midway's decomissioning, to make the transition from the A-1 Skyraider to the A-6 Intruder, and would find a home on the Midway when the ship emerged from her modernization in 1971. The VA-115 would remain on the Midway until she was retired - dealing out the same treatment to opposing squadrons as it received from the VA-25. In one instance circa 1975-76, while the Midway was battling the Enterprise, an Arab Intruder, flown Cmd. Grafton and BN Sherfill, infiltrated the opposing squadron's rotation around the Enterprise and, with the Enterprise assuming the Arab A-6 was part of its own air wing, gained clearance to land. Grafton made his approach at a slow speed with his canopy open and deliberately over-shot the arresting gear. He threw out a handful of leaflets letting the Enterprise know she had just been sunk and took off to celebrate another victory for the Midway.

Not all the games were with friendly rivals. In a continuation of the Great Game, the Soviets consistently played cat and mouse with the Midway, flying aircraft in close proximity to the ship or sending a destroyer or submarine to monitor the Midway's activities and learn about her defenses.

The Midway participated in Operation TEAM SPIRIT, an intense electronic warfare and bombing exercise in S. Korea near the DMZ aimed at evaluating the effectiveness and coordination of the U.S. and S. Korean forces. Since the the establishment of the DMZ, the N. Koreans routinely violated provisions of the ceasefire. Tunneling under the DMZ was common, and just prior to TEAM SPIRIT, the N. Koreans established a policy that every unit should maintain two tunnels into the South. In addition to the tunneling, the N. Koreans, through unprovoked armed attacks had left over 300 American casualties in various incidents. One such incident took place on 18 August 1976. A S. Korean work crew and two U.S. Army officers with a few enlisted men - all unarmed - entered the DMZ to take down a tree that was interfering with the view from one of the checkpoints. A group of N. Korean soldiers, watching at first, soonafter confronted them and demanded they stop. When the S. Koreans continued cutting, the N. Koreans attacked them with picks and axes, murdering the two U.S. officers and wounding a S. Korean officer, four U.S. enlisted men and three S. Korean workers.

The Midway, having recently finished with Operation TEAM SPIRIT, returned to the Korean coast for Operation PAUL BUNYAN - a show of force preceding a second and final attempt at removing the poplar tree at the center of the controversy. During the three day stand off, the N. Koreans repeatedly tried to shoot down American planes which were operating at times north of the DMZ line, but they did not interfere when another work crew, this time with heavy back-up, removed the tree.

Throughout the remainder of the 1970s the Midway participated in various joint exercises in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, including a two day Iranian-U.S. operation called MIDLINK '77 and a couple of exercises with the Japanese Maritime Defense Force. During the Iranian hostage crisis, the Midway was rushed to the Arabian Sea to join the Kitty Hawk and the Nimitz. The Midway also remained in the Indian Ocean as a contingency force during the outbreak of violence in Yemen between forces in the north and south of that country, partly as reassurance to the Saudis that the U.S. was still committed to the region despite the fall of the Iranian Shah.

It wasn't long before a another crisis reared its ugly head in May of 1980 - this time in S. Korea. On 26 October of 1979 a former president of S. Korea, Park Chung-hee, was assassinated, sparking student protests which led to a coup in December by Major General Chun Doo-hwan, who quickly established martial law. In May of 1980, students again protested against the closure of a university and the protests devolved into riots, later known as Gwangju Uprising. The Midway was dispatched off the coast of the Cheju-Do Island in case the civil unrest grew out of hand.

In March of 1981, after an Intruder from the VA-115 spotted a downed chartered helicopter in the South China Sea, the Midway dispatched her Fleet Angels to the site and all 17 people aboard were saved.

The Midway was dry docked for most of 1986 while she received major enhancements through a new forward based updating program called EISRA (Extended Incremental Selected Repair). Although her deck configuration remained the same, she received improvements to her blast deflectors, arresting gear and catapult systems. She was also fitted with larger rudders, improved fire-fighting pumps and valves and avionic shops to service her new tenant, the F-18 Hornet. The air traffic control equipment was updated and new anti-submarine capabilities were installed. Since the adjustments significantly increased her weight, almost 47 tons of unusable cable was stripped and large hull blisters were added to increase the Midway's buoyancy. These appendages hampered the her performance at sea, and stability issues that had always plague the Midway became worse. The drawbacks from the overhaul created a stir in the Senate, where a committee held hearings and actually voted to retire the ship. The Navy convinced the Senate to over-rule the committee and appropriate an additional $138 million dollars to remedy the hull issues.

In the Middle East, in 1987, the Iran-Iraq war was dragging on into its seventh year. Over the past three of those years, a tanker war had been fought after Iraq attacked Iranian tankers in 1984 and the Iranians retaliated by attacking Kuwaiti vessels carrying Iraqi oil. Although this tit-for-tat engagement did little to damage either side, by the third year it was enough of a threat for the U.S. to employ the largest naval convoy since World War II, called Operation EARNEST WILL, to protect Persian Gulf shipping lanes for Kuwaiti vessels. The Midway was called in to participate in the operation from 1987 to 1988.

Throughout the latter 1980s, the Midway was not idle for long. In early June of 1989, the Midway was on standby in the contingency that American citizens would need to be evacuated during the incident at Tiananmen Square. Later in 1989, still regularly patrolling the Indian Ocean, the Midway participated in Exercise THALAY, a joint operation with the Royal Thai Navy. Directly after that, the Midway made the first pier-side stop in Fremantle, Australia. When Operation CLASSIC RESOLVE began to protect Filippino President Aquino, the Midway, along with the Enterprise, were the carriers chosen for the operation. The longevity of the Midway's cruises, as well as the uninterrupted days at sea, set records and established the carrier's reputation as always being at the tip of the sword. She was serving at the tip in early 1990, when the official announcement was made for her final decommissioning in 1991.

In June of 1990 two explosions aboard the Midway killed three men and caused a fire that raged for 10 hours. The incident sparked a frenzy from the press, which speculated whether the event would hasten the Midway's retirement. It didn't.

The Midway has endured accidents before, of course. The sea presents obvious perils and the flight deck of a carrier is one of the most dangerous work environments in the world. The Midway's first accident was in February of 1948 when a launch capsized in the sea near Hyeres, France, killing eight men. In 1954, the Midway collided with a supply ship, the USS Great Sitkin, near Athens, damaging one of the Midway's 5" guns. Later during that same cruise, a F2H bounced over the barrier and into a pack of planes, killing eight men. The first of several major fires broke out in November 1959 in the pump room while the ship was at Subic Bay. The reason for the fire was thought to be arson. In 1964, the Midway lost one of her elevators while using it to bring on supplies while in heavy seas. In February 1965, a Midway aircraft was inadvertently shot down by the USS Preble, killing the pilot. In 1972, an aircraft crashed upon landing, destroying eight other aircraft and killing five men. In 1975, another crash landing killed two men. In May 1978, a fire broke out in the ventilation shafts and spread to the boiler uptakes and to the second deck. Another fire broke out in 1979 from a broken acetylene line and killed one man while injuring 17 others. In May 1980, the Midway collided with a Panamanian merchant ship, causing little damage to the carrier, but killing two men and injuring three others. In 1986, the Midway collided with another ship, this time a Korean fishing boat (there is some debate as to whether it was North or South Korea) when the boat ran into one of the Midway's elevators. In short, the Midway experienced several accidents and, for the most part, finished out her cruises. It is a testament to the vessel and her crew that there were not more fatalities over the long course of her career. The Midway has proudly received numerous safety and efficiency awards.

In October of 1990 she was patrolling the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, participating in Operation IMMINENT THUNDER in November. When Operation DESERT SHIELD started, the Midway was the only carrier operating in the Persian Gulf.

When Operation DESERT STORM began, A-6 Intruders from one of the Midway's two medium attack squadrons, the VA-185 Nighthawks, were the first carrier planes over the beach. Because of the crowded narrow waters of the Persian Gulf and because of the Midway's peculiarly tight turning radius, she was able to operate in the northern reaches of the Persian Gulf where larger and newer carriers could not. Because of this unique advantage in positioning, the Midway was the Admiral's flagship for the entire strike force during the Gulf War. During the war, the Midway launched over 3,300 sorties, averaging up to 121 a day, and dropped over 4 million pounds of bombs and missiles on Iraqi targets.

After the war, as the Midway was preparing for retirement, she was called upon one last time to the Philippines to help with an evacuation after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Within a day of her orders, the Midway was loaded and ready to embark on Operation FIERY VIGIL. During the evacuation, she brought aboard 1,823 evacuees, mostly Air Force personnel.
In August of 1991, the Midway sailed out of Yokosuka for the last time for San Diego and her final decommissioning in 1992. After spending 5 years on the inactive reserve list, she was finally stricken from the Navy's list in 1997. She was turned into a floating museum and opened up to the public on 7 June 2004. Currently, she is the most visited carrier museum in the world.

The Midway's life took on various missions. Starting out as the ultimate supercarrier for the Pacific War, she just missed combat duty in that conflict and almost immediately transitioned into a cold warrior. After seven cruises in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic as the West's nuclear deterrent against the Soviets, she transitioned to the Pacific and helped Chinese Nationalists escape the Communist menace. Later she would help Vietnamese refugees escape the same threat under a different flag. Her aircraft shot down the first and last MiGs of the Vietnam war. Throughout the Cold War, the Midway was at the forefront of a continual dangerous cat and mouse game with the Soviets. She responded to various crises and helped to protect our allies and the world's seaplanes. When the Persian Gulf War broke out, the Midway was there to lead the task force during Operation DESERT STORM. In short, the Midway was always there to handle any situation. To maintain this constant vigilance over the better part of half a century, over 225 thousand sailors, airmen and marines served on her from 1945 to 1992. Since the Midway's decommissioning, she has re-emerged with a new mission as a museum ship. Today, the Midway sits in San Diego and is currently the most often visited museum ship in the world.

Most of the factual data of this history came from the excellent and concise history by Troy Prince at his Midway Sailor site, which is a gold mine of photo galleries, squadron links, cruise and squadron information and a lot more. Other sites that provided information include the resource rich, though less up to date CV-41 USS Midway, and the Naval Historical Center. The History channel's USS Midway: The Hero Ship is a good one hour primer with nice shots of Operation SANDY and Operation FROSTBITE, though much of the other footage doesn't seem to be of the Midway or her aircraft. Wikipedia has a decent basic outline of the ship, too. For information regarding the base realignment in Japan that led to the forward-positioning of the Midway, Assignment: Tokyo - an Ambassodor's Journal (1969-1972) by former ambassador to Japan, Armin H. Meyer, is well worth a look. Finally, much of the information regarding the Midway's operation from the mid-70s comes from my dad's account.

The USS Midway
The Tip of the Sword: A Brief History of the USS Midway
Gator Control: The VA-115
Aircraft of the USS Midway

On the Deck and In the Air, 1974-77
Pollywog to Shellback: Crossing the Line, 1975

Japan: A Forward-based Homefront
Home: Yokosuka and Nagai
Japan: Kamakura, Fuji and Izu areas
Ports of Call
Subic Bay
Hong Kong