Author

USS Midway Museum

Browsing

The hangar deck of the USS Midway Museum came alive with the vibrant sights and sounds of more than a dozen different cultures during the inaugural Midway Birthday and Multicultural Celebration.

Performing artists representing African American and Hispanic heritages, as well as multiple Asian, European and Middle Eastern cultures, entertained and engaged museum visitors with high-energy dances and music that highlighted their unique traditions and ethnicities.

Held on Midway’s 77th birthday, the aim of the festival, coordinated by museum’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, was to help build greater ethnic community awareness and appreciation in San Diego.

The littlest drummer performs with the Heartbeat Music & Performing Arts Academy.

“The multicultural event to celebrate the USS Midway’s birthday was a great way to showcase diversity in San Diego,” said, Veronica Armstrong-Evans, chair of the committee. “It was an opportunity to honor the contributions of our diverse population to our city while increasing awareness of all the Midway Museum offers.”

The San Diego community is made up of a variety of heritages from all over the world. Bringing them together on Midway created an inclusive atmosphere of acceptance and admiration.

“We absolutely loved dancing on such an amazing piece of history and being able to share our Mexican culture and traditions,” said Federico Guerrero, director and founder of Grupo Folklorico Herencia Mexicana. “We loved to see the costumes, traditions and history of those around us. Everyone was so kind and friendly, and the crowd really enjoyed the performances.”

For many of the performers, just being on a Navy ship was a unique experience.

“It was awe-inspiring to be on board this historic vessel,” said Jessica Woods, a member of the Japanese Naruwan Taiko Drummers. “For some of our performers, it was their first time being inside this floating museum, and what an experience it was.”

Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts Dancers

Although most museum visitors did not anticipate the event, Midway guests thoroughly enjoyed the celebration.

“This was really fun,” said Libby Pasternick, who was visiting Midway with her family. “I didn’t expect to see this on the ship. It was a great idea. We loved the drumline group, especially the little boy with the mini-bass drum. He was super cute.”

For all of the groups, the chance to perform for the public was an opportunity to keep important parts of their cultures alive and relevant.

“Because San Diego is home to such a diverse population, it’s beautiful to share our traditions and culture with others and at the same time learn about theirs,” said  Federico, who established his Mexican folkdance group in 2018. “The community was able to learn about new cultures and traditions and for some, be proud representatives of their culture.”

“Our group actually performs dances from around the world, so we embrace the opportunity to showcase many countries,” said Mervi Gotch of the Performing Folk Dancers of Balboa Park. “Our group focuses on traditional and authentic dances. We strive to preserve old traditions.”

For one of the groups, performing on Midway was more than just an opportunity to share traditions. It was also a chance to speak to what is taking place in their home country of Ukraine.

“We really appreciate that we are able to be part of this festival on the Midway,” said Paul Filenko, of the Ukrainian band U3zub. “For us, it was also an opportunity to thank the United States for its support of Ukraine and for its efforts to try to keep peace and freedom throughout the world.”

Midway’s multicultural celebration was a huge success and highlighted the strength America enjoys in its diversity.

Vietnamese Southern Sea Dragon Dancers

“It brought various communities together to celebrate and experience the beauty of ethnic and cultural diversity in one of the greatest venues in San Diego,” said Veronica, who is also a retired Navy captain. “It was a wonderful day of making people aware of who is all here and how we make San Diego America’s finest city.”

There’s a new Captain of Education in town, and her name is Tina Chin.

Reporting aboard as the USS Midway Museum’s new education director, Tina brings 30 years of experience in a variety of educational disciplines that make her exceptionally qualified to take the reins of the museum’s education department.

“I didn’t really think there was a job that matched my eclectic skill set, so when I saw the position at Midway, I knew that my guardian angel had sent it my way,” said Tina, a New York City native. “Midway is the perfect marriage for my formal background in education with my love of museums and non-profits.”

Tina’s experience is as diverse as it is extensive. Graduating from University of California at San Diego (UCSD) in 1990, she has been an English teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, community college trainer and facilitator, program administrator and senior director.

“The competition for her position was exceptional and Tina emerged as the most qualified person to lead our programs moving forward,” said Mac McLaughlin, Midway’s president and CEO. “She brings a wealth of background in education at all levels, and I am sure the success of our education programs will continue under her leadership.”

A key experience during Tina’s career that significantly helped prepare her for her new role on Midway was her position as a program administrator and principal of the Balboa Park Program for the San Diego Unified School District. A public school program, she partnered with nearly 30 of the museums and institutions in the park, including the Natural History Museum, Fleet Science Center, Old Globe Theater and the San Diego Zoo.

Tina discusses upcoming education projects with Wayne Nuzzolo, assistant education director.

“I worked with them all for many years and was always very impressed with the programming and passion provided to the school children I brought through their doors,” said Tina, who is credentialed in English and math. “I learned their day-to-day operations, budgets, programs, staffing, visitor experience. I got a mini crash course without actually being a museum employee.”

Through this experience, Tina came to appreciate how important museums are in educating the public, and she sees Midway is a great connector of the present to the past, people to academics, ideas, and each other.

“Midway is both macro and micro,” said Tina, whose most recent leadership position was with the San Diego Community College District. “It focuses on big, global movements as well as individual stories. Real life learning, history, math, science, communication, political science, all live and breathe here at Midway, and I get to be part of the team that promotes all of it.”

Settling into her new position and the Midway family, Tina’s early concentration is on keeping the museum’s nationally-acclaimed education programs running smoothly.

“My initial focus is to provide my education team the level of support they need to do the amazing work that they already do,” said Tina, who earned her master’s degree in educational leadership from San Diego State University (SDSU). “I’ve learned very quickly that everybody on Midway serves the one big purpose which is to honor those who’ve served and educate future generations. And my goal is to do exactly that.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Tina join our phenomenal education team,” said Maddy Kilkenny, a member of Midway’s board of directors and the chair of the museum’s education committee. “Midway educates thousands of children every year on board and online, and Tina’s experience both in museums and in the classroom will bring valuable leadership and new ideas to our world-class team of teachers and staff.”

As Tina gets her “sea legs” on Midway, she’s not only looking forward to carrying on the legacy of the museum’s outstanding education program, but is excited about the possibilities for the future.

“The sky is the limit,” said Tina, who has served on several boards and committees for education and the arts in San Diego. “Midway is such an amazing place and an incredible organization. The culture here is what so many other places aspire to. There is nothing this group can’t do. I’d like to explore how to continue to reach more people, provide more engagement opportunities, in person or remotely, and maybe see how augmented reality could expand the Midway experience.”

Award-winning actor, Gary Sinise, had no idea when he accepted the role as Army Lt. Dan Taylor in the Academy Awarding-winning motion picture “Forrest Gump,” that he would soon become one the nation’s most ardent supporters and advocates for those who are serving and have served in the military, especially wounded warriors.

To be or KNOT to be, that is the million dollar question.

When former Midway volunteer Jim Simmons began his knot-tying demonstrations on the ship’s fo’c’sle in 2007 as a way to entertain museum guests and highlight the history of seamanship, little did he know the impact that he would ultimately have on thousands of students in San Diego.

Jim would offer the bracelets he made to visitors in exchange for small donations that would go to Midway’s education department. That first year, nearly $3,000 dollars were collected and applied to the museum’s Bravo Zulu (BZ) Scholarship Fund that was in its infancy.

He had just turned 14 when the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. Like many Americans, he wanted to “join the fight,” but Joe Neves was too young. The wait seemed like an eternity, but as soon has he turned 17, he convinced his father to sign a “permission slip” so that he could enlist in the Navy.

It was late 1944 when Joe put on the uniform of his country for the first time, and he was ready to go.

“I was sent to an accelerated six-week boot camp in at Sampson Naval Training Station on Seneca Lake in New York,” said Joe, who was excited to finally be doing his part to defend his country. “I was then sent to gunnery school for two months in Oklahoma.”

After joining his first squadron flying in the PB4Y2 Privateer patrol bomber, the Navy’s version of the B-24 bomber, Joe’s unit was sent north to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

“We spent three very cold months patrolling for Japanese around the Aleutian Islands,” recalled Joe.

Joe joined the Navy at age 17 in 1944.

By the end of 1945, Joe was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37) as a tail gunner and radioman in an SB2C Helldiver in one of the carrier’s dive bomber squadrons.

A milestone in Joe’s naval career happened in 1946 when he was transferred to world famous Tophatters of Navy Bombing Squadron 4 (VB-4) flying off the USS Tarawa (CV-40). Established in 1919, the legendary Tophatters are the Navy’s oldest active aviation squadron. Today, however, the Tophatters are known as Strike Fighter Squadron 14 (VFA-14) flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet from their home base of Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.

“I never expected that I would join the oldest squadron in the U.S. Navy,” said Joe, who was still only 19 years old at the time. “Wow, I’m in the Tophatters I thought to myself. I was so thrilled.”

Flying again as a tail gunner in a Helldiver, the Tophatters’ post-World War II assignment consisted mainly of flying what Joe called “clean-up” patrols in the western Pacific near Saipan and the Mariana Islands.

“We flew scouting and search missions, patrolling to find submarines,” said Joe, who is currently the oldest living Tophatter. “Even though the war was over, we were still flying out to the Japanese islands to see if there were any troops left over who might still be trying to fight.”

The flying duty was long and tough, but Joe loved being part of the squadron.

“Every pilot in the squadron treated us as one of them,” remembered Joe with a smile. “They were the greatest guys. They really took care of us.”

As the fighting between the Chinese Nationalists and the Chinese Communists continued to escalate in the late 1940s, Joe and the Tophatters found themselves on the periphery of a Chinese civil war. After making a port call in Tsingtao, China in October 1948, the Tarawa’s crew and airwing spent five weeks off the coast of northern China observing the strife enveloping the region.

Whether deployed overseas or back in the States, the nearly three years Joe was with the Tophatters were highlight of his time in the Navy.

“I just have a strong love for that squadron,” said Joe, who left the Navy in 1949. “I spent most of my time in the Navy with the Tophatters, and I’ve never met a greater group than the guys in that squadron. I was so lucky to be a Tophatter.”

After leaving the Navy in 1949, Joe went to work as a machinist and ultimately a design engineer for an aerospace manufacturing company. In 1980, he began a second career as an international trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Before retiring in 1997, Joe had the pleasure of meeting five U.S. presidents and many foreign dignitaries.

Although retired, Joe wasn’t ready to hang up his spurs. He felt he still had much to share. In 2004, he found the USS Midway Museum.

Joe with the Tophatters on USS Tarawa (CV-40) in the Pacific after World War II.

“I was visiting the Midway with my family shortly after it had opened,” said Joe. “I was on the flight deck describing some of the planes to my grandson when I noticed, all of a sudden, that there was a big crowd gathered around me listening to what I was saying. My daughter told me I should become a volunteer on the ship.”

Joe did just that and over the last 18 years has accumulated more than 5,800 volunteer hours on Midway as a docent and currently gives talks to museum guests every Tuesday morning about his Navy experience during and shortly after World War II.

For Joe, becoming a Midway volunteer has been a blessing.

“I think becoming a docent has given me long life,” said Joe, who recently celebration his 95th birthday. “Being a volunteer on Midway is the greatest thing I could think of after retiring. I’m alive now and I can say that honestly that I owe it all to the Midway. If there wasn’t a Midway Museum, there may not be a Joe Neves still kicking around today.”

He had just turned 14 when the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. Like many Americans, he wanted to “join the fight,” but Joe Neves was too young. The wait seemed like an eternity, but as soon has he turned 17, he convinced his father to sign a “permission slip” so that he could enlist in the Navy.

It was late 1944 when Joe put on the uniform of his country for the first time, and he was ready to go.

“I was sent to an accelerated six-week boot camp in at Sampson Naval Training Station on Seneca Lake in New York,” said Joe, who was excited to finally be doing his part to defend his country. “I was then sent to gunnery school for two months in Oklahoma.”

After joining his first squadron flying in the PB4Y2 Privateer patrol bomber, the Navy’s version of the B-24 bomber, Joe’s unit was sent north to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

“We spent three very cold months patrolling for Japanese around the Aleutian Islands,” recalled Joe.

Joe joined the Navy at age 17 in 1944.

By the end of 1945, Joe was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37) as a tail gunner and radioman in an SB2C Helldiver in one of the carrier’s dive bomber squadrons.

A milestone in Joe’s naval career happened in 1946 when he was transferred to world famous Tophatters of Navy Bombing Squadron 4 (VB-4) flying off the USS Tarawa (CV-40). Established in 1919, the legendary Tophatters are the Navy’s oldest active aviation squadron. Today, however, the Tophatters are known as Strike Fighter Squadron 14 (VFA-14) flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet from their home base of Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.

“I never expected that I would join the oldest squadron in the U.S. Navy,” said Joe, who was still only 19 years old at the time. “Wow, I’m in the Tophatters I thought to myself. I was so thrilled.”

Flying again as a tail gunner in a Helldiver, the Tophatters’ post-World War II assignment consisted mainly of flying what Joe called “clean-up” patrols in the western Pacific near Saipan and the Mariana Islands.

“We flew scouting and search missions, patrolling to find submarines,” said Joe, who is currently the oldest living Tophatter. “Even though the war was over, we were still flying out to the Japanese islands to see if there were any troops left over who might still be trying to fight.”

The flying duty was long and tough, but Joe loved being part of the squadron.

“Every pilot in the squadron treated us as one of them,” remembered Joe with a smile. “They were the greatest guys. They really took care of us.”

As the fighting between the Chinese Nationalists and the Chinese Communists continued to escalate in the late 1940s, Joe and the Tophatters found themselves on the periphery of a Chinese civil war. After making a port call in Tsingtao, China in October 1948, the Tarawa’s crew and airwing spent five weeks off the coast of northern China observing the strife enveloping the region.

Whether deployed overseas or back in the States, the nearly three years Joe was with the Tophatters were highlight of his time in the Navy.

“I just have a strong love for that squadron,” said Joe, who left the Navy in 1949. “I spent most of my time in the Navy with the Tophatters, and I’ve never met a greater group than the guys in that squadron. I was so lucky to be a Tophatter.”

After leaving the Navy in 1949, Joe went to work as a machinist and ultimately a design engineer for an aerospace manufacturing company. In 1980, he began a second career as an international trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Before retiring in 1997, Joe had the pleasure of meeting five U.S. presidents and many foreign dignitaries.

Although retired, Joe wasn’t ready to hang up his spurs. He felt he still had much to share. In 2004, he found the USS Midway Museum.

Joe with the Tophatters on USS Tarawa (CV-40) in the Pacific after World War II.

“I was visiting the Midway with my family shortly after it had opened,” said Joe. “I was on the flight deck describing some of the planes to my grandson when I noticed, all of a sudden, that there was a big crowd gathered around me listening to what I was saying. My daughter told me I should become a volunteer on the ship.”

Joe did just that and over the last 18 years has accumulated more than 5,800 volunteer hours on Midway as a docent and currently gives talks to museum guests every Tuesday morning about his Navy experience during and shortly after World War II.

For Joe, becoming a Midway volunteer has been a blessing.

“I think becoming a docent has given me long life,” said Joe, who recently celebration his 95th birthday. “Being a volunteer on Midway is the greatest thing I could think of after retiring. I’m alive now and I can say that honestly that I owe it all to the Midway. If there wasn’t a Midway Museum, there may not be a Joe Neves still kicking around today.”

The USS Midway Museum’s flight deck was turned into a summertime Santa’s workshop when The Home Depot Foundation came to town.

Home Depot volunteers from all over the country built playhouses, picnic tables, dog beds, outdoor benches and chairs, and planters all destined to become early Christmas presents for the families of military members and veterans, as well as military and veteran support organizations.

The USS Midway Museum’s flight deck was turned into a summertime Santa’s workshop when The Home Depot Foundation came to town.

Home Depot volunteers from all over the country built playhouses, picnic tables, dog beds, outdoor benches and chairs, and planters all destined to become early Christmas presents for the families of military members and veterans, as well as military and veteran support organizations.

Millions of school American children in the 1950s and 1960s remember the phrase “see Spot run” from the introduction books that helped them learn to read while in first grade. Today, however, “see Spot run” has evolved to “see Spot climb steps, jump rope, open doors, search and identify, capture data and even throw a switch and drag a cement block.”

Built by Boston Dynamics, Spot is a dog-like robot designed to navigate myriad different terrains with exceptional mobility to conduct a variety of missions including conducting surveys, collecting information and inspecting equipment. The U.S. Navy is currently studying Spot’s capabilities to see if it’s a fit for the naval service.

“The Navy is always looking for tools and techniques that can help it accomplish its mission better, faster, cheaper, and safer,” said Dr. Mark Bilinski, director science and technology at the Navy Warfare Information Center (NIWC) in San Diego. “Spot shows promise for being able to potentially do a lot of things like going into hazardous spaces instead of a sailor or automating mundane tasks to free up sailors to do more important things.”

Spot the Robot Dog dazzles Midway visitors.

Spot, weighing approximately 70 pounds, is designed to go into locations too dangerous or risky for humans, and can operate in extreme weather and temperature conditions. Programmed with obstacle avoidance and height detection that maps in front of the robot, Spot can determine what its next step should be without input from its operator, and does so in a nano-second.

Already operational in 35 countries, Spot is currently being used to collect data on structural and safety issues in Italy at the ancient ruins of Pompeii and by the Ukrainian military to remove mortar shells and cluster munitions in formerly Russian-controlled areas near its capital city of Kyiv.

In an effort to put Spot through its paces, USS Midway Museum jumped at the chance to help the Navy with its testing.

“Midway offers a quick and easy access platform to test new systems and equipment that can be rapidly deployed for the active duty military,” said Len Santiago, Midway’s chief engineer. “We provide a unique opportunity for Navy scientists to investigate emerging technology.”

Boston Dynamics has been developing robots that, due to their natural movements, have the ability to appropriately react in complicated and dynamic environments. The Navy already knew from earlier testing that Spot could navigate in cramped spaces, so it wanted to see how it would operate on a ship.

“We wanted to see how Spot would perform in shipboard environments,” said Mark, who has been with NIWC for a decade. “We suspected it would perform well, but you never really know unless you try it out. You’re not going to encounter hatches and knee knockers anywhere else.”

Spot hit the deck running – literally. The quadrupedal robot spent hours on Midway traversing much of the ship from narrow passageways, awkward hatches and tricky stairwells to different surfaces on the flight and hangar decks.

Spot checks out Midway’s berthing compartment.

“It did really well,” said Mark, a San Diegan who graduated from Vista High School. “It had no problem with the various surfaces, from nonskid to deck plates, and it navigated passageways with ease, adjusting for and overcoming the knee knockers, which are more imposing when you’re as close to the ground as Spot is.”

“It additionally did really well in extremely tight quarters, in areas not much larger than itself,” said Dan Jennings, an engineer who works in unmanned systems integration and testing at NIWC. “We also tested the ‘touch to go feature’ around some very tight obstacles that it had trouble with in manual control. It plotted itself a path around the obstacle with ease.”

Spot helping Midway’s safety team.

While Spot was impressing Navy evaluators, it was also wowing surprised Midway visitors, many of whom had a hard time believing what they were seeing.

“Spot was adored by staff, docents, children, and parents alike,” said Dan, who has been with NIWC for six years and earned a mechanical engineering degree from San Diego State University. “There were many photo ops and many parents encouraging their children that this is the kind of thing they can do if they stay focused at school.”

Midway proved to be an ideal setting for real-world testing for the Navy.

“The Midway has been instrumental in advancing our research and development efforts,” said, said Mark, who holds a doctorate in mathematics. “It is simply amazing and is an indispensable resource in helping us speed capability to the fleet. The Midway Museum continues to serve and we’re thrilled to have such an excellent partner.”