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Midway Currents Fall 2022

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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.”

Greetings from the flight deck of the Midway, where we closed out a very successful summer highlighted by attendance being up over 25 percent from last year. America is traveling once again and our national attendance is back near pre-covid levels. As soon as international tourism picks back up, I believe we’ll exceed our previous attendance numbers. We’re looking really good as we head towards our 20th year celebration in 2024. 

We plan on giving Midway a fresh coat of paint to get her ready for her 20-year milestone as a museum, and we should be breaking ground for the conversion of the parking lot on Navy Pier into a park honoring our veterans. We’ll continue to maintain adequate parking on the pier and nearby to sustain our projected growth in visitation. All in all, a good-news story moving forward.

We celebrated our Midway American Patriot Gala on the flight deck on Sept. 1, and were honored to welcome Lt. Dan – Mr. Gary Sinise – as our recipient this year. His total dedication to the ongoing needs of our veterans was truly an inspiration to all of those in attendance, and the incredible work the Gary Sinise Foundation is doing was highlighted throughout the evening. I believe there is a long and sincere partnership between our two foundations in the coming decades. I’m sure that the Midway and Gary’s foundation will continue to deliver the much needed support our veterans deserve in the coming years.

During the gala, we also bid farewell to our education director, Sara Hanscom, and highlighted her 18 years of innovative leadership for our programs. Sara is the only education boss we have had on Midway, and she built our very successful and nationally-acclaimed programs from a vision into reality. We are so proud of our education program and all it has done from the beginning to educate kids about STEM subjects, but as importantly, about the greatness of America and the service and sacrifice required to keep our country strong. 

Farewell Miss Sara, we will all miss you, and welcome aboard Tina Chin, our new director of education. 

As we move into the holiday seasons, we all have much to be grateful for as we continue to build America’s Living Symbol of Freedom with your support. 

Onward and upward,

What a night! 

Even on one of the hottest days of the summer, our annual Midway American Patriot Award Gala was a huge success. As the sun’s blistering temperature faded at dusk, our 700 guests were finally able to beat the heat and enjoy celebrating with our honoree Gary Sinise and the Gary Sinise Foundation team. 

Following the gala, Gary sent us a wonderful personal note of thanks and I wanted to share some of his comments.

“It was wonderful to be there and receive this most esteemed honor. I have the utmost respect for the educational programs you provide. Our young Americans need to know America’s core values of service and sacrifice and it is programs like yours that will reach deep into their hearts, planting the seeds of patriotism, love of country and what it takes to keep us free. Thank you again so much for this beautiful medal. It was a wonderful night on the deck of that amazing ship.” 

A big thanks to Gary and his team for their incredible foundation work, and to our Midway team for working so hard to create another magical evening honoring a great American patriot.

A few weeks after the gala, we had the pleasure of helping celebrate another remarkable group of American patriots during the reunion of the Midway Veteran’s Association. It was their first gathering since 2019. I had the true honor of welcoming this brotherhood of former Midway sailors at their kick-off breakfast, and was able to share with them that their beloved ship continues to be in good shape and the future of the museum is bright. Veterans came from all over the country with family members to once again explore Midway, take in the sights and sounds of San Diego, and meet each other – some for the first time. I believe there may have also been a few sea stories swapped along the way!

As you can see, life aboard Midway is alive and well. Thank you for the many ways you continue to make that possible.

As always, let us know when your next visit is so we can say hello.

Dear Midway Members,

While those of us living in sunny, 75-degree San Diego may not get the normal cues that seasons are changing, there is still something special in the air as we enter the fall and holiday season and experience an extra dose of fellowship, celebration and gratefulness. 

Those feelings were certainly present in my mind recently as we spent a crisp fall morning with a group of members who got to experience a behind-the-scenes tour with some of our Midway volunteers. It was a wonderful opportunity for two beloved groups to come together, and I continue to be overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for the support you as members give us, and for our volunteers who gift the Midway experience with their time and talents each day. 

This event confirmed the importance of our Midway family coming together through opportunities to celebrate, learn and support each other. We’re excited for the upcoming year and the chance to gather through more member events. Thank you to those who have provided us feedback on exclusive member events. Based on your input, we’re excited to bring some of your favorites back with a couple new additions.

Below is the lineup we are currently planning of our “Members-Only” events in 2023. We hope you’ll mark your calendar and join us on these special occasions. We will be sharing more information as we get closer to each event, and we look forward to the chance to celebrate you all year long!

February 5 – 11
Member Appreciation Week
Seven days of celebrating you!

Saturday, February 11
Live the Adventure “State of the Ship” Breakfast

Saturday, March 11
Members Only Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Saturday, June 24
Steel Beach

Saturday, September 30
Members Only Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Tuesday, November 7
Live the Adventure – Educational Dinner

Sunday, December 10
Parade of Lights Members Night

Thanks again for the incredible support from all our members. Midway wouldn’t be where we are today without you.

All the best

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.

This is Karl’s final article in a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. aircraft carrier in 2022

The United States entered World War II following the Japanese naval air strike against the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Fortunately, the three U.S. aircraft carriers were not in port during the attack, and within weeks, American naval forces were hitting back at Japanese outposts in the Pacific. 

The carriers USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Yorktown (CV-5), newly returned from the Atlantic, struck the first blows against enemy forces at the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. The Enterprise narrowly became a casualty when a crippled enemy bomber attempted to crash into the ship bust just missed the flight deck. 

The USS Saratoga (CV-3), however, was torpedoed near Oahu in January 1942 and was forced to return to the West Coast for repairs and modernization. Meanwhile, her sister ship, the USS Lexington (CV-2) launched a raid on the new Japanese stronghold of Rabaul in New Guinea, where a young fighter pilot named Edward “Butch” O’Hare earned the Medal of Honor for single-handedly devastating a bomber formation attempting to attack the carrier.

 The U.S. carriers kept up their tempo of hit-and-run attacks including a surprise foray against a Japanese landing in New Guinea; strikes against Wake Island; and a spectacular raid against the Japanese homeland by Army Air Corps B-25 bombers flying from the USS Hornet (CV-8) on Apr.18, 1942. The large planes could not land back aboard the carrier, so the raid required landings in eastern China, but not one of the 18 attacking Mitchells landed as planned. 

USS Wasp (CV-7) burning and listing after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on Sept. 15,1942, while supporting U.S. forces on Guadalcanal.

While Enterprise and Hornet were occupied with the Tokyo raid, Lexington and Yorktown fought history’s first carrier clash at the Battle of Coral Sea from May 4-8, 1942. The Japanese lost a light carrier, Shoho, and suffered major damage to the fleet carrier, Shokaku, while Yorktown sustained bomb damage. The less-nimble Lexington was also hit by bombs as well as struck by torpedoes that ultimately doomed her. Heavily damaged, she was later scuttled becoming the first U.S. fleet carrier to be sunk during the war.

Naval intelligence estimates warned of an upcoming Japanese offensive planned against the American outpost on the Midway atoll at the end of the Hawaiian-island chain, so Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown returned to Pearl Harbor. Yorktown underwent a marathon three-day repair that patched her up sufficiently to deploy to Midway, while her original air group was largely replaced by fresh aircrews from Saratoga’s old squadrons.

In an epic three-day clash in early June 1942, dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown devastated the Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga and Soryu, in what became known as the “six minutes that changed the world.” A day later, a fourth Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, succumb. Hiryu’s planes, however, crippled Yorktown before an enemy submarine finished her. Though costly, particularly among the U.S. Navy’s torpedo squadrons, the American carrier victory at the Battle of Midway stopped the Japanese advances in the Pacific once and for all.

Success at Midway permitted an early U.S. offensive at Guadalcanal in the South Pacific, and the American carriers were in the thick of the six-month struggle for the island. Submarine attacks damaged Saratoga (again) and sank the USS Wasp (CV-7), which had ferried British fighters to besieged Malta in the Mediterranean just a few months earlier. Two carrier clashes, one in August and the other in October, ultimately repelled Japanese attempts to recapture Guadalcanal, though at the cost of Hornet.

While both sides in the Pacific reinforced into the first months of 1943, the USS Ranger (CV-4) supported the Operation Torch invasion of French Morocco and Algeria in November 1942.

Soon, an entirely new type of flattop, the escort carrier, took to the seas. Employed as aircraft transports, amphibious assault support ships, and submarine killers, the “Jeep Carriers” became indispensable in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

USS Independence (CVL-22) leads a U.S. Navy flotilla while on patrol in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

Meanwhile, shipyards furiously hammered out new carriers for fleet service, including the conversion of nine cruiser hulls into light carriers of the Independence class, and the astonishing completion, in time for combat, of 12 Essex-class fleet carriers. Matching these achievements was the training of new air groups to deploy on these new flight decks, strengthening the offensive power of the fleet exponentially.

With the newly constructed flattops joining the surviving American carriers from the summer of 1943, the U.S. Pacific Fleet wielded a dominating naval aviation force that sustained a relentless amphibious offensive that drove Japanese forces back into the Western Pacific. A huge carrier clash off Guam on June 19, 1944, saw Japanese carrier aviation literally shot from the sky, never to be a factor again.

Despite devastating kamikaze suicide attacks in the later stages of the war, the carriers led the continued advance across the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and right off Japan’s shores, when the war ended in August 1945. The mobility and destructive power of the carriers and their air groups won a resounding victory in the Pacific, but the rise of the atomic bomb and short-sighted government policies would soon endanger the carrier as never before.

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.