There are events that are so significant that they change the course of history. For the U.S. Navy, milestone anniversaries of two of these monumental events were commemorated this year – the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first aircraft carrier and the 80th anniversary of its tide-turning victory at Battle of Midway during World War II.
The aircraft carrier would ultimately transformed how the Navy evolved the structure and deployment of its fleets, while the triumph at Midway helped resurrect the strength of freedom and democracy during one of the world’s darkest hours.
To mark their significance, the U.S. Navy hosted a tribute on board the USS Midway Museum.
Attending the commemoration were two veterans and heroes of the Battle of Midway – Ervin Wendt and Charles Monroe, both from the famed Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8).
“It was an opportunity to succeed,” said 106-year-old Ervin, who retired from the Navy as a senior chief aviation ordnanceman in 1967 after 30 years of service. “There was an expectation of casualties because it was war. The risk of losing lives was on the table. I lost a lot of my friends.”
At 99 years old, Charles still remembers how he felt about the Navy’s chances of winning at Midway.
“I was still very confident that U.S. naval forces would be successful,” said Charles, who rose to the rank of aviation radioman 1st class. “I always said I had an angel taking care of me because I got out of it alive.”
The Battle of Midway is seen by many military historians as turning the tide in the Pacific during the early days of World War II.
“For the U.S. Navy, the victory at Midway marked not only the turning point of the war in the Pacific, but it also marked the arrival of carrier-based air power as the centerpiece of our nation’s maritime strategy,” said Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the U.S. naval air force. “At Midway, America laid aside the shield and picked up the sword, never again yielding the offensive.”
Converted from a naval coal supply ship, the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier was commissioned a century ago. While it was impossible to predict at the time, the carrier’s emergence would, in short order, have a dramatic impact on the future of the naval strategy and tactics.
“The Navy is celebrating the centennial of the aircraft carriers by honoring their history while driving forward into the future,” said the admiral. “On March 20, 1922, the former collier ship USS Jupiter was recommissioned as USS Langley, the first aircraft carrier. Just 20 years later, carriers proved their combat capability and strategic significance at Midway.”
USS Midway Museum volunteers are the reason behind the museum’s continued success. From docents to safety, restoration to outreach, and all the other departments in between, the collective contributions of our volunteers make the guests experience on Midway second to none.
“The Midway volunteer crew makes this ship a fun place to work,” said Laurie Switzer, Midway’s director of volunteer programs. “So many incredible personal stories and outstanding citizens. We appreciate each and every volunteer on our active roster – nearly 800 strong.”
With much joy, we bring you Midway’s Volunteers of the Month for the second quarter of 2022.
Harlan Lippincott, Ship’s Restoration – April 2022
The Midway may be a museum, but in many ways, she’s still as much a functioning Navy ship as she was when steaming the oceans of the world.
Although the ship is now permanently welded to the pier, so to speak, many of her systems have to operate properly if the museum is to open its doors to the public.
No one knows that better the Harlan Lippincott, a ship’s restoration volunteer since 2014.
Harlan, who has nearly 2,000 volunteer hours, can normally be found in the bowels of Midway keeping the carrier living and breathing. He most recently, along with other members of the ship’s restoration team, worked tirelessly to restore hundreds of feet of the low-pressure air system that supports all three of the ship’s 175,000-pound aircraft elevators. He also prepared a 100-page low-pressure air technical document with diagrams spanning the ship.
“Harlan is a quiet but dedicated volunteer warrior for Midway,” said Len Santiago, the museum’s chief engineer. “His meticulous technical skills coupled with persistent patience and a smiling face warms my heart every time I see him. He represents the best of our dedicated volunteer force that keeps Midway running every day.”
Harlan, a Navy veteran and former gun fire control technician, also contributes to Midway’s outreach and curatorial programs.
Fun fact – Harlan’s son is the executive officer of Helicopter Maritime Squadron 73 (HSM-73). Now that’s keeping the Navy “all in the family.”
Siew Chinsee, Safety – May 2022
Always with a smile. Siew Chinsee brightens every space she enters with her positive energy and can-do demeanor. And it’s the real deal.
A retired special education teacher from the Sweetwater Union High School District, Siew has become a critical member of Midway’s safety team since she began volunteering in 2019.
In just three short years, she has amassed more than 3,200 volunteer hours and is involved in a variety of important safety department functions. On any given Monday or Friday, you can find her “lighting off” the ship at 6 a.m. and closing the museum down when the last guests have departed. She also assists with a number of key safety department administrative duties including guest pass distribution and watch bill updates, as well as conducting monthly inspections as a member of the fire-bottle team.
“Siew is a dedicated safety and security volunteer who really takes pride in her work,” said Dominick Boccia, Midway’s director of safety and security. “She strives to learn all aspects of her duties. She asks great questions and is proud of her accomplishments. Siew always has a smile on her face and greets guests with enthusiasm.”
Siew is also a great help to the guest services team using her multi-lingual skills to assist with Midway visitors from Asia.
Chris Day, Docent and Speakers Bureau – June 2022
Midway communicates with its members and the general public through a diverse advertising program, consumer and social media efforts and direct marketing. However, the hidden gem of the museum’s community outreach is its speakers bureau.
In the first half of 2022, the speakers bureau team has presented to more than 2,000 members of the San Diego community at nearly 60 venues around the county.
A rising star for the bureau is Chris Day.
Chris began volunteering as a docent for Midway in 2014 and has tallied nearly 1,500 hours. He became interested in the museum because of a contract his former employer had with the museum. Chris was a senior vice president of Swinerton Builders when the company was constructing the Battle of Midway Theater.
He was so impressed with Midway, its staff and volunteers, that he decided to join the team.
Along with his docent duties, he’s stepped up to the plate in a major way to assist the speakers bureau.
“Chris stepped forward and jumped right in when we needed help,” said Dick Walker, Midway’s speakers bureau coordinator. “He didn’t hesitate to do multiple speeches all over San Diego County.
Chris, a former Navy lieutenant, was one of the first speakers to give the new presentation on the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
For many a pastry aficionado, a donut in both hands is nothing more than a well-balanced diet. But what do they say about more than three dozen donuts?!
Early June saw Midway’s flight deck transformed into a makeshift bakery as it hosted the Salvation Army’s National Donut Day 4th Annual World Donut Eating Championship.
“The Midway was the perfect location for the event due to strong Southern California military ties,” said Jake Minger, communications manager for the Salvation Army’s San Diego regional office. “It was wonderful for us to be able to say thank you to veterans who have proudly served America.”
The Salvation Army established National Donut Day in 1938 to honor it’s “Doughnut Lassies” volunteers who risked their lives to raise spirits of thousands of U.S. soldiers serving on the front lines in Europe during World War I.
In 1917, these patriotic Salvation Army volunteers traveled to France delivering donuts and other sweet treats to servicemembers fighting in the war. The donut was then, and continues to be, a taste of home and a symbol of comfort for members of the American armed forces.
“The donut actually commemorates the start of the Salvation Army’s veteran’s services more than 100 years ago,” said Lt. Col. Lee Lescano, divisional secretary for the San Diego regional office. “In World War I, the Salvation Army’s lassies brought a little comfort, a little of home to soldiers which included donuts that they made in their helmets.”
“Our Donut Day was a big success! The event raised close to $20,000 for veterans.”
To celebrate National Donut Day and honor military veterans, the Salvation Army returned to Midway for its fund-raising donut-eating contest.
“The fundraiser supported veterans assisted through many of the services provided by The Salvation Army including employment, homelessness, and drug and alcohol programs,” said Jake. “All of the money raised stays in Southern California.”
The donut-eating contest, while fun, was not a casual affair. It was series business. The contestants included the number-one-ranked female competitive eater in the world, Miki Sudo. The challenge was simple, whoever ate the most donuts in eight minutes, would be crowned victorious.
When the horn sounded, Miki left her fellow competitors in the powdered-sugar dust, devouring 39 ½ donuts.
“I’m the fifth ranked competitive eater, men and women combined,” said Miki, won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest for the eighth time in 2022. “I was just a girl having a great time on the USS Midway. It was such an honor to be here and to win.”
For most, it’s difficult to have a bad day when surrounded by oodles of donuts. The National Donut Day celebration on the museum’s flight deck was more than just bake-shop merriment, the funds raised will allow the Salvation Army to continue its support of veterans in need.
“Our Donut Day was a big success,” said Jake. “The event raised close to $20,000 for veterans. We hope to do it again next year on Midway.”
It was a star-spangled 4th of July night on and above the USS Midway Museum as the annual Big Bay Boom fireworks show lit up the sky over San Diego Bay. Nearly 3,000 guests watched the massive pyrotechnic display from the museum’s flight deck celebrating the nation’s 246th birthday in grand style.
The Midway’s popular fireworks viewing party is one of the most sought-after tickets in Southern California.
“This was our first time,” said Michelle Winslow, from Valley Center who attended the viewing party with her husband Brandon. “We used to watch the fireworks from Navy Pier before COVID but decided the next time we’d come to the Midway and hopefully make it a tradition.”
The 17-minute fireworks show was launched from four barges floating in San Diego Bay and choreographed to a selection of patriotic music broadcast on both local television and radio.
Midway’s front-row seats on the bay made the Independence Day spectacle and an awesome experience.
“It was fabulous,” said Nina Brown of San Diego who was joined by family and friends for the party. “This is our fourth time coming to Midway for the fireworks. We brought the kids, and they were so excited after COVID to be back in the thick of things.”
The energetic songs of The Sully Band, the San Diego Music Award winner in 2020 for best live local band, kept all those in attendance in high spirits.
“It’s fantastic to play here, it was a real honor,” said Robert “Sully” Sullivan, the band’s lead singer. “This was an excellent crowd and we really enjoyed it.”
Midway was not only the best place in San Diego to take in the fireworks but, as America’s Living Symbol of Freedom, brought special meaning to those commemorating the 4th of July on the flight deck.
“God bless America and our 56 signers for giving us freedom,” said Brandon Winslow. “The National Day of Independence 1776. What a day and place to celebrate on top of the bow of the USS Midway.”
The future of tomorrow’s military is developing in the nation’s high schools today. There are currently more than 500,000 student cadets participating in nearly 3,300 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) units around the country.
As part of their leadership development training, the cadets participate annually in the JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge.
Enter the USS Midway Museum’s Leadership Academy.
“Using the example of famous U.S. Navy Flying Midshipmen like Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong, both former Navy pilots and NASA astronauts, the cadets were challenged to identify the character traits of a good leader and discuss how they can continue to develop their own character as they become future leaders,” said Chase Odell, Midway’s youth and leadership programs manager.
In 2015, Midway’s education department partnered with the Travis Manion Foundation to create an onboard leadership program dedicated to teaching and improving character development skills in future generations. The academy features a day-long program that helps develop young adults as values-based leaders.
While on board Midway, the cadets were challenged with three different hands-on activities that allowed to them to put their leadership lessons into action.
The first was an obstacle course they had to navigate as a team with no spoken communication. The second challenge was to, again as a team, build the tallest structure possible in 10 minutes given only 10 balloons and a roll of tape. The last team activity was completing a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces needed, unbeknownst to the cadets, placed in the puzzle boxes of other teams.
“These challenges focused on a number of leadership qualities needed to be successful not only as military officers, but as leaders in all walks of life,” said Chase. “The focus of the lessons tested the cadets in several areas including teamwork, perseverance, creativity, integrity, judgement and humility.”
The cadets where very appreciative for the opportunity to attend Midway’s leadership program and enjoyed the interaction with their mentors as well as tackling the challenges.
“These activities where cool and fun,” said one of the San Diego High School cadets. “I can’t wait to use them next year with our freshman cadets.”
Since the museum’s Leadership Academy piloted seven years ago, thousands of youths from the San Diego community have participated in the character and leadership development curriculum.
The program’s goal is to empower students to develop their unique character strengths and to hone their leadership skills in order to better serve others.
“Every cadet was smiling and having fun,” said Lt. Col. Lars Staack, the senior Army instructor for the San Diego Unified School District. “It shows that the Midway team cares about the future leaders and makes learning fun.”
“Praise like this make us look forward to hosting more leadership academies on Midway,” said Chase. “We hope to continue our new partnership with the Army JROTC and its leadership challenge program next year.”
“Top Gun: Maverick” movie madness has taken the world by storm this summer. In the two months since its release, the much-anticipated sequel, starring Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, has grossed more than $1 billion in box-office sales domestically and internationally.
The red-carpet fan experience for the movie held on the USS Midway Museum in early May, which involved all the film’s stars, was also an overwhelming success. The media coverage for the epic world-premiere event on board the ship reached an estimated viewing, listening and reading audience of more than 9 billion people globally (yes, that’s more than the population of the planet).
As Midway prepared for its first post-pandemic summer in more than two years, the museum’s marketing team worked closely with its advertising agency, VITRO, to see how the “Top Gun” phenomena could be incorporated in the ship’s summer marketing campaign.
“There are very few naval ship museums in the world where visitors can get as intimate a taste for aircraft carrier aviation as they can on Midway,” said David Koontz, Midway’s director of marketing. “Exhibiting 30 beautifully restored military aircraft ranging from World War II era to the present day, Midway prides itself on bringing naval aviation and the Navy’s history to life.”
For VITRO, tapping into the power of “Top Gun” made perfect sense in marketing summer visitation to Midway.
“It all stemmed from the insight of turning fiction into nonfiction,” said Ricky Harpin, Midway’s advertising account manager for VITRO. “Although “Top Gun” is a fictional movie, it’s based on a real group of aviators that experience real heart-pumping action, and land on real aircraft carriers like the USS Midway. Leveraging the fandom and excitement around the film, we encouraged movie lovers to visit the museum for an authentic, real-life “Top Gun” experience that they could only get here in San Diego.”
The VITRO team has worked with Midway for nearly four years and knows well the vision and culture of the museum. Having the opportunity to channel “Top Gun” as a vehicle to create an advertising campaign was an exciting proposition.
“We were beyond thrilled to work with the Midway to develop a campaign that could inspire a whole new generation of “Top Gun” lovers,” said Ricky. “The museum and everything that it represents is such an interesting and authentic story to tell, and that’s what made creating such a unique advertising program both effective and fun to work on.”
As with all marketing and advertising efforts, the goal is to always maximize exposure within an established budget. This process is often as important as the actual development of creative components of any campaign.
“It was all about being in the right place, at the right time, in front of the right people in order to build awareness and drive ticket bookings,” said Ricky. “Knowing that there was going to be a lot of attention on the movie, we capitalized on this by buying digital placements where we knew interested audiences would be Googling and visiting online “Top Gun” movie sites and articles.”
Along with creation of digital advertisements for online and social media sites, VITRO knew that theaters would be packed with movie goers, especially in the first several weeks following the film’s release. To make the most of this opportunity, they produced a fun and engaging 30-second video, shown in local theaters, of museum visitors on Midway’s flight deck reciting some of the classic lines from the original “Top Gun” on camera.
“When we had their captive attention in the theater, we showed them the entertaining video during the previews,” said Ricky. “We were also able to digitally retarget the same visitors to encourage them to visit the museum.”
The in-cinema video ran for six weeks in 17 San Diego-area theaters on more than 250 movie screens. It was estimated that more than 750,000 people watched the video.
The “Top Gun” summer marketing campaign for Midway is a perfect example of exceptional strategic planning coupled with playful creativity and insightful tactical execution taking advantage of an extraordinary moment in time.
“A visit to Midway is one of the most unique museum experiences anyone can have,” said David. “Having our summer advertising be, in essence, a wingman to the new “Top Gun” movie proved to be tremendously successful in attracting new as well as repeat visitors to the ship.”
The third season of United Stories of America is now available on the USS Midway Museum’s YouTube channel.
This five-part video series highlights the USS Midway as a floating city. This season’s docuseries tells fascinating stories of what it took to operate this giant warship. The videos focus on the captains that commanded the carrier; the dangers of working on the flight deck; life at sea with 4,500 of your closest friends; the ballet dance of flight operations; and resupplying a ship in the middle of the ocean.
United Stories of America is underwritten by USAA. The three-year project exports the inspirational museum-visitor experience to the web, educating and inspiring people around the world.
What started as an action-packed movie paying homage to naval aviation in the mid-1980s, has evolved over the past three decades into an international phenomenon that has built a massive and still growing global cult following.
It’s estimated, albeit unofficially, that members of “Top Gun” fan clubs, Facebook groups and Tom Cruise fansites around the world number in the hundreds of thousands, maybe even more.
These fans crave, in a good way, everything “Top Gun.” They love to eat, sleep and drink anything related to a film that has become one of Hollywood’s all-time iconic motion pictures.
“There is the love of aviation that draws people in,” said Paul “Chappie” Ward, a Midway volunteer docent and member of one of the largest “Top Gun” Facebook groups. “It’s just the film itself, the cinematography, soundtrack and relationships grab you.”
In 2018, Michael Sherriff established a “Top Gun” Facebook group in his native Scotland. In four short years, the group’s fan base has grown to nearly 80,000. In the last month alone, more than one million people have visited this Facebook page.
On the eve of the public release of the new “Top Gun: Maverick” film, more than 200 members of the Facebook group converged on San Diego from nine countries for a bus tour of filming locations, panel discussion with the filmmakers of the original “Top Gun,” lively dinner at Kansas City BBQ (made famous in the original motion picture) and a behind-the-scenes visit to the USS Midway Museum.
The tour of Midway was designed to show members of the group many of the actual spaces on an aircraft carrier that they saw in the movie.
“Those who toured Midway were just blown away by the sheer size of the ship,” said Paul, who facilitated the ship visit. “Being able to share the Midway story with new friends was wonderful. Seeing them experience eureka moments and make a personal connection with not only the function of a carrier, but with those young men who made Midway Magic happen every day for 47 years was very fulfilling.”
“I have a deeper amount of respect for this film, which I didn’t know was possible,” said Kristine Wateri, a group member who traveled to San Diego from Oregon. “After being on the Midway’s flight deck, talking with “Top Gun” pilots, and learning about life on a carrier, this film has an even deeper meaning for me.”
Bill Badalato, the executive producer of “Top Gun,” was also with the group during its visit to Midway. Walking on the museum’s flight deck brought back memories of when he was filming scenes on an aircraft carrier for the original movie more than 30 years ago.
“It’s very impressive the engineering that goes into the launching of aircraft,” said the 81-year-old producer whose credits also include the films “Broken Arrow,” “Alien: Resurrection” and “Men of Honor.” “I had seen the steam on the flight deck but did not realize the process beneath the flight deck. It was overwhelming.”
Classrooms from 25 states have now experienced USS Midway Museum’s distance learning virtual field trip programs presented by Qualcomm Incorporated. In all, since distance learning programs began, more than 250 live broadcasts covering 14 locations on board Midway have reached more than 10,000 students in more than 440 different classrooms.
According to educators who’ve experienced Midway’s distance learning programs, the reason for their popularity is not only the engaging live presentations, but also the pre- and post-lesson materials and activities received as part of the experience which included downloadable video content that supports the live experience; live questions and answer time which allows students to demonstrate their grasp of STEM principles; the ability to use the distance learning content in both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments; and the technical ease of participating.
“We meet the teachers where they are, using whatever technologies and platforms they have available to them,” said Wayne Nuzzolo, Midway school programs manager. “With Midway technology, we can make our distance learning programs available to virtually any classroom, educator, or student live or through content downloads like the Midway Math application.”
“We’re thrilled that the Midway’s virtual programming has expanded their reach to students across the country,” says Natalie Dusi, manager of corporate responsibility at Qualcomm Incorporated. “Connecting students to these hands-on STEM experiences is vital to providing equal access to educational resources and encouraging students from all backgrounds to participate in the STEM ecosystem.”
Teacher’s from around the country have been thrilled with the quality of Midway’s distance learning program.
“The moment it was over, my class was buzzing about their favorite parts,” said a teacher from Anchorage, Alaska. “And it was also cool for some kids to get to see sunny California, since some of them haven’t ever left Alaska.”
“We had such a great virtual tour,” said another teacher from Las Cruces, N.M. “It was full of information and was engaging for our students.”
On another exciting note, Midway’s new Introduction to Computer Science program, also presented by Qualcomm, supports students in grades 6-8. The program teaches basic computer technology and shows how computers, computing systems, hardware, software, cybersecurity, and data analysis were used on board Midway.
For asynchronous study, Midway’s STEAM Student Tour app is another popular program. Using video, animation and augmented reality, the app, presented by Qualcomm, guides students on a virtual tour of Midway spaces like the fo’c’sle, enlisted berthing, flight deck, the ship’s galley. It also portrays underway replenishment and helicopter flight operations. At each stop, students are challenged with IRL (in real life) math problems that must be solved in order to continue their virtual tour. The module was developed for both synchronous and asynchronous educational settings, meaning the experience can be conducted within a classroom setting or assigned to students to explore and experience on their own.
Qualcomm also continues their support for Midway’s “No Child Left Ashore” scholarship fund hosting the first 250 classrooms which register each year for distance learning field trips and Midway education’s Damage Control Shipboard Engineering program. The program uses the Navy’s damage control model to teach middle school students how to identify and use engineering concepts to create solutions for situations sailors might encounter onboard.
Qualcomm is the world’s leading wireless technology innovator and the driving force behind the development, launch, and expansion of 5G. When we connected the phone to the internet, the mobile revolution was born. Today, our foundational technologies enable the mobile ecosystem and are found in every 3G, 4G and 5G smartphone. We bring the benefits of mobile to new industries, including automotive, the internet of things, and computing, and are leading the way to a world where everything and everyone can communicate and interact seamlessly.