Midway Currents summer 2023


It’s been an amazing first four months on Midway. This year, we are noting so many critical milestones honoring those who served starting with the 50th anniversary of the end of the
Vietnam War and the return of our prisoners of war from that conflict. Additionally, we are commemorating the 50th year of women in naval aviation and the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Finally, our amazing gala in August will celebrate 100 years since the founding of the iconic Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Whew!

I have enjoyed marking those milestones on board Midway while also attending some of our amazing events such as Top Gun Movie Night, Steel Beach Party for our members, and the 4th of July fireworks viewing event. If you have not made it aboard for an evening event here, you are missing out. I love meeting so many of our members and guests while experiencing an amazing view of our city and a cold beverage.

Another fun part of my job is working with so many local leaders that support our museum. Sharon Cloward, president of the San Diego Working Waterfront, and Julie Coker, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, have been particularly helpful in solving problems and helping me get started with this enterprise. I very much appreciate their help and all who support this museum every day.

Finally, we have taken the first steps in our capital campaign for Freedom Park at Navy Pier. This unmatched public/private partnership will culminate with the construction of the largest veteran’s park on the West Coast which will be an amazing community asset in the heart of Embarcadero. We are very excited to team up with the Port of San Diego in making this a reality.

My first few months serving on Midway have been as fun and challenging as they were when I first flew off this ship in 1989. I am happy to report that Midway Magic is alive and well.

It’s a great day on Midway!

The first steps to raising millions of dollars is bringing together a powerhouse capital campaign committee and connecting it with a community icon like the USS Midway Museum. And that’s what we have done. We are excited to announce the team who will be leading the fundraising efforts for Freedom Park at Navy Pier.

Jack McGrory, currently the CEO of the real estate investment company La Jolla Management, LLC, has taken the helm as the chair of the capital campaign committee. Jack, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served as a rifle platoon commander during the Vietnam War, has been a significant contributor to the greater San Diego community for decades and we are honored to have him leading the charge. He most recently headed up the fundraising campaign for the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park which opened in 2021.

Joining Jack as members of the committee include Jerry Sanders, CEO of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce; John Hawkins, former president and CEO of Cloud 9 Shuttle; retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson; Tom Sudberry, founder of Sudberry Properties; Dr. Pha Le, senior physician partner at the Vituity Cares Foundation; Brandi Gill, senior legal counsel at L3 Harris Technologies; Chris Neils, chair of the USS Midway Museum; Ben Clay, chair of the USS Midway Foundation; and retired Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, president and CEO of the USS Midway Museum.

The campaign committee’s honorary members include philanthropist Malin Burnham; retired Rear Adm. Ronne Froman-Blue; philanthropist Debbie Turner; and the one-and-only retired Rear Adm. Mac McLaughlin. As we all know, Mac led the charge with the Port of San Diego and the California Coastal Commission for nearly two decades. His legacy will forever be connected to Freedom Park.

Freedom Park, which will be the largest veterans park on the West Coast, will tell the story of everyday heroes who served our country and preserved our freedom.

 It is estimated that the park will cost approximately $65 million. Currently, nearly $29 million has been committed to the project from the Port of San Diego, the USS Midway Museum and, with the support of Cong. Scott Peters, through Community Project Funding distributed via the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. More than $36 million will be raised by the Foundation’s capital campaign committee. 

We are grateful to this group of San Diego civic leaders, and to every one of you who helped make Midway a world-class museum. Your continued loyalty is critical to making Freedom Park a reality. This will be a multi-year project, so I’m excited to share more important milestones in the future.

What a summer! 

USS Midway Museum members kicked off the summer season with a Steel Beach Party at the end of June. Traditionally, a steel beach picnic on an active duty aircraft carrier is a day of fun in the sun after months of hard work at sea. The carrier and air wing’s crew would flock to the flight deck where steaks, hot dogs and hamburgers were being grilled, two beers (often warm) were allotted per sailor, games played, and even an open-ocean swim call often took place off one of the aircraft elevators. I have no doubt that countless sunburns and good stories were born from the steel beach events on the USS Midway when she was part of the Navy’s active-duty fleet. 

Our members kept the age-old Navy tradition alive as they were treated to an exclusive and upscale version of the steel beach picnic with a first-class dinner, beer tastings and cocktails, and a beautiful evening along San Diego Bay. It was also a pleasure to have The Harmony Grove Band on board who kept us dancing until the very end. 

Thanks to those of you who joined us for this party. It was a pleasure reconnecting with members and getting to meet some of you for the first time. What makes nights like these even more special is when members decide to celebrate special occasions with us. 

We were thrilled to have long-time members and supporters Bill and Isobel Chisum join the flight-deck party on their 63rd wedding anniversary. Bill, a retired Navy captain, and Isobel have been members since 2005 and have participated in many of our member events over the years. Congratulations to Bill and Isobel. We’re so lucky to not only have them as Midway members, but that they celebrated their anniversary with us.

If you’re reading this and haven’t yet joined our membership family, we hope it’s something you’ll consider as there are many reasons to do so. 

Retired Navy Capt. Bill Chisum and his wife Isobel, members since 2005, celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on Midway during the annual Steel Beach Party.

Why be a member? 

There are obvious benefits you get to enjoy throughout the year. Unlimited admission for you and guests. Onboard discounts at Café 41, the Jet Shop and our simulators, as well as exclusive and discounted events for members. This list will continue to grow as we are always looking for ways to improve your member experience and get the surrounding community involved in celebrating everything Midway. 

I enjoy asking our members why they became members and continue to renew. I’m overwhelmed by how many of you reflect on a different benefit. The reason many are here is knowing they support our preservation efforts and wanting to play a role in continuing Midway’s legacy. Sustaining Midway and continuing to tell her story is a gift we can give to future generations. We’re so grateful to our members for taking on this mission with us and how lucky are we to have their ongoing support. 

I look forward to connecting with many of you in the coming months. We have a lot to look forward to with the holidays approaching. Thank you again for the important impact you make as members. We look forward to having new members join our Midway family soon. 

All the best,

The USS Midway Museum has always understood the importance of education. Over the past two decades, its educational programs have become the envy of museum’s across the country. Midway’s commitment was once again on display at this year’s San Diego Classroom of the Future Foundation Innovation in Education Award ceremony.

Established 25 years ago, the Classroom of the Future was initially focused on raising funds to build a regional technology hub that could shape the future of innovation in San Diego’s public schools. In 2006, they partnered with Midway to help them establish highly innovative educational programming. Today, Classroom of the Future and Midway are working together to bring this valuable resource to more students in the digital space.

Ten San Diego-area high school students received USS Midway Museum scholarships at the Classroom of the Future Foundation Innovation in Education Award ceremony.

“I was extremely proud that we again awarded scholarships to ten very enthusiastic, driven, focused high school seniors,” said Tina Chin, Midway’s director of education. “It’s immensely uplifting to be part of an organization that truly understands and supports the aspirations of these young scholars. Helping to send these young minds to college can potentially change the trajectory of lives for generations to come.”

Students awarded Midway scholarships were chosen from several high schools from across San Diego County. From San Ysidro and to San Marcos High Schools to Steele Canyon Charter High School and Crawford High School, each of these scholars will be the first in their families to attend college.

The ceremony was hosted at the Irwin M Jacobs Qualcomm Hall in Sorrento Valley. Their names displayed on the giant screen on stage, each recipient was congratulated by Midway’s CEO, Terry Kraft, as they accepted their highly-earned scholarship.

“Midway is proud to support each of these young academics with a $2,000 scholarship to help ease them into their college careers,” said Tina. “All of us at Midway wish them the best as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.”

Long before the written word, there was only storytelling. While it’s impossible to pinpoint the actual start of these oral narratives, most anthropologists date them back to more than 50,000 years ago and cave drawings discovered in France show that modern humans have been visually illuminating their lives for more than 30,000 years. 

Even in today’s digital age, we still find time to pass down many of our experiences, cultures, traditions from one generation to the next through the spoken word. Throughout the ages, storytelling remains a steadfast foundation of our global society.

C.J. Beaudu makes new friends with a family from San Diego

At the USS Midway Museum, storytelling is more than simply a way to communicate, and over the last 20 years, it has been elevated to an artform.

“Midway, as a venue, satisfies all the components for good stories,” said Jim Reily, Midway director of volunteer docents. “The aircraft carrier is foreign to most guests. There is an opportunity to share the stories of danger, heroism, sacrifice, patriotism and selfless service. The museum’s exhibits and displays are the perfect triggers to start a sea story told by our docents and other volunteers.”

More than 700 volunteers walk the decks of Midway, many of them connecting directly with museum guests. All recognize how critical storytelling is to education as well as entertainment.

“Storytelling is an important way to educate our guests because it captures their interest in inspirational ways,” said Paul Ward, a Midway docent with more than 7,400 volunteer hours. “Storytelling is a great help in providing clarity to a concept that is being shared, often for the first time.”

“It’s a good educational tool because it keeps the learner interested and entertained,” said C.J. Beaudu, who has been a Midway docent since 2013. “A good storyteller is not only knowledgeable, but also animated, and will watch the listener for cues to determine if the story is being understood and appreciated. If you’ve captured the listener’s attention, they’re learning.”

Visitors to Midway span a wide range of ages, backgrounds and nationalities, however, good storytelling is a common thread that can connect with a diverse collection of people.

“Tailored stories to the audience whether young or old works across a broad demographic,” said Todd Hyde, a volunteer docent for nearly 12 years. “If you capture their imagination, add some wonder, and tug a few heart strings, they will let go of their cell phones for the day. Our motto of adding a dash of inspiration, education, and entertainment along with preserving our American and naval heritage works for all hands.”

Paul Ward helps two young visitors from Pakistan earn their Jr. Pilot wings.

Unlike most museums, a visit to Midway is not a static encounter. For those who know her best, the ship is seen as a highly engaging “heads up” experience. Even with more than 30 beautifully restored historic military aircraft, dozens of unique exhibits and a variety of interactive experiences, the creation of an intimate connection with visitors comes by way of the museum’s volunteers, many of them military veterans who take guests on a high-seas adventure through storytelling.

“It’s our stories that help make the USS Midway come alive for every one of our visitors,” said Henry Schrik, who has amassed more than 1,200 volunteer hours since joining the docent team four years ago. “I tell our guests it’s not just about the airplanes and the

stuff that is seen when on a self-guided tour.”

“Visual learners appreciate the mental pictures storytelling evokes,” said Patty Forrest, who has more than 9,000 volunteer hours as a member of Midway’s community outreach, safety and ship’s restoration teams. “The guests use all their senses while visualizing where the story takes place. The stories preserve a lifetime of experiences from one generation to another.”

For Midway’s volunteers, there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction when they see the reaction of guests holding on to every word of their stories.

“The feedback I’ve received over the years has been very gratifying and it’s one of the reasons I’m here,” said Todd, a retired Navy commander with more than 7,000 volunteer hours. “These stories capture what many guests have never heard before. When a guest offers a handshake and says a heartfelt ‘thank you,’ it means just that. When a child asks another question it means you have connected. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a tear or even an introspective pause in the conversation as they grasp the meaning of what they just heard.”

“I love the moment when something said connects with something seen and explained,” said Paul, who also volunteers for the museum’s exhibits, guest services and community outreach crews. “You can literally see that eureka moment when you have touched a chord of appreciation or understanding. That moment is when I know that the story shared has made an incredible impact.”

It was something out of Hollywood movie. A young Navy pilot flying life-and-death missions during the Korean War, takes on seven Soviet MiG-15 fighters in aerial combat, and comes out victorious in an unprecedented one-man dog fight.

This is exactly what happened to Lt. Royce Williams, an F-9 Panther fighter pilot with Fighter Squadron 781 (VF-781) flying from the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34) in November 1952. 

Royce and three of his squadron mates were launched from the Oriskany to intercept the Soviet aircraft heading towards them from an airbase in Vladivostok. Over the course of 35 minutes, Royce, through one of most skillful demonstration of flying in military history, shot down four of the MiGs and likely damaged two others.

Korean War hero Royce Williams receives his Navy Cross more than 70 years after his historic aerial combat mission.

Out of ammunition and with his aircraft heavily damaged, Royce then limped back to the carrier making a difficult high-speed landing while the ship pitched violently in heavy seas. Royce emerged from the cockpit amazingly uninjured, however, his aircraft was not so lucky. His squadron’s maintenance crew counted more than 260 bullet holes in the jet. Deemed unrepairable, the Panther was pushed over the side into the cold dark ocean.

Politics soon entered the picture. Because the Soviet Union was not officially a combatant in the Korean War, it was feared that publicizing this incredible aviation feat would draw them further into the conflict. With Cold War sensitivities in play, the decision was made at the highest level of the U.S. government to cover up the dogfight. Royce was sworn to secrecy. For decades, he told no one about the mission, not even his wife.

It wasn’t until the Korean War records were declassified 50 years later that the world heard, for the first time, about the extraordinary and heroic performance of Royce Williams. It would be another 20 years before he would finally receive one of the military’s highest decorations befitting his courageous actions that day. 

On Jan. 20, 2023, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro presented Royce with the Navy Cross, the second highest award bestowed by the Navy.

“To see him in person, to listen to actions that he took on that day, in defense of himself, in defense of his shipmates, defense of those other pilots that were in the air with him was truly extraordinary,” said Secretary Del Toro. “His actions clearly distinguished himself during a high-risk mission and deserve proper recognition.”

At 97, Royce remains humble about his triumphant dogfight more than 70 years ago.

“I was just like a machine,” said Royce, who retired from the Navy at the rank of captain in 1980. “I was on automatic. I was just doing what I was trained to do.”

The F-9 Panther, like the one Royce flew during the Korean War, is not only on exhibit on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum, but is painted in his squadron’s colors and has his name stenciled on the side of the fuselage beneath the cockpit. This has always been a source of pride for Royce who still remembers the dogfight like it was yesterday.

“A lot of it was awareness of where they were and how I had to maneuver to avoid them,” said Royce, who also flew more than 100 combat missions during the Vietnam War. “They were taking turns. I decided if I concentrated on shooting them down, then I’d become an easy target. So my initial goal was to look for defensive opportunities when they made mistakes.”

Royce Williams points out some of the bullet holes in his F-9 Panther following his famous dogfight with Soviet MiGs in 1952.

Congressman Darrell Issa, representing California’s 48th District, had worked for years to petition the Department of Defense to upgrade the Silver Star medal Royce had previously received for that mission to a higher award.

“If we don’t recognize the valor of our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen sooner or later, then we miss the opportunity to thank them for their service,” said Congressman Issa. “Williams is a Top Gun pilot like no other, and an American hero for all time.”

Karl Zingheim, Midway Historian

This summer, the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice was observed aboard the USS Midway Museum. In addition to being America’s first Cold War conflict in Asia, the fighting in Korea played a dramatic role in the very survival of the United States Marine Corps.

The North Korean invasion of South Korea on June, 25, 1950 caught the U.S. government off guard. They sent in the military in an attempt to repulse it. Unfortunately, the American units were ill-equipped for the mission, which led to humiliating retreats, and U.S. airpower was incapable of stemming the communist onslaught.

The reasons for these battlefield embarrassments were due to U.S Army General Douglas MacArthur’s neglect of the forces he commanded in Japan, and the draconian defense cuts made following World War II by an antagonistic President Harry Truman. The Army was under-strength and under trained using aging equipment; the Air Force now devoted itself primarily to delivering the atomic bomb to the neglect of the continual development of tactical air power; and the Navy was a fraction of its 1945 size, barely retaining carrier aviation and with only one aircraft carrier on patrol in the Far East. 

Caught up in the turbulence of this post-1945 downsizing, the U.S. Marine Corps was fighting for its very existence. An ardent supporter of military unification, Truman staunchly encouraged the Army to propose downgrading the Marine Corps to a nothing more than naval constabulary. While resolute congressional support at the end of World War II thwarted those plans, the Corps was on notice that they had no friend in the president.

By 1947, with the Department of Defense now formally established, the Marines learned that the Army had consigned them the mission of amphibious warfare, along with restrictions on the force strength, and gave them no place on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While the combat readiness of the other services faltered, the Marines at least succeeded in retaining a high number of combat veterans and maintained tough standards for new recruits. By the start of the Korean War, the U.S. Marine Corps was really the only competent fighting force America could bring to the table.

Unlike the substandard Army units rushed into Korea from undemanding occupation duty in Japan, the Marines arrived at full strength, with new equipment, including heavy M-26 Pershing tanks, and its own organic air support. More importantly, the Marines arrived with World War II combat veterans and motivated younger ranks.

After a harrowing Army retreat from central South Korea in late summer 1950, Army Gen. Walton Walker saw an opportunity to use fresh Army units and the Marines to counterattack and destroy the North Korean divisions.

The Marines drove miles into enemy territory, even overrunning a North Korean divisional headquarters while a parallel Army advance on the Marine’s right bogged down with its road-bound rear elements under attack. While the operation was ultimately called off, the Marine air support devastated an entire North Korean motorized unit.

Miles north, yet another sector was in jeopardy. Gen. Walker finally had to call upon the Marines again to restore the line, and after two days of stiff fighting, the systemic application of firepower and aggressive assault by the Marines wrecked a newly-arrived North Korean division.

Despite the Army’s embarrassing setbacks and the Marines battlefield triumphs, Truman continued to criticize the Corps. “The Marine Corps is the Navy’s police force,” said the president in response to a suggestion that the Marine Corps be expanded, “And as long as I am president, that is what it will remain.”

While political tempers flared back home, the 1st Marine Division stunned the North Koreans with its amphibious assault at Inchon in September 1950. The landings led to the recapture of Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

Faulty Army deployments along the Yalu River as winter set in contributed to a disaster for United Nation forces in the face of a massive Chinese onslaught. As the front crumbled in the Chosin sector, the Marines struck back towards the coastline, inflicting heavy casualties on surrounding Chinese units.

While Truman’s disdain for the Marines continued to magnify as the Korean War continued, their importance was evident to all those in government leadership. On June 28 1952, Truman ultimately authorized the expansion of the Marine Corps. Furthermore, the Commandant of the Marine Corps was at last granted membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Other debates would rage in later years concerning the Marines, but their valor and effectiveness, especially at a time of the Army’s repeated failures in combat, ensured its survival as a full-fledged branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

In the spring of 1945, 2nd Lt. Daniel Inouye led his platoon on an assault of a heavily-defended, German-held ridge known as the Gothic Line near the village of San Terenzo, Italy. As he and his men stormed an enemy emplacement, he was shot in the torso, but continued to fight. He took out multiple German machine positions in close combat, however, while attempting to attack a third machine gun nest, Daniel was hit with a rifle-fired grenade that destroyed his right arm.

Evacuated to a field hospital, Daniel underwent multiple surgeries and blood transfusions over the next two weeks before doctors had to amputate his arm. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Daniel Inouye, who later became a Senator from Hawaii, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions in combat during World War II.

Daniel was a member of the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team. His regiment was the most highly decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. While many of those in this unit were serving and sacrificing on foreign soil, their families back home in the States were interned in prison camps.

“Rarely has a nation been so well served by a people it has so ill-treated,” said President Bill Clinton on June 21, 2000 during a special ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House honoring the soldiers of the 442nd. “They risked their lives, above and beyond the call of duty. And in so doing, they did more than defend America; in the face of painful prejudice, they helped it to define America at its best.”

“We had an extra burden because it was not only serving our nation in uniform, but also proving and demonstrating a loyalty,” said Daniel, who would serve as U.S. Senator from Hawaii for nearly 50 years. “I’m glad to say my country has said we did.”

Each May, since 1992, the United States observes Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This commemoration not only honors the contributions made by those of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry, but celebrates how their unique and diverse cultures have strengthened the fabric of America.

”I think it is important that we as Americans take time to reflect on our unique backgrounds and how we all contribute to a strong American tapestry,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Tran, a first-generation Vietnamese American who is currently a volunteer with the USS Midway Museum’s education department. “There is no singular Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, but rather we all have different and valuable cultures that help define our identity.”

People with Asian lineage have served in or supported the American military dating back to the Continental Army during Revolutionary War. It was only in 1948, after World War II, that desegregation ended in the military allowing for a fully integrated armed forces.

“It’s important that our military reflects the great diversity of the American people,” said Tim, who was born in Anaheim and is a graduate of the University of Southern California. “The U.S. military and the Navy in particular serve as ambassadors of our country to the rest of the world. Many other countries are much more homogenous and are surprised when they see American servicemembers of all different backgrounds, colors, religions, orientations, and origins able to work together as a team.”

For Juanito Del Rosario, whose nickname is Del, his American-dream journey started in San Jose City, Philippines shortly after World War II. Born into a poor family, he was able to enlist in the U.S. Navy in 1968 through a special military program. All foreign nationals, however, were barred from jobs that required access to classified information. For Filipino sailors like Del, they worked exclusively as food-service stewards in galleys and wardrooms on ships and at naval bases.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that the policy changed allowing Del to become an electrician’s mate. From there, his career took off rising through the ranks to chief petty officer and ultimately receiving his commission in 1983 as one of the Navy’s first Asian engineering duty officer.

Lt. Cmdr. Tim Tran is active member of the U.S. Navy and a USS Midway Museum volunteer in the education department.

“We are the minorities in this organization,” said Del, who served 38 years on active duty and in the Naval Reserves. “Despite being minorities, we can also do, perform and contribute something for the welfare, improvement and success of the military.”

A docent on Midway since 2018 with more than 2,400 volunteer hours, Del is proud that each year his adopted country salutes the contributions of all Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, whether or not they have served in the military.

Juanito Del Rosario retired from the Navy after 38 years and has been a USS Midway Museum volunteer since 2018.

“History is replete with evidence that Asian Americans have played important and vital roles in shaping our nation from participating and fighting in multiple wars and helping build our country’s infrastructure, to introducing and sharing our cultures,” said Del, who became a U.S. citizen in 1974 and spent 25 years as an electrical and design engineer with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. “Having this is a reminder that we, Asian Americans with an inherent link to our ethnic heritage, are important contributors to our society. Our good cultures blend with the nation’s other cultures for the better.”

It was 9:30 p.m. when the doorbell rang. In the sleepy Navy town of Coronado, Calif., hardly anyone rings the doorbell. Sybil Stockdale, the wife of Navy attack pilot Cmdr. James Stockdale, is sleeping upstairs and doesn’t hear it, but soon wakes to the sounds of voices down below. Hurrying to the front door, she sees her friend, Doyen Salsig, also the wife of a naval flyer, who is accompanied by a Navy lieutenant. With trepidation, the young naval chaplain informs Sybil that her husband has been shot down while on a bombing mission over North Vietnam and is missing.

The 41-year-old mother of four is immediately shaken. Doyen fetches her a glass of sherry. It’s September 1965 and Sybil Stockdale’s life has been changed forever. 

The Navy had previously advised Sybil to stay publicly quiet in situations like this and let State Department “professionals” do their work in negotiating such matters. A dutiful Navy spouse, Sybil understood not to rock the boat. It wasn’t long, however, that she and other wives of military aviators missing in action or prisoners of war in Vietnam became disillusioned with the lack of progress by their own government.

Under Sybil’s leadership, these wives decided to take matters into their own hands. They formed a union, that ultimately became the National League of Families, and went public to tell the world about their missing or imprisoned husbands.

The true story of the women who fought on behalf of their men is chronicled in the mesmerizing new novel “Unwavering: The wives who fought to ensure that no man is left behind” by Taylor Baldwin Kiland and Judy Silverstein Gray. The 300-page book recounts, in astonishing detail, the passionate and tireless efforts and experiences of these military wives who unwittingly took on diplomatic roles, often to the chagrin of America’s political leadership, to bring national attention to horrible treatment their husbands were enduring at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors.

“Once I heard about the landmark, little-known, and valiant work of the women against many odds, it became clear we had to share their stories,” said Judy, a retired chief petty officer from the U.S. Coast Guard. “Their narrative included Cold War-era intrigue, women bucking tradition, political history, and marked changes in society.”

For Taylor, the story of the wives triggered an intimate connection.

“I was six years old living in Coronado in 1973, the year the POWs came home,” recalled Taylor, a former naval officer. “I grew up with many of the POW and MIA families in this small island military community and remember their homecoming. While there has been so much written and documented about the Vietnam POWs, much less has been written about their wives and the epic home-front battle they waged against the U.S. government to raise awareness of and rally a nation around the plight of their men.”

Shortly after the release of their book this spring, Taylor and Judy held a book-signing event on the hangar deck of the USS Midway Museum to share the story of these incredible women. The experience of writing the book was a long and emotional experience for both authors.

“It took eight years to research and write this book,” said Taylor, the third generation in her family to serve in the Navy. “Theirs is not simply a wives tale. The gutsy determination the women displayed, their strong message, and straightforward eloquence underscore the importance of speaking up, even when it is challenging to do so.”

“In many ways it was like detective work,” said Judy, who has already published six books for young readers. “First, we had to fully understand the breadth of the collective narrative, as well as the individual narratives against the backdrop of a sprawling war. It took careful and coordinated interviewing to build trust with the women and even longer to tease out cultural and historic details. Hearing the wives recount their stories humanized the narrative, clarified the significance of their work, the impact they made, and how they overcame a slew of cultural, political, gender-base, and economic hurdles.”

Taylor Kiland and Judy Gray during their book signing on the USS Midway Museum.

To ensure the highest level of accuracy in their writing, Taylor and Judy had to overcome a number of challenges.

“Much of the information had not been discussed or accessed for more than five decades, so we used a tincture of patience and prodding,” said Judy, who has also written numerous articles for the Tampa Tribune. “There was also no single source where we could verify facts, so we used a kind of triangulation through documents found in the National Archives, Navy Archives, Library of Congress, Stanford’s Hoover Institution, the Bush, Nixon and Reagan presidential libraries, personal collections, repositories, and news stories. Our lengthy endnotes underscore that painstaking process.”

Taylor is well acquainted with the broader POW/MIA subject, having already written multiple books on the issue. While her previous writings are in-depth journeys into the evolving lives of the POWs following their return to the United States, this novel now sheds light on the dogged determination of their wives.

“The women were persistent, focused, and courageous, but they were also successful at rallying a divided nation around a humanitarian cause,” said Taylor, who holds a master’s in marketing communications from Northwestern University. “They helped rally our nation during a deeply divisive time.”

Sybil Stockdale meets with President Richard Nixon regarding the fate of the American POWs and missing in action during the Vietnam War.

The book has already received critical acclaim from Pulitzer Prize winning authors and former military leaders.

“Taylor Kiland and Judy Gray have chronicled—as no one else has—the dramatic, heart-rending saga of a small band of unlikely heroines who came to reshape U.S. foreign policy,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, former Director for National Intelligence. “While very diverse in backgrounds and personalities, they united around the common cause and soon learned how to call public attention to the plight of their men, and to bring pressure to bear on the government to take action.”

It would be seven and half years before Sybil would see her husband again following his release from Hanoi Hilton prison in February 1973. While her efforts and those of other wives were initially focused on bringing their husbands home from the war in Vietnam, the legacy of the organization that they started in the 1960s is still being felt today. The United States currently spends more than $130 million each year searching for those military members who remain missing in action.

“They are impressive and courageous women, who only now are beginning to understand the impact of their enduring work,” said Judy, who is also the third generation of her family to serve in the military. “Like many heroes, they remain humble. We are deeply grateful to these women for all they accomplished.”

There’s Midway Magic, and then there’s Midway Magic with maple-glaze topping or dusted with powdered sugar or even cream-cheese frosting with colorful sprinkles.

World Records are always made to be broken, and at the annual World Donut Eating Championship on the USS Midway Museum’s flight deck this summer, a new global mark in donut consumption was achieved.

Professional competitive eater James Webb ingested a chart topping 59 ½ donuts in just eight minutes taking down former world record holder, the renowned Joey Chestnut of the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest, who scarfed down 55 donuts back in 2017.

Australian James Webb set a new world’s recording by inhaling 59 ½ donuts in only eight minutes.

While this gut-gorging event may not sit well for folks with queasy stomachs, this gastronomical dough-boy fest supports the important cause of raising much needed funds for the Southern California Salvation Army.

“More than $40,000 was raised this year, nearly twice as much as last year and the most we’ve ever raised for a donut day contest,” said Jake Minger, the communications manager for San Diego regional office of the Salvation Army’s Southern California Division. “The funds raised will go towards homeless service for veterans, job training, and drug and alcohol recovery programs at our adult rehabilitation centers.”

This annual National Donut Day event brings to San Diego some of the nation’s top competitive eaters, including Miki Sudo, the world’s top-ranked female competitive eater, and the fourth overall ranking major-league eater, Nick Wehry. For the up-and-coming James Webb, winning the contest in record-setting fashion is a feather in his donut-devouring hat.

“I was born with a fat head and a good appetite, and now I’m just putting them both to good use,” said the fun-loving James. “I have the biggest, sweet tooth, so I really enjoyed this one. To be honest, I just want to brush my teeth.”

As this yearly fund-raising event supports programs for veterans, Midway was the best choice for the Salvation Army for the contest.

“The Midway is the perfect location for our National Donut Day event,” said Jake. “It allows us to honor veterans, who have proudly served our country and our competitors and guests get to see first-hand the amazing one-of-a-kind floating museum on beautiful San Diego Bay. We could not host this type of event anywhere else and still have the same impact.”

“This is unbelievable,” said James, a 34-year-old Australian. “I’ve never been on a naval warship before and never touched
a fighter jet. And I’ve also never eaten this many donuts. This was a good day at the office. Obviously, we’re here for a good
reason, there’s always a higher cause, so I’m glad we could raise money.”

With a new world record in the books, the Salvation Army is aiming even higher for the competition in 2024.

“Next year we hope to have Joey Chestnut return to take on James Webb,” said Jake. “It would be great to have Fox Sports or ESPN broadcast the event live.”

“I respect Joey,” said James, who is currently the number 10-ranked professional eater in the United States. “He’s top tier. I just like to be next to him and compete against him. That’s enough for me. See you again next year.”