Midway Currents Winter 2024


Serving the military community for more than 100 years, Bank of America has once again renewed its ongoing support of USS Midway Museum’s educational programs and services for the San Diego community, as well as the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. 

Most recently, their support helped the museum spotlight the 50th anniversary of women in naval aviation with banners on Navy Pier.  Bank of America’s partnership also supports Midway’s Legacy Week, held annually during Memorial Day weekend, as well as the museum’s “No Child Left Ashore” STEM education scholarship fund through its Lieutenant-level sponsorship of the Midway American Patriot Award Gala.

“Our longtime partnership with the USS Midway Museum is an extension of the bank’s more than 100 years of serving veterans and active-duty military members, and 80 years of financing San Diego’s defense and aerospace industries,” said Rick Bregman, president of Bank of America San Diego. “San Diego is uniquely prosperous due in large part to its military presence and history. The Midway brings this rich history to life for the community.” 

Bank of America also supports the military community through hiring more than 17,000 service members nationwide in less than ten years. Today, 15 percent of all Bank of America’s newly hired employees in North America are military veterans. The company also provides world class benefits tailored to support the evolving needs of those on active duty, reservists, and military spouse employees – benefits that help Bank of America continuously rank as a top employer for veterans. 

To help veterans transitioning from military to civilian life, Bank of America funds a variety of nonprofit veteran-support organizations, and provides free financial education and resources that are tailored to the unique needs of active-duty service members and veterans. Bank of America has also donated more than 2,600 homes to veterans across the country since 2012. 

As the USS Midway Museum’s first marketing partner, Kaiser Permanente begins its 20th year of partnership supporting onboard STEM education programs, experiences and exhibits.  

In 2024, Kaiser Permanente will be the naming rights sponsor of Midway University classroom #4, exclusive presenting sponsor of the museum’s Sick Bay and Battle Dressing Station exhibits, supporting sponsor of Midway’s patriot-themed public special events, Captain-level sponsor of the Midway American Patriot Award Gala, and as a presenting sponsor of the ship’s STEM education onboard field trip programs.

“The Midway Museum is an invaluable asset to San Diego, and has been instrumental in building a stronger, healthier community for us all,” said Rodger Dougherty, senior director of public affairs and communications for Kaiser Permanente San Diego. “Kaiser Permanente is honored to continue its long-standing partnership with the Midway, in support of the museum’s mission to preserve the historic ship, honor the legacy of those who serve, educate and inspire future generations, and entertain the many visitors the museum hosts each year.”

Kaiser Permanente’s passionate support for Midway isn’t at all that surprising when you consider its history.  In fact, from his blog post, Midway’s historian, Karl Zingheim, reported that Kaiser Permanente’s founder, Henry J. Kaiser, played a key role in producing cargo ships. This was in part to help replace losses inflicted by rampaging German submarines during World War II, but also to help build up the vast fleet of merchantmen necessary to sustain an expanded war effort.  

Kaiser took leases on, or purchased outright, waterfront land on the east shore of San Francisco Bay and on the Columbia River. The Kaiser Yard at Vancouver, Wash., directly across from its sister shipyard on the Oregon side north of Portland, produced cargo ships of the Liberty and Victory classes.  

Kaiser also standardized design and pre-fabricated components for ship building.  Instead of crafting and installing decks and bulkheads as needed when the ship progressed, entire portions were built to near completion ashore separately as subassemblies, and then transported and lifted into place in the appropriate sequence.  This approach shaved weeks and months off more traditional construction schedules, permitting ships to be delivered rapidly. In one instance, a ship was built in just five days.

His innovations and prefabrication approach meant unskilled labor could be hired to perform less technical jobs. The recent development of welding construction not only sped up fabrication and saved ship weight, but the process of working a welding torch was much less physically taxing than handling a traditional steel rivet gun.  This meant that unconventional, and largely untapped, labor sources could be usefully employed.

The prospect of higher wages working a shift on one of Kaiser’s shipyards, as opposed to other jobs, led to an influx of newcomers to the Pacific coast. Existing communities swelled and entirely new ones sprang up, each requiring expanded utilities, housing, food, and schools. Before very long, Kaiser established medical insurance and care for his burgeoning army of workers, which in turn became Kaiser Permanente. 

Beginning its 10th consecutive year of partnership with the USS Midway Museum, Booz Allen Hamilton will continue to support Midway education programs in 2024, including sponsorship of the Midway’s “No Child Left Ashore” scholarship program and the museum’s new Maker Space.

As guest speakers for Midway’s STEM education programs, Booz Allen employees will share their professional experiences and STEM expertise with students participating in field trips and virtual programs.  This year, Midway and Booz Allen will also conduct outreach to Title I schools in Southeast San Diego, especially elementary and middle schools in the Lincoln Cluster to support STEM programming.

Booz Allen’s commitment this year will underwrite scholarships for roughly 1,000 San Diego students.  These scholarships give Title I schools and classrooms in underserved communities access to STEM education field trips to Midway, and also cover the costs of bus transportation. 

“We are very proud of our decade-long partnership with Midway and of the tremendous impact we have had together over the years bringing unique STEM education opportunities to thousands of students across San Diego,” said Jennie Brooks, executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. “Booz Allen is honored to support Midway’s STEM education programs, and to sponsor Midway’s No Child Left Ashore scholarship program which makes it possible for Title I schools to participate in Midway’s STEM field trips at no cost.  Midway’s scholarship program, along with Booz Allen Foundation grants and initiatives, help to inspire, engage, and open doors for students from Title I schools to follow a path toward a rewarding STEM career.” 

Booz Allen’s partnership with Midway has always been about developing and supporting educational opportunities and strengthening Midway’s impact in the community.  Over the 10 years of partnership, Booz Allen has contributed more than half a million dollars and innovative programming to support Midway’s STEM programs. 

The relationship between Booz Allen and Midway is one of shared values and commitment to service.  Booz Allen Hamilton was founded by a veteran, has continuously supported the military since working with the Department of Defense in 1940, and nearly one-third of the firm’s employees are military-connected. 

Many of the USS Midway Museum’s volunteers are the faces of the ship, engaging directly with guests and telling stories about adventures on the high seas. But those volunteers who work mostly behind the scenes are equally responsible for the ship’s continuing success.

“Ensuring the museum is operating smoothly and that all our aircraft, exhibits and displays are ready to go for our guests is a big reason behind why Midway is the best naval ship museum,” said Walt Loftus, Midway’s airwing director. “Our volunteers that work quietly in the background are just as important to the museum as those who connect with our visitors.”

We tip our caps to our Volunteers of the Month for the fourth quarter of 2023. 

Bill Beacom, Exhibits, Docent & Safety – October 2024

One of Midway’s longest serving volunteers, Bill Beacom has left his fingerprints on just about every department on the ship. Joining the Midway volunteer corps in 2005, he currently shares his time and talents with the docent, safety and exhibits teams, but has also volunteered with the airwing, education and IT departments in the past.

A humble and enthusiastic contributor to the museum, Bill, who has more than 6,600 volunteer hours, is always a friendly face and has jumped in to support the museum in a variety of ways.

“Bill is always positive and willing to do what it takes to help the museum,” said Jim Reily, Midway’s docent director. “He has long been one of Midway’s most valuable volunteers.”

A graduate of the University of Toledo, military background for Bill is connected to his four-year association with Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. His more than 30-year civilian career focused on computer systems programming and systems analysis, most notably with IBM.

“He’s a great choice for the volunteer of the month award,” said Bill Coleman, Midway’s exhibits manager. “We’re very lucky to have Bill as part of the Midway crew.”

“Bill is just a great all-around member of the Midway family,” said fellow docent Robert Johnson. “I’m proud to serve with him at the museum.”

Doug Sanders, Safety – November 2024

Doug Sanders loves being on Midway. He is consistently at the top of the leader boards in volunteer hours, averaging 20 volunteer days a month. He has become the go-to guy for every safety team he works on, and is well known for arriving early and taking care of setting up positions before he is scheduled. 

Amassing more than 3,200 volunteer hours since becoming a member of the Midway family in 2020, Doug bring outstanding leadership and passion to the museum. He doesn’t hesitate to assist other safety team members directly when they need help. Tackling every assigned task with a can-do attitude, he is relied on to get the job done right the first time, every time. 

“His ability to work seamlessly with any and all teams is a credit to his work ethic and calming demeanor,” said Dominick Boccia, Midway’s director of safety. “I have personally seen Doug cleaning up the flight deck on his own in the early morning hours after an evening event.  He always goes above and beyond what is expected.”

When not standing a safety watch, Doug is also part of the museum’s fire extinguisher inspection team and conducts monthly inspections throughout the ship.

Doug served as a military policeman in the Marine Corps for eight years, and spent more than three decades as a deputy with the San Diego County Sheriff’s office after leaving the service.

For those interested in becoming a USS Midway Museum volunteer, more information along with the volunteer application can be found

Americans began collecting trading cards in the 1860s when baseball became a professional sport. Those early cards were often sold in packages for candy and tobacco products. Over the last 150 years, the trading carding industry has been continually evolving and expanding, and today there are a variety of subjects and games that can be found on the card sets. 

Taking advantage of the rising popularity of collectable cards, the USS Midway Museum has teamed up with the Upper Deck Company, and starting this year, will release a series of trading cards focused on the carrier’s iconic history. These trading cards will also feature sailors who served aboard the USS Midway (CV-41). Relic cards will be created that contain unique memorabilia items from the ship. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to continue telling the stories of Midway’s 47 years of service in a really unique way,” said David Koontz, Midway’s director of marketing. “We pride ourselves in being able to highlight the role this ship played in protecting and defending the freedoms that all Americans enjoy today. We’re excited that the heroic stories of Midway and its crew will be celebrated and collected through this new Upper Deck collectible card set series.” 

The card plan includes featuring informational cards about Midway and operations like Frequent Wind, Sandy, the Mt. Pinatubo rescue and others. Additionally, the plan calls for autograph cards of Midway heroes telling their stories and feats of courage and sacrifice. Relic cards will include a cutting of Midway sailors’ uniforms and patches, and other Midway collectible items.

“The Upper Deck Company and the USS Midway Museum share a long standing relationship with San Diego County, and it is an honor to collaborate with them to commemorate its iconic history through Upper Deck trading cards,” says Jason Masherah, president of Upper Deck.

Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame” celebrates those involved in the entertainment industry, but Coronado’s “Avenue of Heroes” pays tribute to those who have served and sacrificed while wearing the uniform of the nation.

These unsung heroes may never experience the public notoriety that a movie star receives, but their quiet contributions to the country are far more important.

Midway volunteer docent, Bob Breglio, embodies the unselfish giving qualities that recently garnered him a place in the Avenue of Heroes.

“Frankly, I was a little embarrassed,” said Bob, a Midway docent since 2014 with more than 6,500 volunteer hours. “I served, but I don’t consider myself a hero.”

The Avenue of Heroes program, developed in 2014, is a military service recognition program sponsored by the city of Coronado. The program honors the many men and women who currently or previously lived in Coronado during their military careers.

“We have honored over 200 Corondo veterans with street banners,” said Jim Jamison, a retired Marine Corps colonel and a volunteer liaison with the Avenue of Heroes program. “We honor new veterans twice a year, just before Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The committee selects honorees based on their honorable service in the armed forces and that they lived or were stationed in Coronado at any time.”

Bob and his family arrived in Coronado in 1980, and have lived there ever since.

“My detailer sent me to the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), based at Naval Air Station North Island, where I worked in the ship’s intermediate maintenance department. After four years on the Kitty Hawk, I was transferred to the staff of the Commander Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet, also at North Island, serving as the aviation intermediate maintenance plans and policy officer.”

Midway docent Bob Breglio’s “Avenue of Heroes” banner.

Retiring from the Navy in 1991, Bob stayed in Coronado and became deeply involved in the Coronado community, serving on the Coronado Parks and Recreation Commission and leading the city’s annual ‘letters to the troops’ program. He also served as the president of the Silver Strand chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and has been a strong advocate for the Coronado High School NJROTC program.

“Bob is most deserving because of his continued support of the troops, leadership of the Silver Strand MOAA, and the fact that he had an honorable career in the Navy,” said Jim. “Bob, like most veterans, resists any recognition at all, but he deserves it.”

The banners commemorating the Avenue of Heroes are displayed along 3rd and 4th Streets from Orange Avenue to Naval Air Station North Island.

As early Cold War tensions heightened, a single San Diego-based Navy fighter squadron, flying a now-forgotten supersonic aircraft, became the Air Force’s go-to unit to defend American airspace at both of its southern corners.

A driving fear for the U.S. continental air defense was the threat of formations of large Soviet bombers carrying nuclear payloads flying at high altitude. The Air Force made strenuous efforts to build up a quick-response interceptor force backed up by a reliable, and continuous, radar detection system. 

To thwart airborne attacks coming from over the North Pole, directly from Soviet bomber bases in Siberia, an extensive radar network was established from Alaska across Canada to Greenland. However, there were concerning vulnerabilities over the southern oceans, so naval assistance with its dedicated radar picket ships, extended the warning time on inbound communist bombers that might take a more southerly route. 

The requirement for the Navy’s help did not end with it ships. Since the Air Force lacked any forward bases near the southwestern coastline, they requested that a dedicated naval aviation squadron fulfill the air defense interceptor role in that region.

Enter the Douglas F4D Skyray. The Skyray was a high-speed interceptor with a wide sweptback delta-shaped wing. It got its name for its likeness to a manta ray. Joining the naval service in 1956, this compact new jet fighter became the first carrier-based aircraft to set a world speed record of just under 800 miles per hour, and the first naval aircraft to go supersonic in level flight. It also established its exceptional interceptor credentials through its ability to zoom climb at a 70-degree angle from sea level to more than 49,000 feet in only 2 minutes and 36 seconds.

In the fleet, the Skyray served to protect the aircraft carrier from the threat of high-altitude bombers carrying missiles, but the fighter ultimately lacked the growth potential for the multi-mission role required by the Navy. It was, however, the perfect fit for continental defense against the Soviet’s nuclear bomber force.

In May 1958, Navy All Weather Fighter Squadron 3 (VF(AW)-3), nicknamed the Blue Nemesis, joined the Air Force’s North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) from its home base of Naval Air Station North Island. Having just transitioned into the Skyray, the squadron now provided a proven interceptor needed on the water’s edge.  

Although the squadron operationally was all Navy, VF(AW)-3 reported to the 27th Air Division headquartered at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. Sporting the NORAD logo, as well as naval markings, the squadron built up to a maximum strength of 25 aircraft at North Island. Pilots stood a 24-hour alert in readiness to get aloft within five minutes. While climbing, the intercepting pilots were guided by a NORAD radar station on nearby Mount Laguna.  

Remarkably, scrambles and interceptions were a daily occurrence with the Skyray’s powerful engines rattling windows of nearby Coronado homes. The interceptions, however, often proved to be no more than errant airliners. Nevertheless, the squadron maintained an exceptional state of safety and readiness, capable of theoretically deploying the entire complement of Skyrays within two hours. In the air, Blue Nemesis pilots excelled as well, twice winning the NORAD trophy for interception proficiency.

In 1961, when the Cuban Revolution declared for communism, the Air Force directed VF(AW)-3 to dispatch aircraft to Naval Air Station Key West, just 90 miles from Cuba. Six-plane detachments rotated from North Island to Florida’s southern tip every two months.

When the geopolitical situation in the Caribbean took a grim turn during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, four of the Blue Nemesis aircraft were kept in a continuous “Ready Five” status for a 24-hour alert. In addition to regular alerts, the pilots also flew standing patrols along the 24th parallel, which appeared to be the northern limit for Cuban MiG-21 fighters. Although the MiGs were occasionally detected on the Skyray’s radar, or even visually in the distance, there were no altercations.

Steady advancement of aviation technology in the early 1960s, as well as improved radar systems, brought about a significantly expanded and more comprehensive air defense network. After the Cuban crisis receded in late 1962, the Skyrays returned to North Island with their mission purpose gravely diminished. In April 1963, VF(AW)-3 was quietly disestablished, and the nation’s continental defense became the sole responsibility of the Air Force.

Much like the old Taoism adage – “the candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long” – the Skyray may have had a short-lived operational military career, but it served an important role in the early years of the Cold War.

For nearly 20 years, the USS Midway Museum has been committed to sharing stories of service and sacrifice of the men and women who have worn the uniform of the nation. This commitment was further enhanced with the launch of the annual docuseries “United Stories of America” in 2020.

Midway is proud to announce the release of season 4 of the series, with six new episodes that tell incredible stories of where the USS Midway and its crew intersected with critical moments in U.S. military history. The series was conceived of and developed as a means of sharing and chronicling historical stories that speak to the important role played by the U.S. Navy.

“Our freedoms and the sacrifice necessary to preserve them are built on the backs of the young men and women who serve in uniform,” said David Koontz, Midway’s marketing director. “Their experiences are enormously relevant and inspirational.  We’re excited to be sharing their experiences with a worldwide audience.”

World of Warships, the popular naval multiplayer game, has joined Midway’s family of marketing partners as exclusive presenting sponsor of seasons 4 and 5. The goal of the series is to extend and expand the onboard experiences of Midway visitors.

“Our partnership with Midway has been vital to our mission of preserving naval history,” said Ross Falk, marketing lead for World of Warships, Americas. “Vessels like Midway stand as a significant tangible reminder of profound events in human history. It is our responsibility to convey these crucial stories to future generations, paying tribute to naval heritage traditions, honoring veterans, and promoting the values of remembrance.”

This season tells compelling and inspiring stories of courage and sacrifice, and is voiced by those who experienced them.  

Episode 1RINGSIDE SEAT: At the battle that named USS Midway (CV-41). Young Rudy Matz was in the thick of the action at the most decisive naval battle of World War II. His story frames an equally fascinating tale about how the Midway got its name.   

Episode 2 – OPERATION FROSTBITE: The Cold War gets colder. The end of World War II saw the specter of global conflict loom. When America decided to test the nation’s Arctic warfare capabilities, the USS Midway led the frigid charge.  

Episode 3 – OPERATION SANDY: Sparking the space age on a flight deck. In 1947, a captured World War II German V-2 rocket was launched from the flight deck of the USS Midway to test the feasibility of firing long-range missiles from ships at sea. It was a ‘heart-in-throat’ moment that those on board would never forget.  

Episode 4 – SURVIVING THE HANOI HILTON: A remarkable legacy of courage. In their own words, the story of four incredible military aviators, including one who flew from the deck of the USS Midway, representing the 591 American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. They fought bravely and endured captivity in defense of their nation.  

Episode 5 – THE MONTH OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY:  From ripcord to rescue. Navy fighter pilot Paul Ilg’s world went from ordinary to extraordinary when a Vietnam combat mission became a test of sheer survival. His squadron mates aboard USS Midway would somehow find a way to provide this story with a proper ending.  

Episode 6 – INSIDE OPERATION FREQUENT WIND:  With those who lived the legend. The USS Midway played a leading role in the amazing rescue operation that saved thousands of people at the end of the Vietnam War. Capt. Lawrence Chambers, the Midway’s commanding officer, and those he rescued remember the dramatic day that changed their lives forever. 

Midway teamed up with Loma Media, a San Diego-based content creation and communication agency, to produce season 4 of United Stories of America. Loma, who has partnered with Midway on past projects, has a long history of excellence in storytelling for organizations such as the United States World War I Centennial Commission, the Naval History and Heritage Command, National Science Foundation and many broadcast networks. 

“All of us at Loma are excited to share these amazing stories from America’s longest serving aircraft carrier,” says Loma Media principal John DeBello, who served as the series’ writer and director. “Working with Midway over the past decade, we have been deeply impressed by both the legacy and ongoing mission of America’s Living Symbol of Freedom.”

United Stories of America can be found at

After an invasion of ghouls, goblins and ghostbusters, the hangar deck of the USS Midway Museum more resembled the set of the “Walking Dead” than a nearly 80-year-old aircraft carrier.

Midway’s inaugural Haunted Hangar Deck Halloween Bash was a pumpkin-smashing success with more than 500 San Diegans swarming the ship clad in costumes ranging from Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas to Marvel Comics superheroes.

“We had a blast at the party,” said Natalie Kessler. “The lighting, the dance floor, the costumes, the decorations – it was all great.”

A hocus-pocus of spooky decorations, paired with an extensive ghostly lighting treatment, transformed the ship into a haunted-house realm that would have made the Addams Family proud. 

“The atmosphere right from the start when walking in was awesome,” said Elizabeth Conrad, who attended the party with her family. “The light show with the creepy crawly things was very cool and the food was excellent.”

No seriously supernatural Halloween party would be complete without a fortune teller, and the museum’s Madame Midway captivated the young and old.

“Meeting the guests and looking into their future was an out-of-this-world experience,” said Patty Forest, Madame Midway’s alter ego and a museum volunteer. “It was a lot of fun.”

Midway volunteer, Patty Forest, brought her mystical powers to the museum’s Halloween bash as Madame Midway.

“Madame Midway was hysterical,” said Elizabeth. “I loved her prediction that I’d have a good time on the Midway.”

Along with trick-or-treat stations, a roaming magician, and kids play zone, guests we’re also entertained by a special performance of the famous zombie dance to Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit song “Thriller.” The local zombie dance troop staged the entire six-minute dance, choreographed exactly as it was performed in the Michael Jackson music video 40 years ago.

“The Thriller San Diego zombies had a blast at the Midway’s 2023 Halloween event,” said Monica McFadden, one of the zombie dancers and a member of the Thriller San Diego committee. “We deeply appreciated the opportunity to participate and loved seeing the many smiling faces as we performed on your dance floor. The atmosphere of your lively party supercharged us all and we look forward to next year.”

“We loved the Thriller dance lessons and the big dance at the end,” said Natalie. “It was very impressive.”

The creativity of many of the costumes was extraordinary and made judging the evening-ending costume contest an ominous undertaking.

Emerging as the winner was the Ravelo family who came disguised as a collection of Looney Tunes cartoon characters they called the Tune Squad. Jacquelyn Ravelo spent several days painstakingly crafting paper masks of Daffy Duck, the Roadrunner and Wile. E Coyote for herself and her children.

“We had such a great time at the Halloween event on the Midway,” said Jacquelyn, who attended the event with her husband and two sons. “I have always loved Halloween and have always made our themed-family costumes. When my boys and I were brain storming what to be this year they came up with the idea to be characters from the movie “Space Jam.” It was time consuming but fun, and when the masks were completed they were amazing. When we were announced the winners of the costume contest, we were so excited and honored. We will definitely attend next year’s Halloween bash.”

The Rovelo family were the winners of the costume contest dressed as Looney Tunes cartoon characters.

Midway docent’s memoir takes you on wild ride through naval aviation

Landing a high-performance jet on an aircraft carrier is considered one of the world’s most difficult undertakings. Successfully completing your initial carrier landings as a student naval aviator is understandably seen as a monumental achievement. For those chosen few possessing the right stuff, it is an accomplishment worth celebrating. 

It was August 1968 when Navy flight student Gil Rud successfully “hit the boat” for the first time. Overly excited by this feat, he wasn’t surprised when his celebratory revelry got the best of him. A spirited morning beer fest that got him thrown out of a local Pensacola dive bar led to an impromptu red-clay mudpuddle wrestling match with a buddy, and culminated in a less-than-ceremonial trashing of the base’s swimming pool with his mud-stained clothes.

Gil was the commanding officer of the Blue Angels from 1985 to 1988.

“Making mature decisions was certainly not one of my strengths,” reflected Gil, a USS Midway Museum volunteer docent since 2014. “And it would not be for quite some time.”

This story and many others are wonderfully captured in Gil’s recently published memoir, “From the Prairie to the Pacific, A Blue Angels Journey.” From growing up on a rural North Dakota farm and getting his first kiss at age 12, to becoming a Navy pilot, leading the famed Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron, and commanding an aircraft carrier, Gil engagingly recounts his life’s journey, including his evolution of maturity, with humility and self-deprecating humor.

“Gil Rud has lived life to the full, a life of rollicking fun and increased responsibility,” said Kevin Miller, author of the “Raven One” trilogy and a former Navy fighter pilot. “You’ll laugh at his antics in college, flight school and combat squadrons, and ponder lessons in human nature and the treatment of others he offers in each chapter. This fun book is honest, insightful and unforgettable. Strap in!”

The book is written in a manner that easily makes the reader feel as if they are having friendly conversation with Gil over a drink. The story of one remarkable adventure blends perfectly into the next, and leaves the reader always wanting to hear more.

Although it wasn’t his intention, his decision to craft the book came out of  trying to keep busy during the pandemic.

“While I was stuck at home during COVID, I decided to put together some memories for my grandkids as I thought they might be interested in knowing how I grew up, so I started at the beginning,” said Gil, who has more than 1,600 volunteer hours at the museum. “I was having so much fun and the words kept flowing. I particularly enjoyed the research. Digging up and verifying the various vignettes that I share in the memoir.”

After writing the first chapter, Gil sent the draft to his good friend and former naval aviator Dan Beintema, who, at the time, was the president of the USS Midway Foundation. He asked Dan if he thought this might make a book. Dan not only encouraged Gil to author a memoir, but continued to help him with the editing of each section.

“I had a blast working with Gil,” said Dan, who spent eight years as the head of Midway’s foundation and accrued nearly 3,000 flight hours while in the Navy. “He’d shoot me a handful of pages as he wrote them and while trying to stay focused on the editing detail, I could not help but feel in complete awe and in stitches at the same time. I could hear his voice, giggling and laughing as he was telling many of those hilariously wild stories that shaped and defined his amazing career. What a patriot. What a gift.”

It took nearly a year to write the book and a few months more to get it published. Because naval aviation has a language all of its own, ensuring his stories were understandable to the average reader was a bit of a challenge.

“I had to work hard at making it readable for more than just active and retired military folks,” said Gil, who amassed more than 5,600 flight hours and 786 carrier landings during his 28-year naval career. “It was a challenge to limit and explain the acronyms that are so common to those of us with exposure to the military.”

The book is a 50-year romp that takes the reader from the backwoods of North Dakota, to flying combat missions during the Vietnam War, to being the face of the Navy as the commander of the Blue Angels, to ultimately commanding the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) responsible for the welfare of more than 5,000 sailors.

For Gil, it’s difficult for him to say which of the stories are his favorites, as they were all integral to who he was and who he became. By sharing these stories of his life, however, he hopes to inspire others with his positive energy to stay focused on their dreams.

“The message of the book for young readers is that you really can accomplish anything that you set as a goal, no matter where you came from or what your background might be.”

“The message of the book for young readers is that you really can accomplish anything that you set as a goal, no matter where you came from or what your background might be,” said Gil, who still flies from San Diego to North Dakota, at a sluggish 140 miles per hour, in his own two-seat Aviat Husky A-1C. “For the rest of the readers, don’t take yourself or your accomplishments too seriously. There is a very fine line between incredible success and embarrassing failure. In any case, you really can have a heck of a lot of fun on your life’s journey. I did.”

Gil is greeted by his daughter Val after returning from a Western Pacific deployment in 1975. Val would also go on to be a naval aviator.

The book, which is in hardback and soft copy, as well as in e-book and audible versions, are available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.