Adjacent to the hangar on the same deck is the SINS room, or Ship's Inertial Navigation System. In the era before GPS, SINS helped the carrier's navigators figure out where it was in the world, crucial info for them, and the for pilots trying to find targets (and eventually, back to the carrier itself). In the middle is a fascinating display of the early computer parts this system used, showing the UNIVAC CP-642B computer from 1963, and its incredible 32 kilobytes of memory. That's less than this webpage.
There are multiple ways to go about your tour of the Midway, and most of the lower decks aren't connected (i.e., you can't walk from engineering to the mess without going back up to the hangar deck).
Engineering itself is really the only part of the whole tour that isn't impressive. It's still cool, but compared to the access you get elsewhere on the ship, you don't get to explore or see that much: a control room, this control panel, and one of the boilers and turbines.
Through a passage cut in the bulkhead, this area of the crew's quarters is only a few steps from the brig. There's even less space here! Granted, you're not in the brig, so that's a good thing. I wonder how many times someone in the middle or lower bunk sat up quickly?
Every sailor you ask will tell you the food on Navy ships was quite good. The Midway won several awards along those lines. Doubly impressive when you consider they have to make 4,100-plus meals across the whole ship three times a day.
Looking more like a school cafeteria, the mess deck also gave access to ordinance storage, and is the central intersection of many passageways. Given the hard walls, floors, and ceiling, I imagine it was incredibly loud in here during meal times.
One of the most amazing things about the Midway tour is going down a narrow ladder, and finding another huge open space. In this case, the chief petty officer's mess. Only CPOs could enter the chiefs' mess; even officers had to get permission first.
The wardroom was for officers, and is more elegant than the CPO or crew mess. An adjacent room is the senior officers's wardroom, which was one long table in a narrow room called "the bowling alley," but is even nicer.
In order to eat in the wardroom you had to be in proper dress. Work uniforms or flight suits were not allowed. If you were so attired, you ate here instead. It was a popular spot to unwind after missions.
Nearly every space on the ship has photos and stories from people who worked in that area. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the stories from the laundry crew were about how bad it was working on the laundry crew.
It's hard to see in this photo, but in the stall in the middle, there are actually shoes and pants, as if someone is in there (there wasn't). An amusing touch typical of the detail the museum and restoration staff put into the Midway. Another is dummies of doctors...
Being the second-in-command on a ship this size certainly has its perks, like this lovely cabin. Adjacent to it was a comm center that likely created noise at all hours, but gave fast access for the XO.
The capain's in-port cabin is the most impressive I've ever seen on a ship. While at sea, he slept in a small room off the bridge (we'll see that later). This reception area is just part of his series of rooms, including a bedroom, bath, studio and his own galley with his own cook.
The ready rooms are accessible from the flight deck, but I've added them in the story here so we'll end with the flight deck. Each wing on the Midway had their own ready room, and each had a different color and decorations. This room had the wing that flew F4s and other earlier aircraft.
The radar system incorporated IFF transponder codes, allowing fast identification of friends, and marking potential foes (though the latter weren't identified as such without other, usually visual, corroboration).
All flight operations were monitored from here, primary flight control. The air boss and his team would keep track of every aircraft. The glass board on the left swung out so the air boss and his assistant could see it, where an enlisted sailor would keep all the data updated. He wrote this backward so the air boss could read it.
Even though late in its career the Midway did get an early form of GPS, it used charts (not maps) to plot courses and location. The SINS we saw earlier aided this considerably, but a sextant was on display here as an example of backup tech.
It's surprising to a lot of people that the sailor in charge of actually driving the boat can't really see where it's going. Their job isn't to look, but to follow the orders of the people who can. They don't control the speed either; that's a different sailor, positioned at the brass console on the middle-left of the image, who turns dials to relay commands down to the engine room.
This is a really clever device. What looks like a clothes drying rack is actually a distance gauge. Standing at the other window (this was a better angle for a photo), you can judge the distance to nearby ships (such as a refueling tanker) just by matching up its waterline to one of the bars.
This is also the first time my car has made it into one of my CNET slideshows, a fact amusing to literally one person.
This is the largest plane to regularly launch from a carrier, the EKA-3 Skywarrior. It was designed to be a bomber, but was used for electronic warfare and even as a midair refueling platform. They were in service for almost 40 years.
The legendary, and surprisingly large, F-14 Tomcat. There's a "Top Gun" exhibit near the ready rooms, which made this plane famous. F-14s didn't fly from the Midway, as even though it's huge, it was too small.
The SH-3 Sea King was an antisubmarine helicopter, though it has been replaced in that role by the Seahawk (a picture of that is coming up). It was also used for rescue and mine sweeping, and some were modified to be Marine One.
An H-60 Seahawk, one of the Navy's workhorses, and closely related to the Army's Blackhawk. The biggest difference is a hinged tail that allows it to take up less space when on ship. Behind is a Huey Gunship.
The sun sets on my tour. If you're in San Diego, I highly recommend checking out the Midway. It's an amazing step back into nearly half a century of Navy history, and an incredible ship unlike any other you can tour in the world.