The USS Midway (CVB-41) is an aircraft carrier that served in the United States Navy. The lead ship of her class, she was commissioned in September 1945 under the command of Captain J.F. Bolger and remained in active service through Desert Storm.
The Midway-class carrier was the next step in the evolution of such vessels after the highly successful Essex class. The design was an attempt to create a more heavily-armored vessel that could still carry a full compliment of aircraft. This was accomplished by sacrificing some of the vessels armaments. The Midway was able to carry 130 aircraft – 30% more than the preceding Essex-class.
Hull design was based on that of the Montana-class battleship, which was never built; this made the Midway quite maneuverable for a vessel of her size. However, the vessel was extremely cramped in terms of space and rode relatively low in the water. This compromised lateral stability, making aircraft recovery difficult.
Midway was laid down in October 1943 at the Newport News Shipbuilding Company yard near Norfolk, Virginia. She was launched in just under eighteen months. At the time she was first commissioned, she had a length of 972 feet and a beam of 136 feet at the flight deck, displacing 45,000 tons when fully loaded. Crew compliment totaled over 4100 officers and seamen.
Repairs and Upgrades
Following post-shakedown availability (during which final repairs and adjustments are made) and periodic upgrades of her aircraft facilities, Midway's first major yard period took place at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington between the end of June 1955 and September 1957. During this time, she underwent the SCB-110 modernization, which including the installation of an angled deck (allowing for simultaneous aircraft launch and recovery), an enclosed "hurricane bow" and steam catapults in addition to an elevator off the stern.
Her next modernization was carried out less than nine years later. Starting in February 1966, Midway spent nearly four years at the San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard (the brief merging of operations at Mare Island and Hunter's Point) undergoing a $202 million SCB-101.66 modernization. During this procedure, Midway gained 29,000 tons in weight resulting from a 35% increase in the size of her flight deck in addition to new elevators, aircraft launch equipment and centralized A/C. While addressing some problems, the modernization created new ones that required even more modifications. Among these were the addition of hull blisters in 1986; unfortunately, these only exacerbated her problems.
Upon her retirement in April 1992, she was moved to the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, in Bremerton, Washington. While being decommissioned, she was used for a documentary film entitled At Sea. In 2003, she was moved to San Diego, where she remains docked as a museum ship.
Midway's first year was spent close to home, conducting tests and training. In October 1947, she made the first of several annual deployments to the Mediterranean. In 1952, she was part of Operation Mainbrace, a NATO exercise in the North Sea.
Midway set sail for a circumnavigation of the world in December 1954, reporting for duty with the 7th Fleet until proceeding to the West Coast the following June.
In 1958, she was stationed out of Alameda, California. From here, Midway began annual deployments to the Far East, which by the mid-1960s included combat tours of Vietnam. Following her controversial modernization between 1966 and 1970, Midway made two more deployments to Vietnam before she was stationed out of NS Yokosuka (Japan). Her last mission to Vietnam was in April 1975 during the fall of Saigon, during which a small Cessna, piloted by a South Vietnamese air force officer attempting to escape, landed on the carrier's deck.
The carrier remained in the Far East until April 1979, when she was moved to the Indian Ocean to help protect American interests in the wake of the Iranian revolution. The following year, Midway returned to the Pacific, remaining there for the remainder of the decade except for one period in the Indian Ocean from August through October 1980.
Midway's last deployment was to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield and the subsequent Desert Storm. She returned to Yokosuka in March 1991, then headed home for the last time in August of that year.
She is now docked in San Diego as a museum exhibit.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Midway (CV-41)
Two incidents occurred aboard Midway that would have exacerbated asbestos risk by tearing these materials loose. In July 1980, the carrier collided with a Panamanian freighter between Philippines and Borneo, causing slight damage to the Midway as well as three of her aircraft. In June 1990, two explosions occurred aboard the carrier. The fire continued for ten hours and resulted in eleven casualties.
Although all of the service branches utilized asbestos-containing products in all sorts of bases and environments, exposure was much more frequent on ships, and so studies find a larger number of mesothelioma navy victims than in the other services. If asbestos becomes worn it can become friable, meaning that individual asbestos fibers can break off and escape into the surrounding air, where they can be breathed in by ship's crew or dockworkers, potentially leading to the development of mesothelioma. The harm brought about by asbestos occurs when microscopic fibers are breathed in or swallowed; the fibers invade the lungs and mesothelium and sometimes the stomach, causing scar tissue in the case of pleural plaques and damage at the DNA level in the case of lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Sadly, a mesothelioma prognosis is rarely positive - most mesothelioma victims have a life expectancy of less than two years after a diagnosis. Asbestos-related diseases like pleural mesothelioma are fairly rare, and as a result it can be difficult to find credible information on the topic; that's why we've compiled a Mesothelioma Treatment Guide which contains comprehensive information concerning clinics for mesothelioma, new drug trials, and alternative treatments. Simply fill out the form on this page and we'll mail this information to you at no charge.Sources
Friedman, Norman. U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1983)
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).