They were designed to be the best…
they met enemies face to face,
endured tragedies and enjoyed victories…
they went down in history due to the bravery of their crews…
they are the ships that deserve to be called
In this episode: Aircraft carrier Midway
a pioneer in the jet era
USS Midway was an engineering marvel when it was commissioned right at the end of World War II
It took 5 years to design, 90 tons of blueprints, only 17 months to build.
The idea to build a marvel like this was suggested by the US Navy’s Bureau of Ships as far back as 1940.
For American admirals, this was a dream:
a carrier that would be as robust as a battleship and have at least 120 aircraft on board.
Over the course of the war, the role of carrier-borne aviation increased
and the admirals’ dream became more real.
In autumn 1943, while the heavy Essex-class carriers were already fighting in the Pacific,
the United States launched construction of a supercarrier.
This has always been a dream.
The Chinese built the Wall, the Egyptians built the pyramids, the Japanese built Yamato
and the Americans built Midway.
Commissioned on September 10, 1945, aircraft carrier Midway was the lead ship of her class.
She was similar to USS Essex in terms of design,
but had twice the displacement and a much higher price.
Look, you’ve invested money in this idea. But the war shows that something’s wrong,
something’s not the way it should be, something can be done better.
So these funds are wasted, and you need new investments.
And remember that Midway is being constructed during the war, which means the ship is constantly being upgraded:
her dimensions, equipment, armament, support systems…
And it turned out that one Midway cost the same as two Essex-class carriers.
Of course, the following Midway-class ships were cheaper,
but the first one was virtually made of gold—
both in terms of money and implemented technical solutions.
Specifications of aircraft carrier Midway
Length: about 968 ft
Beam: 135 ft
Total displacement: about 60,000 tons
The power plant consisted of four turbines and 12 boilers,
which produced 212,000 horsepower and allowed the huge carrier to produce a speed of 33 knots.
As compared to its predecessors, Midway boasted imposing armor.
No American carrier had ever been protected so well.
Flight deck: 3.5 in
Conning tower: 3.5–6.5 in
To improve the ship’s stability, her armor belt was different on her port and starboard side:
7.6 and 7 inches thick respectively.
The ship was equipped with the most advanced versatile guns ever used in aircraft carriers.
There were eighteen 5-inch Mark 16 guns in single mounts, designed for Montana-class battleships.
The aircraft carrier also had 21 quadruple Bofors 1.57-inch guns and 20 coaxial Oerlikon 0.79-inch cannons.
Midway was designed to carry 136 aircraft, such as:
Vought [VAWT] F4U Corsair fighters
Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters
Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bombers
Cruising range: 15,000 miles at 15 knots
Midway was so much better than all other US Navy attack carriers, such as USS Essex and USS Saratoga
that it was distinguished as a new type—battlecarriers.
It only missed the war by one week.
Many of the lessons learned from that war were incorporated here on Midway.
This was the first American carrier with a steel flight deck instead of a wooden flight deck.
The advantages of a steel armored deck were evident.
It minimized the impact from direct hits and fires, while the damage control party could deal with the rest.
We’re here in Damage Control Central, one of the most important compartments on this ship,
right in the middle of the ship.
It was here that emergency decisions were made when there was a fire,
when there might have been an electrical short.
This is where sailors called with an emergency.
The damage control officer and sailors here had to make key decisions
using phones to communicate with the rest of the ship.
But that could only take place if these young sailors were experts in the blueprints of Midway.
Blueprints were constantly changing as the ship was modified and modernized.
They would provide the information to the damage control officer to make the key decisions.
And then he would call the captain 14 decks up in the bridge to keep him advised.
A very, very important place here on the USS Midway.
Making the carrier’s survivability as high as possible wasn’t just the paranoia of American shipbuilders.
By the middle of the war, the Japanese air force had destroyed several US carriers.
So Midway turned out to be a truly unsinkable ship, which could withstand any raid
and remain combat capable even when critically damaged.
Quite often, you will hear an incompetent opinion that USS Midway was designed as an armored ship,
based on the experience of kamikaze attacks.
But that’s completely wrong. Kamikazes came after four years of the war.
And Midway was designed in 1940, when the United States of America hadn’t even joined the war.
Midway could withstand a hole in its hull 300 feet long below the waterline and yet still be able to operate.
Because of the way it was designed, there wouldn’t be very much flooding and it could continue its mission.
So this was the ship that was a true pioneer when it came to armament
and being able to withstand enemy attacks.
After Midway was commissioned in September 1945, she was on training for five months in the Caribbean,
and in late February 1946 she became the flagship for the US Atlantic Fleet’s carrier division.
Now USS Midway and thousands of her sailors were to serve in the rough conditions of the North Atlantic.
To prepare an aircraft carrier for a month at sea, a week was required to load her with all kinds of supplies.
So there would be trailers coming to the carrier all the time and discharging all kinds of stuff.
040117BETWEENSHIP Midway was a floating city at sea (population: 4,500). Imagine 4,500 sailors all living inside three football fields,
250 feet apart, in nests of beds like this throughout the ship, in a very difficult environment.
They’re three high, solid steel ship, no air conditioning, no such thing as privacy.
Privacy, indeed, was a distant memory aboard USS Midway.
And yet, these are the living conditions that were necessary for 4,000 men.
How do you take care of 4,500 men when it comes to feeding them?
Well, you need 200 cooks, 10 tons of food a day, and you need to prepare 13,500 meals every single day.
This is one of six restaurants or galleys on Midway where that took place.
Cooks worked here 20 hours a day, seven days a week
to make sure 4,500 19-year olds were well fed.
Coming up next