The USS Midway / San Diego’s Premiere Attraction

If your travels take you to San Diego, California, a visit to the historic  USS Midway Museum is a must. Here you’ll be able to explore a real aircraft carrier and one which was the longest serving aircraft carrier of the twentieth century. During her forty seven years in service, the USS Midway had a total of about 200,000 servicemen assigned to the vessel.

uss midway museum

USS Midway

On 30 September 2003, the USS Midway  began her journey from the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, Wash., to San Diego where she would be a Museum and Memorial. She was docked at the Charles P. Howard Terminal in Oakland, Calif., in October, while the construction of her pier in San Diego was completed.

The USS Midway is now docked in San Diego Bay just east of the downtown area and has been transformed into one of the most visited ship museums in the world.

Explore the USS Midway

The USS Midway CV-41, was the third vessel named Midway. Named after the Battle of Midway,

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The massive hangar deck of the USS Midway

The ship is amazingly restored and full of really interesting exhibits. The ship is literally a floating city at sea. During it’s operational years the USS Midway carried about 4,500 crew members.

Your trip though the USS Midway will take you to the crews quarters, the officers quarters, the four acre flight deck and other portions of this magnificent vessel. Your admission includes a self-guided audio tour to over 60 locations from the engine room to the flight deck. When exploring the hangar deck which housed many of the aircraft you’ll notice the large elevators on either side of the ship that raised the planes from the hangar deck up to the flight deck.

The USS Midway Service

The USS Midway was operational from 1945 to 1992. It was commissioned one week after the end of World War Two. The vessel served in every ocean on the planet.

The ship is 1,001 feet in length which is about the size of three football fields. Weighing 70,000 tons the USS MIdway is as high as a twenty story building. Each of her two anchors weigh 20 tons. The ship could carry eighty planes.

More interesting facts regarding this vessel include…

  • During three tours of duty in the Tonkin Gulf, aircraft from the USS MIDWAY downed the first three and last MiG in the Vietnam conflict.
  • USS MIDWAY was the first carrier to be “forward deployed” in a foreign country, sailing for 17 years out of Yokosuka, Japan.
  • When operating at sea, USS MIDWAY was refueled every three days. She burned approximately 100,000 gallons a day.

A Perfect Family Museum

The USS Midway is a terrific museum adventure for the entire family. The vessel is literally a floating city. On board the USS Midway, you can learn about life on a Navy ship and how aircraft land and take off from an aircraft carrier. Visitors can tour many of the working areas and see more than 15 restored aircraft. Volunteer docents, many who either served on the USS Midway or are former Navy pilots, provide live talks about the catapult and other operations.

See additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

A Great Museum and a Sunken Whale Ship

The Palace Steamers of the Great Lakes

Crossing the Atlantic with Marconi’s Wireless

Your La Jolla California Getaway

An excellent book regarding the USS Midway is…USS Midway: America’s Shield by author Scott McGaugh.

Things to Know Before Your Visit

  • Many doorways have a high threshold, and there are many stairs, some of them quite steep. Wear comfortable shoes with soles that give you firm footing.
  • Elevators provide access to the hangar deck and flight deck
  • Bring a light jacket; it can be windy on the Flight Deck
  • Leave the big bags behind. Only modest-sized diaper bags and camera bags are allowed
  • If you have a child in a stroller, either take them out and park the stroller at the entrance or be prepared to skip visiting many parts of the ship.

uss midway san diego

The self-guided USS Midway audio tour is included in the entrance fee (available in English, Spanish and Japanese). The audio tour incorporates the voices of many who served on the USS Midway. They tell the stories of their experiences on board the aircraft carrier.

The USS Midway Museum is open daily 10A to 5P. The last admission is at 4p. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

(Article and Photos copyright Trips Into History)


Tour the WWII Submarine U.S. Pampanito

The USS Pampanito Goes to War

Between 1944-45 the Pampanito completed six war patrols in the Pacific Theater. After her shakedown cruise in the Atlantic, the USS Pampanito headed directly for Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal and arrived there in February 1944. Her deployment was during the latter part of the Pacific war.

world war two submarine pampanito

USS Pampanito

When you tour the USS Pampanito you will get a good feel of the last few years of the war. This was the period after the Battle of Midway when the U.S. was quite on the offensive in the western Pacific. Her first war patrol took her to Saipan and Guam. She had to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs of damage caused by Japanese depth charges. An interesting thing when you tour the Pampanito today are the separate displays of items such as depth charges, torpedos (shown above right) and torpedo hatches. Your visit to the vessel is more than just a tour of a submarine. It’s really a well rounded presentation of World War Two submarine warfare in general.

The Patrols of the U.S.S. Pampanito

The Pampanito’s second war patrol took her near the Japanese home islands where she almost was almost hit by torpedos from a Japanese sub. Her third patrol was in the South China Sea where she inadvertently sunk a Japanese troop ship which was transporting British POW’s. This was quite common of the Japanese to bring some POW’s back to the home islands. The Pampanito picked up over 70 survivors of that sinking. The fourth patrol was off Formosa where she sunk a 1,200 ton Japanese cargo ship. The fifth patrol was in the Gulf of Siam where another cargo vessel was sunk and then back to the Gulf of Siam for her sixth patrol.

us navy world war two submarines

USS Pampanito SS 383

After the sixth patrol the USSA Pampanito sailed back to Pearl Harbor then on to San Francisco for an overhaul. She then went back to Pearl Harbor but was called back to San Francisco because of the war’s end.


The USS Pampanito was decommissioned at Mare Island next to the North Bay town of Vallejo California in December 1945. It’s not far east of Vallejo in the Sacramento River where the Navy stored many old World War Two vessels in what was called the “mothball fleet“. The question is…what does a perfectly good submarine do after the war and after being decommissioned? Not a whole lot until 1962 when the Pampanito was assigned as a Naval Reserve Training Ship at Vallejo. Finally in December 1971 the USS Pampanito was officially taken off Navy registration records, almost thirty years after the launching of this historic United States naval ship.

world war two diesel submarines

Another view of the USS Pampanito

Today, the USS Pampanito is on the National Register of Historic Places and is an official National Historic Landmark.

Just as the ship berthed behind her, the Jeremiah O’Brien, the Pampanito was recognized as being an invaluable asset perfect for historic preservation and for the public to enjoy and learn from. While the Jeremiah O’Brien represents the all important Liberty Ship program, the Pampanito represents the heroic contributions of submariners during war.

Visit the USS Pampanito

The USS Pampanito is now owned and operated by the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association which displays several historic ships.

world war two submarine torpedo

World War II submarine torpedo

The submarine was transferred to the Maritime Park Association in 1976 and was opened for public tours in 1982. When you visit the Pampanito you’ll pass the Maritime National Park which displays several more historic ships like the side wheeler Eureka which among other assignments ferried passengers and automobiles over San Francisco Bay during the early 1900’s.

If you enjoy exploring old vessels and World War Two naval ships, you’ll absolutely enjoy these displays adjacent to Fishermans Wharf at the San Francisco Maritime Park. It’s one of the very finest displays of maritime vessels in the United States.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

World War Two Attacks on America’s West Coast

A Civil War Submarine

Today, this classic World War Two submarine also makes a great venue for group sleepovers. Organizations such as the Cub Scouts have taken advantage of this opportunity to spend the night on the Pampanito using it’s 48 bunk beds. Small waves churned up by passing cargo ships often give the Pampanito a slight roll so those who spend the night aboard may get an authentic sailing experience. The Pampanito also conducts educational programs for adults and youngsters.

submarine torpedo loading hatch

Original torpedo loading hatch from the USS Pampanito

Take a fascinating tour back to the times of World War Two and the U.S. Navy in wartime by visiting the magnificent floating museum which is the submarine USS Pampanito.

To get to the submarine on Pier 45 in San Francisco, walk straight through the Musee Mecanique (entrance shown at right)  at Fishermans Wharf and turn left on the pier. At that point you will see both the Pampanito and the Jeremiah O’Brien behind her.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

History of Shipping / Wapama

steam schooner wapama

Steam schooner Wapama in dry dock at Point Richmond, CA

The history of shipping along the California coast is a colorful subject. At this writing there is a old and historic steamer schooner in dry dock at Point Richmond California, across the bay from San Francisco. The steam schooner Wapama (sometimes referred to as the “Tongass”) is a National Historic Landmark and brings us back to the day when the west coast lumber industry was booming. Timber products were in great demand and the northwest Pacific coast has plenty of trees. Oregon lumber was in great demand and the west coast of America offered a lot of opportunities for steamship concerns. There were a total of about 225 steam schooners built especially for the lumber trade and the Wapama has the distinction of being the last one still surviving.

The Wapama is a wooden hull vessel made from Douglas fir . The Douglas fir tree was  popular with shipbuilders of the era. The ship was built in 1915 and was in service until 1947. During the early 1900’s, both shipping and railroad companies transported quite a lot of lumber in northern California and Oregon. The vessel Wapama was originally built for the steamship company of Charles R. McCormick, a former lumberman. The McCormick Steamship Company was in business between 1903 and 1040. McCormick initially had several investors with an interest in a fleet of vessels. In 1921, he acquired everyone’s interests and issued stock. McCormick managed the company successfully and with his profits was able to enlarge his fleet of steamers. The Wapama plied the ocean regularly between California and Oregon. The vessel has a length of 216 feet and a beam of 40 feet. It’s gross tonnage is 951. The Wapama is best noted for it’s high superstructure on the stern and a high forecastle on the bow. The Wapama had one main hatch for loading. The ship could carry an enormous amount of board feet lumber in addition to about 60 passengers. This steam vessel was powered by water tube boilers burning diesel fuel.  The engine was triple expansion with 800 horse power.

wapama steamer

Current deteriorated condition of steamship Wapama

The Wapama was sold to the National Park Service in 1977. This was for inclusion in it’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In the history of ships, the Wapama was a unique artifact. The old ship had been on display in San Francisco at it’s Maritime Museum at Fishermans Wharf.  In 1979, due to it’s deteriorating hull condition, the Wapama was put on a barge to avoid it’s possible sinking. Today, as mentioned above, the Wapama sits in dry dock at Point Richmond and is not open to visitors. The photos on this page show just how far the wood hull has deteriorated over the years. You can get good views of the steamer on the road passing it’s dry dock.

While the vessel is quite old and in obvious need of restoration, viewing it yourself is an impressive experience. In 2011, the National Park Service announced that the Wapama would be dismantled but as of this date it has not been. What eventually happens to this historic steamer is still officially undecided. The cost of restoration would be quite costly. There has been a lot of concern voiced by people in favor of preservation but the economics will probably prevent that from occurring. The idea of perhaps saving it’s engine has also been suggested.

The Wapama certainly is a big piece of west coast history and it would be a good thing if somehow the vessel could be saved and made into an historical exhibit. If that is not possible, something from the ship, such as the engine, needs to be preserved for future generations. I think that destroying what is the last of a fleet of over 200 unique vessels would not serve very well. The ship has been condemned but historians have continued to make arguments against the NPS directive. If you feel strongly about this yourself I would suggest you contact the NPS by phone or email to express your support for saving the Wapama.

Two additional articles we’ve published which you’ll find interesting are the GP Griffith Lake Erie Disaster and the Mosquito Fleet of Puget Sound.


(Photos are from author’s private collection)