THE US NAVY PILOT
Since I was a child, I was always fascinated by the stories that my grandfather used to tell me about his years of service on the USS Midway Carrier, to which he was assigned for several years. Sitting on his armchair and wearing his old leather service jacket, his eyes would shine again, and his voice would get emotional detailing his old days stories and adventures as a member of squadron 22. As he was telling his stories, my child's imagination flew at great speed and took me to the cabin of his plane, where I was the hero flying through the huge sky over the sea!
US naval aviation began with pioneering aviator Glenn Curtiss, who sustained that planes were able to take off and land aboard ships at sea. One of his pilots, Eugene Ely, took off from the cruiser USS Birmingham anchored off the coast of Virginia in November 1910. Two months later, Ely landed aboard another cruiser, the USS Pennsylvania, in San Francisco Bay, demonstrating the shipboard operations concept.
In October 1919, the Air Detachment, Pacific Fleet, was created, making naval aviation a formal part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet primarily with the purpose of scouting and identification of the position of enemy ships. The need for a more mobile strike capability led to the development of the aircraft carrier, the column backbone of modern naval aviation. Later jet aircraft were used on carriers.
On September 10, 1945, the USS Midway joined the US Navy fleet as the largest warship ever built. The USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century and was named in honor of the major Battle of Midway in June 1942.
The USS Midway had an intense and diverse patrol activity for more than 40 years, in many different missions around the globe. It was finally decommissioned on April 11, 1992, and remained in storage in Bremerton, Washington until 2003, when it was donated to become the USS Midway Museum in San Diego in June 2004.
The beginning of autumn brought fresh and splendid days for my road trip to California, where I had the great opportunity to visit the USS Midway in San Diego. Finally, I was going to know this emblematic ship set in the stories that my grandfather told me as a child!
From the very first moment, I noticed an important number of veterans guiding visitors and answering all kinds of questions at the museum. I found that so inspiring and wonderful. Who else would know and explain better than the people who lived the experience at a certain time of their lives? Hearing them speak with such emotion and passion gave me goosebumps. Just like my grandpa did.
Whether it was at the flight deck exhibits, the aircraft gallery or the below deck exhibits, or even just walking around this gigantic aircraft carrier brought to life those stories that had meant a lot to me as a child. I could not forget my bomber jacket to feel appropriate for the occasion and remember my amazing grandfather when he wore his. I pictured him in every part of the ship and knew what life meant for him as a Navy Pilot. The immense sky as his domain, and how he was part of an elite group of aviators, who flew the most lethal planes in the world, all from the deck of an aircraft carrier. I understood his strength to do his job and the skills that required critical thinking and unwavering determination. They both gave him the will to persevere through the most difficult challenges.
This was an amazing and unforgettable experience that allowed me to pay tribute to my grandfather and the nearly 250,000 sailors and officers who served aboard the ship during its 47 years of service!