The Coronado Roundtable was pleased to host Rear Admiral (ret) John “Mac” McLaughlin, president and CEO of the USS Midway Museum, at its July meeting. Now in its fifteenth year on the San Diego waterfront, the Midway Museum capitalized on North Island being the “Birthplace of Naval Aviation,” although, initially, there was considerable San Diego and Navy resistance to overcome. Towed from where the Navy was storing Midway in Bremerton, Washington, the ship was briefly moored at Naval Air Station North Island so that it could onload three aircraft restored by some of the museum’s initial volunteers. Embarking leaders, VIPs, benefactors, and volunteers, Midway then transited to its current location.
Opening on the anniversary of the Battle of Midway in 2004, the Midway Museum draws about 1.4 million visitors per year. Midway’s success is even more impressive because it has never received federal, state, or local government funding – ever. McLaughlin discussed many of Midway’s programs which include a focus on inspiring and educating families visiting the museum, educating the educators by presenting balanced programs on military history (nationally recognized and highly competitive), and working with San Diego State University to include a degree program in military history for students.
A few interesting tidbits: the greatest number of Midway visitors are millennials and Gen Xers, look for a remake of the Midway movie opening this coming Veterans’ Day with Woody Harrelson staring as Admiral Chester Nimitz, and look for some events associated with USS Midway’s 75th birthday in 2020! The museum’s vision for the future is to become the largest veterans’ park on the West Coast of the United States: “America’s living symbol of freedom.”
Lastly, McLaughlin revealed the “secret of Midway,” the tremendous, selfless, and invaluable contribution provided by the docents and volunteers – many of them former Navy and some with just a strong appreciation for America and America’s Navy. Midway’s docents and volunteers – the real heroes of the MIDWAY Museum.
Next up for the Coronado Roundtable on Aug. 23 is Susan Anderson, a former senior government official with significant experience in China, especially timely given recent protest activity in Hong Kong.