More than 1 million people have visited the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum on San Diego’s waterfront in the past year, making it the first such attraction to reach the seven-figure attendance mark in a 365- day period, the museum announced.
The Midway drew its one-millionth patron on Saturday, museum spokesman Scott McGaugh said. The eighth anniversary of the museum’s opening is June 7, he said.
Of the more than 100 naval ships to be converted into museums, the USS Midway is the first to attract 1 million visitors in one year, according to McGaugh.
Midway President and CEO Mac McLaughlin said it marks a historic milestone in the nation’s fleet of historic naval ships.
“The extraordinary support shown by San Diegans has made this possible,” McLaughlin said. “Time and again we’ve seen San Diego take great pride in its military heritage as the birthplace of naval aviation.”
Since opening, the museum’s annual attendance has never dropped below 800,000, and it is coming off two consecutive annual attendance records, according to Midway officials. Attendance is 14 percent ahead last year’s pace.
The museum’s operators said initial forecasts pegged annual attendance at 550,000 to 600,000.
McGaugh credited partnerships with the Girls Scouts, American Red Cross, Armed Services YMCA, San Diego Blood Bank and other organizations for the strong attendance.
The museum also has received national visibility from “American Idol,” “Monday Night Football” and other television programs, and will receive another boost in November when a nationally televised college basketball game is played on the flight deck between San Diego State and Syracuse.
The announcement came on the 70th anniversary of the biggest day in the Battle of Midway, for which the vessel was named. Following a long series of fruitless attacks by other aircraft, U.S. Navy dive bombers set four Japanese aircraft carriers ablaze — all of which sank within hours.
The Japanese Navy never recovered from the loss of two-thirds of the ships that launched aircraft for the Pearl Harbor attack six months prior, along with their sailors and experienced pilots. Historians say the battle turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific.