National Bestseller • "An instant classic." —Dallas Morning News • 75 YEARS AGO, ONE DARING AMERICAN PILOT MAY HAVE CHANGED THE COURSE OF HISTORY WHEN HE SANK TWO JAPANESE CARRIERS AT THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY
On the morning of June 4, 1942, high above the tiny Pacific atoll of Midway, Lt. (j.g.) "Dusty" Kleiss burst out of the clouds and piloted his SBD Dauntless into a near-vertical dive aimed at the heart of Japan’s Imperial Navy, which six months earlier had ruthlessly struck Pearl Harbor. The greatest naval battle in history raged around him, its outcome hanging in the balance as the U.S. desperately searched for its first major victory of the Second World War. Then, in a matter of seconds, Dusty Kleiss’s daring 20,000-foot dive helped forever alter the war’s trajectory.
Plummeting through the air at 240 knots amid blistering anti-aircraft fire, the twenty-six-year-old pilot from USS Enterprise’s elite Scouting Squadron Six fixed on an invaluable target—the aircraft carrier Kaga, one of Japan’s most important capital ships. He released three bombs at the last possible instant, then desperately pulled out of his gut-wrenching 9-g dive. As his plane leveled out just above the roiling Pacific Ocean, Dusty’s perfectly placed bombs struck the carrier’s deck, and Kaga erupted into an inferno from which it would never recover.
Arriving safely back at Enterprise, Dusty was met with heartbreaking news: his best friend was missing and presumed dead along with two dozen of their fellow naval aviators. Unbowed, Dusty returned to the air that same afternoon and, remarkably, would fatally strike another enemy carrier, Hiryu. Two days later, his deadeye aim contributed to the destruction of a third Japanese warship, the cruiser Mikuma, thereby making Dusty the only pilot from either side to land hits on three different ships, all of which sank—losses that crippled the once-fearsome Japanese fleet.
By battle’s end, the humble young sailor from Kansas had earned his place in history—and yet he stayed silent for decades, living quietly with his children and his wife, Jean, whom he married less than a month after Midway. Now his extraordinary and long-awaited memoir, Never Call Me a Hero, tells the Navy Cross recipient’s full story for the first time, offering an unprecedentedly intimate look at the "the decisive contest for control of the Pacific in World War II" (New York Times)—and one man’s essential role in helping secure its outcome.
Dusty worked on this book for years with naval historians Timothy and Laura Orr, aiming to publish Never Call Me a Hero for Midway’s seventy-fifth anniversary in June 2017. Sadly, as the book neared completion in 2016, Dusty Kleiss passed away at age 100, one of the last surviving dive-bomber pilots to have fought at Midway. And yet the publication of Never Call Me a Hero is a cause for celebration: these pages are Dusty’s remarkable legacy, providing a riveting eyewitness account of the Battle of Midway, and an inspiring testimony to the brave men who fought, died, and shaped history during those four extraordinary days in June, seventy-five years ago.
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About the Author
Norman Jack “Dusty” Kleiss (1916–2016) grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas, during the Great Depression, before attending the United States Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1938. A carrier-based pilot of Scouting Squadron Six attached to USS Enterprise, he was awarded the Navy Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross. Captain Kleiss (USN, Ret.) was married to his wife, Jean, for more than sixty years before her passing in 2006.
Timothy J. Orr is an associate professor of military history at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He is author and editor of Last to Leave the Field and Cities at War.
Laura Lawfer Orr is the deputy education director at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the U.S. Navy’s official museum in Norfolk.
Table of Contents
Foreword Jill Kleiss xi
Introduction Norman Jack Kleiss xv
Chapter 1 Kansas Childhood, 1916-1932 1
Chapter 2 The Lure of Flight, 1932-1934 17
Chapter 3 Midshipman, 1934-1938 29
Chapter 4 Finding Love, 1938-1939 48
Chapter 5 The Navy's Surface Fleet, 1939-1940 63
Chapter 6 Flight Training, 1940-1941 93
Chapter 7 Scouting Squadron Six, Part 1, May-June 1941 105
Chapter 8 Scouting Squadron Six, Part 2, June-November 1941 132
Chapter 9 The Pacific War Begins, November 1941-January 1942 155
Chapter 10 The Battle of the Marshall Islands, February 1942 180
Chapter 11 Wake and Marcus Islands, February-March 1942 213
Chapter 12 Return to the Central Pacific, March-June 1942 228
Chapter 13 The Battle of Midway, Part 1, The Morning Attack, June 4, 1942 254
Chapter 14 The Battle of Midway, Part 2, The Afternoon Attack, June 4, 1942 295
Chapter 15 The Battle of Midway, Part 3, June 5 and 6, 1942 312
Chapter 16 Return to the States, June-October 1942 332
Chapter 17 Flight Instructor, 1942-1945 347
Chapter 18 My Life After the Second World War, 1946-1976 370
Chapter 19 Remembering Midway, 1976-2016 384
Afterword Timothy J. Orr 401
Appendix: Roster, Scouting Squadron Six, May 1941 to June 1942 411
Glossary of Military Acronyms 417
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
never call me a hero is one of the best world war 2 aviation stories that i have read in a long time. jack kleis flew a dauntless during the battle of midway and bombed and sank 2 of the japanese carriers and was helped bring about one of the biggest victorys in word war 2. this book makes you feel like your right in the cockpit whean the planes are going into battle and what the pilots are feeling as they challenge the japanese for one of the biggest fight of their lifes. very hard to put down great gift idea for a friend or family member