BY FATALLY STRIKING THREE JAPANESE WARSHIPS DURING “THE DECISIVE CONTEST FOR CONTROL OF THE PACIFIC IN WORLD WAR II” (NEW YORK TIMES), ONE DARING PILOT MAY HAVE CHANGED THE COURSE OF HISTORY. NOW THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY’S LAST SURVIVING DIVE-BOMBER PILOT DELIVERS A GRIPPING AND UNFORGETTABLE EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF AMERICA’S GREATEST NAVAL VICTORY.
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, the last surviving dive-bomber pilot 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.
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.
"Never Call Me a Hero is a rare and precious gift from a significant warrior to his posterity. Published posthumously, Dusty Kleiss's stirring memoir contradicts his own title: Kleiss willingly accepted the risks that defined his heroism, and changed the course of the Second World War." -- BARRETT TILLMAN, author of Enterprise: America's Fightingest Ship and On Wave and Wing: The 100-Year Quest to Perfect the Aircraft Carrier
"Lieutenant Kleiss is one of history's ultimate unsung heroes. In this remarkable memoir, the decorated dive-bomber pilot tells a war story for the ages. Dusty Kleiss's name should be known to every American-adult and schoolchild alike. This book will teach you something on every page." -- JAMES D. HORNFISCHER, author of The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and The Fleet at Flood Tide
"Laced with humor, `Dusty' Kleiss's memoir is an honest, riveting account of a brave pilot's life. Never Call Me a Hero is equally a vivid and unforgettable first-hand view into America's greatest victory at sea." -- DAN HAMPTON (USAF, Ret.), recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and bestselling author of Viper Pilot and Lords of the Sky
"A real treasure. ...It is hard to conceive that a better first-person book on the first six months of America's war in the Pacific will surface. ... An instant classic, a front-row seat on a Pacific war journey that is action-packed throughout." -- STEPHEN L. MOORE, Dallas Morning News
"Inspiring. ... America produced men like Dusty Kleiss in their millions when they were needed, ordinary men who presented themselves when called, put on uniforms, and did extraordinary things. ... [Kleiss was] a great American and a hero, whether or not he fancied the honorific." -- American Spectator
"Incredible. ... A standout autobiography for anyone interested in bravery, courage, and first-person accounts of military heroics during World War II." -- Library Journal (starred review)
"Masterful. ... Dusty Kleiss was and remains in a class by himself. ... Much more than a vivid remembrance of his heroic role." -- Naval History
"Without histrionics or bravado, Dusty Kleiss gives us a fascinating personal account of this seminal naval battle, and a great read as well. Never Call Me a Hero lets you feel what it was like to fight in the Pacific, and to grow up in Depression-era Middle America, too." -- JONATHAN PARSHALL, co-author, Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
"A riveting narrative about the Battle of Midway. ... A saga of life in the midst of a war." -- Daily Press
"[Kleiss] helped to turn the tide of the war. ... Conveys the personal nature of war and honors his fellow flyers who lost their lives." -- Seapower Magazine
"Anyone interested in naval aviation or the Battle of Midway should read this book." -- Journal of America's Military Past