Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway
by N. Jack “Dusty” Kleiss with Timothy and Laura Orr
Hardcover in dustjacket, 336 pages, illustrated
Published by William Morrow May 2017
Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
The history of war is filled with epic battles, with tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of men sometimes fighting for days. The outcomes often decide the fates of nations and alter the course of history. Surprisingly, the difference between victory or defeat often hinges on a single decision of a leader or the actions of a few men during a crucial moment. “Dusty” Kleiss was one such man who was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time with exactly the right skills to win an improbable victory for his nation.
LTJG Kleiss was a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber pilot with Scouting Six flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6). During the pivotal battle of Midway on 4 June 1942 approximately three hundred US aircraft from three aircraft carriers and Midway Island attacked the four Japanese carriers, dropping hundreds of bombs and torpedoes. Many crews were lost. In spite of all that effort and sacrifice, only thirteen bombs actually hit the Japanese carriers, all of them dropped by Dauntless pilots from the Yorktown and the Enterprise. “Dusty” Kleiss hit two of the carriers, first Kaga and then Hiryu in a later strike. On the 6th he also hit the damaged heavy cruiser Mikuma. All three Japanese ships were sunk. Another Enterprise SBD pilot, LT Dick Best of VB-6, scored hits on the carriers Akagi and Hiryu. Between them, Kleiss and Best were responsible for 30% of the hits on the Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway.
Never Call Me a Hero is Kleiss’ story. While the Battle of Midway is the obvious focal point of the book, it also examines his early life and education, along with service in the surface fleet before flight school. He also details Enterprise’s participation in the raids against Japanese held islands prior to Midway which are every bit as interesting as the pivotal battle itself. A major subplot throughout is Kleiss’ courtship of Eunice “Jean” Mochon, whom he was to marry while on leave after Midway. An interesting insight into the times.