Call Me a Hero by
Jack “Dusty” Kleiss, the 100-year-old survivor
of the Battle of Midway (he passed away in 2016), is a very
matter-of-fact, non-dramatic account of his and other US naval
aviators roles in the pivotal battle between the US and Imperial
Japan naval forces in June 1942. Although there have been
numerous accounts written on the battle in various military
historical books, this first-person account, put down on paper
over 60 years after the battle, provides a “you are
there” account that is rarely, if ever, seen today.
Jack Kleiss was a naval aviator when war broke out between
the US and Imperial Japan. A graduate of the Naval Academy
and the Naval Flight School, he was thrust into several early
skirmishes between the two adversaries before the climactic
battle at Midway.
What I enjoyed most reading this engaging remembrance are
the details of the attack by the US aviators on the Japanese
carrier fleet and the shear bravery, determination and training
that all came to bear in sinking the 4 Japanese carriers.
His descriptions of dive-bombing the carriers are hair-raising,
given the high risk of failure that could occur. Jack Kleiss
reminds us that it was the approximately 60 US aviators who
dealt the decisive blow to the Japanese Navy. What is the
significance of this? In the first time in naval history,
a major and decisive naval battle occurred where the adversarial
ships were far away, out of sight and never directly engaged
with each other. Jack Kleiss was one of those 60 aviators
who made military history early June 1942.