Captain N. Jack "Dusty" Kleiss,Ret.


USS Enterprise, Scouting Six Squadron






1 February 1942     Click URL left, to read the story of the Battle off Samar. 


Flying with the Squadron Six Dive Bombers in S-17,  Lt(jg) N. J. "Dusty" Kleiss, pilot, and his gunner, RM3c J. W. Snowden,  watched the last action of bomber S-11.  Captain Dusty Kleiss, Ret.  is the last living survivor to have seen Lt(jg) Carleton Fogg, pilot, and his gunner,  RM3c  Otis L. Dennis, in S-11, crash into the Pacific.   He has generously shared his story in a series of letters to the Dennis family.


from Captain Kleiss in January 2008:

"I have read all the information concerning Otis Dennis on the Internet, but it is likely that I am the last person still alive who watched the action that led to Otis having a ship named after him.  Don Hoff and Jack Leaming, Radioman Gunners, are still alive, but they were facing backward in that action.  It is possible they might know something, but they probably didn't actually see them go down.


I remember that action just like yesterday.   I particularly remember Ens. Carleton Fogg giving careful instructions on aircraft guns in our Ready Room, especially before that battle, reminding us that we should not "activate" a gun, making it ready to fire too early.  We should activate it only just a few seconds... just a couple of seconds, before firing.


It was a dark misty night, making a takeoff in a couple of hundred feet from the carrier very hazardous.  Our Scouting Six was at the head of takeoff, and our LCR Hopping led us on the attack on Roi.  Ordinarily our weather balloon would give us a good indication of the wind for the next day.   This time it failed to tell us that we would have a high tail wind.   We arrived at Roi way too early, totally dark.   We had to circle for what seemed to be a couple of hours until we had light enough to find targets.   That gave the Japanese plenty of time to launch fighters and aim AA (anti-aircraft) guns. 


Before, or while we were circling, I saw S-11 join us.  That was Fogg and Dennis.   I am certain of identifying that plane either by seeing the painted number, or the colored lights we used in darkness to identify each plane as it entered formation.    Probably I watched it because it swung into position very late.   


While I was watching S-11 ahead of me, I saw both of its .50 caliber guns shoot continuously, long enough to expend all ammunition. 


Fogg and Dennis came near the head of the pack on Roi, flying at about 14,000 feet.   Fogg, the gunnery expert, had warned us that there was always that "one chance in a hundred (or hundreds)" that the .50 cal. guns might fire when the pilot turned on the switch that changed the guns from "safe" to "fire", meaning that the guns were ready to shoot if and when the trigger was pulled by the pilot.   I have watched those guns operate perfectly hundreds of times without a malfunction.   That one time was an exception... as soon as Fogg moved the arming switch to the guns, they fired continuously without any trigger movement.   Fortunately no one was ahead of that continuous line of fire.


Now the only gun (or guns) able to fire were held by Dennis.   He was facing aft, able to swivel his .30 cal gun from the rear, sideways or somewhat forward as he swiveled his seat around.        (We were changing from a single .30 cal to the twin .30 cal. so I'm not sure which Dennis had at that time.)   My RM John Snowden shot down several Zeros.


Then I saw Hopping's plane go into flames, hit by AA fire.    The Japanese had made a blanket of fire just ahead of him.


The other planes continued their dives, hitting good targets.   I particularly watched Fogg and Dennis because now Dennis was the only one who could protect that plane. 


I wondered, would their plane make a good dive or fly very close to another plane with good guns?    They made a good dive ahead of me and I saw their bombing explosions.  Dennis and Fogg probably dropped their bombs at 1500 (or 1,000 feet while vertical), at 240 knots (250 mph), pulling out at about 500 feet above the ground with a force of 8 or 9 G's.


There wasn't much left for me to hit.  I dropped only my 100-pounders, saving my 500-pounder for something worth while.   


I saw S-11, Fogg and Dennis, flying erratically as it headed northeast and hit the ocean 1/2 mile away.  No enemy fighters were present and it had obviously been hit by AA fire.  But, they had done lots of damage to Roi.


Those of us remaining had to find targets elsewhere.


I wish I could tell you more about Otis.  He is pictured in the middle row of RM's in "Steady Nerves and Stout Hearts"  by Cressman and Wenger, and he is mentioned in it.  That book tells what those important people did during the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack.  Had those 18 planes not made their searches ahead of the USS Enterprise, and shot at so many planes that day, Japan could easily have taken over Hawaii a little later.  Nagumo thought MANY USA Carriers were out there, and he headed home.


I wish I could say more about our Radioman Gunners.  They had a harder time in dives than the pilots, pushing downward on their seat BACKWARDS at 8 or 9 g (i.e. a force of a ton on their seat) during pull out.


To operate their radio, they had to lock their guns, change radio items, tune dials and sometimes had to get extra ammo from under the floor boards.  You asked if I heard any of their radio transmissions.  Radio silence was almost total.   We transmitted only when we were making attacks, giving a few locations of good enemy targets... no chit and chat like in movies.


My RM, John Snowden, was hit by shrapnel in the butt on one of my attacks in the Marshalls, yet he completed every later flight, taking time between flights for bending over in sick bay to have more shrapnel taken out.


The Gunner's shooting was all "eye ball", with lots of practice.   Even after a battle, as we headed back to port, one plane would pull a tow sleeve about the length of a plane, with a very long rope.  Each gun would have bullets with a different color of paint to see who made holes in the tow sleeve.      I chose Snowden, who was perhaps the best RM.   I was the Education Officer who was first to know of enlisted men's scores as they tried to achieve a higher grade and pay.       Pilots and RM's had to learn where the plane was going to be, not where it was as you shot.


The History channel has a TV show that will picture the USS Enterprise, the last week of February 2007.  It will likely give a moment or two about Roi.  I will probably be seen for a minute or two."






Click to read part of Book by Dusty Kleiss, cover below






World War II enemies confer after 65 years

During the National Museum of the Pacific War’s annual symposium in Fredericksburg in September, (from left) Dusty Kleiss, Kaname Harada, Jonathan Parshall, and Harry Ferrier discovered that Kleiss, Harada, and Ferrier faced each other in combat during the Battle of Midway during World War II. Ferrier displays the bullet-holed ball cap he wore during the battle, while Harada holds the watch he was wearing during the historic firefight in the skies over Midway.

FREDERICKSBURG— Jonathan Parshall, naval historian and co-author of the award-winning Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, has confirmed a stunning moment in history.

Kaname Harada of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Dusty Kleiss of the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Navy Cmdr. Harry Ferrier first encountered each other during the historic Battle of Midway during World War II.

The three met for the first time in 65 years at the National Museum of the Pacific War’s annual symposium in Fredericksburg.

After meeting at the Sept. 15 symposium, Ferrier, Kleiss and Harada, who was a young Zero fighter pilot during World War II, discovered that they had faced each other directly in combat during the Battle of Midway and may have actually exchanged fire with each other.

The National Museum of the Pacific War, a Texas Historical Commission property operated by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, is the only institution in the continental United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Located on a six-acre site, the facility includes the George H.W. Bush Gallery, Admiral Nimitz Museum, Plaza of the Presidents, the Memorial Courtyard, Japanese Garden of Peace, Pacific Combat Zone and the Center for Pacific War Studies.

The museum has grown into a dynamic, first-class experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and from all backgrounds, and a great family educational experience. In addition to nearly 34,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space, the museum boasts an impressive display of Allied and Japanese aircraft, tanks, guns, and other large artifacts made famous during the Pacific war campaigns. An additional 40,000 square-foot expansion is planned for completion in late 2009.


June 03, 2006

Sig Christenson: Paying tribute to old heroes

You don't see many people like Norman J. "Dusty" Kleiss anymore.

Or John W. Snowden.

They're common men who've become almost mythical, aviators who helped turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific 64 years ago.

Kleiss and Snowden helped deep-six the Japanese aircraft carriers Kaga and Hiryu on June 4, 1942. They did their bit in sinking the large cruiser Mikuma two days later.

You need a calculator to figure out how many enemy sailors and aviators they played a role in killing — 1,904 — and an expert to explain why they're so important to history.

They're rare birds so long after this nation's great patriotic war, the sole surviving team from their USS Enterprise dive-bombing squadron, Scouting 6.

Kleiss was the pilot. Snowden, 84, was the gunner — and the best of the bunch. They flew a single-engine plane with the windows open while wearing dungarees and goggles. They tangled with Zeros, and shot them down. It wasn't all that different from the old Red Baron days of World War I.

Glamorous it wasn't. The air at 22,000 feet was cold and thin when they began their bombing runs, but quickly warmed up as their Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber fell like a rock toward their target. There was a sudden increase in air pressure, and Snowden thinks the ear popping that went on those days it took its toll.

He's virtually deaf. Sometimes Snowden, a retired Navy commander, doesn't hear a word even when you yell into the phone.

"I don't recommend dive bombing for your hearing," he confides.

That kind of flying came with the territory, though. You had to get in close to hit a ship. Dauntless crews would take on 9Gs as they pulled up at 200 feet above sea level, enough to briefly lose their sight. But Kleiss, who was 15 when he joined the Kansas National Guard and decided to fly after being "strafed" in a war game at Fort Riley, was a senior pilot and did what had to be done.

"I knew what I could do," he said.

At 90, Kleiss holds a Distinguished Flying Cross and Navy Cross for his exploits in the Pacific, and doesn't lack for confidence long after he war. Short and compact, he's still spry, mentally and physically. He held forth Saturday at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, laser pointer in hand, recounting old war stories in microscopic detail and fielding questions from an audience that couldn't get enough.

Kleiss and Anthony Tully, Dallas-based co-author of the newly published book, "Shattered Sword: the Untold Story of the Battle of Midway," took question after question from the audience. They'd begun to deconstruct the three-day battle a little after 1:30 p.m., and now it was well after 3. It takes 70 minutes to drive from Fredericksburg to the Express-News.

Hands were still going up when the event concluded just before 3:30 p.m., and still it wasn't over. Autographs and more talk lay ahead, with more than a few of the 85 or so hanging around — folks ranging from teenage girls and history buffs to Willie Roesler, an 87-year-old Battle of Midway veteran who put in nine months on the island.

That tells you something about America's love affair with World War II. Books about the war sell as well as ever. People converge on the museum in part because it gives them a chance to meet old heroes, one a man who once encountered Chuck Yeager.

"I just want to shake your hand," he said.

Yeager, a P-51 ace who broke the sound barrier in 1947, reluctantly offered his hand. He's got a good-sized ego, mind you, but isn't entirely comfortable with hero worship.

Yeager figures he was doing his duty like millions of others back then. It's a common refrain, whether it's the famed Flying Tiger David Lee "Tex" Hill or fellow China-Burma-India veteran Arnold Spielberg, father of the Hollywood director.

These are all down-to-earth guys, people who made sacrifices beyond our imaginations and took risks too many Americans nowadays would do almost anything to avoid. They made a huge difference in World War II and have colorful war stories to share with us.

I have a long list of significant military anniversaries we write about and the next one — D-Day — is just around the corner.

There isn't much time. That story has to be written Monday so it can get into the next day's paper and mark the 62nd anniversary of the landings.

It's getting harder to find veterans of these battles, but as important as ever to write about before they're gone. These common men who did uncommon things are fading fast.

"It's such a scary thing that the generation is passing the way it is," attorney Art Nicholson, 48, of San Antonio told me as Kleiss signed autographs a few feet away.

"Thank God there are some of them left."


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1 February 1942

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