Mr. Norman Jack “Dusty” Kleiss had just celebrated his 100th birthday this past March 7th. Kleiss was the last surviving dive-bomber from the famed Battle of Midway, an important American naval victory over the Japanese which occurred from 4-6 June 1942. A graduate of the US Naval Academy, class of 1938, Kleiss served as the pilot of an SBD-2 Dauntless in Scouting Squadron SIX (VS-6) off USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6). Of the 32 SBDs that took off from ENTERPRISE on 4 June, 16 were from VS-6. Only half of them returned, with six crews being unaccounted for. Two other SBD crewmembers were later rescued safely. The next two days of the battle also saw the crews of VS-6 flying sorties against the Japanese carriers, and fortunately both days saw the return of all personnel and aircraft from those highly successful missions.
Before his heroic actions at Midway, Lt. (j.g.) Kleiss had also flown scouting missions at the battles of Kwajalein and Maleolap Atoll in the Marshall Islands, for which he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross after scoring a direct hit on a Japanese light carrier on 1 February 1942. For helping to bomb the Japanese carriers Kaga and Hiryu, and thus stop the Japanese Imperial Navy cold during the Battle of Midway, Kleiss would be awarded the Navy Cross. He retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain.
Kleiss, typical of so many of America’s WWII veterans, once humbly replied when told he was a hero, “I’m anything but a hero….I was only doing what at the time was the proper thing to do.”
To view the citations for Kleiss’ Navy Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross awards, visit: