The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book “Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway” by N. Jack “Dusty” Kleiss.- Desiree

Chapter 13

The Battle of Midway, Part 1

The Morning Attack, June 4, 1942

At 2:00 a.m. on June 4, a messenger tapped my arm.*

* Confusingly, the Battle of Midway took place across several time zones. When narrating events from the battle, historians often convert all time-related refer- ences to “Midway time,” meaning the time zone in which the Midway Atoll was located. However, this was not how I experienced the battle. The crew of USS Enterprise kept its records according to a different time zone—two hours ahead of “Midway time”—and consequently, my personal logbook from June 1942 fol- lowed this scheme. To put it another way, historians would say that I woke up at 0200, or 2:00 a.m. To me, it felt as if I woke up 0400, or 4:00 a.m., for that is how I recorded it. The same thing can be said about the important events that hap- pened during the battle. Historians say that my squadron attacked the Japanese Mobile Fleet (Kido Butai) in the morning—at 10:20 a.m.—but for me and all the other Enterprise pilots, it felt like the afternoon. According to our logbooks, we attacked at 12:20 p.m. Students of the battle might nd this confusing. For the sake of continuity—to give readers an understandable frame of reference—I’ve converted all chronological references to “Midway time,” which means I have shifted them backward by two hours. However, please understand that when I experienced these events, I experienced them according to “Enterprise time.”

“It’s time to wake up,” he said. The day of battle had come. I dressed and went to the officers’ mess. The delicious smell of steak and eggs wafted through the halls, a telltale sign the cooks expected us to have a bloody morning. Breakfast took an hour, and after 3:00, I returned to my quarters and changed into my flight gear. Recognizing the importance of this moment, I double- checked everything. My upper left arm pocket contained an assortment of soft pencils to plot information on my clear, plastic-covered chart board. My chest pockets contained a pencil-sized flashlight and two lipstick-sized containers that held ephedrine and Vaseline. My leg pockets included a spare flashlight, new batteries, and two wool cloths, one to clean unwanted items off the chart board and another to wipe my windshield. My life preserver, parachute, and helmet completed the ensemble.

I was completely adorned, an aerial warrior ready for action. I walked aft to Scouting Six’s office and checked the assignments. I was assigned to my usual plane with my typical bomb load. My SBD-3 carried three bombs: a 500-pound general-purpose bomb and two wing-mounted 100-pound incendiaries. Walking through a passageway, I reached a ladder and descended to Enterprise’s hangar deck. Parked planes cluttered the back half. Mechanics feverishly tinkered, making last-minute alterations. The Dauntlesses from Scouting Six and Bombing Six were already on the flight deck, spotted for takeoff. On the hangar deck, where I was, the crews had pushed the Devastators and Wildcats to the rear elevator. I could tell they intended to launch these planes once our SBDs had cleared the deck.

Something caught my eye. I noticed that all fourteen of Torpedo Six’s TBD-1 Devastators were fitted with a torpedo attached to their bellies. I was aghast. Why were they armed with the Mark-13s? For a full year, all I had ever heard about these torpedoes was how they malfunctioned. I had seen it with my own eyes during the gunnery test in July 1941. After the Marshalls strikes, the pilots from Torpedo Six had cursed those torpedoes for failing them so spectacularly. Months earlier, I even heard VADM Halsey barking to subordinates, telling them how he didn’t want any torpedo-laden TBDs ever to leave the hangar deck. Clearly someone—the admirals, perhaps—intended to launch Torpedo Six and send the TBDs into the fray alongside Bombing Six and Scouting Six. I knew that when the launch came, the flight deck would be cluttered with planes. With all three squadrons launching at once, those of us in the first division of Scouting Six had only 165 feet for takeoff. Of course, I had launched my SBD with only 165 feet of deck before— and done it in complete darkness—but I worried about all the new pilots in our squadron who had never launched off such a short deck with a bomb-laden plane.

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