Roundtable Forum
Our 19th Year
April 2016

In this issue.

The passing of Dusty Kleiss
US Aircraft losses at Midway
Enlisted Pilots
Drawing on VT-8 Torpedoes
74th & 75th BOM Commemorations
Capt. Richard Fleming
Clay Fisher in Korea
Dusty Kleiss after BOM
Announcements and Questions
The Battle of Midway Roundtable Opening Remarks

This month I must start off with the sad news that Norman "Dusty" Kleiss passed away on April 22nd, 2016 at the age of 100.  Dusty Kleiss was the last surviving dive bomber pilot from the Battle of Midway.  He served with VS-6 on the Enterprise and flew in the morning attack on the Japanese fleet scoring a hit on the Kaga.  Later in the afternoon he flew on the mission to find and destroy the last Japanese carrier Hiryu also scoring a hit on that carrier.

You can see the hits on the Japanese carriers as best I could determine with the help of many other people and publications on our page here.  Bomb damage of IJN Carriers

Although he served with VS-6 for the first 7 months of the war Midway was his last combat mission. He returned to the states to get married in July 1942 and retired from the Navy in 1962.  It seems that much of his wartime service following Midway was training the next generation of Dive Bomber pilots for the Navy although I only find short references to that.  I have not found any history of his deployments after Midway but it was obvious he had a long career in the Navy.  No matter his further contributions to the war, which I'm sure were considerable, he did his duty and more at Midway.

Dusty Kleiss received the Navy Cross for his two hits on the Japanese carriers at Midway although at the time his were probably among many that were claimed.  He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his participation in the raids on the Marshall Islands February 1st of 1942.  In 1944 he received a Presidential Unit Citation although I have yet to find the exact reason or what unit he was serving with at the time.
For his actions at Midway, Kleiss received the Navy Cross. He also received a Presidential Unit Citation in 1944. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for action at the Marshall Islands. - See more at:
For his actions at Midway, Kleiss received the Navy Cross. He also received a Presidential Unit Citation in 1944. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for action at the Marshall Islands. - See more at:

It is sad to think that we now have seen the last of the dive bomber pilots from The Battle of Midway pass on.  With that I leave you with a story on how Norman "Dusty" Kleiss got his nickname in case those any of you don't know.

In Hawaii during 1941 he was training to qualify in the SBD.  He and his gunner John Snowden were assigned to tow a gunnery sleeve off Barbers Point for the day.  When finished he decided to land at nearby Ewa Field so they could pack the sleeve unaware until just before landing that quite a few marine fighters were lined up behind him to land.  Mistaking the green landing light as an indication the strip was cleared for landing when communication with the tower was not answered he landed and then taxied off the landing strip to make room for the fighters behind him onto adjacent red clay dirt field.  The prop wash from his plane sent up a huge cloud of red dust completely obliterating the view of the strip and preventing the marine pilots from landing.

The silent tower operators radio was now suddenly very communicative with a loudly irritated "Unknown Dust Cloud, who the hell are you?"

Seeing the cloud of dust behind him he quickly returned to the strip and cleared the dust cloud.  The next time fellow pilot Cleo Dobson who had seen the incident from his own SBD greeted him he did so with "Hello, Dusty."  And so "Dusty" became his nickname for life.

The passing of Dusty Kleiss - the last dive bomber pilot at Midway

From Ron Russell:

Norman “Dusty” Kleiss. Dusty passed away on April 22th, 2016 at age 100. He lived in San Antonio Texas.

I regret that I wasn't well acquainted with Dusty, in contrast to many other BOM vets who became close friends and frequent correspondents. On occasion I found that he took a contrary view to some of the understandings popularly held by Roundtable members and other Midway veterans. Maybe that's why he appeared to remain somewhat aloof, and who can blame him? He was there and knows what he saw and did. Anyone who wasn't there and didn't agree him simply didn't merit much of his time.

One example is found in the controversy that asserts Admiral Fletcher made an assortment of errors in his handling of TF-16 and -17 prior to the battle. Part of that, in Dusty's recollection, was a mysterious order to avoid searches by the SBD squadrons in order to prevent accidentally alerting the Japanese to the presence of U.S. carriers near Midway. Whether Fletcher ever issued any such order is absent in the historical record, but Dusty always felt that it was true. The details appear in this Roundtable reference, which addresses the Fletcher controversy. Scroll down to the section that starts with "Verbal Orders to Spruance."

While he didn’t participate on the Roundtable to the extent of some of our BOM airmen, the contributions Dusty Kleiss made were authoritative and occasionally thought-provoking. Among the latter is a postulation he offered in 2008 as to how the U.S. air groups would have been managed had Halsey been on scene and in charge. In brief, Dusty felt that the SBD squadrons would have been sent en masse, together, without the F4Fs and TBDs, likely bringing a better result with far fewer casualties to aircrews. According to Dusty, Halsey thought the TBDs were totally worthless and would have left them on the hangar decks, and that he would have reserved the F4Fs solely as CAP.

Of course, that evoked a lot of feedback from our members, and you can read all of it in some of our back issues from ’08. Here’s the link to issue 2008-34. After digesting that, click the “Previous Page” button at the top and continue to issues -35 and -36 below.

Issue 2008-34
Issue 2008-35
Issue 2008-36

Of course, all of that is of miniscule importance compared to Dusty's vital contributions to American success at Midway, as well as throughout the rest of his naval career. As with so many of those who preceded him into eternal honor, there goes one of the really good guys.


Editors Note: Here are a few more links to Dusty Kleiss.

Below is a particularly interesting page on Dusty Kleiss including an excerpt from VS-6 Log of War.

Another page on the same site.

Breakdown of US Aircraft losses at Midway

From Mark Horan:

The number of aircraft officially lost depends on the time period you think covers the battle. I count any and all aircraft and aircrew lost from any cause as part of the Carrier Air Groups, the Navy Patrol Wings, the Marine Air Group, or USAAF units sent to Midway or whom launched attacks in the area (read Tinker's strike).

Attached is a MS Word file that lists all bases and squadrons with aircraft and personnel lost by date and including aircraft damaged beyond repair. The numbers are 149 aircraft and 203 aviators of all services. One is free to deduct planes and personnel they deem "do not count" based on their definition of when the battle occurred. Personally, I exclude no one that went to sea on one of the three carriers or who flew a mission from Midway NAS or a base in Hawaii for a mission in the area.

Mark E. Horan

Editors Note:  I took the document that Mark sent along and copied the data into a table to display here rather than have everyone have to download the document.

  US Carriers Midway
    Enterprise Hornet Yorktown USMC USN US Army
EnRoute to Point Luck       1-0   1-2   0-1                    
4/6 Midway Search                           1-6 1-0      
4/6 Midway Cap 15/14
4/6 Morning Attack     16-22 10-18 10-2 3-0 15-29 2-1 2-0 12-21   12-18 5-16     2-14    
4/6 USN CAP   1-0     2-1     4-1                    
4/6 Afternoon Attack 1-2 2-4
4/6 Evening Attack 1-2
5/6 Morning Attack                       1-2            
5/6 Afternoon Attack 1-0 1-2 2-10
6/6 Morning Attack     1-2     1-2                        
6/6 Afternoon Attack                                    
7/6 on Yorktown     2-0         5-0 10-0 3-0                
7/6 Wake Attack                                   1-11
Others DBR(Stricken)                         1 1        
Aircraft Lost 149 1 20 11 12 6 15 11 15 15 15 14 6 2 1 2 2 1
Airmen Lost 203 0 26 18 3 4 29 3 6 21 14 22 16 6 0 14 10 11

From Janez Pirnat:

I have checked provided data and it seems that "mysterious" number is now explained. Main differences appeared to be in number of bombers lost from Enterprise during 1st morning attack (Horan: 16, Parshall and Thully: 21), numbers lost on Yorktown sinking (Horan 20, other sources: 10) and losses on Midway (Horan: 40, most other sources: 36). My last two questions are as follows: can you send me a source for a table provided by M. Horan and now published on your web page? And a second one: what was the policy of US Navy with aircraft "damaged beyond repair" after returning from battle - were this aircraft just simply scrapped and replaced with new ones or were they in one way or another kept in a statistics of battle losses?

Cheers, Janez

Editors Note:   I believe Mark Horan typed the table himself for his own use. I don't think it's published anywhere other than on our site now. I think he did all the research when writing a part of 'A Glorious Page in our History'. As for the damaged beyond repair aircraft most were stripped of all usable parts and then scrapped or pushed overboard if in a war zone. However this varied quite a bit due to many factors.  During a battle it was much more likely to simply push a plane overboard than try to salvage anything, as a clear flight deck was the primary concern. However on normal operations where an aircraft was damaged but got back and there was no immediate threat it was much more likely they'd try to save the aircraft.

Again, this is from reading various accounts of battles and other missions. I have no real knowledge that any kind of procedure was official and even then followed.

I think the accounting of lost aircraft was not an exact science. I've read many conflicting reports on battle losses concerning aircraft so I'm not sure who counted what and why. Some may consider only those actually shot down as losses while others did a more comprehensive analysis and come to the conclusion that any damaged beyond repair was also a loss.

Plus one has to remember in some cases perfectly good aircraft were pushed overboard to land aircraft returning from battle where a sister carrier was not able to recover her own aircraft. How an officer writing a report categorizes those is important.

Also the Japanese did not typically repair heavily damaged aircraft onboard ship. Rather they would store them and have them repaired on shore facilities when the ship returned to port. One of the reasons you always see the Japanese carriers with 'spare' planes listed on board. For instance a typical squadron would be 18 operational with 3 spares. You see that all the time. Americans carriers on the other hand carried a considerable amount of spare parts and repaired all but the most seriously damaged aircraft onboard.

Enlisted Pilots

From Barrett Tillman:

Referring to Kenneth's question about officer-enlisted relations, Alvin Kernan addressed the topic forthrightly, probably in his memoir, Crossing the Line. Haven't read it in a long time but IIRC he found that relations with most officers as edgy at best, often worse. However, some officers including Dusty Kleiss and Jig Dog Ramage held contrary opinions. Jig was especially pro-enlisted and was a moving factor in establishing the Combat Aircrew Hall of Fame aboard CV-10.

I suspect that both views were valid, depending on time, place & circumstances.

Barrett sends

From Greg Finnegan:

I too don’t know any sources specifically concerning relations between enlisted (NAP) and officer pilots. It did occur to me to look up VF-2, the “Flying Chiefs.” They flew from LEXINGTON in the Battle of the Coral Sea, but were disestablished after the sinking of CV-2 and were scattered to other squadrons. I’m guessing, but don’t know, that in the reassignment process they were commissioned. There turns out to be a nice web page about the squadron, . It includes the interesting fact that the origin (under the Coolidge Administration) of enlisted pilots was to reduce the drain on the Line Officer corps of the growth of Naval Aviation! There was to be a quota of NAP equal to 30% of the officer pilot number. VF-2 was organized in 1927 on the basis of 3-plane sections, each with one officer pilot and 2 NAP—most of whom, as the nickname suggests, were Chief Petty Officers. So there had to have been decent officer-EM relations for the squadron to have worked. This source, being focused on the squadron, doesn’t say whether the 30% quota was ever reached. If it came anywhere close, tho’, there must have been enlisted pilots in squadrons in which they weren’t a majority.

A consequence of the importance of Selective-Service in the 1950’s was that a goodly number of social science grad students and faculty wound up in uniform. The Air Force, at least, tended to use them for internal research. There are a number ‘bomber-crew” studies by anthropologists and sociologists, which among other things emphasized the difficulties mixed officer/enlisted flight crews had on land versus in the air. In the air, “function” mattered more than rank, but on the ground there was separation (mess vs. O-Club etc.) Apparently having the tail-gunner in B-52’s be Master Sergeants was a political gesture to avoid depriving enlisted Airman of the chance for combat service. I’ll dig up references, but it’ll be a few days.

Greg Finnegan

Drawing on VT-8 Torpedoes in the Battle of Midway Movie

From Dan Hamilton:

First: thank you for all your hard work in taking over the BOM roundtable. I always look forward to reading the issues when the link appears in my inbox. My fascination with the BOM has only a little to do with the fact I was born on June 4, 16 years after it was fought. I am a modeler and some years ago I was building the USS Hornet in 1/350th scale to represent the Doolittle Raid, had read everything I could get my hands on about it, and finally got up the nerve to ask members some questions I had about the ship and the raid. That the folks who were actually there could be so gracious in answering such frivolous questions as – did the B-25 named “Bat out of Hell” have any nose art, or was there a “remember Pearl Harbor” sign on the Hornet’s island as one book claimed – was overwhelming and remains hard for me to believe.

Years later I have another trivial question if anyone is willing to help me on it. I have built in 1/72 scale a collection of representative U.S. carrier planes for WW II with my final subject being George Gay and George Field’s TBD “T-14” (Gay of course being the only attacking Sq. 8 member to survive the heroic attack). My silly question is this: it appears from John Ford’s film tribute to Sq. 8 (see ) that most of the devastator crews had their picture on the day of battle taken in front of the same aircraft – not necessarily the ones in which they courageously flew off into history and eternity (the photographers must have gotten tired of setting up their cameras or maybe they were rushed – though the crews look remarkably calm considering that their Commander Waldron allegedly and correctly believed they were on a suicide mission and would not return). The conclusion that the same plane is shown for the most part in these close ups is because of the wear and tear on the TBDs in most of the portrait scenes is exactly the same and in the same places on the aircraft AND the face drawn on their torpedoes is usually the same. So my question is: which plane is shown in the Gay/Field’s scene, did the latter’s torpedo have a face drawn on it also, and did it look like the one shown in most of the scenes in the film? I know this is minutia and not worthy of a scholar’s time, but it has become my own private BOM mystery that I would like to solve before I complete my build. Is it possible that the kindness shown me in the past by BOM members could repeat itself? I would love any help from the premier source for all things BOM – even for requests from nerdy modelers who are members.

Thank you!
Dan Hamilton

74th and 75th Battle of Midway Commemorations

From K. Cecilia Sequeira:

"Naval History and Heritage Command invites Battle of Midway veterans to participate in upcoming commemorations. To participate in person or remotely please contact:

Katherine Cecilia Sequeira
Naval History and Heritage Command
Phone: (202) 433-0301

We look forward to including you in our 74th and 75th Battle of Midway commemorations, in person or via a pre-recorded interview. For those who would like to participate, but are not able to travel, we plan to record interviews in advance to include you in our commemoration. For those who are able to travel, there may be an opportunity to participate in commemorations at the Midway Atoll, Pearl Harbor, Washington DC, or any of NHHC's museums across the nation. We look forward to hearing from you."

Editors Note:  Ed Fox posted a note in last months newsletter asking for 'able bodied' veterans of the Battler of Midway to step up to the gankplank and make yourself known:  

Katherine Sequeira would also like you to contact her concerning both the Sand Island commemoration and the 74th as well as they are involved with both.

Please pass this on to anyone that is in contact with any Battle of Midway Veterans.  Also visit the Naval History and Heritage Command web site.  It has many historical documents on the Battle of Midway.  You an access it here:

Capt. Richard Fleming

From Patrick Hill:

Capt. Fleming being the only MOH recipient from the BOM has always been something of a mystery to me. I would never say he was not deserving, but so were many, many others who were not so recognized.

Fleming is from my hometown of St. Paul, MN but I have no indication that he was from an influential family, although he did attend a high school here that was populated with the progeny of many of St. Paul's influential families.

I would very much like to have the opinions of the knowledgeable members of the Roundtable.

Patrick Hill
St. Paul

Clay Fisher over Kapsan

From Ron Russell:

The note from Barrett Tillman regarding the new Osprey book about Skyraider squadrons in Korea.  Barrett says Clay Fisher is mentioned there. He flew Corsairs as the XO of VF-53 off the Essex in Korea.

From Barrett Tillman:

Just ran across this 2007 article featuring Clay's part in the 1951 decapitation strike against communist leaders in N Korea.

From Ron Russell:

Yes, I remember when that article came out in Naval History magazine back then. Clay had previously related his Korean War experiences to me, including the fact that he volunteered for it without intending to.

After his many near-death experiences in WWII, the Navy Department had no particular intent to return him to combat. After assignments in Alaska and Washington, he was on tap to transfer to a base in Florida, but there was a problem: he and his wife had purchased some property in California, so he asked his detailer for a west coast billet instead. He got one, as the XO of VF-53 aboard the USS Essex, which indeed was on the west coast--temporarily!

Editors Note:  It would be interesting to know how many veterans of the Battle of Midway fought in the Korean War as well.  I'm sure there were quite a few although tracking down the names and such would be a project.  I remember seeing the movie 'The Bridges at Toko-Ri' when I was a kid at a very small town close to our farm where movies were shown outdoors during the summer months on an outdoor theater.  Monday nights they'd cover the wooden panel with large white sheets and show movies.  The man who came every Monday night would set up the projector and screen and show the movies free.  He sold enough popcorn and other treats to people to do this for most of the years I was growing up.  I assume other nights he was doing the same in other small towns in the area.  Later I would find the book by the same name and read that as well.

The reason, at least to me, that this short memory diversion is more or less relevant.

The author of 'The Bridges at Toko-RI', former US Navy officer James A. Michener, was a reporter stationed on the USS Essex and USS Valley Forge in 1951.  He was likely on board the Essex at the same time as Clay Fisher and possibly at the time of the Kapsan strike.  If so he was probably influenced to some degree by the Kapsan mission when writing his book.  At the time he was working for the Saturday Evening Post and Reader's Digest writing mostly about the air war in Korea.  He served during WWII in the Pacific and when stationed on Espiritu Santo wrote a series of short stories called 'Tales of the South Pacific' published in 1947.  Later the book would be made into a movie called 'South Pacific' which I also first saw in that small town at the Monday night 'Free Shows' as they were commonly called

Dusty Kleiss Naval Career after Battle of Midway

From Barrett Tillman:

A question just arose regarding coverage of Dusty Kleiss' passing. What did he do after BOM? I cannot find anything anywhere.


Editors Note: After Midway he returned home to get married on July 3rd, 1942. Midway was his last combat but I'm not sure why. I know he went on to train future dive bomber pilots during the war and worked on improving the dive bombers role. I think he was assigned to various research projects after that so he may have been grabbed for his expertise or experience. I don't have much else on him other than he retired as a captain in 1962. After that he went on to work in the aerospace program which leads me to believe he was more useful in developmental projects or training for the Navy than in combat.

But you're right not much on his post Midway Navy career.

Announcements and Questions

Battle of Midway Presentation

From John Manguso:

On 19 May, Preservation Fort Sam Houston will have a presentation on the Battle of Midway by Air Force historian, Gary Boyd. Although Mr Boyd will address primarily the Army Air Forces' role in the battle, it will be of interest to all concerned with the battle. The preservation will be at the Stilwell House, building 626 at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas, at noon. Light refreshments provided.

For questions or directions to the Stilwell House, contact
 Preservation Fort Sam Houston is a 501(c)(3) private, non-profit educational organization, not affiliated with DoD.

 John Manguso