Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Segment 4

Segment 5

Segment 6

Segment 7

Segment 8

Segment 9

Segment 10

Segment 11

Segment 12

Segment 13

Bombing the Kaga

Two for Two

Confidence and Admiral Halsey

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Norman Kleiss starts the interview by reading a narrative about the causes that led up to the Pearl Harbor attack and how it was that Admiral Kimmel was in charge of naval forces there.] On 27 November [Annotator's note: 1941] a message came from Washington DC that an attack by the Japanese was expected but stating that no overt action was to be taken. Prior to the Japanese attack, two Japanese were found in a restricted area and given two warnings before they were finally brought up on charges. Another suspicious event was an advertisement in the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper for various types of silk on sale for one dollar per yard. A friend of a friend of Kleiss went to the FBI [Annotator's note: Federal Bureau of Investigation] and informed them that there were no silks by those names and the company selling them did not exist. An attack on Pearl Harbor was suspected. It was Halsey's [Annotators note: Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr.] idea to send aircraft to Wake and Midway islands. Kleiss states that Halsey was allowed to deliver the planes but ordered that he had to have his ships back at 1010 Dock by the 6 December 1941. On 28 November Admiral Kimmel told the fleet that they were in Battle Condition 2 and 3. When Kleiss's ship left Wake Island they ran into a storm that prevented them from arriving back at Pearl Harbor by 6 December 1941. When the carrier was 150 nautical miles from Pearl Harbor they sent out a flight of 18 SBDs [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] to search out ahead of the ship. When the first SBDs encountered planes heading toward them they did not think they were Japanese because they were modern planes. A spy had told the Japanese where all military installations were. Admiral Nagumo [Annotator's note: Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo] had all six of his carriers. The American carriers were not there so Nagumo only launched two attacks. Nagumo believed that there were a number of American carriers nearby. Had the carriers been in port things would have been different. Oahu would have been put out of business, Midway would have been captured easily, and World War 2 would have been a completely different situation.

Annotation

It was only a storm that allowed the Enterprise [Annotators Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)] to not be in Pearl Harbor during the attack. Norman Kleiss also attributes the victory at Midway to God. The Battle of Midway started when the United States sent code groups to Japan including Forrest Byer. Byer became the friend of a German spy. She arranged for Byer's group to get back to Pearl Harbor. This group told Nimitz [Annotator's note: Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz] that the Japanese were going to attack Midway. On 1 May they were ordered to assist the Lexington [Annotator's Note: USS Lexington (CV-2)] and the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)] in their battle [Annotator's Note: the Battle of the Coral Sea]. They could not arrive for the battle but when they got there the Japanese reported that the Yorktown and Lexington were sunk. The Lexington did go down but the Yorktown was able to return to Pearl Harbor. Before they went back to Pearl Harbor they steamed in close to the islands in the area so they could be seen. Then they headed for Pearl Harbor at full speed where they arrived on 26 May 1942. At Pearl Harbor they exchanged airplanes for new ones with the YE-ZB instrument for locating their carrier. The instrument sent out various letters in Morse Code for the planes to follow to get back to the ship. On 28 May 1942 the ship left Pearl Harbor. During the first two days they were there, they were told not to tell anybody where they were going. They left and headed toward Midway. They were told that the Japanese were trying to lure them into an attack against Alaska. The Enterprise and Yorktown were to ambush them. As they headed for Point Luck one plane was not heard from. At this time Kleiss started thinking about the situation they were in. He liked the F4F [Annotator's Note: Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter aircraft] fighter they had instead of the F2F [Annotators Note: Grumman F2F biplane fighter aircraft]. It was easier to get the landing gear up on them.

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Norman J. Kleiss, known as Dusty, was a dive bomber pilot in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6).] The F4Fs [Annotator's Note: Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter aircraft] were about even with the Zeros [Annotators note: Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, commonly referred to as the Zero or Zeke]. The United States had some really great fighter pilots. Wade McClusky and Roger Malee were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Cleo Dobson and Kleiss were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The F4Fs did have firing problems. The SBDs [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] were the best planes in the world at that time. It was the first plane with a fairly good oxygen system on it. They were great dive bombers. During a dive they would pull out around 1,500 feet. The SBD was armed with .50 caliber machine guns and twin .30 caliber machine guns operated by the radioman-gunner. Kleiss had John Snowden as a rear seat gunner. The TBDs [Annotator's note: Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers] were the worst planes at the time and their torpedoes were equally as useless. In the Marshall islands, some ships anchored in a lagoon were attacked by eight torpedo planes. There were no hits. At Coral Sea some of the torpedo plane pilots made an anvil attack on the Hosho [Annotator's note: Japanese aircraft carrier Hosho]. A number of SBD pilots in the area saw the torpedoes hit the Hosho and the ship went down. This success boosted the morale of the torpedo plane pilots and made them think that the torpedoes worked. The Japanese also believed that the torpedoes worked. On 3 May [Annotator's Note: Kleiss means 3 June 1942] Kleiss was in the ready room ready to take off at any time. They received a report that the enemy had been sighted. The message indicated that the Japanese main body had been located. They later got a message from Admiral Nimitz stating that those ships were not their target. The next morning they had steak and eggs for breakfast around four in the morning. When they had steak and eggs they knew that they were in for a bad day.

Annotation

Norman Kleiss went to the ready room. The weather was very cloudy with just a few patches of open sky. A Japanese plane was seen flying over head. No one knew if they had been spotted. By ten after nine in the morning Wade McClucky [Annotators Note: Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky] had all of his planes in the air. They waited for the planes from the USS Yorktown [Annotator's note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)]. The SBDs [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] in Kleiss' group were each armed with a 500 pound bomb and two 100 pound incendiary bombs. The Scouting 6 SBDs each carried a 1000 pound bomb. They got a signal not to wait for the planes from the Yorktown. They had used up a lot of fuel circling the Yorktown so they had to get to the enemy ships fast. They got to where the ships were reported. Visibility was about 50 miles. There was nothing there. McClusky spotted a destroyer moving at flank speed. They followed it and found three big carriers and another that was about 20 miles away. Kleiss had Snowden turn on the YE-ZB so he knew the direction to get back to his carrier. Earl Gallaher was leading the group. McClusky was out in front. McClusky's main job was photographic. The planes went into left echelon. Kleiss was number four. They started their dive from over 20,000 feet. There were no Zeros [Annotators note: Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, commonly referred to as the Zero or Zeke] up there to oppose them. McClusky and his two wingmen missed. Gallaher got a hit on either Kaga or Akagi [Annotators note: Japanese aircraft carriers]. Gallaher's bomb hit a plane on deck and his two incendiaries hit next to it. The ship caught on fire.

Annotation

Norman Kleiss could not see if the bombs from the next two planes hit. When he made his run, he lined up on the big red circle on the bow of the ship. After he pulled up he looked back he saw the bomb land right at the edge of the red circle and explode. Then he started to head back to his carrier [Annotators Note: the USS Enterprise (CV-6)]. There was a lot of antiaircraft fire so they had to do a lot of jinking [Annotators Note: navy slang for evasive maneuvers] to avoid it. A Zero [Annotators note: Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, commonly referred to as the Zero or Zeke] got in behind Kleiss' plane. Snowden fired at it and it disappeared. When Kleiss got up to about 1,000 feet he looked back and saw what looked like three hay stacks on fire. Kleiss had hit the Kaga [Annotator's note: Japanese aircraft carrier]. In four minutes all of those ships had been hit. Kleiss saw an explosion on the ship he had hit. He headed home. Kleiss did not want to speed up to catch the planes ahead of him. He knew which direction to get back. He ran into some clouds when he turned to head for the ship. Kleiss saw a Japanese plane come out of the cloud heading right for him. He went back into the cloud to avoid it. He did not have enough fuel for a fight. Kleiss saw a downed dive bomber that his gunner identified as a Bombing 6 plane [Annotators Note: a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber from Bombing Squadron 6 (VB-6) flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6)]. Kleiss marked the location then headed for the carrier. When he landed he had less than ten gallons of fuel left. Not even enough to circle if he had had to go around for a second attempt. McClusky was already back aboard. He had been wounded but went to give his report on the battle before being patched up. When SBDs ran out of fuel they were easy to land on the water. The only problem was that the pilots would usually hit their heads on the telescope. The early SBDs had large flotation bags on them. Unfortunately, the holes to allow water in to deploy the bags was the same size as a mud dauber nest. If a mud dauber got into the bag compartment the bag would deploy when the plane got to altitude which could cause it to crash. The newer SBDs did not have the air bags.

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Norman J. Kleiss, known as Dusty, was a dive bomber pilot in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6).] Before the YE-ZB equipment was installed one of their SBD [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] pilots got lost. He had an experienced radioman-gunner with him. The other planes could hear the radioman talking about grabbing the raft so they knew that the plane was going down. The pilot put the plane down on a beach. When the pilot came to he saw a native with a spear who indicated that they follow him. One of the natives had a bible that had been given to them by a Christian missionary. The pilot read to the natives from the bible and they helped him to escape. It took six months for the two men to get back to their squadron. After the battle they were told where their bombs had landed. It is not precisely known what happened after Kleiss' bomb hit the Kaga [Annotator's note: Japanese aircraft carrier]. According to the Japanese, four bombs hit the Kaga. Other pilots had chosen different targets because they could not see through the smoke and flames. After Kleiss landed the ordnance guys checked his plane for his arming wires to make sure that his bombs were armed when he dropped them. Kleiss walked up to one of the torpedo planes that had just returned. The torpedo planes had drawn the Japanese fighters down so they were not at altitude to attack the dive bombers. The dive bombers did experience heavy antiaircraft fire when they made their dives. The torpedo plane he saw was heavily damaged.

Annotation

After returning to his carrier, Norman Kleiss got a cup of coffee and prepared for his next flight. About that time a flight of Japanese planes attacked the Yorktown [Annotator's note: USS Yorktown (CV-5)]. The ship was damaged but not sunk as the Japanese pilots reported. Kleiss went up on deck just as the second wave of Japanese planes came in to attack. The ship's antiaircraft fire was somewhat effective and planes from Kleiss' ship were attacking the enemy torpedo planes. Some fighters then went to assist the Yorktown. Due to the problem with the trigger motors on the F4Fs [Annotator's Note: Grumman F4F Wildcats fighter aircraft] they were not able to knock out the Japanese planes. The second wave attacked the Yorktown because they thought it was another carrier. Kleiss' group took off at half past five in the evening with Earl Gallaher in the lead. Dick Best was along with them. This flight was in a different formation than the earlier flight. It was harder for the planes to follow each other but gave a better field of fire to the gunners. Kleiss noticed that Dick Best was flying very low. He was having problems with his oxygen system. During the first flight Gallaher had pulled out of his dive so low and so hard that he injured his back. During the second attack there were many Zeros [Annotators note: Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, commonly referred to as the Zero or Zeke] up to challenge them. Kleiss credits the gunners on the dive bombers with fending off the Japanese fighters. Kleiss was number four in the dive. Gallaher missed and the second plane missed. Kleiss hit the Hiryu [Annotator's note: Japanese aircraft carrier] at about the same spot he had hit the other ship [Annotator's Note: the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga] during the morning attack.

Annotation

During this attack there was only one plane lost. As Norman Kleiss was heading back to the carrier he came across another SBD [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers]. The pilot signaled him that he had been hit in the belly. Kleiss saw the plane land safely back on the ship. When Kleiss returned to the carrier he went to get a cup of coffee and prepared for a third flight. In the ready room they were played a recording of Nagumo [Annotator's note: Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo] telling his men to take Midway at all costs. One of Kleiss' planes that was flown by O'Flaherty and Peter Gaido had to make a forced landing in the middle of the Japanese fleet and were picked up by a destroyer. They were treated well at first but they were then interrogated and tortured. According to Kleiss, O'Flaherty and Gaido figured that if the Japanese heard the same story from two people they had tortured, they would believe it so they concocted a story which really did not give any information at all. The two men were tortured and the information was passed on to Nagumo. The B-17s [Annotator's note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers] had gone out and dropped bombs on the Japanese ships. There were no hits. The Japanese had good men conning the ship that could avoid falling bombs. The B-17s started getting better information on Japanese procedure. They began flying lower and coming at the Japanese out of the sun but they still got no hits. Nagumo's ships could go 30 knots except their transports. Those were vulnerable to attacks by B-17s. Nagumo sent out the Mikuma and Mogami [Annotator's note: Japanese cruisers] to Midway to demolish everything in the area. Nagumo still had two carriers but they were not the same as the four he had lost. He decided to call off the attack on Midway. Admiral Spruance [Annotators note: Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance] decided to turn away from the Japanese fleet during the night. The search resumed the following morning. They could not find the fleet but did find a destroyer. They could not get high enough to make a real dive bombing attack but did what they could. They scored no hits and the destroyer shot down a dive bomber.

Annotation

When Norman Kleiss returned he saw a carrier dead in the water. When he checked his YE-ZB he knew he still had a little way to go before he got to the Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)]. A few days later they were still looking for the Japanese fleet. There were over 200 ships out there looking for each other. All of Japan's ships were capable of doing 30 knots. Around 1928 the United States signed the Washington Conference and so did the Japanese limiting what they could have. The United States had a pacifist president at the time, President Hoover. Hoover wanted worldwide disarmament and wanted to lead by example. FDR [Annotators Note: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] believed in aviation and had Douglas bring out the SBDs [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] and other planes. They [Annotator's Note: the Japanese] had gone out and gotten the best of everything and were way ahead at the beginning of the war. On 6 June [Annotator's Note: 6 June 1942] they went out looking for a battleship. They found some ships, including two big ones, but no battleship. Visibility was good, they had plenty of fuel, there was no antiaircraft fire, and there were no fighters. They left to look for the battleship. When they did not find it they returned to the ships they had found earlier. The two big ships were the Mikuma and Mogami [Annotator's note: Japanese cruisers] which had been sent to destroy Midway. Kleiss's group concentrated on the Mikuma. Several hits were scored. Kleiss's bomb had hit on the left side of the ship. Then the group left for home. Cleo Dobson was sent to take pictures of the Mikuma to be sure that the ship had been damaged. The photograph shows only about 20 people standing on the stern of the ship. Kleiss does not remember people out there. He saw his bomb hit and some other bombs hit. The fighters with them were attacking the destroyers. On the far end the Hornet [Annotator's Note: USS Hornet (CV-8)] hit the Mogami. Kleiss states that of the 20 or so people on the stern in the photograph of the Mikuma, only two survived. Some crewmen had been picked up earlier but those on the stern in the photograph were all that were there when the ship sunk about an hour later.

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Norman J. Kleiss, known as Dusty, was a dive bomber pilot in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6).] The Mogami was rendered totally useless but made into a port. She was so badly damaged that she was out of the war for good. The following day they pursued the Japanese but had to wait for the destroyers to fuel up. At this time the Saratoga [Annotator's note: USS Saratoga (CV-3)] arrived with more aircraft. They were informed that there were still some Japanese ships in the Alaska area. Kleiss and his group were confident. They were more concerned with the cold than with the Japanese. Kleiss came down with a bad cold. The airmen were always issued a tube of ephedrine that they carried with them to use when they changed altitude quickly to keep their ear drums from popping. They were told that the two Japanese ships had headed for home. Even after the battle, they continued to train. One SBD [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] pilot made a run on the target sleeve upside down to make sure that the guns would function. The guns worked but his engine quit. Fortunately he was high enough to recover and land. Back in Hawaii they were informed that those who had been in combat were to be sent back to the United States as instructors. Kleiss had arrived overseas in May 1941 and had taken part in every action through the Battle of Midway except during the time of the Doolittle Raid. Kleiss was involved in several courts martial for men who had gotten drunk and gotten into trouble. Then he had to train pilots to fly the SBD. He also helped train people manning acoustic detection gear. During this training he had set his lights very low to preserve his night vision. When he got close to the coast a spotlight shone right in his eyes and nearly blinded him. He did not consider that rest. Kleiss believes that one thing that was difficult in the Battle of Midway was communications. There was difficulty finding where the ships were. They found out later about HYPO [Annotator's note: Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor was the US Navy’s code breaking center, also referred to as Fleet Radio Unit Pacific (FRUPAC)]. Kleiss thinks that they were lucky not to be sighted by a Japanese submarine en route to the battle.

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Norman J. Kleiss, known as Dusty, was a dive bomber pilot in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6).] When the Marines went out that morning to find the Japanese carriers they would have known where they were and would not have wasted so much time looking for them if there would have been good communication between groups [Annotator's note: referring to Battle of Midway]. Some of the Scouting 6 planes ran out of gas and had to ditch. Tony Schneider ran out of gas before they even hit the Kaga [Annotator's note: Japanese aircraft carrier]. Kleiss believes that if Admiral Halsey [Annotator's note: Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr.] had been present for the battle, he would have done a better job. He would have made certain that everything was done together instead of having the air groups going in different directions. There was a lack of communications between Task Force 16 and Task Force 17. In Kleiss's squadron Earl Gallaher was the commander. When the group went out in May 1941 Gallaher was recognized as a top pilot. They did a lot of training. They did a lot of night attacks and never lost a plane during training. They also practiced landing aircraft. When a plane landed it took about 30 seconds to clear the deck for the next plane. One time Kleiss's group was able to land at ten second intervals. There were good people in the air groups and they had Admiral Halsey. They knew that if they went down in the ocean, Admiral Halsey would pick them up if at all possible. During an attack on Wake Island, Tom Ebersole and his crew had to ditch in the ocean. Admiral Halsey turned the whole fleet around and went looking for the downed airmen. He picked them up then returned to position to make the Midway battle one day later. They had some wonderful leaders that would help them out. One day they were attacked by about 40 Japanese bombers. They headed into an area that was covered with clouds. Only three Japanese planes found them. The antiaircraft gunners aboard the carrier [Annotators Note: aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6)] were very good. At the start of the war, radio controlled planes were used for training. The gunners became experts. When the first bomber made its attack the antiaircraft gunners got the plane before it dropped its bomb. The second plane dropped its bomb early and missed. The third tried to crash into the carrier. One guy got into the back seat of an SBD [Annotators Note: Douglas SBD dive bomber] and shot the Japanese planes down with the twin .30's [Annotator's note: twin .30 caliber machine guns]. Halsey had seen the man shoot down the enemy plane and called for him. It turned out to be Peter Gaido. After shooting down the enemy plane he had grabbed a fire extinguisher and helped fight the fire that the crashing plane started. Halsey promoted Gaido to Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class right on the spot.

Annotation

Norman Kleiss knew Peter Gaido pretty well. When Kleiss was about to take off for his first carrier landing he was approached by a big guy asking if he could ride with him. The man was not deterred that this was Kleiss' first carrier landing. The man was Peter Gaido. When Kleiss was a Midshipman he served aboard the Arkansas [Annotator's note: USS Arkansas (BB-33)]. His duty was in the boiler room. The area was a hell hole. The temperature was way over 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity. They drank water by the bucket and took salt tablets so they could stand to be there for 4 hours. Admiral Halsey [Annotator's note: Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr.] was great at bringing people together. He was able to get the brown shoes [Annotators Note: naval officers who are aviators] and black shoes [Annotators Note: naval officers assigned to a ship’s company] to work together. He did the same with the enlisted men. He was always available to his crew and listened to their ideas. Kleiss thinks that if Halsey had been present during the Battle of Midway they would have done much more damage to the Japanese. Kleiss also credits the Marines that were present during the battle. The Marines were the reason that the Hiryu [Annotator's note: Japanese aircraft carrier] was 20 miles away. The flight leader was flying the worst plane imaginable and the flight had only one chart board between them. The Marines made glide bombing attacks on the Hiryu. Kleiss's group was always kept up to date about the movements of the Japanese fleet prior to the 4 June [Annotators Note: 4 June 1942] attack. When Kleiss landed he calculated the difference between where he landed on his carrier and where his carrier was supposed to be according to the morning briefing. The ship was 80 miles from where it was supposed to be. Kleiss always carried extra supplies with him when he flew a mission. When he took off he was not scared. He checked everything. Some pilots did not think about things like that. Kleiss saw a pilot almost go into the water during takeoff because the man had not checked everything. There was not time to get excited before a mission.

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Norman J. Kleiss, known as Dusty, was a dive bomber pilot in Scouting Squadron 6 (VS-6) flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6).] The flight took off at ten minutes after nine in the morning [Annotators Note: on the morning of 4 June 1942] and found the enemy at noon. They had been in the air for almost three hours and the Japanese were only about 100 miles away. Kleiss attributes that to poor communications. At Midway, Kleiss was one of the old timers. This was Lew Hopkins' first time in battle. The air group had guys from one end of the experience line to the other. After the attack on Pearl Harbor they went out looking for the Japanese that night. Kleiss was one of only six SBDs [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers] that were left. They were carrying a half a ton of hydrofluoric acid to create a smoke screen to protect the torpedo planes. The dive bombers and fighters were to follow the torpedo planes to the location that the Japanese fleet had supposedly been sighted. To keep up with the torpedo planes the other planes had to fly S turns. They never found the enemy fleet. When they returned to where the carrier should be it was not there. Fortunately, the Enterprise [Annotator's note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)] had picked them up on radar and guided them in. Some of the torpedo plane pilots had never made a night landing and it was the first time that planes landed with live torpedoes. One inexperienced pilot made a hard landing and his torpedo broke loose and slid down the deck. Slim Townsend saw the torpedo coming and was able to stop it. After the attack on the Kaga [Annotator's note: Japanese aircraft carrier] Kleiss knew that there were still enemy ships out there. When Kleiss dove on the Kaga he went down vertically. There were several things the pilot had to be aware of. The plane was going down so fast that if the altimeter said 4,000 feet the plane was already at 3,000 feet. The pilot also had to look out for fighters. During the dive is when the plane was the most vulnerable. If a Zero [Annotators note: Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, commonly referred to as the Zero or Zeke] came in behind them they would chop the throttle and open their dive brakes so the Zero would fly past them and they could fire at it. Kleiss did not have an electric bomb mechanism. McClusky and the pilot of the second plane missed. Kleiss believes that they just over shot it. That helped him get a hit. After the attack Kleiss looked back at the Japanese fleet and could not believe the damage he saw.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at http://ww2online.org/faqs.