Copyright © 2013 National World War II Museum. All rights reserved.
The flight took off at 10 minutes after 9 in the morning and found the enemy at 12:00. They had been in the air for almost 3 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 Lou 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 1 of only 6 SBDs [Annotator's note: Douglas SBD Dauntless, naval 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 wasn't there. Fortunately, the USS Enterprise [Annotator's note: 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 torpedos.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 4000 feet the plane was already at 3000 feet. The pilot also had to look out for fighters.During the dive is when the plane was the most vulnerable. If a Zero [Annotator's note: Japanese fighter aircraft] 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 couldn't 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.