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Publisher's Summary

An extraordinary firsthand account of the Battle of Midway by one of its key participants, timed to the 75th anniversary: American dive-bomber pilot "Dusty" Kleiss helped sink three Japanese warships (including two aircraft carriers), received the Navy Cross, and is credited with playing a decisive individual role in determining the outcome of a battle that is considered a turning point in World War II.

In Never Call Me a Hero, Captain Kleiss (USN, ret.), a US Navy SBD Dauntless dive-bomber pilot with the USS Enterprise's Scouting Squadron Six, tells his full story for the first time, offering an unprecedentedly intimate look at the battle that reversed America's fortunes after the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. Kleiss is notable for being the only pilot from either fleet on those battle-scarred days of legend, June 4-7, 1942, to land hits on three different enemy ships. On the first day of the Battle of Midway, Kleiss planted bombs on two Japanese carriers - Kaga and Hiryu - sinking both, and later, on June 6, he scored a direct hit on a Japanese cruiser, the Mikuma, which also sank.

In his 1967 book Incredible Victory, Walter Lord asserted that the margins of US victory at Midway were so thin that individual participants could rightfully say that their actions turned the tide. Given the amount of destruction inflicted upon the Japanese that day, Kleiss may have been the most important pilot in the air. It is no stretch to say that without him, the Battle of Midway may not have been won, altering the course of the conflict and history itself, for according the US Navy's historians, "The Battle of Midway was far more than an epic WWII clash somewhere far away at sea. It was an American victory that forever changed the course of world history. This is the battle that turned the tide of the war."

But this is not only the memoir of one man; it is the history of this battle and its legacy. In only five minutes, 48 American dive-bomber pilots and their gunners destroyed the pride of the Japanese carrier fleet and exacted retribution on the carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor. Never Call Me a Hero is also a story about humility and pushing limits. Throughout his life Kleiss had always looked toward the heavens for spiritual guidance and to serve his country. Throughout his life this humble man considered himself blessed with incredible luck and did his job without complaint. Whenever others referred to his actions as "heroic", he quickly corrected them: "I'm no hero. Never call me a hero."

©2017 The Estate of Norman Jack Kleiss (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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Average Customer Ratings

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Love the story, disagree with the title.

Would you listen to Never Call Me a Hero again? Why?

An excellent narrative involving war letters and diaries that answer some of the intriguing questions remaining many years after the war. As a student of the Battle of Midway, I find this an invaluable source. Excellent and highly recommended.

Any additional comments?

I find that most members of the Greatest Generation that survived the war consider the ones that died in battle as the real heroes. If I can't call Dusty Kleiss a hero, I don't know who I could. A pivotal player in the most pivotal battle of the South Pacific war.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Midway First Hand

Kleiss did an excellent job in describing his piece of the battle of Midway. I knew Dick Best who is mentioned many times in the book and Kleiss' story mirrors that of Best in all respects. Kleiss limits his coverage of Midway to that of Scouting 6. They played a major part in the battle and his accurate personal stories are compelling. I particularly enjoyed his description of the Enterprise missions from December 7, 1941 to the return after Midway. This is a personal narrative to extend the knowledge of readers who have read "Shattered Sword". The personal stories of his courting his wife and young adventures were not particularly interesting to me but others may like his personal appeal. The author makes no attempt to cover any historical event he did not personally participate in. The personal story of a pilot in combat is excellent.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great Story

The story was very fascinating, kept me engrossed from beginning to end. The narrator was a bit of a problem for me though: he would start a sentence very loud, then end in the tiniest whisper. Some very important sections of the book required multiple listenings with the speaker by my ear to hear what he was saying.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Amazing man. Thank you for sharing and preserving it for history!

And thank you Dusty and family for your service. You are a shining star of everything that is good in America.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good story

Great story. Well written. Narrator was a little difficult to understand at times. Otherwise good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Hero None-the-Less

An inspiring, in the cockpit story of an American Naval Aviator at war before and after the Battle of Midway.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not Really About Midway

I bought this thinking that it would be an intriguing insight into the Battle of Midway. It's not that. Yes, Dusty Kleiss scored three hits on two of the Japanese carries to help sink them during the battle, but the entire engagement, from Dusty's experience, was four minutes. Midway is covered, of course, but it only gets two chapters out of this entire book.

Most of the book is a survey of Dusty's career (and a lot of him longing to be with his girlfriend/wife).

I can't say that I'd recommend this book. I didn't learn anything new about the battle. And, to be fair, there's more information about the battle in the 1976 film, Midway.

One superb thing about the book, though is the narrator. He did an excellent job with material that became boring very often.

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I died over there, someone else came home...

Yes, I so did love it I thought I'd never get to the end.. As the chapters progressed I'd jump backwards one, sometimes two chapters, more often only a few paragraphs. I needed to hear again what I'd just listened to. As the author progressed I so wanted to understand why what was happening happened that way, and how the experience was as it were, as the man lived it, to be wearing his shoes then when that long ago in those years before WW II, and through to his homecoming.
I am a combat vet of the war in Viet Nam

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An excelent read!

This book was right up my alley per say. I loved the technical aviation aspects of it, I loved the first-hand accounts of such a pivotal battle and I really enjoyed learning about this amazing, humble man. All around, I 100% recommend this book. The narrator does a good job of reading and you get the feel you are sitting down listening to Jack tell stories (which I love). However, something with they way they produced the recording, at the beginning of every chapter the narrator's voice is noticeably different. By 5 minutes into the chapter he has returned to "normal", but at the beginning of most chapters there is a sharp and noticeable change in the narration.

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A Histor of The Mid Twentieth Century World

A story of The Battle of Midway. In this telling it is an actual survivor of malestorm that not only loss of effected world history but revealed the personal loss of Dusty's Friend, Lt Eversole who was the pilot of the torpedo plane 6T6 and his gunner was my Uncle, Radioman 2 Class John Udell Lane. Udell's memory resides with us to this day. This autobiography helps fill in some gaps. I often wished to find a relative of Lt Evesole but did keep at it. I did talk to An Admiral White from from before Midway and to a pilot of VT 10 that replaced VT 6 with Avengers. This a personal book.

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  • S. Morris
  • 09-14-18

Amazing Man

N. Jack "Dusty" Kleis may never have wanted to be known as a "hero" but he comes just about as close to one as you can find. So many of his generation that fought hard and died even harder in that war were men of a breed apart. What amazes me is their modesty and their view that they were just doing their jobs. In a modern world full of narcissism and self absorbed people, it's refreshing and humbling to read the personal story of such a man.

This book is read beautifully by Mike Ortega who was the perfect choice given the age and gravitas his voice has. A younger sounding narrator would not have given the impression of an old man telling his story and so we get the sense that "Dusty" is speaking to us directly. The book is as much a love story interwoven with his wartime recollections as anything else so it's not all Midway by any means. Still, the way this book is written gives us a real sense of the man, his life before and after the war and thus what kind of a person he was. It is sad to know that he didn't live to see this book in print. However, his legacy lives on in his telling of his part in the battle of Midway.

Kleis's candour is also refreshing as he actually remarks upon elements of a book written by one of his colleagues which was interesting. None of us in our modern day world can truly ever know what it was like to live from day to day not knowing whether you'd survive another sunset but this book does give us glimpses into that world.

Sadly, I have to wonder what these men that fought so hard for the freedoms we enjoy would think of the world we live in today.