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Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II

Norman J. “Dusty” Kleiss was a dive-bomber pilot in the United States Navy during World War II. He fought in the Battle of Midway where he was the only dive-bomber pilot to hit two Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser.

Kleiss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Cross. He served in the Navy until retiring as a captain. He lived to be 100 and the last surviving dive-bomber pilot from the Battle of Midway. 

Humble Beginnings and Early Career

Dusty Kleiss was born in Coffeyville, Kansas on March 7, 1916. In his diary, he writes that he learned to be a crack shot with a BB gun before he could ride a bicycle. He worked as an apprentice toolmaker while waiting for his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

At an early age, he learned of the importance of airpower. At the age of 15, he joined the 114th Cavalry of the Kansas National Guard. During an exercise at Fort Riley, KS, his unit was wiped out when the opposing force used aircraft to “strafe” his unit that didn’t have any aircraft of its own. 

In June of 1938, he graduated from Annapolis. In those days, the Navy required new ensigns to serve in the fleet for two years before attending flight school. The reasoning was that aviators had to know the strengths and limitations of the surface fleet.

So, Dusty Kleiss served on the cruiser USS Vincennes and destroyers USS Goff and USS Yarnall.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Dusty Kleiss’ SBD (foreground) getting ready to take off from the Enterprise during the Battle of Midway.

At the end of the two years, Dusty went to Pensacola Naval Air Station, FL, for flight training. After 11 months of flight training, he earned his wings on April 27, 1941. One of the more important lessons that he learned was the art of dogfighting, which would serve him well later during the air battle over Midway. 

Read Next: Book excerpt: ‘Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway’

After graduating from Pensacola, Dusty Kleiss was assigned to Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6), the scout-bombing squadron assigned to USS Enterprise (CV-6). Kleiss and the other Scouting Six pilots flew the Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber, a two-seater that had a rear-facing gunner in the back. 

The Enterprise headed for Hawaii. There the men began training in earnest for the war that everyone knew was coming. Kleiss earned his nickname just a month later after a landing of his caused an inordinate amount of dust blowout. 

The First Engagement of Dusty Kleiss 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, their primary targets, the American aircraft carriers, were not in port. However, the carriers’ scouting squadrons did engage with Japanese aircraft off the coast of Hawaii and lost six pilots and gunners during the battle. On December 8, Dusty Kleiss was fired upon by nervous American gunners over Pearl Harbor who had mistaken his SBD for a Japanese aircraft. 

Kleiss saw his first action during the Battle of the Marshall Islands (February 1, 1942), where he attacked the Japanese base at Kwajalein Atoll. During the airstrike by the Enterprise’s aircraft, Kleiss’s Dauntless SDB dropped his incendiary wing bombs on a parked plane at Roi Airfield and then dropped his 500-pound bomb on the light cruiser Katori. During a second strike at the Japanese base at Taroa Island, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and his rear gunner John W. Snowden was wounded in the buttocks. 

Kleiss also took part in the air raids during the Battle of Wake Island on February 24, 1942, attacking the Japanese who had captured the island from American Marines in the first few weeks of the war. 

Upon returning to Pearl Harbor, Kleiss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his attack on Kwajalein Atoll. 

The Battle of Midway and Dusty Kleiss Versus the Rising Sun

During the Battle of Midway,the United States had partially broken the Japanese Navy’s JN-25b code and had a good idea of the Japanese plans. This allowed the Americans to prepare. As a result, the American carrier force, consisting of the carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and the patched Yorktown, was already well on its way to meet the Japanese northeast of Midway.

But a mixup and early disaster set the stage for a crushing American victory. The Hornet’s torpedo squadrons attacked without fighter protection and were all shot down. The subsequent torpedo attack by the Enterprise’s antiquated Devastator torpedo bombers, with only six fighters as cover, was also shot to pieces.

Read Next: Doolittle Raid 75 Years Ago Was the Best Psychological Operation of the War

However, these two uncoordinated attacks brought all of the Japanese air cover away from the Japanese air carriers that were left without an air umbrella. It was then that 32 dive bombers from the Enterprise, led by Lieutenant Commander Wade McCluskey appeared, overhead. They concentrated on the forward carrier the Kaga. Diving from 20,000 feet, they hit the Japanese carriers which were left without fighter protection. 

The Japanese carriers had their decks full of bombs and were preparing to attack the U.S. fleet. Dusty Kleiss was the second pilot to score a direct hit on the Kaga. He and his gunner Snowden lined up on the Kaga and used the red rising sun on the flight deck as their target. His incendiary bombs hit planes parked on the flight deck. His 500-pound bomb hit at the edge of the red circle and went four decks below before exploding, hitting long lance torpedoes. Kleiss nearly crashed into the ocean, barely pulling out of a dive as the Kaga erupted into a blazing inferno. A Japanese Zero immediately got on his tail, but tail gunner John Snowden shot it down.

Years after, Kleiss was asked to write an article about the battle. His excellent article is included in the 2012 Special Midway edition of The Daybookthe Hampton Roads Naval Museum’s quarterly publication.

“Wade McClusky waggled his wings and, in our Scouting Six planes, we followed him into a dive on Kaga, the closest carrier. This was the perfect situation for dive-bombing: no Zeros, no anti-aircraft fire. McClusky and our Scouting Six dive bombers attacked Kaga. Bombing Six planes attacked Akagi. Earl Gallaher scored the first hit on Kaga. I watched his 500-pound bomb explode on the first plane starting its takeoff. It was the only plane on Kaga’s flight deck. His incendiary bombs also hit the gas tanks beside it. Immediately, the aft part of the ship was engulfed in a huge mass of flames. I scored the next hit. My 500-pound bomb and two 100-pound incendiaries landed on the rear edge of the large red circle on the bow of Kaga. The bombs set fire to the closely-parked airplanes below deck, filled with gasoline; a huge fire started. (Note: my bombs hit the target at 240 knots, and exploded 1/100th of a second later!) I had dropped my bombs at 1,500 feet, and I pulled out at 9g, just barely skimming above the water.

A Zero came speeding for us. I gave my gunner John Snowden a good angle, and in two seconds, no more Zero! I sped past numerous ships shooting AA fire at me, so I changed course and altitude every second. I finally made a half-circle, heading towards Midway. I looked back and saw three carriers in flames: many bombs from Scouting Six and Bombing Six had hit Kaga; three bombs from Bombing Six had hit Akagi, and bombs from Yorktown’s dive bombers torched Soryu. Only Hiryu, 20 miles away, was unharmed.”

Dusty Kleiss and Snowden barely made it back to the Enterprise as their fuel was nearly gone. They quickly ate a sandwich, had a cup of coffee, and caught a quick catnap before they went back out searching for Hiryu, the remaining Japanese carrier.

The mission, commanded by Lieutenant Earl Gallagher, spotted the Hiryu who was conducting evasive maneuvers. But Kleiss knew that as a dive bomber, the key is not figuring out not where a ship is but where it’s going. Again, he lined up on the ship’s red circle, and in another steep dive, scored a direct hit.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuna after being devastated by American dive bombers in the Battle of Midway.

“It was a bonfire that could be seen 10 miles away.” Although scoring direct hits on two Japanese aircraft carriers, Dusty Kleiss wasn’t done yet.

On June 5 they missed the Japanese fleet, but on June 6 Kleiss and the Enterprise’s dive bombers attacked the Japanese cruiser Mikuma. Kleiss’s bombs once again were spot on and struck near Mikuma’s smokestack. The Mikuna was a wreck, devastated from stem to stern with multiple bomb hits she soon sank. 

Kleiss was the only pilot to score three direct hits with a dive bomber during the Battle of Midway. For his actions during the battle, Kleiss received the Navy Cross in November 1942.

That was his final combat mission. He was sent back to the United States to be an instructor assigned to an Advanced Carrier Training Group (ACTG) squadron stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. He then married his long-time girlfriend Eunice Marie “Jean” Mochon in Las Vegas and was moved on to the training squadron in Cecil Field, Florida.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II

The couple remained dedicated to each other until Eunice’s death in 2006. “She was three times as smart as me, that’s for sure,” Dusty said in an interview with CNN. 

Dusty’s Post-War Years

After attending the Naval Postgraduate School for aircraft design he worked on improving design features for aircraft, carrier catapult designs. He retired from the Navy on April 1, 1962, with the rank of Captain. 

He worked as an engineer at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, West Virginia for a few years before deciding to teach mathematics, physics, and chemistry at Berkeley Springs High School for 10 years. In 1987, he and his wife retired and moved to the Air Force Village, a retirement community located near Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. 

Kleiss was frequently asked to be a guest speaker or guest of honor at functions regarding the Battle of Midway. Yet, he was not comfortable with being called a hero. He worked on his memoir Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway. It was published after his death in 2017.

An excellent video interview with Kleiss can be seen here:

Dusty Kleiss lived in San Antonio until he died on April 22, 2016,  shortly after his 100th birthday. He is buried alongside his wife at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.


This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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‘Tactical miscalculation’ likely if Iran boat harassment persists

With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.


During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”

To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.

“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”

Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”

It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.

The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.

“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.

The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.

Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.

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Air Force loosens flight suit sleeve rules

The Air Force is allowing its pilots, navigators and airmen who wear flight suits to roll up their sleeves whenever they’re not on in-flight duty, according to a new memo.


The latest policy, first published on the popular Air Force blog John Q. Public, mimics what airmen who wear the Airman Battle Uniform are already allowed to do when they’re not performing official duties, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis.

Also read: 15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“The flight suit sleeve policy was updated to align with the Airman Battle Uniform coat [shirt] wear policy,” Lewis said in an email Monday.

The change amends Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” which already states in the case of the ABU that “commanders may authorize sleeves to be rolled up on the ABU coat; however, the cuffs will remain visible and the sleeve will rest at, or within 1 inch of, the forearm when the arm is bent at a 90-degree angle.”

“Regardless as to whether the sleeves are rolled up or unrolled, the cuffs will remain visible at all times,” the AFI says.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II

Similarly, airmen who wear a Flight Duty Uniform or Desert Flight Duty Uniform can roll or tuck their suit sleeves under, Lewis said, and “are now approved to pull the sleeves up to within 1 inch of the elbow using the Velcro, already incorporated in the suit, to hold them in place.”

Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, enacted the change — effective immediately — on Jan. 23, according to the memo.

Airmen “will still be required to have sleeves rolled down to the wrist when performing aircrew duties in-flight,” Lewis said — for example, while flying or on the flight line.

The previous policy for flight suits stated airmen could have their sleeves rolled under “if not performing in-flight duties.” However, the rolled-under sleeve “will not end above the natural bend of the wrist when the wearer’s arms are hanging naturally at their side.”

Lewis could not say if similar provisions for flight suits were made in the past.

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Sen. John McCain calls Gen. Mattis one of the ‘finest military officers of his generation’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) just released a glowing endorsement of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense Secretary.


In a statement released Monday, McCain called the 66-year-old retired four-star general “one of the finest military officers of his generation” who, he hopes, “has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Related: When Gen. James Mattis talks, we listen — and so should you

The senator knows Mattis quite well, since he serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. While he was in charge of Central Command and leading troops in Iraq, Mattis testified to that committee regularly.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

“I am pleased that the President-elect found General Jim Mattis as impressive as I have in the many years I have had the privilege of knowing him. General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops. He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable. And he has earned his knowledge and experience the old-fashioned way: in the crucible of our nation’s defense and the service of heroes,” McCain wrote in his statement.

“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and our national security. I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Mattis is seen as a top contender for the position at the Pentagon. He met with President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday to discuss whether he might be interested in coming out of retirement to oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.

Afterward, Trump praised Mattis on Twitter as “a true General’s General” who was “very impressive.”

If he were tapped to be defense secretary, Mattis would need a waiver from Congress to take the position, since it requires a military officer to have been off active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired in 2013.

Mattis currently splits his time between Stanford and Dartmouth as a distinguished fellow, conducting research and giving lectures on leadership and strategy.

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This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do

We’ve all seen the cool James Bond clip where Q hands over a Walther PPK/S that can only be activated by 007’s palm print .


If a bad guy tries to pick it up and shoot the superspy, no joy.

For years the idea of a so-called “smart” gun like Bond’s has been largely out of reach for anyone but the covert operators of fiction, but that hasn’t stopped the government from trying to make one for real life. And the feds just took the first step in what could eventually be a handgun fielded to law enforcement and the military that only shoots for an authorized user.

As part of a series of executive actions on gun control released in January, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Justice to look into what a smart gun should look like for military troops and federal agents. His intention was to deploy government resources to push the technology beyond what the civilian market has yielded in hopes of making smart gun technology available for most handguns.

“As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality,” the White House said. “In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.”

The Armatix iP1 is the first so-called “smart gun” available for consumers. It’s chambered in 22 LR and requires a special watch for the shooter to active the gun.

In July, researchers with the National Institute of Justice released its long-awaited specifications for what a smart handgun should be able to do and how its safety features should work. The requirements represent a high technological bar for military and law enforcement smart gun use, including overrides if the system is jammed, near instant activation and a 10,000 rounds before failure limit.

The Justice Department described “the potential benefits of advanced gun safety technology, but noted that additional work was required before this technology is ready for widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies,” the NIJ report said. “In particular, the report stressed the importance of integrating this technology into a firearm’s design without compromising the reliability durability, and accuracy that officers expect from their service weapons.”

The NIJ specs essentially call for a polymer-framed, striker fired 9mm or .40 SW handgun without any external safety. Basically, the specs point to a Glock 19 or similar modern handgun when it comes to ergonomics, size, and function.

Researchers said the smart gun should able to be programmed to work only for authorized users, could be activated with a wearable device such as a ring or bracelet, and should be able to shoot even if the smart safety fails.

But the researchers went on to call for functions that go well beyond what current technology allows, including that “the security device shall not increase the time required by the operator to grasp, draw from a holster and fire the pistol as a pistol of the same design that is not equipped with the security device.”

That means zero lag time for the pistol to draw, authorize and fire in a split second.

The smart gun will also have to detect and alert the shooter if there is an attempt to jam the system and be able override the safety and fire despite the countermeasures. And the gun must be able to fire with both a bare or gloved hand, making it tough for technology using biometric sensors to read fingerprints.

Most importantly, the smart gun will have to endure 10,000 rounds with 2,000 draws between any failure. Engineers who build systems like small lights and lasers that attach to handguns have said one of the biggest technological challenges to building miniature electronics is making them tough enough to withstand the repeated recoil of a pistol.

Skeptics have long argued smart guns insert an unreliable technology into a system that’s build to work every time at a moment’s notice and that forcing anyone to use an electronic safety on a handgun could mean the difference between life and death.

“Generally speaking, additional complexity brings increased risk of malfunction and error,” the Justice Department has said. “The types of firearms most commonly used by law enforcement and the broader American public … are relatively straightforward mechanical devices, and manufacturers have faced significant engineering challenges as they seek to seamlessly integrate electronics into firearms’ operations.

But the White House has signaled its intention to push the technology to the field as soon as possible, and the latest NIJ report shows just how solid that technology has to be for troops and law enforcement to trust it with their lives.

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It’s official — the US Air Force has no idea what it’s doing trying to retire the A-10

On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a scathing report about the US Air Force’s half-baked plan to replace the A-10, essentially concluding that the Air Force had no good end game in sight.


“The Department of Defense (DOD) and Air Force do not have quality information on the full implications of A-10 divestment, including gaps that could be created by A-10 divestment and mitigation options,” the report from GAO, a nonpartisan entity, states.

The A-10, a relic of the Cold War-era, flies cheap, effective sorties and is well suited to most of the US’s current operations. But surprisingly, it’s not really the plane itself that’s indispensable to the Air Force — it’s the community.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
U.S. A-10s and F-16s take part in an Elephant Walk in South Korea | US Air Force photo

Ground forces know A-10 pilots as undisputed kings of close air support, which is especially useful in today’s combat zones where ground troops often don’t have an artillery presence on the ground.

But there are other planes for close air support when it comes down to it. The B-1 Lancer has superior loiter time and bomb capacity compared to the A-10, but it turns out, close air support is only one area where the A-10s excel.

The report finds that A-10 pilots undergo many times more close air support, search and rescue, and forward air control training than any other community of pilots in the force.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
GAO

While the Air Force seems determined to replace this community, and reallocate their resources elsewhere, the report finds that the cost estimates used to justify the retirement of the A-10 just don’t make the grade.

According to the GAO, “a reliable cost estimate is comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible.”

The report finds that the Air Force’s cost estimates for replacing the A-10 are almost comprehensive, minimally documented, and just plain not credible.

Indeed we have seen some pivots on the Air Force’s official position on the A-10. At one point, they wanted to retire it stating that the F-35 would take over those capabilities, but then the Senate told them to prove it.

More recently, we heard that the Air Force wants to replace the A-10 with not one, but two new planes, one of which would be developed specifically for the role.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
US Air Force members troubleshoot an electronic error on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on April 25, 2007, on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. | US Air Force

What the GAO recommends, however, is that the Air Force come up with a better, more concrete plan to mitigate the losses in capability caused by the A-10’s mothballing.

Lawmakers were not shy about the relief the report brought to the complicated question. Perhaps the best testimony came from Congresswoman Martha McSally, a former A-10 pilot herself:

“Today’s report confirms what I’ve argued continuously — the Air Force’s flawed and shifting plan to prematurely retire the A-10 is dangerous and would put lives in danger… I’ve fought for and won full funding for our entire A-10 fleet and to make the retirement of any A-10 condition-based, not-time based.”

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A Battle of the Bulge veteran describes his first taste of combat


In 1944, now 91 year old Julian “Sarge” Sargentini was then part of the “Bulgebusters”. Here Sarge remembers the first time he experienced the horrors of war. Along with witnessing the death of many of his fellow friends he broke his pelvis after the explosion of a mine.

When was your first taste of it? When was the first moment where you realized, “Hey I could get killed out here”?

That was in the Soy-Hotton area, it was Christmas we went into fighting right around Christmas right there we were in the lines during Christmas, I remember it was just out of Soy that I was in my first blow up. Somebody stepped on a mine or what happened we don’t know but the anyway there was about 8 engineers that were killed that night you know so and before that our unit had been in combat and we lost quite a few men. I’ll never know just how many but we knew that we had lost a lot of them and we stood out in the snow with our dark uniforms we didn’t have camouflage like the Germans did, they had white uniforms and we didn’t, we stood out like stumps out there in the field in the white field, so we were good targets.

And this is what would become known as the Battle Of The Bulge. This is about a week into that and the 75th was called in as part of that so you mention that incident and I you know not to get gory or harp on it but just so people understand what you went through so this at night time, and pretty close to you a mine goes off and it kills 8 guys.

I was blown up in the same thing and I suffered a broken pelvis bone at the time and that was about the extent of my injury on that one right there. So you must have been pretty close to this mine that went off.We were I don’t know just how close it was but I remember the guys laying around and when the lieutenant right there he crawled over and he says are you hurt soldier? And I said no, he says, I don’t think I am you know because I was deaf but I could make him out and he said and I said no I’m not because I could move and he says ok help me, so we drag a few carcasses out of the way and took some over to the, by that time the medics had set up a temporary station and we took some boys over there so anyway that was my first taste of real getting into the action.

Well you say that’s your first taste. I mean that’s a smack in the face. Now and you’re describing it, I just want to be clear, this mine — explosion — it knocked you from your feet into the snow?

Yes it, well it knocked me up against the wall. And I don’t know just how I hit the wall but the my back and I think it was asharp box or something because there was a lot of crates laying around between the wall and the crates and I hit something and it hit my back end anyway that was my first taste of it.

More from Argunners Magazine:

This article originally appeared at Argunners Magazine. Copyright 2015. Follow Argunners Magazine on Twitter.

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This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.


But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time-lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.

But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)

The C-47 performed swimmingly as well, and Air Force leader Gen. Curtis LeMay approved the modification of two planes in 1964.

The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.

The pilots would take off with a 7-man crew and seek out small bases and villages under fire by North Vietnamese forces. When fighting popped off, the crew would drop flares out of the open door and the pilot would fly a race track pattern over the target, pouring fire on it the whole time.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over Saigon in 1968. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: Public Domain)

If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.

The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
The AC-47D contained three miniguns mounted in the cargo hold. (Photo: Office of Air Force History)

A number of AC-47 pilots and crew members were cited for bravery while serving aboard the plane, including Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow. Levitow was on an AC-47 that was struck by a mortar round.

Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.

The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.

He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.

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Marines look to ease strain on special operators in Middle East

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Spencer Knudson and Sgt. Mark Herd survey the landscape during a Combined Anti-Armor Team patrol at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 23, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel


The commander of Marine units across the Middle East sees opportunities for the Corps to take on more missions in the region that would typically be tasks for special operations forces.

In a recent interview with Military.com, Lt. Gen. William Beydler, commander of Marine Corps Central Command, said there were multiple traditional special operations mission sets that competent Marines could take on, freeing up the forces for more specialized undertakings.

“I’m not for a moment suggesting that Marine capabilities and SOF capabilities are the same, that’s not my point, but I do think, and I think that SOF would agree, that some of the missions they’re executing now could be executed by well-trained and disciplined general purpose forces like U.S. Marines,” Beydler said.

Marines maintain a constant presence in the Middle East between Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, a roughly 2,300-man unit that operates across six Middle Eastern countries with an emphasis on supporting the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

They also operate consistently in the region off amphibious ships attached to Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs, that routinely provide presence in the Persian Gulf.

Beydler, who assumed the command in October 2015, said these Marines could take on quick-response force operations, security missions, maritime and land raids, and ship visit-board-search-seizure operations, all of which Marines train to do as part of the MEU pre-deployment workup.

“There’s a range of things Marines are especially well trained to do — they can offer up capabilities that might free SOF forces to do other things,” Beydler said. “We’re not trying to encroach on what they do, but we think that we can be better utilized at times and free them up to do even more than SOF does right now.”

Beydler said the Marine Corps was already stepping into some of these roles, though he demurred from specifics.

In one instance that may illustrate this utilization of conventional troops, Reuters reported in May that “a very small number” of U.S. forces were deployed into Yemen to provide intelligence support in response to a United Arab Emirates request for aid in the country’s fight against Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

While the Defense Department did not identify the service to which these troops belonged, officials told Reuters that the amphibious assault ship Boxer — part of the deployed 13th MEU — had been positioned off the coast of Yemen to provide medical facilities as needed.

In a January fragmentary order, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller emphasized his desire to see Marines operate more closely with SOF troops and develop a deeply collaborative working relationship.

To this end, six-man special operations forces liaison elements, or SOFLEs, began to deploy with MEUs in 2015 to improve communication between Marines and SOF forces downrange and coordinate efforts. Beydler said professional rapport had increased as a result of these small liaison teams.

“A part of this is again developing professional relationships, developing professional respect and having SOF appreciate that which Marines can do,” he said.

Currently, he said, the Marine Corps is considering creating SOFLEs for the Marines’ land-based Middle East task force. While there is no timeline to test out the creation of new liaison elements, Beydler said the unit informally looks for opportunities to coordinate with special ops in this fashion.

“I think that we’ve valued the SOFLEs at the MEU level,” he said. “We’ll continue to work with SOF to see if we can’t have more of these liaisons, more of those touch points.”

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Here’s what Mattis has to say about his loyalty to the White House

Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed murmurings Aug. 31 of an ideological divide between himself and President Donald Trump.


During a press briefing at the Pentagon, Mattis recalled the now-viral “hold the line” speech he gave in front of US service members in Jordan in August, in which some of his comments about division in the US were construed as an ethical separation from Trump.

During the Aug. 31 briefing, Mattis elaborated on the intended meaning behind his words, which he said were influenced by Trump’s recent speech on Afghanistan.

“If you’ll remember, the first, I don’t know, three, four, five, six paragraphs was about America coming together,” Mattis said. “And so, fresh in my mind a couple hours later, and I used that theme to say that, you know, we’ve got to come back together, get that fundamental friendliness. You guys — military guys, you hold the line as our country comes back together.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II

“I’m using the president’s thoughts, and they thought that I was distancing from the president,” Mattis continued. “So I mean, it shows how ludicrous this really is.”

“I mean, I’m not trying to make fun of the people who write along those lines,” Mattis said of the narrative that he was distancing himself from Trump. “I think this is more someone’s rather rich imagination,” he said.

Theories of a divide between Trump and other White House officials — most notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the National Economic Council director Gary Cohn — have spread as Trump continues to baffle critics and supporters following his administration’s response to the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, rally and continued provocations from North Korea.

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson fueled rumors of a White House rift when he was asked whether anyone doubted Trump’s values. “The president speaks for himself,” he responded.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

Cohn took a more direct approach, publicly criticizing Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and saying the White House “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning” white nationalist and white supremacist groups.

Mattis expressed confidence that divisiveness in the US was not a threat to the military’s unity in the field.

“The way our military is organized, the leaders — and by leaders, I mean the sergeants and the gunnery sergeants, the chief petty officers, the lieutenants, the captains — there is such a cohesion to the US military,” Mattis said. “There’s a reason this is a national jewel, this US military. It’s a national jewel. And that almost insulates it in a very proud way from something like we saw in Charlottesville.”

“That’s not to say it’s not a concern, because this lack of a fundamental friendliness among all of us, something I think the president brought up very well in those opening paragraphs of the Afghanistan speech … I agree a hundred percent with the way the president characterized that,” Mattis said.

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This sailor has one of the most impressive resumes you’ll ever see — and he’s not done yet

Most people set their sights on big ambitions as a kid. For those youngsters who dream of being in the military, it typically includes visions of becoming a fighter pilot, a ship commander or Navy SEAL.


But for one California resident, those lofty goals weren’t nearly enough.

Dr. Jonny Kim enlisted the Navy in 2002 and successfully made it through BUD/s and onto SEAL Team 3. During his service in the SEALs, Kim worked as a combat medic, sniper, navigator and point man on two deployments.

Kim completed more than 100 combat missions during his time in the Middle East, earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V.”

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Navy SEAL Jonny Kim takes a moment for a photo op while on a combat deployment.

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

During Kim’s first combat tour, he lost a fellow SEAL which helped steer him towards a career in the medical field.

“The moment I knew I wanted to go into medicine was during my first deployment to Ramadi which is when one of my best friends was shot,” Kim has said. “After doing everything I could for him, securing his airway, controlling his bleeding, there wasn’t much more I could do for him but watch the spectacular team of emergency medicine physicians save my friend’s life.”

Kim decided to complete one more deployment with the SEALs before heading off to college to pursue his medical career.

He attended the University of San Diego earning a degree in mathematics and then a Doctorate in Medicine at Harvard. According to NASA, Kim received an officer’s commission in the Medical Corps following his graduation.

Kim went on to perform his residency at Massachusetts General and Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston for emergency medicine .

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Dr. Kim during his ER residency. (Source: Pat Tillman Foundation/Screenshot)

Also Read: This Navy SEAL has a novel solution for the North Korea crisis — and it just might work

In June 2017, Kim received some incredible news  — he’s one of 12 to be selected for the 2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class. The training will take up to two years before he could become a fully certified astronaut.

Soon, Dr. Kim could be wearing a space suit instead of his medical scrubs.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
NASA astronaut candidate Lt. Jonny Kim (Source: NASA)

Check out the Pat Tillman Foundation‘s video below to hear Dr. Kim’s story for yourself.

(YouTube, Pat Tillman Foundation)
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North Korea: Missile tests were practice runs to hit US military in Japan

North Korea’s state-run media announced its latest missile launches were conducted to practice hitting US military bases in Japan, according to The Washington Post on Tuesday.


“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” a Korean Central News Agency statement read.

Related: US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

Three of the four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning flew 600 miles and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The other missile landed outside the zone.

Studying the photos provided by North Korea, analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies deduced that the missiles were extended-range Scuds. Having tested these missiles in the past, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said that North Korea’s test was not to see whether they could operate but to assess how fast units could deploy them.

“They want to know if they can get these missiles out into the field rapidly and deploy them all at once,” Lewis told The Post. “They are practicing launching a nuclear-armed missile and hitting targets in Japan as if this was a real war.”

The extended-range Scud missiles could be produced more cheaply than other medium-range missiles in the Hermit Kingdom’s arsenal, according to Lewis. This could be disastrous for allied nations, such as Japan and South Korea, not only because North Korea could release a barrage of these missiles, but the rate at which they could be fired can be difficult to counter, even with the US’s defensive systems.

Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
Lockheed Martin

One of these defensive systems, the antimissile battery system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was in the process of being deployed on Monday night in Osan Air Base, less than 300 miles from the missile launch location.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, in a news release.

Designed to shoot incoming missiles, THAAD has been compared to shooting a bullet with another bullet. However, analysts say that the system would have difficulty in intercepting missiles launched simultaneously — as in Monday’s test.

Also read: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

According to a KCNA statement translated by KCNA Watch, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, supervised the launches from the Hwasong artillery units, who are “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”

The launches came shortly after an annual series of US-South Korea military exercises that kicked off earlier this month. The ground, air, naval, and special-operations exercises, which consist of 17,000 US troops and THAAD systems, was predicted by scholars to be met with some retaliatory measures by North Korea.

“In spite of the repeated warnings from [North Korea], the United States kicked off this month the largest-ever joint military exercise with South Korea,” said North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi during a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “The annual, joint military exercise is a typical expression of US hostile policy towards the DPRK, and a major cause of escalation of the tension, that might turn into actual war.”

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Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.


Dusty Kleiss, the aircraft carrier killer of World War II
U.S. Air Force Airmen Erin O’Shea lays wreath on grave site at Arlington National Cemetary, Va., Dec. 15, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Nesha Humes)

According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.

“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.

The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.

According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.

For more information on Wreaths Across America, to make a donation, or to get involved, go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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