The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) probably wouldn’t be blamed for not wanting to sail off the coast of Yemen. But in the wake of an attack on a Saudi frigate, the Cole is patrolling the waters near the war-torn country where she was attacked by a suicide boat in 2000.
That attack killed 17 sailors, wounded 39 and tore a hole in the hull that measured 40 feet by 60 feet. A 2010 Navy release noted that the Cole took 14 months to repair. That release also noted that the Cole’s return to Norfolk came through the Bab el Mandab, near the location where the Saudi frigate was attacked.
160710-N-CS953-375 The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mahan (DDG 72) and USS Cole (DDG 67) maneuver into position behind three Japanese destroyers during a photo exercise. USS Cole is in the center of the photograph. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released)
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Cole’s mission is to maintain “freedom of navigation” in the region. In the past, things have gotten rough during the innocuous-sounding “freedom of navigation” missions.
The region has already seen some shots taken at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) on threeoccasions, prompting a retaliatory Tomahawk strike from the destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94). The attacks on the Mason, the Saudi frigate, and the former US Navy vessel HSV-2 Swift were blamed on Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels. The attacks on USS Mason used Iranian-made Noor anti-ship missiles, a copy of the Chinese C-802.
More than 100 midshipmen man the rails for a photo on the foícísle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) during the 2016 Professional Training for Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) Surface week. USS Cole has deployed off the coast of Yemen, where the ship was attacked in 2000. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
Iran has been quite aggressive in recent months, making threats to American aircraft in the Persian Gulf. There have been a number of close encounters between American ships and Iranian speedboats as well. In one case this past August, the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian vessels. Last month, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) also was forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats.
During a discussion at the Aspen Security Forum on July 21, Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, cited estimates saying that the US-led fight against ISIS had killed 60,000 to 70,000 ISIS militants.
It is not the first time US military officials have given estimates for ISIS body counts — Thomas himself cited a similar number in February — but those estimates have been made despite doubts among military leaders and government policymakers about their accuracy and usefulness.
When asked about the whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Thomas downplayed the ISIS leader’s influence and said that while Baghdadi’s fate is currently unknown, “we will get him eventually.”
To underline his point, Thomas elaborated on the damage done to ISIS’ personnel network.
“I mean, everyone who worked for him initially is dead or gone. Everybody who stepped to the plate the next time, dead or gone,” Thomas said. “Down through a network where we have killed in conservative estimates 60,000 to 70,000 of his followers, his army. They declared an army, they put it on the battlefield, and we went to war with it.”
Those comments come several months after Thomas claimed that more than 60,000 ISIS fighters had been killed since the campaign against the group started in summer 2014.
“I’m not into morbid body counts, but that matters,” he said in February, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference. “So when folks ask, do you need more aggressive [measures], do you need better [rules of engagement], I would tell you that we’re being pretty darn prolific.”
Body counts — which earned scorn during the Vietnam War — are considered a dubious metric by which to measure the success of a military campaign, particularly ones against groups like ISIS. It is typically hard to estimate how many fighters such groups have, and it is not always clear how many have been killed during military engagements.
In 2014, an observer group estimated the terror group had 100,000 fighters. The Pentagon said in summer 2016 that it had just 15,000 to 20,000 fighters left in Iraq and Syria.
The February number given by Thomas was not much higher than the 50,000 ISIS-dead estimate made by US officials in December. But the December number given by US officials was twice as high as the figure cited by UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon that same month.
And the figure cited by Thomas on July 21 was only slightly higher than what he said in February, despite the increased intensity of anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria in the intervening months.
Air operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria increased significantly after Trump took office in January, with military leaders emphasizing an “annihilation campaign” aimed at eliminating ISIS fighters.
But those air operations appear to have caused a considerable increase in civilian deaths.
The US government reversed its policy on body counts several times during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and numbers given by the government have been undercut or criticized by civilian and military personnel alike.
“My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing,” Chuck Hagel, who served as secretary of defense from 2013 to 2015, told CNN in December 2016. “Body counts, I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?”
It almost seems like something out of a James Bond movie — heavily armed submarines suddenly disappearing without a trace while underway.
But sadly, in 1968, the truth would turn out be far worse than fiction when four countries reeled after the successive losses of four submarines. 318 sailors from Israel, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States were tragically committed to their eternal rest in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
While some details have surfaced over the years, the causes behind the losses of each of these four submarines remain unclear to this day, posing a mystery for historians, researchers, and naval engineers alike.
The Dakar, an Israeli vessel, was the first of the four submarines to go missing that fateful year. Originally produced for the British Royal Navy in 1943 during the Second World War, Dakar was a diesel-electric submarine sold to Israel in the mid-1960s after being put through a considerable refurbishment which streamlined the sub’s hull and superstructure, upgraded the engines, and diminished the sub’s noise while underwater.
After spending most of 1967 undergoing a refit and sea trials after being sold to the Israeli navy, Dakar set sail on its trip across the Mediterranean Sea to Israel in mid-January of the following year, where she would be formally welcomed into active service with a large ceremony. Expected back by Feb. 2, Dakar never arrived.
Transmissions from the sub ceased after Jan. 24. Immediately, all nearby naval vessels from a number of countries, including Great Britain, the United States, Turkey, and Greece, began a sweeping search-and-rescue mission to find the Dakar. Despite finding one of the sub’s emergency buoys in 1969, Dakar remained hidden in the murky depths of the Mediterranean, lost with all hands.
It wasn’t until 1999 that Dakar was be found, laying on the seabed near Crete and Cyprus. Parts of the submarine were raised to the surface, including its conning tower and a few smaller artifacts. To this day, a number of theories on the loss of Dakar exist, though none of them appear to be the definitive answer behind why the submarine went down.
Minerve, another diesel-electric submarine, was the second loss of 1968, going down just two days after Dakar in January. Typically staffed with a crew of 50 sailors, the Minerve was a smaller patrol sub, though retooled to conduct experiments on behalf of the French Navy. Able to carry missiles, it could stay submerged for 30 days before resurfacing to recharge its batteries and resupply.
On Jan. 27, Minerve was roughly 30 miles from base when its crew made contact with a French Navy aircraft to confirm their arrival time of less than an hour. After that transmission, the Minerve went silent. Now with their submarine overdue and unresponsive, the French Navy kicked into high gear, launching a large search-and-rescue operation including an aircraft carrier and smaller research submersibles.
To this day, the Minervehas never been found, even though it was lost a relatively short distance from its homeport. The sub’s entire crew of 52 sailors perished with their ship.
Built for the Soviet’s Pacific Fleet as a ballistic missile submarine, K-129 had been active for over 7 years by the time it was lost in early March of 1968. With sharp and sleek lines, the K-129 looked more like a shark than it did a traditional submarine. Armed with nuclear-tipped torpedoes and missiles, it was far more dangerous than the average diesel-electric submarine in service at the time.
While on a combat patrol in the Pacific Ocean, the submarine went unresponsive, having failed to check in on assigned dates. The Soviet Navy began a frantic search for their lost sub, worried that it was lost with all hands. After sweeping the area where K-129 was supposed to conduct its patrol for weeks, the search was called off and the sub was declared lost with its 98-man crew.
That, however, wasn’t the end of the K-129’s story. The U.S. Navy, with its SOSUS intelligence system, was able to triangulate the location of the missing sub, having detected an underwater “bang” on March 8.
After the K-129’s loss, the Central Intelligence Agency saw a major opportunity in finding the wreck and extracting code books and encryption gear from the sub’s bridge. It would give them a huge advantage in snooping on Soviet military and espionage activities. Code-naming the operation “Project Azorian,” the CIA used a gargantuan ship called the Glomar Explorer, outfitted with a big mechanical claw to grip and collect the submarine.
Project Azorian proved to be something of a mixed bag of results. While attempting to raise the K-129 from the seabed, the large grappling claw holding the stricken submarine malfunctioned and the vessel cracked in two. The forward half of the submarine was lifted into the Glomar Explorer, but the aft fell back into the ocean, taking with it the control room and all-important code books and cryptographic gear.
Nevertheless, the bodies of six of the sub’s lost crew were recovered and buried by the CIA at sea with full military honors. The CIA has still kept silent on what else they recovered from the front section of K-129. The sub’s missiles remain in the ocean.
Commissioned in 1960, the Scorpion was a Skipjack-class fast attack submarine designed to prowl around near Soviet patrol sectors, waiting to hunt down and destroy enemy surface and subsurface warships. In early 1968, Scorpiondeparted for the Mediterranean from Norfolk, Virginia after undergoing a hasty 9-month refit.
In May, the Scorpion and its crew found themselves at Rota, Spain, where they provided a noise cover for a departing Navy ballistic missile submarine by making high-speed, “loud” dashes as the larger missile sub slipped away. This was to keep nearby Soviet subs and spy ships from monitoring and recording the Navy’s newest nuclear deterrent’s noise signature for further reference.
Less than a week later, Scorpion went missing. Overdue by nearly a week for its return to Norfolk, its homeport, the Navy began searching for its submarine. Five months later, the remains of the attack submarine were found on the ocean floor near the Azores. It had been lost with all hands.
A number of differing theories exist on the destruction of the Scorpion, with some claiming that the sub was deliberately torpedoed by the Soviet Union in retaliation for supposed American involvement in the loss of K-129. The last received transmission from the submarine seems to lend a margin of credibility to these claims — the sub’s captain reported contact with Soviet vessels and declared his intention to reconnoiter the area.
Others say that the unusually fast refit that Scorpion underwent in 1967 left considerable room for technical error, thanks to Navy contractors cutting corners to get the sub back out to sea. As a result, mechanical failure was to blame. Further groups of researchers and historians believe that the submarine could have gone down due to a malfunctioning torpedo exploding aboard the vessel.
Even to this day, the majority of Scorpion’s last patrol is still classified, and the Navy’s official position on the loss is “inconclusive.”
There are moments in history that are nothing short of monumental, but they aren’t broadly celebrated or acknowledged. Juneteenth is one of those days.
You may have heard the word Juneteenth at some point in your life but have no idea what it’s about. It’s a turning point in our country that isn’t emphasized in history books, so it’s easy to skate past the day with little care. But it’s time we give the respect it deserves.
Here’s the story about Juneteenth, and why we all should know it.
Remember learning about when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery during the Civil War? The executive order went into effect on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t an immediate victory. It would take two and a half more years before the news that slavery had ended would reach remote Texas.
Up to this point, black people (who were captured and brought to America) were viewed and treated as property and animals, not humans with rights. Their purpose was that of free labor for farming, working as servants and basically doing whatever their owners commanded. Many people saw slavery as immoral and wanted to end it. Confederates didn’t agree that the federal government had the right to do so, which was a major factor in them separating from the Union. Subsequently, the Civil War began.
In 1865, the Confederate states were defeated.
Two months after the Civil War ended, General Gordon Granger announced federal order in Galveston, Texas, the last Confederate state holding onto their human property. Granger declared that all previously enslaved people were free, and he was backed by Union troops to enforce the decree.
This climax of freedom took place on June 19, 1865, therefore, Juneteenth. It is the annual celebration of African Americans being released from the last shred of slavery in this country. Some communities hold gatherings, parades and festivals in commemoration.
The happenings of June 19 were major progress, not just for black Americans, but for our nation! It was a beginning step toward equality and to be treated as people and not property.
Our country explodes in celebration recognizing July 4, 1776 (Independence Day). But black people were still enslaved. Juneteenth is the African American day of freedom. To acknowledge it is to say, this happened, and it is a day we honor, value and will make noise about in celebration together.
Changes are happening as Americans of varying nationalities are screaming in the streets that Black Lives Matter and demanding social justice. Recognizing Juneteenth is a part of that package.
Nike, New York Times, Target, Lyft, JCPenney and many other companies are making Juneteenth an annual paid holiday. They encourage employees to use this time to reflect on the many injustices black people have faced in America, and to connect to the community.
While 47 of the states acknowledge Juneteenth in some capacity (North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska do not), Texas, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania are the only ones recognizing it as an official paid holiday for state employees.
While Juneteenth is not yet a national holiday, the significance of this time is starting to catch hold. While many white Americans are acknowledging the pattern of struggle that African Americans still face daily, we have long strides to make.
Recognizing the ending of slavery as a nation is a good start! Happy Juneteenth!
The United States military is a brotherhood and sisterhood like no other. Those who serve together form a common sense of purpose and devotion to duty. It’s a level of trust not commonly found in civilian life. Those military friendships last forever. But as life moves, and when people leave the military, they often lose touch with those friends, some of whom they would have given their life for.
Tracking down old friends, particularly if you have been out of the service many years, is not always easy. But there is one company that can help. Together We Served (TWS) is a veteran-only website, launched in 2003. It provides veterans a highly-effective means to reconnect with old service-friends by simply entering their service history on their TWS Military Service Page.
TWS built an individual website for each branch of service and, with over 1.9 million veteran members, the chances of finding people you served with is high.
The secret behind TWS’s ability to connect more veterans is the depth of its databases. Over the past 16 years, TWS has built one of the most comprehensive databases of U.S. Military training and operating units in existence. Its databases span from WW2 to present day.
Military Service Page.
Sample Together We Served Military Service Page
By creating your Military Service Page on Together We Served, you can not only find veterans who went to the same basic training as you, or served in the same units or duty stations, but also those who participated in the same combat or non-combat operations. TWS’s search engine automatically matches the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the Military Service Pages of all other TWS members. Those members, whose entries could match yours, get listed on your Service Page. That is what enables you to make contact with those you may know. This powerful feature helps veterans remember forgotten names.
Finding key people on TWS can be very helpful, especially if you need or can provide witness account to support a potential VA claim.
Take this opportunity to reconnect with the servicemen and women you shared some of the most important times of your life with. In recognition of your service, Together We Served provides all VA veterans with a FREE one year premium membership, providing unlimited people searches, when you join TWS via the following link:
The U.S. Air Force and Ukrainian defense ministry have confirmed that a fighter aircraft crashed October 16, killing two pilots and leading to speculation that one of the dead is a U.S service member. The crash took place at Clear Skies 2018, an exercise featuring the militaries of nine nations and more than 50 aircraft.
The aircraft crash took place at 5 p.m. local time in Ukraine, and appears to have involved a Su-27UB, a two-seater combat trainer/fighter jet. The U.S. has confirmed that a service member was involved and Ukraine has stated that two pilots were killed in the crash, identifying them by their nationality and branch of service.
“We regret to inform that according to the rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been discovered: one is a serviceman of the Ukrainian Air Force, the other is a member of the US National Guard,” a statement from the Ukrainian General Staff said.
Su-27UB fighter aircraft.
“We are aware of a Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter aircraft that crashed in the Vinnytsia region at approximately 5pm local time during Clear Sky 2018 today,” U.S. Air Force public affairs official said.
The Air Force later updated their press release with another statement. “We have also seen the reports claiming a U.S. casualty and are currently investigating and working to get more information. We will provide more information as soon as it becomes available.”
The Air Force has not confirmed that a U.S. pilot has died, but did say that it is investigating the incident. The U.S. will typically collect all the major details before declaring a service member is deceased, often waiting until a doctor has made the official declaration.
If it is confirmed that a U.S. pilot has died in the crash, public affairs officers will likely not release any new details until 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin in order to allow the family to communicate the loss internally and begin grieving before the deceased’s name is made public knowledge.
They likely will not release much more after that until the investigation is complete.
The incident took place during Clear Skies 2018, which began October 8 and is scheduled to conclude on October 19. The U.S. is one of nine countries involved in the Ukrainian-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability with that country and NATO.
The exercise focused on air sovereignty, air interdiction, air-to-ground integration, air mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, cyberdefense, and personnel recovery. It takes place as Ukraine is increasing its military capabilities and continuing hostilities from a Russian-backed separatist movement has claimed lives in its eastern regions.
ISIS used oil to raise money — the places they’d based out of (Iraq and Syria) were rich in the black liquid. However, Afghanistan, the base of operations for the Taliban, doesn’t have a drop. So, the Taliban turned to another means to generate income. After all, radical Islamic groups who harbor terrorists still need to make payroll every month.
To pay their fighters, the Taliban have turned to drug production. Specifically, they’re making heroin. A September 2017 article from the Quad City Times notes that two kilograms of black tar heroin seized in a bust was worth $600,000. While the Taliban likely doesn’t pocket 300 grand per kilo, the lower amount they do receive likely goes a long way in funding their operations.
Part of the strategy to weaken the Taliban has been to cut off their income. With Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosening rules of engagement, American troops now have a much freer hand when it comes to using artillery and air strikes. As a result, the Taliban’s drug labs have become fair game.
The video below shows how such strikes are being carried out in Afghanistan. A M142 HIMARS is used to send the Taliban’s drugs up in smoke. The HIMARS fired five of the six rockets it can carry. Based on the impacts, unitary warhead versions of the rockets were used in this particular strike. The Taliban will have to figure out if their fighters will accept smoke signals as payment.
Captain Dale Dye is known for his direct support on Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and many more war films. The Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office recently interviewed Dye to learn about his life, both inside and outside of the service. Dye discusses his experiences, insights and lifelong wisdom. Watch the interview here:
Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) can be a debilitating condition and often referred to as the silent killer of veterans. Alarmed by the 22 veteran suicides per day statistic, Jake Clark founded Save A Warrior, a warrior-led healing experience to save active duty service members, veterans, and first responders from committing suicide and improve their lives.
In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast Jake Clark and Raychad Vannatta—Save A Warrior’s executive director—stop by to discuss their mission and tactics for curbing PTS.
The “Sonderkommando Photographs” are the only known photos taken of the gas chambers and cremation pits at Auchwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp. Shot by a Greek prisoner, the four photos were smuggled to the Polish Resistance where they were cropped and retouched to make them clearer. They were published in a 1945 Polish legal report about the camp. They were later published in a Polish-language book, called “We Have Not Forgotten.”
The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland was among the most notorious of the Nazi death camps. The SS guards there methodically killed inmates once they were no longer deemed fit to work by leading them into a gas chamber under the auspices that they were taking a shower.
The Nazi death camp used Jewish inmates — called sonderkommandos — to work the gas chambers and the four crematoria. The sonderkommandos would collect the dead inmates’ personal belongings and dispose of the bodies.
The Greek prisoner shot the photos from the hip while the other four men kept an eye out for the guards. As a result, some of the photos are strangely framed, showing only trees. All of the photos were reportedly taken within 20 minutes of each other.
The film was smuggled out of the camp via a toothpaste tube carried by the woman who ran the SS’ canteen. She got the film to the Polish Resistance, along with a note from two political prisoners that read the following:
Urgent. Send two metal rolls of film for 6×9 as fast as possible. Have possibility of taking photos. Sending you photos of Birkenau showing prisoners sent to gas chambers. One photos shows one of the stakes at which bodies were burned when the crematoria could not manage to burn all the bodies. The bodies in the foreground are waiting to be thrown into the fire. Another picture shows one of the places in the forest where people undress before ‘showering’ – as they were told – and then go to the gas-chambers. Send film roll as fast as you can. Send the enclosed photos to Tell – we think enlargements of the photos can be sent further.
It took sixty five years for one member of the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles to learn that his actions during the Battle of Bastogne were legendary, but not for heroism or bravery. It all started with a simple request for a beer – and the greatest beer run the world will ever see.
Vincent Speranza, Vince to all that know him, had joined the Army right after graduating high school in 1943 and was assigned to Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne as a replacement soldier while the unit recovered from Operation Market-Garden.
Shortly after training, Vince found himself in a foxhole in the middle of Bastogne, Belgium – cold, short on supplies, food, and ammunition. And surrounded by German troops.
“The first eight days we got pounded” by German artillery, he recalled. “But this was the 101st. They could not get past (us). They never set one foot in Bastogne.”
On the second day, his friend Joe Willis took shrapnel to both legs and was pulled back to a makeshift combat hospital inside a mostly destroyed church. Vince tracked him down and asked if there was anything he could do for his friend.
Vince told him it was impossible. The 101st was surrounded by Germans with no supplies coming in, they were taking artillery fire every day, and the town had been bombarded. But Joe wanted a beer.
Moving through the town, Vince, from blown-out tavern to blown-out tavern, went searching until serendipity hit. At the third tavern he hit, Vince pulled on a tap and beer came flowing out. He filled his helmet – the same one used as a makeshift shovel and Porta Potty in the foxhole – with all the beer he could handle and returned to the hospital.
Mission accomplished. Vince poured beer for Joe and some of those around him. When the beer ran out, they asked him to go for more.
As he returned to the hospital, Vince was confronted by a Major who demanded to know what he was doing.
“Giving aid and comfort to the wounded,” was the paratrooper’s simple answer.
An ass-chewing about the dangers of giving beer to men with gut and chest wounds lead to Vince putting his helmet back on his head, beer pouring down his uniform, and heading out.
While that could have been the end of it, the story continues 65 years later, when Vince returned to Bastogne for an anniversary celebration and learned that his epic beer run had been turned into Airborne beer, typically drunk out of a ceramic mug in the shape of a helmet.
The U.S. Army recently awarded a $34 million contract to McMurdo Inc. for personnel recovery devices that can be used to pinpoint a missing soldier’s location.
This PRD is a dual-mode personal locator beacon built to military specifications that will be integrated into the Army’s Personnel Recovery Support System, or PRSS.
“The PRD will be capable of transmitting both open and secure signals (training/combat dual mode) to alert and notify that a soldier has become isolated, missing, detained or captured,” according to an April 11, 2018 press release from Orolia, McMurdo’s parent company.
McMurdo was awarded a contract in 2016 to develop working prototypes of the PRD that could coordinate with the service’s PRSS.
“The Army recognized a need to complement its PRSS with a dual-mode, easy-to-use distress beacon to provide initial report/locate functionality, even in remote locations,” said Mark Cianciolo, general manager of McMurdo’s aerospace, defense and government programs, in a 2016 press release.
(McMurdo Group photo)
Commercially made personal locator beacons have become extremely popular with mountain climbers and other adventurers, who depend on them to send a signal to rescuers in the event they become injured in remote locations.
McMurdo’s positioning device has been designed to meet military standards and has improved accuracy. It also has decreased size, weight and power requirements, the release states.
“We are extremely proud and honored to have been selected by the U.S. Army as the provider of this critical positioning device for the safety of U.S. warfighters,” Jean-Yves Courtois, chief executive officer of Orolia, said in the April 11, 2018 press release.
The PRD is based on Orolia’s new rugged and small positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) platform, but the release did not specify the exact model being produced for the Army.
The Coast Guard awarded McMurdo a $3 million contract in 2016 for 16,000 FastFind 220 personal locator beacons.
The handheld FastFind 220 is used to notify emergency personnel during an air, land or water emergency in remote or high-risk environments. It uses a 406MHz frequency and transmits a distress signal containing unique beacon identification information and location data through the international search-and-rescue satellite system operated by Cospas-Sarsat, according to an Aug. 17, 2016, post on Intelligent Aerospace.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.