Never Call Me a Hero
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 8 Oct 2018
Full Title: Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway
Mis-titled, Never Call Me a Hero was US Navy aviator Norman Jack "Dusty" Kleiss's memoir. It was not limited to his remembrance of the Battle of Midway. In these pages, for example, he remembered more about his courtship with his girlfriend and then the married life with his wife than he remembered about Midway.
Now that I got it out of the way, I had highly enjoyed this book. Although Kleiss was billed as the primary author, it was actually written by Timothy Orr and Laura Orr based on a great many conversations with Kleiss. I thought the account of pilot training had been one of the most valuable parts of the book, as this important topic was often glossed over in many books. The telling of the early-war Marshall Islands raid was probably one of the best first-person perspective of that particular action that I had come across. I must say that the descriptions of the various engagements, Midway included, had not been the most technically accurate and the assessments of various decisions were very heavily opinionated. Nevertheless, he masterfully told of the fear, the exhilaration, the pride, and all the emotions that went through the aviators through the course of each action and through the war. Throughout the book, Kleiss asserted the two notions that seemed to be his main motives. First, as the title suggested, he iterated that he was uncomfortable in being called a hero, for that he was simply doing what he was trained to do, and that he did not feel like he should be a role model. Then, he argued that, contrary to the thoughts of several historians, the excellent training of the US Navy aviators directly led to the victorious outcome of Midway, while luck played only the smallest of part. Another interesting observation shared through these pages was Kleiss' somewhat poor view toward the admirals who conducted the Midway battle. Timothy Orr's additional chapter at the end of the book about the interviews with Kleiss was a great addition to this book as well.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Mike Ortego performed wonderfully, the voice he employed for this project being perfect as an older man retelling tales of old.
Never Call Me a Hero was a wonderful memoir and it made a great compinion to the more traditionally historical works on the Pacific War.
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944