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NEWS | Nov. 21, 2019

Naval Historians, Authors Highlight Battle of Midway Heroes at Dahlgren

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

DAHLGREN, Va. – It was a day Laura Orr did not expect in 2011 – a returned phone call from legendary Battle of Midway dive-bomber pilot Norman Jack “Dusty” Kleiss.

Orr, special events coordinator at Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Va., at the time, had called him with a speaking invitation. Although he accepted, he was unable to speak due to illness. However, a door of possibilities opened for Orr and her husband, Timothy Orr, an associate professor of military history at Old Dominion University.

They joined Kleiss in co-writing “Never Call Me A Hero:  A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway.”

The book was published in May 2017 — just over a year after Kleiss passed away on April 24, 2016 at the age of 100.

The Orrs shared this story at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division Integrated Combat Systems Department sponsored event held at the base theater as a part of the Naval Heritage Command Lecture Series, Nov. 15.

It was not the only story shared.

The stories of brave U.S. warfighters, like Kleiss, who fought the Japanese armed forces during Midway, June 3-7, 1942, captivated an audience of 67 people.

“No matter what they did, whether they came back or died out on the ocean, were wounded, or blew up in their plane -- all of that is a story worth telling,” said Timothy Orr. “It explains how the U.S. eventually triumphed over the empire of Japan in the Pacific War. It really shapes the world as we know it today.”

The title of the book is reflective of Kleiss’ sentiment when the Orrs approached him about writing it. He did not think of himself as a hero – because he survived. However, as highlighted on the book cover, “On June 4-6, 1942, Kleiss, a Navy lieutenant, helped sink three Japanese war ships, crippling the Imperial Navy and reversing the tide of World War II.”

The Orrs’ journey of capturing and telling the stories of Midway heroes all began with a phone call from one of the greatest in American history.

Since that conversation, they have been bringing those stories to Navy bases throughout the country.

“That’s what we like to do,” said Laura Orr, who appreciated when an employee came up to her after the presentation and said, “Now I know about people I’ve never heard of before. I know what they did.”