Captain N.J. "Dusty" Kleiss


One afternoon Ensign Willie P. West and I were walking and talking to each other as we went along the flight deck. Neither of us heard the centerline elevator warning signal - if it was sounded. Suddenly he took a step into space and I was on the edge of the gaping hole. I expected to find him a crumpled heap at the end of the 30 foot drop Instead he walked away unhurt. He said the elevator was moving downward almost as fast as his fall. Jumping on the elevator was like landing on a feather bed.

My roommate was Ensign Perry Teaff. His long time best friends were Ensign Cleo Dobson and Ensign Norman "Norm" West. These two would kid Perry about how his grandmother just "happened"to be in a farm a hundred miles from her homt, and made remarks about the pet alligator that he and Maggie Teaffkept in their bathtub. He would come right back at their idiosyncrasies and he knew enough of them.

One day things were different. Coming home in a threesome from a bombing attack from the Marshall Islands they came up to two Japanese zeroes on their port side. Perry immediately dashed toward them expecting the other two to follow. He let one zero come tantalizing closer as he went into a gradual tighter, lower and slower turn. The zero tried to follow but spun in, crashing in the water. Perry was a superb pilot. The other confused zero headed away.

Back in the ship, Cleo asked, "Why did you do such a dumb thing!" Perry's answer. "Why didn't you follow? We had them outnumbered."

Perry lost an eye when he crashed on takeoff, heading on the port side rather than to the bow. His accident resulted from a new taxi director giving a confusing apparent "take-off'signal. Total darkness and fog compounded the problem.

As soon as he received his glass eye, he used his commercial license (not mentioning his single eye) to show that he could fly, with one eye, as well as Wiley Post. The Navy wouldn't buy that argument. In those days one had to have almost perfect vision with each eye, without glasses, to continue flying. His Navy aviation days were over and so was his military career. Maggie Teaff was bitter about the fact that the only things he got from his years of service were free glass eyes.

I first met AMM3/c Peter Gaido as I was preparing to make my first carrier landing. He asked me, "Can I go with you?" I replied "This is my first carrier landing and I am supposed to have only sand bags." He said, "You got wings, ain't cha?"and replaced the sandbags with his stout frame. With that supreme confidence I made a half dozen perfect landings.

Peter Gaido later displayed his character as he observed a Japanese bombing plane attempting to crash into the ENTERPRISE. He jumped into an empty SBD, fired a machine gun at the approaching plane and continued firing at it as it sheared off the tail ofhis SBD, and continued firing as the Japanese plane moved in the opposite direction until it hit the ocean. He tried to remain anonymous of this action but Vice Admiral Halsey finally found him and promoted him on the spot to AMM l/c.

He flew with Ensign O'Flaherty during the Battle of Midway. They dropped their bombs on the Japanese carriers but later had to make a crash landing. They were picked up from their rubber boat, rescued by the Japanese, interrogated, murdered, and their bodies thrown back into the sea.

Peter Gaido was the bravest man I ever met.