the Squadron Six Dive Bombers in S-17, Lt(jg) N. J. "Dusty"
Kleiss, pilot, and his gunner, RM3c J. W. Snowden, watched
the last action of bomber S-11.
Captain Dusty Kleiss, Ret. is the last living survivor to
have seen Lt(jg) Carleton Fogg, pilot, and his gunner,
RM3c Otis L. Dennis, in S-11, crash into the Pacific.
He has generously shared his story in a series of letters to the
Kleiss in January 2008:
"I have read
all the information concerning Otis Dennis on the Internet, but
it is likely that I am the last person still alive who watched
the action that led to Otis having a ship named after him.
Don Hoff and Jack Leaming, Radioman Gunners, are still alive,
but they were facing backward in that action. It is
possible they might know something, but they probably didn't
actually see them go down.
that action just like yesterday. I particularly
remember Ens. Carleton Fogg giving careful instructions on aircraft guns
in our Ready Room, especially before that battle, reminding us
that we should not "activate" a gun, making it ready to fire too
early. We should activate it only just a few seconds...
just a couple of seconds, before firing.
It was a dark
misty night, making a takeoff in a couple of hundred feet from
the carrier very hazardous. Our Scouting Six was at the
head of takeoff, and our LCR Hopping led us on the attack on Roi.
Ordinarily our weather balloon would give us a good indication
of the wind for the next day. This time it failed to
tell us that we would have a high tail wind. We
arrived at Roi way too early, totally dark. We had
to circle for what seemed to be a couple of hours until we had
light enough to find targets. That gave the Japanese
plenty of time to launch fighters and aim AA (anti-aircraft)
while we were circling, I saw S-11 join us. That was Fogg
and Dennis. I am certain of identifying that plane
either by seeing the painted number, or the colored lights we
used in darkness to identify each plane as it entered formation.
Probably I watched it because it swung into position very late.
While I was watching
S-11 ahead of me, I saw both of its .50
caliber guns shoot continuously, long enough to expend all
Dennis came near the head of the pack on Roi, flying at about
14,000 feet. Fogg, the gunnery expert, had warned us
that there was always that "one chance in a hundred (or
hundreds)" that the .50 cal. guns might fire when the pilot
turned on the switch that changed the guns from "safe" to
"fire", meaning that the guns were ready to shoot if and when
the trigger was pulled by the pilot. I have watched
those guns operate perfectly hundreds of times without a
malfunction. That one time was an exception... as
soon as Fogg moved the arming switch to the guns, they fired
continuously without any trigger movement.
Fortunately no one was ahead of that continuous line of fire.
Now the only
gun (or guns) able to fire were held by Dennis. He
was facing aft, able to swivel his .30 cal gun from the rear,
sideways or somewhat forward as he swiveled his seat around.
(We were changing from a single .30 cal to the twin .30 cal. so
I'm not sure which Dennis had at that time.) My RM
John Snowden shot down several Zeros.
Then I saw
Hopping's plane go into flames, hit by AA fire.
The Japanese had made a blanket of fire just ahead of him.
planes continued their dives, hitting good targets.
I particularly watched Fogg and Dennis because now Dennis was
the only one who could protect that plane.
would their plane make a good dive or fly very close to another
plane with good guns? They made a good dive
ahead of me and I saw their bombing explosions. Dennis and
Fogg probably dropped their bombs at 1500 (or 1,000 feet while
vertical), at 240 knots (250 mph), pulling out at about 500 feet
above the ground with a force of 8 or 9 G's.
much left for me to hit. I dropped only my 100-pounders,
saving my 500-pounder for something worth while.
I saw S-11,
Fogg and Dennis, flying erratically as it headed northeast and
hit the ocean 1/2 mile away. No enemy fighters were
present and it had obviously been hit by AA fire. But,
they had done lots of damage to Roi.
Those of us
remaining had to find targets elsewhere.
I wish I could
tell you more about Otis. He is pictured in the middle row
of RM's in "Steady Nerves and Stout Hearts" by Cressman
and Wenger, and he is mentioned in it. That book tells
what those important people did during the Japanese Pearl Harbor
attack. Had those 18 planes not made their searches ahead
of the USS Enterprise, and shot at so many planes that day,
Japan could easily have taken over Hawaii a little later.
Nagumo thought MANY USA Carriers were out there, and he headed
I wish I could
say more about our Radioman Gunners. They had a harder
time in dives than the pilots, pushing downward on their seat
BACKWARDS at 8 or 9 g (i.e. a force of a ton on their seat)
during pull out.
their radio, they had to lock their guns, change radio items,
tune dials and sometimes had to get extra ammo from under the
floor boards. You asked if I heard any of their radio
transmissions. Radio silence was almost total.
We transmitted only when we were making attacks, giving a few
locations of good enemy targets... no chit and chat like in
My RM, John
Snowden, was hit by shrapnel in the butt on one of my attacks in
the Marshalls, yet he completed every later flight, taking time
between flights for bending over in sick bay to have more
shrapnel taken out.
shooting was all "eye ball", with lots of practice.
Even after a battle, as we headed back to port, one plane would
pull a tow sleeve about the length of a plane, with a very long
rope. Each gun would have bullets with a different color
of paint to see who made holes in the tow sleeve.
I chose Snowden, who was perhaps the best RM. I was
the Education Officer who was first to know of enlisted men's
scores as they tried to achieve a higher grade and pay.
Pilots and RM's had to learn where the plane was going to be,
not where it was as you shot.
channel has a TV show that will picture the USS Enterprise, the
last week of February 2007. It will likely give a moment
or two about Roi. I will probably be seen for a minute or