Robert Stethem

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Robert Dean Stethem
SW2 Robert Stethem.jpg
Born (1961-11-17)November 17, 1961
Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
Died June 15, 1985(1985-06-15) (aged 23)
Beirut, Lebanon
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County, Virginia
Section 59, Grave 430
(38°52′41″N 77°03′57″W / 38.8780°N 77.0658°W / 38.8780; -77.0658)
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch USNavyFlag-Official.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1980–85
Rank USN CUCM.png MCPO collar.png Rating Badge ND.jpg
Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM)
Second-class diver (DV)
Unit Underwater Construction
Team ONE (UCT-ONE)
Awards

Robert Dean Stethem (November 17, 1961 – June 15, 1985) was a United States Navy Seabee diver who was killed by Hezbollah militants during the hijacking of the commercial airliner he was aboard, TWA Flight 847.[1] At the time of his death, his Navy rating was Steelworker Second Class (SW2). He was posthumously promoted to Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM).[2]

Early life[edit]

Stethem was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, but grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Waldorf, Maryland. He was one of four children. His father, Richard Stethem, retired from the Navy as a Senior Chief after 20 years, continuing to work for it as a civilian afterwards. His mother, Patricia, served in the Navy before raising her family, continuing to serve in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces afterwards. His brother, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Kenneth Stethem was a Navy SEAL and brother Diver First Class Patrick Stethem served in Underwater Construction Team One for 10 years – the same unit in which Robert served. Stethem had one sister, Sheryl Sierralta.[2]

He graduated from Thomas Stone High School in 1980, where he played defensive back on the varsity and junior varsity football teams. He also played Little League baseball.[2]

Stethem joined the Navy shortly after graduating, reporting for duty on May 4, 1981.[2]

Navy career[edit]

In the Navy, Stethem was a Seabee Steelworker assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 62 in Gulfport, MS. He served multiple tours on Diego Garcia and Guam. Later, Stethem became a 2nd Class Navy Diver and was assigned to the Navy's Underwater Construction Team One in Little Creek, Virginia.[2]

TWA Flight 847[edit]

Main article: TWA Flight 847

On June 14, 1985, Stethem was returning from an assignment in Nea Makri, Greece aboard TWA Flight 847 when it was hijacked by members of the Lebanese pro-Iranian organization Hezbollah. The hijackers held 39 people hostage for 17 days, demanding the release of 766 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.[3]

When their demands were not met, Stethem, as a member of the US military, was targeted, beaten, and tortured. Finally, the hijackers shot him and dumped his body onto the tarmac at the Beirut airport.[3]

One of the hijackers, Mohammed Ali Hammadi, was arrested two years later in Frankfurt, Germany. He was tried and convicted of Stethem's murder and sentenced to life in prison. Three others, Imad Mugniyah, Hassan Izz-Al-Din, and Ali Atwa, were eventually indicted for their involvement in the incident. In 2002, they were added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. On February 13, 2008, Imad Mugniyah was killed in an explosion in Damascus, Syria.[4]

Mohammed Ali Hammadi was paroled in December 2005 and returned to Lebanon. It is speculated that he was released in a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of Susanne Osthoff, who was kidnapped in Iraq one month earlier.[3]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Stethem was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery Section 59, Grave 430 (38°52′41″N 77°03′57″W / 38.8780°N 77.0658°W / 38.8780; -77.0658), near other American victims of international terrorism.[3]

On August 24, 2010, in Yokosuka, Japan, on board the ship named after him – the USS Stethem (DDG-63) – Stethem was made a honorary Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM) by order of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. His brother, Kenneth, accepted the certificate and decorations on behalf of the Stethem family.[5]

Honors[edit]

Crest of the USS Stethem (DDG-63)

The following are named after Stethem:

In popular culture[edit]

A scene from the movie The Delta Force shows a U.S. Navy diver being beaten, tortured, killed and his body being dumped onto the tarmac. This scene is based on Stethem's encounter.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thinking of Robert Dean Stethem June 13, 2010 New York Sun editorial
  2. ^ a b c d e "WNLL 30th Anniversary and Opening Day Ceremonies: A Special Tribute". Waldorf National Little League. April 19, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Unofficial Arlington Cemetery Page – Robert Dean Stethem
  4. ^ Stethem, Katherine Curtis (February 14, 2008). "At Last, It Feels Like a New Day". The New York Sun. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ "USS Stethem Holds Honorary Master Chief Frocking For Namesake". Yokosuka, Japan: United States Navy. August 25, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  6. ^ Robert D. Stethem Memorial Sports Complex. Charles County, Maryland. Retrieved September 29,2 013.
  7. ^ "Welcome to Your Navy in Gulf Coast Mississippi". Benchmark Publications, Inc. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Named for Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem". United States Navy. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  9. ^ Vanhala, Helena (2011). The Depiction of Terrorists in Blockbuster Hollywood Films, 1980-2001: An Analytical Study. McFarland. p. 163. ISBN 9780786456901. 

External links[edit]

Robert Stethem at Find a Grave