Begin New Search
Refine Last Search
Cemetery Lookup
Add Burial Records
Help with Find A Grave

Find all Stethems in:
 • Arlington National Cemetery
 • Arlington
 • Arlington County
 • Virginia
 • Find A Grave

Top Contributors
Success Stories
Community Forums
Find A Grave Store

Log In

Changes are coming to Find A Grave. See a preview now.

PO Robert Dean Stethem, Jr
Birth: Nov. 17, 1961
New Haven County
Connecticut, USA
Death: Jun. 15, 1985
Bayrut, Lebanon

United States Navy Sailor, Murder Victim. While flying home from Athens, Greece, Lebanese terrorists hijacked his airplane, Trans World Airlines Flight 847, and he was murdered solely because he was an American sailor. His body was dumped on the tarmac below the airplane and left there for several hours before the terrorists allowed authorities to remove it. Born in Waterbury, Connecticut and raised in Waldorf, Maryland, he was one of three sons (his father and two brothers also served in the US Navy; his mother worked for the Navy as a civilian). After graduating from Thomas Stone High School in 1980, he joined the US Navy, where he was trained as a diver and as a steelworker. He was assigned to the Navy Underwater Construction Team No. 1 in Norfolk, Virginia, and in 1985, the team was sent to Nea Makri, Greece, to repair a Navy Communications facility. On the return flight, TWA 847, members of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah hijacked the flight and forced it to fly to Algiers, where they demanded the release of 435 Arab prisoners held by Israel. When their demands were not met, they forced the airplane to fly to Beirut, Lebanon. Seizing the passengers' passports, the terrorists discovered several American sailors aboard the plane. They singled out Stetham and beat him senselessly for several hours, attempting to break his will. Infuriated by his unwavering inner strength and his calm under the punishment, the hijackers then executed him and dumped his body on the ground. As they killed him with a pistol shot to the head, his last words were a prayer to God for strength. His face and body was so badly mangled that he could only be identified by his fingerprints. For 17 days, the hijackers kept the passengers hostage, before giving in and releasing them. Stetham was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for heroism. In 1995, the US Navy commissioned a destroyer, DDG-63, the USS Robert Dean Stetham, in his honor. His citation for the Bronze Star for Heroism reads: "For heroic achievement on 14 June 1985 while assigned to Detachment NM-85 of Underwater Construction Team One, deployed to the Naval Communications Station Nea Makri, Greece. Petty Officer Stethem displayed exceptional valor and professional integrity while a hostage of militant Shiite hijackers of TWA Flight 847 at Athens International Airport, Algiers, Algeria, and at Beirut, Lebanon. Exhibiting physical, moral, and emotional courage beyond extraordinary limits, Petty Officer Stetham endured a senseless and brutal beating at the hands of his fanatical captors. He drew upon an unwavering inner strength and absorbed the punishment. The hijackers were infuriated by his refusal to succumb, a symbol to them of the strength of the United States of America, and in their cowardly desperation, shot him to death. Petty Officer Stetham's courage, steadfast determination, and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. Signed by John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy." (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson) 
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County
Virginia, USA
Plot: Section 59, Lot 430, Grid EE-25
GPS (lat/lon): 38.878, -77.06582
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 2114
PO Robert Dean Stethem, Jr
Added by: Daniel Tudor
PO Robert Dean Stethem, Jr
Added by: Ron Williams
PO Robert Dean Stethem, Jr
Cemetery Photo
Added by: James Seidelman
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

God bless you throughout Autumn, the beautiful, fiery season of the Harvest. Rest in Peace.
- Rick
 Added: Oct. 13, 2017

- CK3
 Added: Sep. 18, 2017

- CK3
 Added: Sep. 18, 2017
There are 935 more notes not showing...
Click here to view all notes...
Do you have a photo to add? Click here
How famous was this person?
Current ranking for this person: (4.4 after 143 votes)

Privacy Statement and Terms of Service