In Memory of U.S. Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem

Twenty-six years ago today, on June 15, 1985, the world watched one of the most horrific atrocities taken against innocent civilians—this event was aired live on televisions around the world. TWA Flight 847 was hijacked, held its captives for seventeen day, and brutally murdered 23-year old Robert Stethem, a proud American and a U.S. Navy diver. This terrorist attack was conducted by the Iranian supported terrorist group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah remains one of the world’s most threatening Islamist terrorist organizations. It often goes unmentioned in traditional media due to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Qaeda has appeared to supersede it like a global pandemic as we continue to fight this war against terror but make no mistake: Hezbollah has been and remains a deadly threat to Israel, the United States and all free peoples .

Hezbollah was founded in 1983 by numerous individuals including Sheik Abbas Moussawi who was later killed in February 1992 by Israel.   According to Jane’s World Insurgency and Terrorism (pg. 270), “The main objectives Hezbollah has is to establish a revolutionary Shi’a Islamic State in Lebanon, eliminate non-Islamic influences, and force Western interests out of the region.” They are a hate induced religiously fanatic terrorist group.

There is no question that Hezbollah is anti-American and anti-Israeli. They have conducted hundreds of terrorist attacks against both nation states. One of the most notorious acts of terrorism conducted by Hezbollah against the Western world was in the year 1983.

The “Beirut Bombings” occurred on October 23rd 1983 at the Beirut International AirPort which was the staging location for headquarters elements of a U.S. Marine Corp Battalion Landing Team.  The method of operation involved a yellow in color Mercedes Benz truck that was filled with explosives roughly equivalent to 12,000 pounds of TNT.  The vehicle ran through two entry control points that were manned by highly trained Marine Corp guards.  The vehicle detonated as it ran into the housing complex of the Marines killing 241 of its estimated 350 occupants.

Approximately two years later, Hezbollah decided to make another terrorizing impact instilling fear around the globe. They targeted another U.S. owned and operated asset—TWA Flight 847. Their objectives against the Marines in 1983 were strictly to kill as many U.S. service members as possible. In 1985, their objective was to gain the release of fellow “Party of God” terrorists from prison.

Some point in the 1985 hijacking, Robert Stethem was identified as a U.S. service member.  Like any service member, Robert had the strength and courage to fight relentlessly to stay alive. Overwhelmed by his assailants, he was brutally beaten and then shot in the head. His body was then dumped on the tarmac—all because he was part of one of America’s greatest assets, an active U.S. military service member.

Today, many continue to fight the asymmetric and unconventional war we face. These are our brave men and women willing to sacrifice their friends, families, and even self if need be. Our nation’s service members will not tire, they shall not quit, and they shall seek victory no matter who threatens our nation be it Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or any other identified threat. They do this for the love of this great nation and what it stands for, something our enemies hate—Freedom.

Many of our best and brightest have paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting today’s war. As a nation, this is a debt that cannot be repaid. We can only honor them and we do this best by remembering that is it because of these fallen heroes, like U.S. Master Chief Robert Dean Stethem, that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Kerry Patton is the Co-Founder of the National Security Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization pending 501c (3) status. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies” and the children’s book “American Patriotism.”

  • Edward

    God Bless Robert Dean Stethem.

    May the ship named in his memory strike a mighty blow against the ideology responsible for his murder.


    • geez


  • M E Leclerc

    He was not a master chief petty officer. Stethem was a petty officer second class (E5)

  • budmanx

    The sad thing for this veteran today is that instead of destroying Hezbollah and Hamas and other terrorist groups we give them money. It's like we're paying them jiza to try and help them and win their hearts and minds instead of killing them on sight. Our government should not be giving our tax money to Pakistan, the Palistinians, Hamas, Hexbollah, The Musim Brotherhood etc. etc. etc. Giving money to these terrorists dishonors the sacrifice made by our fallen heros like Robert Stetham.

  • Bill Bennett

    I remember this incident so well. Stethem lived in our neighborhood. And yes, he was a Second Lacc Petty Officer, not a Master Chief.

    • BCulper

      Sorry Bill but he was meritoriously promoted only a few years ago and because of this he should obtain the respect of the rank which he was meritoriously awarded…something the author rightly did by stating his proper achieved rank in this article.

  • aspacia

    I remember this hideous event. Terrorists are cowards and attack in packs.

    • Ken Gann

      Been there and done that….The mushroon cloud was very huge. That was in 83. The battle continues. WE WILL WIN>

    • Ken Gann

      Was there assigned to HMM-264. Spend some time at TACO BELL. I can't believe it's just one Country. It's a BAD theory. However, Aid-Relief should be governened fair.
      Enough of supplying to develop I believe some of the Mid-East People are starting to realize Freedom.

  • James

    Let's remember who was president then: RONALD REAGAN. The man who stood up to Communism cut and ran whenever it came to Lebanon and Hezbollah. His administration knew who was behind Stethem's murder. Not to mention the Beirut embassy and Marine bombings in 1983. Reagan was good on many things, but when it came to Islamic terrorism, he was paralyzed. Syria and Iran had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, they still have nothing to worry about.

  • Kgann

    I'm just waiting to rest with 2/6. 2nd AGLICO Did me allot of FAVORS. But you never want to be around when the New Jersey goes off! Just keep in mind for the newer Veterans. If it wasn't for us former Marines. You would still have sand-bags and jeeps.

  • @PatrickStethem

    "We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free." – Ronald Reagan

  • guest

    Retired Chief Petty Officer and Navy SEAL Kenneth Stethem receives a bronzed master chief petty officer cover from chief petty officers Dan Mayfield and Jeff Kuhlman aboard the USS Stethem at Yokosuka Naval Base on Tuesday. Stethem accepted the honor on behalf of his brother and ship namesake Robert Dean Stethem, who was posthumously promoted from petty officer 2nd class to master chief petty officer during the ceremony. Robert Stethem was killed by Hezbollah hijackers aboard TWA Flight 847 as he was returning home from a deployment in 1985.