The telegram arrived on a cold January day in 1942. It read, “After an exhaustive search, it has been found impossible to locate your son, Robert Edwin Kline, gunner’s mate, second class, U.S. Navy.” The sailor’s mother refused to accept the news and continued to hold out hope. How could it be? Bobby was just 22. Robert Edwin Kline was one of 1,177 sailors and Marines killed in the attack on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Most of the sailors killed aboard the Arizona went down with the ship. However, the bodies of 85 (and possibly as many as 150) were buried, their remains unidentified and comingled, in graves at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. More than eight decades later, Kevin Kline, Robert Kline’s great-nephew, is among those leading an effort to identify the fallen. He is the driving force behind Operation 85 – a civilian effort led by family members of the unrecovered to assist the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in acquiring DNA samples from surviving family members.
DNA technology did not exist in the 1940s, but more recent advances now make it possible to identify those previously unknown. That’s where Operation 85 comes in. They are facilitating the effort to find surviving family members and connecting them with the DPAA to take a DNA test. The DPAA administers the DNA tests at no cost to participants.
Operation 85 hopes to collect at least 643 family DNA samples within the next two years. They hope that by December 7, 2026, the 85th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the project will be classified as a “Working Priority” within the DPAA, leading to proper identification and the reburial of remains in a marked grave.
How can you help? If you are related to someone who served aboard the Arizona, visit Operation 85 here to learn more. We can’t think of a better way to honor the fallen this Memorial Day than to help provide a properly identified final resting place.
Explore the names on the wall of the USS Arizona Memorial in our free interactive collection on Fold3®. Leave a photograph or story and learn more about those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor. Visit Operation 85 to learn more about their mission, and search Fold3® today to learn more about the attack on Pearl Harbor.