May25 , 2024

Family Member Takes Matters Into Own Hands to Identify the USS Arizona Unknowns


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While the US Government says it’s not cost-effective to identify 85 unknown American Service Members from the USS Arizona, one civilian family member took on the job and the financial burden to prove them wrong.

USS Arizona Unknowns

Missing sailor depicted in front of Unknown gravestone

Kevin Kline, the grandnephew of GM2c Robert Edwin Kline, a U.S. Navy sailor who perished aboard the U.S.S. Arizona during the attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, has embarked on a remarkable mission to identify 85 unknown heroes.

In Nov. 2022, Kline initiated an inquiry with the U.S. Navy into the fate of over 85 unidentified service members from the U.S.S. Arizona, whose remains were buried in commingled graves and labeled as "UNKNOWN USS Arizona" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) located just 10 miles from Pearl Harbor.

This revelation shattered the long-held belief of Kline and many other families, that their loved ones rested within the sunken USS Arizona ship beneath the iconic USS Arizona Memorial. The shock was further compounded when Kline, spurred by the recent success of identifying nearly 400 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma, questioned the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) regarding the lack of efforts to identify the USS Arizona unknowns.

Kline was informed that the "task of locating surviving family members and obtaining DNA samples from them would be prohibitively cumbersome, costly, and time-consuming." The mission, a fundamental duty of the DPAA, was deemed "not cost-effective" as it would only result in identifying a fraction of the 1,072 missing service members as only 85 unidentified remains were buried away from the ship's final resting place.

On April 6, 2023, Kline launched "Operation 85," aimed at locating all surviving family members of the missing USS Arizona crew members, and persuading them to provide DNA reference samples to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Casualty Offices to identify the 85 unknowns. Kline has fully funded the project himself, temporarily putting his local Virginia real estate business on the sidelines for over seven months, all in an unwavering commitment to fulfilling the duty he believes our Nation owes to these fallen heroes.

Since April of this year, Kline and three dedicated volunteers have tracked down nearly 600 family members, of which over 450 have viable "yDNA & mtDNA" reference samples needed by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s System. The Department of Defense has a policy requirement of having 60% DNA representation of the USS Arizona missing crew before they would begin identification of the 85 unknowns at the Punchbowl. Kline and his team have reached the halfway point of the DoD threshold in just 7 months.

What is both inspiring and concerning is that "Operation 85" has become a civilian-driven initiative, shouldering the responsibility that the U.S. Government and the DPAA should rightfully bear. However, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, the Pentagon, along with the DPAA are now all collaborating with “Operation 85's” efforts, but the funding and labor to research, locate, and connect with all of the 1,072+ family members, have remained the burden and financial responsibility of Kline himself, a Northern Virginia real estate agent and business owner, husband, and father of 2 little girls. 

Kline has spent upwards of $25,000 of his own money so far to fund the project. He also estimates between 800–1000 man-hours have been spent between himself and his volunteers, but pointed out that each day their methods and process become more efficient and effective. 

Kline stated, “It’s certainly been a learning curve I've had to adjust to quickly, but we’ve proven a small, dedicated team can move mountains and accomplish the impossible in a very cost-effective manner. We hope that the DPAA and government leadership sees the efficiency within our methods and incorporates them into other projects. There are only 85 unknowns from the USS Arizona, but there are still tens of thousands of missing American service members from a multitude of different conflicts and wars around the world. We can always do better.” 

To connect as a family member or for more information: 

Contact Information:
Kevin Kline
Executive Director
[email protected]

Related Files
OP85 PRESS RELEASE 11_02_2023.pdf

Original Source: Family Member Takes Matters Into Own Hands to Identify the USS Arizona Unknowns