O'Fallon Progress

Community pays respect to Navy vet who had been MIA since Pearl Harbor

A military honor guard posts the colors to begin the memorial service for U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class Robert Temple, who died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. His remains were recently identified due to advancements in DNA technology. The memorial service was held at the Faith Family Church in Shiloh on Saturday morning, with Temple's nephew Pastor John Temple officiating and delivering the eulogy. Seaman Temple's remains will be buried in Hawaii.
A military honor guard posts the colors to begin the memorial service for U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class Robert Temple, who died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. His remains were recently identified due to advancements in DNA technology. The memorial service was held at the Faith Family Church in Shiloh on Saturday morning, with Temple's nephew Pastor John Temple officiating and delivering the eulogy. Seaman Temple's remains will be buried in Hawaii. tvizer@bnd.com

Arnie Kreek drove 300 miles to play “Taps” on his bugle for the posting of colors at Bobby Temple’s Memorial Service in Shiloh on Saturday.

Kreek never met Temple, but his dad, Dean Kreek, did. As young sailors stationed on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor in 1941, Dean and Bobby hung out. Dean was the bugle boy on USS Nevada, while Bobby was a seaman on the USS Oklahoma.

Seventy-five years after his father watched his friend Bobby’s ship hit with nine torpedoes during the Japanese attack, Kreek paid his respects and represented his family.

“I got blessed to do this. It’s an honor to attend,” Kreek said after the ceremony.

The family of U.S. Navy Seaman First Class Robert Monroe Temple memorialized their beloved relative, who lost his life at age 19.

“Bobby is forever a hero. Their sacrifice is the cause for our liberty and freedom,” said his nephew, John Temple of Shiloh, who organized the service at the church where he is a pastor, Faith Family Church.

The USS Oklahoma capsized 20 minutes after being hit, and 429 crewmen were entombed within the ship. He was officially missing in action, and the family received two telegrams with that news. In 1943, engineering efforts righted the ship, and 34 bodies were identified through dental records. Remains were marked in a mass grave “Unknowns.”

Through DNA technology, the U.S. Navy positively identified his remains. The family was notified in March.

“We have been overwhelmed, in a very good way, by the outpouring of kindness and compassion from the community,” Temple said in his “Sharing of Gratitude” remarks. “We discovered this was something bigger than just the Temple family.”

Temple and his wife Vicki planned the event, along with Bobby’s two surviving siblings, Jim Temple of O’Fallon, Missouri, and Barbara Johnson of Tennessee.

“Bobby’s story has touched so many people’s hearts. The entire Midwest has been impacted by his story,” John Temple said. “You have given the family such sweet comfort.”

Malvine Temple, Jim’s wife, has been involved in keepsakes and research. She had posted a family tree on ancestry.com and that’s how the Navy tracked the family down. The Navy hired genealogists to help find surviving relatives when they embarked on the DNA testing project five years ago.

Presentation of Naval military honors took place. The U.S. Navy Operational Center in St. Louis and Scott Air Force Base’s U.S. Transportation Command were also involved in Saturday’s service. John Temple thanked the Navy’s Lt. Commander Michael Schmid for all of his help.

Jeff Woodson, retired Navy SCPO, sang “Amazing Grace.”

John Temple acknowledged several World War II veterans sitting in the front row.

“We thank them for their hearts of courage. They have a very good understanding of the high price of freedom,” he said. “To every veteran here today, we honor you today. Our hearts are filled with deep appreciation.”

The Patriot Guard Riders were on hand, too. A U.S. organization, these motorcycle riders attend military funerals.

“Larry the Flag Man” Eckhardt from Chicago area showed up Friday with 3,500 flags. Volunteers posted them along the procession route from Wolfersberger Funeral Home in O’Fallon to Faith Family Church in Shiloh. They started at 2 p.m. and were finished by 6 p.m., John Temple said. He thanked local officials and public safety personnel for their support.

“There were many people who helped make today happen,” he said.

John Temple read passages from Dean Kreek’s journal, detailing the attack on Pearl Harbor. Like Bobby, he had joined at age 18, was 19 when he spotted the planes and watched the horror unfold.

Although bullets went through his ship’s flags, and they were struck, the seamen survived. Dean Kreek was not injured that day.

Arnie Kreek said, after the war ended in 1946, his father returned home to Oregon, Missouri, where he farmed and worked construction. He played his horn for military funerals. He died in 2010.

Arnie Kreek said his dad did not want to talk about his friend’s death.

“Nobody wanted to say it. Who would want to admit that?” he said.

Arnie Kreek took up trumpet, just like his dad, and played in high school band. He has been playing at military funerals, too.

When the Temples contacted him, he was honored to be invited to play.

Temple said closure for the family was important.

“Like many MIA families, they had ever so slight hope that maybe one day, somehow, somewhere, he would show up. Or maybe he was in a hospital, didn’t know who he was,” he said. “They never went through the process of grieving. This closure is so comforting and healing. At least we know the truth.”

Temple’s remains lied in state Sunday and Monday at Wolfersberger Funeral Home. He will be returned to Hawaii for committal to his final resting place at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

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