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John Robert Kleyn
John Robert Kleyn

John Robert Kleyn

John Robert Kleyn was born on March 1, 1906 in Holland, Michigan to Henry and Mamie Kleyn, who were of Dutch descent.  John had two brothers, Harold and James, and three sisters, Mary, Dorothy and Beth.  The family moved to Tacoma, Washington around 1918.

Mr. Kleyn joined the Navy in January of 1925.  He served on the USS Mississippi from April 1925 to December 1929, the USS Jason from 1930 to August 1932, the USS Canopus, and the USS Chaumont.  He began service on the USS Marblehead in January 1935.  Mr. Kleyn reached the rank of Chief Machinist's Mate.

Mr. Kleyn was killed in action on February 4, 1942.

On March 10, 1942, Captain Robinson sent a letter to John's brother, James Kleyn, notifying him of John's death.  James Kleyn had been a member of the USS Marblehead from December 1936 to February 1941.  The following is the text of that letter.


"The Secretary of the Navy has tried to advise Mrs. Kleyn of the death of her husband.  Mrs. Kleyn was living in Manila, P.I., and it is improbable that any communications have reached her.

"John was buried, with other shipmates who were killed in action, in the European Cemetery at Tjilatjap, Java, Netherlands East Indies.  Here in a quiet section of this beautiful island, the Netherlands Government has set aside an area for the interment of our heroic dead so that they may lie together in beautiful surroundings, in a sense under American soil and as a memorial to their high courage and ideals.

"A military funeral was held with escorts from both the American and Netherlands forces, and both Protestant and Catholic services were conducted by Chaplain Rentz of the USS Houston and Father Widenbusche of Tjilatjap.

"Kleyn had served in this ship for nearly seven years, and consequently he was well known to me.  During the strained months that preceded the outbreak of hostilities and in the difficult periods of war service that followed, his courage, cheerfulness and resolute performance of duty were constantly observed and admired by all his shipmates, among whom he had a great number of very close friends.

"As his Captain, I deeply share your sense of sorrow and loss."


A. G. Robinson, Captain

Commanding USS Marblehead


Mr. Kleyn's remains were moved to the Fort William McKinley Cemetery, Manila, PI.  His nephew visited PI and had John's name inscribed on one of the crosses where they said John was interred.

Decorations and awards received were:  Purple Heart; Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon Bar; American Defense Service Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Honorable Service Lapel Button (WWII) Good Conduct Medal; and the Good Conduct Pin.

Notes:  The fate of Mrs. Kleyn has never been determined.  James Kleyn, to whom the letter was written, died on February 4, 1944 at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California.

Special thanks to Mrs. Shirley McLellan Rishel for this information regarding her uncle, John Kleyn.

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