The Five Sullivan Brothers

Discussion in 'Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Albert, Francis, George, Joseph and Madison Sullivan were born in Waterloo, Iowa, between 1914 and 1920. George and Francis enlisted in the Navy in 1937. Their three younger brothers joined the service in early 1942. All five were assigned to the commissioning crew of USS Juneau (CL-52) in February 1942. They remained with the ship through her Atlantic shakedown operations and subsequent combat actions in the Guadalcanal Campaign. All were lost with her on 13 November 1942, a tragedy that received wide publicity in the United States and resulted in a new Navy policy discouraging family members from serving together in the same ship.

    In the aftermath of Juneau's loss, the Navy notified Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa, that all five of their sons were missing in action. Two of the brothers had served previous four-year enlistments in the Navy and so, when all five brothers enlisted together on 3 January 1942, the Navy was the obvious choice. They had also insisted on serving together on the same ship. Although the accepted Navy policy was to separate family members, the brothers had persisted and their request was approved.

    It was later learned, through survivors' accounts, that four of the brothers died in the initial explosion. The fifth, George Thomas, despite being wounded the night before, made it onto a raft where he survived for five days before succumbing either to wounds and exhaustion or a shark attack.

    The brothers received the Purple Heart Medal posthumously and were entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four engagement stars and the World War II Victory Medal. They had also earned the Good Conduct Medal.

    They were survived by their parents, Mr. Thomas F. Sullivan and Mrs. Alleta Sullivan, a sister, Genevieve Sullivan, and by Albert Leo Sullivan's wife, Katherine Mary Sullivan. Their son, James Thomas, was twenty-two months old at the time of his father's death.

    The service record transcripts for the five Sullivan brothers, as written on 16 January 1943 by the Bureau of Naval Personnel follow below.

    (1) Albert Leo Sullivan
    (2) Francis Henry Sullivan
    (3) George Thomas Sullivan
    (4) Joseph Eugene Sullivan
    (5) Madison Abel Sullivan

    The Sullivan brothers and the loss of USS Juneau
  2. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    USS Juneau was an Atlanta class anti-aircraft cruiser. Only ten men survived her sinking. Atlanta was lost on the same day, Nov 13th 1942 at Guadalcanal.

    The Fletcher class destroyer DD537 was named USS The Sullivans, being commissioned only a few months after the brother's deaths, in May 1943. She saw heavy action for the rest of WW2 and the Korean War, and is preserved today at Baltimore.

    DD-537 DANFS
  3. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

  4. Tiornu

    Tiornu New Member

    The USN had repeated episodes of neglecting the survivors of sunken ships. The most famous incident was the loss of the cruiser Indianapolis. But the Juneau loss and those off Samar are even harder to understand. These ships were in company with others, in waters that provided relatively easy access for rescue operations. I've never heard any excuse for the abandonment of these men.
    The Atlanta class suffered only two losses during the war, both in this one battle. Juneau was struck initially by a 24in torpedo, then by a 21in torpedo in nearly the same spot. Atlanta was subjected to some of the most withering short-range gunnery of the war: forty-nine shell hits, and then a 24in torpedo for good measure.
    For anyone wondering about the destructive potential of a Japanese 24in torpedo, I can only show you these views of HMAS Hobart after her encounter with a Japanese 21in torpedo. The Atlantas were only a touch smaller than Hobart:
    Australian Navy Ships--HMAS Hobart (1938-1962) -- World War II Actions and Activities
  5. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    Was the 24inch torpedo the one known as the "Long Lance"? Probably the most effective torpedo of the war.
  6. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    With respect Tiornu, "neglecting" is a not a word I would use to describe these acts. Neglecting is a purposeful and knowing act whereas there were many cases of "negligence" by personal of the Navy which lead to these tragic incidents.

    In the case of Indianapolis the "system" (HQ plotting) and acts of dereliction of duty by junior navy personal led to these losses.

    The treatment of Captain McVay was a disgrace and possibly one of the worst cases of the use of a Court Martial to take blame away from Naval Command.

    Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (the foremost U.S. Navy authority on submarines) virtually showed the Court Martial decision to be a farce by remitting McVay's sentence and restoring him to active duty.
  7. Tiornu

    Tiornu New Member

    "Neglect" does not denote intent, it means simply to fail to assign proper importance to a task.
    Most, but not all, 24in torpedo hits on Allied ships were from Long Lances. However, even the earlier marks had hefty warheads. I would assume the hits on both Atlanta and Juneau were from Long Lances. Their warhead was equivalent to about 1155 lbs of TNT. The torpedoes that crippled Bismarck and sank the Italian ships at Taranto had not quite 400 lbs of TNT.

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