Next month marks 75th anniversary of Sullivan brothers' deaths
By PAT KINNEY | Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa | Published: October 15, 2017
WATERLOO, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — The granddaughter and grandniece of Waterloo’s five Sullivan brothers killed during World War II and their namesake ship will participate in a 75th anniversary commemoration of their deaths during Veterans Day observances in New York City next month.
That will be followed by a separate commemoration in Waterloo at 1 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Grout Museum District’s Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, 503 South St.
Kelly Sullivan, a Cedar Falls elementary school teacher and the granddaughter of Albert Sullivan, the youngest of the five brothers who died on the USS Juneau during World War II, will participate in events in New York and Waterloo.
She has met with family members and descendants of the Sullivans’ shipmates in recent months and will be reunited with current and former sailors of the current Navy ship named for them when the USS The Sullivans arrives in New York, where it was commissioned into the Navy 20 years ago. Kelly Sullivan christened the ship when it was launched in 1995 and is its official sponsor.
The USS The Sullivans ship’s crew will participate in New York’s Veterans Day parade, Sullivan said.
“It just so happens it’s the 75th, so we decided to make it a big commemoration of the 75th too,” Sullivan said, with activities Nov. 9-11.
At a recent event in Pittsburgh, Sullivan met the daughter of the late Margaret Jaros Woods, who was engaged to Joseph “Red” Sullivan, the middle of the five brothers. A few weeks later, she participated in a reunion of the USS The Sullivans Association in Buffalo, N.Y., where the original USS The Sullivans, now decommissioned, is docked at a military park. She participated in her first such reunion there 40 years ago as a young girl with her parents when that ship was brought there.
It’s hoped the current USS The Sullivans, a guided missile destroyer, can be docked at the same Staten Island pier where it was commissioned in April 1997, Sullivan said. That pier, now named Sullivans Pier, is across New York Harbor from the Brooklyn Navy Yard where the Juneau was commissioned in 1942.
“It’s pretty poignant to think about the fact that 75 years ago is when the Juneau left from that area, because that where the Juneau was commissioned,” Sullivan said. The ship was commissioned on Feb. 14, 1942.
Nine months later the Juneau, a Navy light cruiser, was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine off the Solomon Islands on Nov. 13, 1942, as it and other battle-damaged American ships were returning to port from the naval Battle of Guadalcanal. All but 13 of the Juneau’s crew of 700 perished, including George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan of Waterloo.
They had enlisted in the Navy after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the condition they be allowed to serve together. The five brothers’ deaths is considered the greatest combat-related loss of life by one family at one time in U.S. military history. The Juneau and the Sullivans earned four battle stars for engagements in which they were involved.
“It’s going to be really meaningful,” Sullivan said. “I’m excited. There’s a lot of symbolism. I just think it’s going to be neat. I’m excited my sailors (of the current USS The Sullivans) get the chance to be there to celebrate Veterans Day and honor those killed on the Juneau.” She noted crew members are schooled in the Sullivans’ history. It’s hoped as many former crew members as possible can attend. She noted the crew saved the ship, based in Mayport, Fla., from damage during Hurricane Matthew last year.
The Waterloo event is being held a week later so Sullivan can attend. That event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited. Museum admission will only be charged to those wishing to tour the exhibits. For more information, call 234 -6357.
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