Thanks Morphis, fitting tribute to an incredible story of sacrafice for one's country. With your permission I will leave this thread here for a while and then move it to our History Section
The 5 "Fighting" Sullivan Brothers on the USS Juneau
In early November 1942, as the struggle for control of Guadalcanal remained undecided, both the Allies and the Japanese were desperately trying to reinforce the island with troops, food, and ammunition while trying to prevent the other side from doing the same. Although two American convoys arrived safely on 11 and 12 November, they had only partially unloaded their cargoes when Magic (intercepted Japanese messages) intelligence and reconnaissance reports indicated strong Japanese naval forces were approaching the island on a shore bombardment mission. As the American transports steamed eastwards for safety, an American force of five cruisers and eight destroyers, under command of Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan took up station in the strait between Guadalcanal and Florida Island, called "Ironbottom Sound" owing to the many sunken ships littering the sea floor from the naval battles.
After midnight on 13 November, a Japanese formation of two battleships, a light cruiser, and eleven destroyers steamed past Savo Island, heading toward Guadalcanal. At 0124, these warships appeared on American radar and the two forces closed rapidly. Poor radar coordination, however, left the American warships vainly trying to pin down the location of the Japanese warships. The leading destroyers of both forces sighted each other briefly in the darkness and at 0145 USS Juneau
received the order, "Stand by to open fire." A few minutes later, just after a Japanese searchlight flicked on, the lead American destroyers opened fire at the Japanese warships at a mere 1,600 yards. The Japanese replied in kind and the two formations quickly mingled together, firing into each other at point-blank range in the glare-lit darkness.
The Light Cruiser USS Juneau
Within minutes, the Japanese destroyer Akatsuki
and the American cruiser USS Atlanta
lay dead in the water, victims of shell and torpedo hits. Meanwhile, the two Japanese battleships, worried that American torpedo-armed destroyers were too close for comfort, tried to turn away. Still, the four American destroyers in lead fired guns and torpedoes at Hiei
, the nearest Japanese battleship, damaging her superstructure with numerous shell hits. Two of the American destroyers USS Cushing
and USS Laffey
were mortally wounded after a brief fire fight, with Laffey
exploding and sinking shortly thereafter.
The engagement turned against the American task force when three Japanese destroyers conducted a torpedo attack from the northern flank. Torpedo hits damaged cruiser USS Portland
and sank destroyer USS Barton
. Gunfire from these and other Japanese warships turned USS Monssen
into a smoking wreck and damaged both cruiser USS San Francisco
and destroyer USS Aaron Ward
. In return, by the time the fifteen-minute battle ended, destroyer Yudachi
was a burning hulk and battleship Hiei
was left crippled, steering an erratic course to the northwest. By the following afternoon, owing to scuttling charges or damage, Atlanta
, and Monssen
had all sunk. Two Japanese ships soon joined them when Yudachi
exploded under shell fire from Portland,
went under following bomb and torpedo hits delivered by Navy and Marine aircraft.
The light cruiser Juneau
in which the five Sullivan brothers were surviving,suffered a different fate. Just a few minutes into the battle, Juneau
was hit by a Japanese torpedo on the port side near the forward fire room. The shock wave from the explosion buckled the deck, shattered the fire control computers, and knocked out power. The cruiser limped away from the battle, down by the bow and struggling to maintain 18 knots. She rejoined the surviving American warships at dawn on 13 November and zig-zagged to the southeast in company with two other cruisers and three destroyers.
About an hour before noon, the task force crossed paths with Japanese submarine I-26
. At 1101, the submarine fired a three torpedoes at San Francisco
. None hit that cruiser, but one passed beyond and struck Juneau
on the port side very near the previous hit. The ensuing magazine explosion blew the light cruiser in half, killing most of the crew. A message from USS Helena
to a nearby B-17 search plane reported that Juneau
was lost at latitude 10 degrees South and longitude 161 degrees East and that survivors were in the water.
Owing to the risk of another submarine attack and because the sections of Juneau
sank in only a few minutes, the American task force did not stay to check for survivors. However, approximately 115 of Juneau
's crew survived the explosion. But, as Helena
's message unfortunately did not reach Noumea and there remained uncertainty about the number of Japanese ships in the area, rescue efforts did not begin for several days. Exposure, exhaustion, and shark attacks whittled down the survivors and only ten men were rescued from the water eight days after the sinking.
The Sullivans were natives of Waterloo, Iowa. They were:
- George Thomas Sullivan, 27, Gunner's Mate Second Class
- Francis "Frank" Henry Sullivan, 25, Coxswain
- Joseph "Red" Eugene Sullivan, 23, Seaman Second Class
- Madison "Matt" Abel Sullivan, 22, Seaman Second Class
- Albert "Al" Leo Sullivan, 19, Seaman Second Class
They enlisted on January 3, 1942 ,with the stipulation that they serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but this was not strictly enforced. George and Frank had served in the Navy before but their brothers had not.
fought in a number of engagements during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. On November 13, 1942, the Juneau
was struck by a torpedo and had to withdraw. Later that morning, the Juneau
was struck again, this time from a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-26 . The ship quickly sunk and rescue efforts were not forthcoming due to fears about the Japanese naval presence. Eight days later ten survivors were retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days.
God Bless their Souls and those of their shipmates