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The Sullivan Brothers – A Tribute

  The Sullivan Brothers

“We stick together.”

Friday, November 13, 1942 Off the shores of Guadalcanal

The yellow-black smoke of battle had cleared from the skies as the sun set in the South Pacific on that fateful day in November.  The deep swells of the ocean, however, still bore the scars of the previous night’s battle and the early morning of death and disaster.  A thick, black layer of oil moved with the currents, and in the midst of the oil floated the debris of an American light cruiser, the last remnants of the U.S.S. Juneau.  Desperate sailors clung to the debris, most of them wounded, all of them frightened.  They were all that remained of the Juneau’s crew of 698 American boys.  It was impossible to count the survivors, probably somewhere between 90 and 140, but such a count would have been worthless anyway.   Wounds, injuries, and the unforgiving sea diminished their numbers with each passing hour. The heat of the tropical sun gave way to a bone chilling night, pierced by the moans and cries of men suffering unimaginable horrors.   The cries and moans added an eerie atmosphere to a scene already beyond human comprehension.  The sounds would haunt the dreams of survivors for the rest of their lives, assuming that any of the men should survive.  And then, across the waters, could be heard another desperate voice crying hopelessly into the darkness:   “Frank?”  “Red?”  “Matt?”   “Al?”  It was the voice of George Sullivan, the oldest of five brothers who served on the Juneau.  George had survived and now sought desperately for his younger brothers.


Born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa; the five Sullivan brothers had always stuck together.  From George, the oldest, to Al, the youngest; there was only a 7 year age difference.  They had lived together at the plain but large house at 98 Adams Street, along with one sister Genevieve, and their parents Thomas and Alleta and grandma Mae Abel.  The longest period of time the boys had ever been separated had been the four years prior to World War II when George and Francis Henry, second oldest of the quintet and usually called “Frank”, had served in the Navy.  Even then, the two brothers had served most of their hitch together, on the same ships. George Sullivan was discharged after fulfilling his four year commitment on May 16, 1941.  Eleven days later Frank received his own discharge and both boys returned to the family home.  Six months later they listened intently to reports of the attack at Pearl Harbor.  Former ship mates and friends still on active duty and serving in the Hawaiian port, not to mention two brothers from nearby Fredericksburg, were under fire and both Sullivan boys felt both a sense of helplessness and anger.  They determined that night to return to service.  This time Joseph Eugene whom they all called “Red”, Madison Abel “Matt”, and even Albert Leo “Al”, insisted on joining them.  Their resolve was further strengthened when, just prior to Christmas, they learned the fate of the Fredericksburg brothers, Bill and Masten Ball.  Masten had survived the day of infamy, but Bill, who had frequented the Sullivan house and perhaps even “been sweet” on sister Genevieve, had gone to a watery grave aboard the U.S.S. Arizona. The five brothers who had always done everything together, walked into the local Navy recruiting station together.  Though Al, just nineteen years old and married less than two years would have qualified for a deferment from combat service, he insisted on being with his brothers.  He would leave behind not only a young wife, but little Jimmy Sullivan, his ten month old son.  The Navy was desperate for men in the early days after the destruction at Pearl Harbor, and quickly welcomed the Sullivan brothers.  Until the determined young men threw a new “wrinkle” into their enlistment plans.  George had echoed the sentiment the night of December 7th when the five young men had made their decision.  “Well, I guess our minds are made up…when we go in, we want to go in together.  If the worst comes to worst, why we’ll all have gone down together.”  Now, as they stood in the recruiting office, they demanded that the Navy assure them that they would be allowed to serve together…on the same ship.  When they couldn’t get the guarantee that day, they took their demands all the way to Washington, DC.  In a letter to the Navy Department they explained their desire to defend their Country, but insisted that if the Navy wanted the Sullivan brothers, it would have to be a package deal.  “WE STICK TOGETHER!”  Finally, the Navy agreed.  The transcripts of all five Sullivan brothers reveal that each was “Enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 3 January, 1942” and together they were “Transferred to the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois.”  Exactly one month later the individual orders for each of the five sailors read, “Transferred to the receiving ship, New York, for duty in the USS Juneau detail and on board when commissioned.” Eleven days later, on February 14, 1942, the USS Juneau was commissioned.  The five Sullivan brothers became instant celebrities when photographers captured the photo seen in the background of this page, a photograph that symbolized not only the sense of brotherhood among those who volunteered to defend our Nation, but the commitment of an entire family from the heartland of America.  George, Frank, Red, Matt and Al enjoyed the spotlight that day.  They also shared the spotlight with four other brothers, Joseph, James, Louis and Patrick Rogers.  In time, a total of 9 sets of brothers would serve on the USS Juneau.  But no family in America could match the record of the five Sullivans.

Late in May, George, Matt and Al came home one last time.  It gave Al the opportunity to say farewell to his young wife, Katherine Mary.  For her it must have been a time of mixed emotions.  She had lost her mother at the age of seven.  Now she was losing her husband, if even for a brief few years…possibly forever.  In order to survive on Al’s small Naval salary she had moved in with Tom and Alleta.  She could have kept her husband out of harms way, used his role as husband and father to defer him from combat.  But she knew the Sullivan brothers well, loved Al enough, not to come between the brothers.“Don’t worry,” perhaps he reminded her,  “WE STICK TOGETHER!”

sullivans_jimmy.jpg (25578 bytes)

Albert Sullivan with 15-month old Jimmy, Thomas and Alleta, and brother Matt.  (Photo courtesy of the Grout Museum, Waterloo, IA)

A sixth Sullivan joined the Navy that day, though he was only 15-months old.   Little Jimmy donned his uniform cap to pose with his father and uncle Matt for local media.  Then it was time for a final farewell.  On June 1st the USS Juneau sailed out of New York and into history, carrying nearly 700 sailors including:

Joseph, James, Louis, and Patrick ROGERS (James & Joseph Later transferred to another ship) William and Harold WEEKS Russell and Charles COMBS Albert and Michael KRALL George and John WALLACE Curtis and Donald DAMON Richard and Russell WHITE Harold and Charles CAULK & THE FIVE SULLIVAN BROTHERS

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From : Home of the Heroes,com

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Additional memorial photographs –

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Personal note – Please remember – the readers, along with myself, enjoy reading about the stories you have of your own, from relatives and/or friends’ lives in the service.  When you have the time, add the story into the comments.  If you would care for someone to be included in the Farewell Salutes – add that info as well.  Thank You.

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MEMORIAL DAY

WWII Memorial poem at Arlington Cemetery

WWII Memorial poem at Arlington Cemetery

TODAY IS MEMORIAL DAY.  WE HONOR HEROES.  THEY ARE HEROES, NOT BECAUSE THEY DIED, BUT BECAUSE THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WERE RISKING – AND WENT ANYWAY!

REMEMBER!

Wear your colors proud!

MEMORIAL DAY

by:  CW Johnson
 
We walked among the crosses
Where our fallen soldiers lay.
And listened to the bugle
As Taps began to play.
 
The Chaplain led a prayer
We stood with heads bowed low.
And I thought of fallen comrades
I had known so long ago.
 
They came from every city
Across this fertile land.
That we might live in freedom
They lie here ‘neath the sand.
 
I felt a little guilt
My sacrifice was small.
I only lost a little time
But these men lost their all.
 
Now the services are over
For this Memorial Day
To the names upon these crosses
I just want to say,
 
Thanks for what you’ve given
No one could ask for more.
May you rest with God in heaven
From now through evermore.
 

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James J. O'Leary, my uncle, photo courtesy of Mustang Koji.

MSgt. James J. O’Leary, USMC, my uncle, photo courtesy of Mustang Koji.

 Mustang Koji can be located HERE!
 
click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

James “Holly” Black – Easley, SC; US Army, Korea

Keith Borck – Sebring, FL; US Army, Vietnam, helicopter pilot, Distinguish Service Cross

James Crawford – Springfield, IL; US Army Koreaus-flag-and-soldier-1

Henry Davis – Augusta, ME; US Army, Vietnam

Virginia Devine – Joliet, IL; WAVES, WWII

John Hamilton Sr. – Jacksonville, AL; US Navy, Korea, SeaBee, Chief Petty officer, 22years

Hubert “Pete” King – McCook, NE & Minneola, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Charles Long – Ocala, FL; US Navy, WWII

James Pasdertz Sr. – Joliet, IL; US Army, Vietnam

Donald Smith – Jacksonville, FL; US Army & US Air Force, Vietnam 3 tours

Gordon Willis – Falmouth, MA – US Air Force, Korea (Famed Hollywood cinematographer)

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Labor Day

In the style of the 1950’s, I would like to exhibit how we often celebrate the first Monday of September and honor our workers and their contribution to America.

Thomas Kinkade's tribute to Indianapolis Speedway

Thomas Kinkade’s tribute to Indianapolis Speedway

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Share with the rest of us your own stories or those of your families………….

The first NYC Labor Day Parade

The first NYC Labor Day Parade

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Norman Rockwell's Labor Day Tribute

Norman Rockwell’s Labor Day Tribute

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For those of you outside the U.S., please share with us what you, your families and/or your friends might also celebrate around this time of year……………….

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a good old fashioned Labor Day bar-b-que

a good old fashioned Labor Day bar-b-que

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Nick Savage racing car 1950

Nick Savage racing car 1950

HAVE A FUN AND SAFE HOLIDAY – EVERYBODY!!

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Another wonderful example of Labor Day was posted by a fellow blogger at: see address below: http://lillianscupboard.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/labor-day-in-the-1930s-40s/

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A current story and wonderful tribute……..

80 mile tribute

80 mile tribute

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes –

Good Conduct Medals

Good Conduct Medals

James Joyner – Bellevue, Nebraska & Arlington, VA; U.S. Coast Guard, Sr. Chief Petty Officer, WWII, Korea & Vietnam

Donald Jackson – Oskaloosa, Iowa & Seattle, WA; U.S. Army, Alaska

Larry Kessinger – Junction City, Kansas & Surprise, AZ; U.S. Air Force, Korean Service Medal, UN Service Medal

Lucille Parsons Balcom – Orange, NJ & Fishers Island, NY; WWII, American Red Cross

Jack Riggle – Arizona; U.S. Navy WWII< PTO

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