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Who were the Sullivan Brothers

Pat Kinney, Grout Museum District

George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan, sons of Thomas and Alleta Sullivan of Waterloo, joined the Navy in World War II after their friend, Bill Ball of Fredericksburg, died on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. They enlisted on the condition they be allowed to serve together, a departure from Navy policy. They died after their ship, the USS Juneau, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk on Nov. 13, 1942 following the naval Battle of Guadalcanal. All but 14 of the Juneau’s crew of nearly 700 perished in the sinking or at sea in following days. The Sullivans’ deaths is considered the greatest combat-related loss of life by one family at one time in U.S. military history. They became national heroes. Their parents and sister Genevieve, who enlisted in the Navy WAVES, participated in numerous war bond rallies. President Franklin Roosevelt commissioned the Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans in the brothers’ memory. It served in many battles and rescued many sailors and downed airmen; the brothers’ uncle, Patrick Henry Sullivan, was a crew member.

Sullivan Park, on the site of the family home, was dedicated in 1964. Waterloo’s convention center was renamed for the brothers in 1988; its plaza still bears their name. The first USS The Sullivans is now part of a Buffalo, N.Y. military park. A second USS The Sullivans was commissioned in 1997. Kelly Sullivan, granddaughter of Albert Sullivan, became that ship’s official sponsor, as Alleta did the first vessel. In that role, Kelly Sullivan, an elementary school teacher, has promoted the ship, the Navy and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls community. Her father, Jim Sullivan, a toddler when his father and uncles died, also served in the Navy and worked as an electrician for the city of Waterloo.

The Sullivans’ motto was: “We Stick Together.”