Veteran’s Voices: The Sullivan Brothers

Veterans Voices

(WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — The loss of a loved one fighting for our country is unimaginable, but there is no family that has given more than the Sullivan’s.

The story of five brothers from Iowa who all served on the same naval ship in world two as part of the navy’s recruitment program. All five died when the ship was hit by an enemy sub in the South Pacific.

George, Frank, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan, were all on board the USS Juneau in 1942 when it was hit by a Japanese sub’s torpedo. The ship exploded and quickly sank. The navy had a policy of separating siblings, but it wasn’t strictly enforced.

The 10 men who did survive the battle were seriously wounded and exposed to repeated shark attacks, hunger and thirst.  

“As the ship went for repairs it was done by a Japanese submarine, five brothers died one of them survive for a day or two, but he succumbed to oil and heat in charge and everything else,” said Bob Neymeyer, Sullivan Brother’s Iowa Veterans Museum.

Back in Iowa, the family was grief stricken, but when the navy asked them to participate in speaking engagements on behalf of the war effort, they agreed, and the “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” became national heroes.

“The navy one was after a time maybe ask them if they would be willing to do a promotional material for the war the war bonds and Kris Recruitment until the parent, and a leader as well as the room by brother sister Genevieve to her for about 18 months on cross east coast to the west coast worship was named in the Sullivan’s honor,” said Neymeyer.

As a result of the Sullivan’s deaths, the U.S. War Dept. adopted the sole survivor policy, designed to protect family members from the draft or from combat duty if they’ve already lost a family member in military service.

Wreckage of the USS Juneau was recently located in 2018 off the coast of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. The Sullivan brothers also have a convention center named after them in downtown Waterloo, Iowa.

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