Sunday, September 9, 2018


Currently in Cedar Falls IA (Low 51 Mostly Sunny; Nice High 71) 

We visited the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in nearby Waterloo. 

The five Sullivan Brothers (George, Joe, Frank, Matt, and Al) enlisted in the Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor with the stipulation that they be allowed to serve together. Their boyhood motto was 'we stick together'. The Navy had a policy against that but it wasn't strictly enforced. They served on the USS Juneau CL-52. Here they are aboard the USS Juneau.

During the battle of Guadalcanal the USS Juneau was hit by a torpedo and was among a group of damaged ships leaving the area for repairs when hit by one more torpedo on November 13, 1942 that hit the ammunition magazines causing a huge explosion and the ship quickly sank.

Thinking that there were no chance of survivors due to the explosion the remaining damaged ships continued on. Unfortunately the order to search for survivors got lost in the quagmire of war and the search did not begin until 8 days later. About 100 survived the initial explosion, including George and Al. Frank, Joe and Matt were killed instantly. Al drowned the next day and George died from his injuries 5 days later. By the time the search was executed only 10 survived out of a crew of 697.

Because of security precautions of not wanting to provide information to the enemy the loss of the USS Juneau was not reported until January 1943. The 'Fighting Sullivan Brothers' became national heroes and their parents made speaking engagements at war plants. In 1944 their story was made into a movie 'The Fighting Sullivans'.

We walked through the museum.

It was eerie hearing a recording made in the 1930s of the Sullivan brothers singing 'When Irish Eyes are Smiling' playing while we were walking through the museum. There was recreation of the Sullivan family living room that was neat to go through.  The museum had a display of ships and Jo was happy to see her father's ship, the USS New Mexico, as one of the ships displayed.

After our tour we went to the gift shop and bought a t-shirt and 'The Fighting Sullivans' DVD. We watched the movie and the extras soon after our visit.

We always like to provide some tidbits that people may have forgotten about this time in our history. The USS Juneau was very close to having another terrible brother tragedy. Four Rogers brothers (Joseph, Patrick, Louie and Jimmy) also served on the USS Juneau. But in October 1942 Joseph and Jimmy, both boxers, transferred to a supply ship that had a good boxing room. The remaining brothers perished with the Sullivans about a month later.

Another family, the Borgstroms, lost four brothers (Leroy, Clyde, Rolon and Rulon) from March-August 1944 in four separate engagements. Because of this the family petitioned for another son, Boyd, already in the service to be released and for another son, Eldon, below enlistment age to be exempted. Because of the Borgstroms and the Sullivans the US War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy. The movie 'Saving Private Ryan' was inspired by the stories of the Sullivan and Borgstrom brothers.

Finally, the movie 'The Fighting Sullivans' was originally titled 'The Sullivans'.

It was a great place to visit which we highly recommend. The sacrifice that these families made, and countless others have made for our country and our flag, we cannot ever support those that refuse to stand for our National Anthem.

Till next time,

Bob and Jo

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