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Origins of Ship Names
The Sullivans

The five Sullivan Brothers of Iowa, were all killed when their ship, the Juneau, was attacked by the Japanese during World War II. The destroyer The Sullivans serves as a constant reminder to the Navy of the many sacrifices made by the people of this country. There have been few instances in the history of the United States where five sons from one family have made the supreme sacrifice on the field of battle…

The Sullivans lived in Waterloo, Iowa; they were a large, loving family. When reports came in that their friend Bill Ball was killed at Pearl Harbor, the five brothers decided to enlist in the Navy. They insisted, however, that the Navy allow them to remain together throughout their tour of duty; unfortunately, the Navy agreed. They were stationed together aboard the light Cruiser, the Juneau.

On November 8, 1942, a large Navy task force left New Caledonia to bring reinforcements and much needed supplies to the Marines at Guadacanal. The Japanese also sent a force to resupply their men on the other side of the island. On November 12, the American ships and Marine aircraft destroyed attacking Japanese aircraft. That night, US reconnaissance discovered that the Japanese were approaching, and prepared for battle. The fight began at 1:45 AM. Within thirty minutes the engagement was over. The Japanese lost a battleship and two destroyers; the US lost five of their thirteen ships, with many casualties.

The Juneau received a torpedo hit on the port side which left a huge hole and an almost severed keel. The surviving American ships, including the Juneau, headed back towards base at daybreak. They did not get far. Later that morning, a Japanese submarine fired a torpedo which hit the Juneau near its ammunition supply; the ship was destroyed. Captain Gilbert, acting Commander of the task force, decided that he would request an Army aircraft in the area to get the position of the Juneau, rather than delaying the escape of the other ships.

Tragically, the report the pilot sent in did not get to the proper authorities, and the approximately eighty survivors of the attack were forced to stay in life boats for over ten days until help came. Those ten days were horrific, as men succumbed to their wounds, or were attacked by surrounding sharks. Hunger and thirst plagued the men, until they became delirious. George Sullivan, who survived the initial attack, decided in his delirium that he needed a bath; he was killed by a shark. Only ten men survived to be rescued. None of the Sullivan brothers returned home.

The "Fighting Sullivan Brothers" became national heroes. President Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII sent their respects to the parents. The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the brothers. Congress passed the Sullivan Law, which would prevent siblings from serving on the same ship, in order to prevent another tragedy such as this one.

In April 1943, a new destroyer was christened the USS The Sullivans. It was the first destroyer to be named for more than one person. The ship sported the shamrock of Ireland on her forward stack and sailed into World War II with 23 crew members named Sullivan. In service from 1943-1965, she earned nine Battle Stars during World War II fighting in the Marshalls, Carolines, Mariannas and Philippines. and She earned two more battle stars during the Korean conflict. After deployment in Korea, the Cuban blockade, and the rescue efforts for the sub Thresher, the 376-foot, 2,050 ton destroyer was decommissioned. In 1977 was dedicated as part of the Naval and Servicemen's Park, Buffalo, New York.

On April 17, 1997 Kelly Ann Sullivan Loughren, the ship's sponsor and grand-daughter of Albert Sullivan, and John Sullivan, grandchildren of Albert and the daughter of James and Sally Sullivan, was a present at Stapleton Pier, Staten Island New York for the formal commissioning into the US Navy of the second The Sullivans (DDG-68). The Sullivans is the 18th of 32 Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyers authorized byCongress to be built. These multi-mission ships are equipped with the Navy's modern Aegis combat weapons system, which combines communications, radar and weapons technologies in a single platform. The ship is equipped to carry Standard surface-to-air missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from forward and aft vertical launching systems, two fully automated Phalanx close-in weapon systems, Harpoon anti-ship missiles,one five-inch gun and electronic warfare systems. The Sullivans is 505 feet inlength, has a beam of 66 feet and displaces approximately 8,500 tons fully loaded. The ship will have a crew of 26 officers and 315 sailors.


Name Number Builder Homeport Ordered Commissioned Decommissioned
USS The Sullivans DD-537 30 Sep 194301 Dec 1974
USS The Sullivans DE-15317 Apr 1997

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Friday, December 04, 1998 10:10:08 AM