The tragic story of the Sullivan brothers

By Mary O’London

Recently, a World War II ship has been found, 76 years after going down with nearly 700 sailors on board, including five brothers who refused to do national service unless they could serve together.

The USS Juneau, torpedoed by the Japanese, was discovered by a remote-controlled probe on St. Patrick’s Day, more than two miles under the surface near the Solomon Islands.

You may ask why my interest (seeing that I was then only one year old myself). Not to deviate any further and hoping that now I have aroused your interest, the date was poignant because the Sullivan brothers, all who died, were from an Irish American family.

Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, who funded the expedition to discover the ship, now has high hopes to recover it. The light cruiser, Juneau, was only in service for a year before being sunk at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Up to 115 crew survived the explosion, but most died as a nearby task force stayed away, fearing a Japanese attack. The death toll amounted to 687, with ten survivors.

The Sullivans, George, Frank, Joe, Matt and Al, ranged in age from 20 to 27. Frank, Joe and Matt were killed straight away. Al drowned the next day and George, insane with grief, died several days later, leaving the dreadful task to an officer to break the news to their parents.

The recovery team said: “We certainly didn’t plan to find the Juneau on St. Patrick’s Day.” The variables of these searches are just too great.

So, returning to my personal interest…the parents of the Sullivan boys emigrated to USA in 1900, forced to seek work in the wake of the Famine, no doubt.

So, from the small village of Adrigole, West Cork, they started their weary journey, proved they could work, raise a family, who in return felt they owed it to their parents and the country that gave them a living to do what was required of them, having had to sacrifice their precious sons to a watery grave.

As a nation, we need to hold ourselves in high esteem as to what our countrymen and women in history have done to make America great.