breaking news

Greenon students killed in crash to be honored by NASCAR team

Parents who lost 5 sons in war were heroes, too


The supreme sacrifice made by those honored on Memorial Day is and has always been felt by Americans at home. Many American families have endured the misfortune of losing a family member in war, and those who have not know of families that have suffered this extreme loss.

Perhaps the greatest such recorded tragedy befell a family in Waterloo, Iowa, a city that shares the same name as the village in New York that observed the first Memorial Day celebration in 1866.

Thomas Sullivan, a freight conductor on the Illinois Central Railroad, and his wife, Alleta, a homemaker, and their six children were a happy, close-knit Catholic family during the years prior to World War II. Sons George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert and daughter Genevieve were the pride of their parents and were popular in the Waterloo community. The brothers were inseparable and their reputation in Waterloo was that if you fought one Sullivan, you had to fight them all.

Shortly after Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Sullivan brothers marched to the local Navy recruiting office to enlist. When informed by Lt. Cmdr. Jones that he could not guarantee their demands to serve together, due to a Navy tradition that separated members of the same family during wartime, the brothers left the recruiting station.

George then wrote a letter to the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., requesting that they be allowed to stay together. The Navy granted this request in writing and the Sullivan brothers, with the Navy document in hand, returned to the recruiting office and enlisted.

The Sullivan brothers were assigned to the USS Juneau, a cruiser assigned to duty in the Pacific Theater in 1942. After the boys departed, Thomas and Alleta turned their attention to an everyday life that was quite different.

On Nov. 13, 1942, the USS Juneau and other vessels of the Pacific fleet became engaged in a sea battle with Japanese fighter and torpedo planes near Guadalcanal. The Juneau was hit by a torpedo and exploded. Some 700 men, including the five Sullivan brothers, were lost.

A few weeks later, at seven in the morning, three men in Navy uniforms called at the Sullivan home. Thomas answered the door and was greeted by the recruiter, Lt. Cmdr. Jones.

Thomas summoned the family after being informed that there was news about the boys. Jones then produced a telegram and from it read, “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your sons Albert, Francis, George, Joseph and Madison Sullivan are missing in action in the South Pacific.”

Although devastated by shock and grief, Mrs. Sullivan later recalled that the family maintained composure until the men left. Once alone, the family tried to deal with the magnitude of their loss. Then, within a half-hour after receiving the news, Thomas Sullivan, who had a record of 33 years without an absence from work, departed for the railroad.

Mrs. Sullivan gained strength from the hope that the boys might yet be alive, since they had officially been reported “missing.” Because of her unparalleled loss, she believed that she could provide inspiration and boost morale of those involved in the the war efforts at home.

Mrs. Sullivan was afforded this opportunity in February of 1943, when the Navy’s Industrial Incentive Division requested that she and her husband tour Eastern shipyards and war plants to tell about their sons and inspire war production. In June of 1943, they received official notice that their sons were dead.

When asked by the Navy for permission to do a motion picture about their sons, the Sullivans were hesitant. They finally agreed when convinced that the movie could reach more people than their speaking engagements ever could. The movie, “The Fighting Sullivans,” was released in 1944. The reaction of the U.S. War Department to this event is a theme of the 1998 movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”

The story of the Sullivan family is not just the heroism of the five brothers who refused to be separated and died together fighting for their country. It is also a story of how two parents courageously faced an unfathomable loss and assisted the American war effort in the memory of their sons.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Prince William reveals who suggested he and Harry walk behind Princess Diana's casket
Prince William reveals who suggested he and Harry walk behind Princess Diana's casket

After years of speculation, Prince William has finally revealed who decided that he and Prince Harry should walk behind their mother’s coffin at her highly publicized funeral. In a new documentary for BBC, “Diana, 7 Days,” Prince William said it was his grandfather, Prince Philip, who suggested the boys follow behind their...
Greenon students killed in crash to be honored by NASCAR team
Greenon students killed in crash to be honored by NASCAR team

A NASCAR team will honor two local boys who were killed in a car crash Sunday. Joey Gase’s number 52 NASCAR Xfinity Series car will sport a Greenon decal that will also feature the pictures of David Waag and Connor Williams. Waag and Williams were killed when a black 2005 Toyota Corolla they were in the back seat of went off the right side of...
Highs in the 70s today; sunny, warm through the weekend
Highs in the 70s today; sunny, warm through the weekend

A quiet but cool morning with temperatures dropping into the low 50s, said Storm Center 7  Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. Staying dry into the weekend Cooler than normal temps Not much relief for allergy sufferers  TODAY: Sunshine and some late afternoon clouds. Highs in the low to mid 70s. The average or normal high for this time of...
Miles of bike path key to Central State annexation into Xenia
Miles of bike path key to Central State annexation into Xenia

The city of Xenia and Central State University are separated by about six miles along the Ohio to Erie Trail, but the bike path is city-owned, and that tether may be enough to extend the city limits into the campus. City Council members will vote tonight on the first of a series of resolutions to petition for a type-II annexation — referred to...
Well-known pediatrician arrested on child sex charges
Well-known pediatrician arrested on child sex charges

Dr. Chris Calendine was arrested Monday after a grand jury indicted him on charges of aggravated sexual battery and sexual battery by an authority figure. The 45-year-old pediatrician has a popular practice in Hawkins County, Tennessee. The charges reportedly stem from allegations relating to two boys, ages 12 and 14, and the indictment follows...
More Stories