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May 27, 2013

Memorial Day, 2013

Since 1868, Memorial Day has been a holiday to remember those who have given their lives in the service of our country.  Not only do I say a silent prayer for those who have perished but also a prayer for their families and loved ones who survived.

The Sullivan brothers on board the USS Juneau; from left to right:
Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George.

Do you know the story of the Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa?  During World War II, the 5 brothers - George, 27; Francis "Frank," 25; Joseph "Red," 23; Madison "Matt," 22; and Albert "Al," 19 - served together aboard the USS Juneau (CL-52).  When it was sunk on November 13, 1942, during a ferocious enemy attack off the Solomon Islands, all 5 Sullivan brothers perished.

For national security reasons the Navy did not reveal the loss of the Juneau for almost 2 months.  The parents of the brothers were not notified of their deaths until the 12th of January, 1942.

Historically, the tragedy has been referred to as the legacy of the Sullivan Brothers.  I also think of it as the saga of the Sullivan Sons.  How their parents withstood the loss I can only imagine.

Following the tragic loss of the Sullivans, the U.S. Navy changed the policy under which siblings are deployed - no longer were they allowed to serve on the same vessel.

The unimaginable loss of the Sullivan Sons directly affected my family.  My father and three of his brothers - Bill, Bud, Glen, and Ray - also served during WWII and were not allowed to serve on the same ship.  For that reason two of the brothers joined the Air Force instead of the Navy.  Thankfully, and almost unbelievably, all four survived the war.

Although I was born a generation after WWII, I grew up listening to my father recount the tragedy of the Sullivan family.  Every Memorial Day I think of my family's fortune and the Sullivan family's tremendous loss.


  1. A beautiful post of remembrance!

  2. How incredibly sad! I knew about not allowing siblings to serve together, but I did not know why. Thanks for sharing this touching story. xx

  3. I did not know the reason for not allowing siblings to serve together, either... How heartbreaking that must have been for their parents...

    I remember driving thought my mother's old hometown, we would ride by this one house and my mother would tell me when she was a little girl, the kids were told to behave anytime they went by because this woman had lost all her sons (I think there were 4) in the war, I think they all died in separate battles...but can you imagine the pain she endured every time she had to go through something so tragic???...something I won't forget...