24 August 2007

Meet another family that lost 5 sons to a war

Reading about the Hubbard family today in the news and about how this family gave up three of thier sons to the war in Iraq. Then with the lost of an US Army UH-60 Black Hawk heliocopter the Hubbard family had lost two sons to the war. The first one LCPL. Jared Hubbard to a roadside bomb in Ramadi in 2004 and now Spc. Nathan Hubbard died. All the Mainstream media seems to be making this a big deal. I feel for the family and the lost of their loved ones, yet this isn't the first family to lose one or more member in the same war. Thinking about this at lunch with some of the guys that I work with, I remembered the name of another family that lost all 5 of thier sons in the same battle in World War 2. That family was the Sullivan family when the ship the sons were on was sunk from under them in the meat grinder that became known as Guadalcanal.

The five brothers: George, Frank , Joseph, Madison, Albert; aged 27, 25, 23, 22, 19 respectively. They joined the US Navy after Pearl Harbor after hearing that one of thier sister's boyfriends had died at the Japanese attack. All five of them enlisted in 1942 and did so on the stipulation that they serve together. They all came from Waterloo, Iowa. The Navy bent over backwards to make that request happen. The oldest two, George and Frank had previously served in the Navy for an initial four years and had gotten out in May of 1941 before the war crisis froze everyone in place. After hearing about a close friend and boyfriend of theirs sister named Bill Ball who had died that terrible morning of December 7th, 1941. The brothers decided to enlist again in the Navy to take the fight back to the Japanese. Through out the entire enlistment request they stated they wanted to served together. So the US Navy honored that request, mainly as a PR stunt initially. So they all were processed together, sent off to boot camp together, and then only time there were broken up was to attend the rating specific schools. After successfully graduating their A-schools the 5 brothers were assigned to the USS Juneau (CL-52) a light cruiser that had been recently commissioned.
The Juneau had previously served in actions in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Her previous claim to fame was as part of the blockading force off some of the French colonies still in the Americas. The tied down the Vichy French naval units to prevent them from sorting and razing all sorts of havoc with Allied Shipping. As the naval war in the Pacific became something of desperation, the Juneau sailed Brooklyn Naval Yard to be refitted and made the transition through the Panama Canal into the Pacific theater of Operations. it was during the refitting that the Sullivan Brothers joined up with the crew of the Juneau.
She joined up with the USS Wasp (CV-7) task force as they sortied out of New Caledonia to help support the US Marines on the ground at Guadalcanal. It was during the Battle of Santa Cruz, that the Juneau first tasted combat. The Juneau was there with the rest of the screening destroyers to help and rescue the survivors of both the USS Wasp and the USS Hornet (CV-8). Both of which were sunk during the battle. The screening force brought home a total of 1910 survivors from just the Wasp alone.
During the third Battle of Guadalcanal that the Juneau was sunk. The Juneau formed a covering force for Adm. Richmond Turner's cargo ships, which were bringing in fresh troops and needed supplies to the Marines ashore. On the morning of 12th of November the ship arrived off the 'Canal and with in hours they were attacked by Japanese bombers out of Rabaul. The Juneau put up a great fight in helping to protect the transports from the air attack, it was that night when things went bad for the Americans. A strong Japanese naval force composed of 2 battleships and numerous cruisers and destroyers came south down the slot. The Juneau was one of three light cruisers, two heavy cruisers, and 8 destroyers trying to form a covering force to still protect the cargo ships in the Iron Bottom Sound and protect Henderson Airfield. During the battle the Juneau was struck by a torpedo and she along with the two other cruisers the Helena and San Fransisco were trying to make it south to the US Naval Base of Espiritu Santo. The Juneau had three torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-6 put into her on the morning of the 13th of November. The Juneau broke into and sank in 20 seconds.
Dear readers take that in for just a second. imagine having your bed shaken and your house disappearing in 20 seconds. That is what it was like for those men onboard the Juneau. 20 seconds is about how long it takes to start a car, 20 seconds is how long it takes an average person to dial a long distance telephone number. 20 seconds is about how long an average computer takes to boot up to Windows.
Frank, Joe, and Matt Sullivan died instantly to either the torpedoes or from the ship going under in 20 seconds. The youngest Al died from drowning later in the day and George survived for about 4 or five more days before succumbing to his injuries. Out of a crew of 700 only ten were rescued a week later. The reason that the other ships in her group didn't stay to rescue survivors was due to the threat of the submarine and it was only a pair of ships that had no weapons with which to fight a submarine.

The aftermath of the Sullivan brothers event lead to the establishment of the Sole Survivor Policy with in the Navy Department and War Department. On top of that the Navy became stricter about where family members served in a theater of combat operations and what units they served with. There has been only one movie made about the Sullivan brothers, in 1944 and it was nominated for an Academy Award in 1945. The US Navy had built two destroyers and named them after the Sullivans. The most recently is an Alreigh Burke class destroyer, DDG-68.



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