Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Waterloo #1: Sullivan Museum

MS Linda and I were going to the Grout Museum in Waterloo, Iowa to see EllynAnne Geisel. Her Apron Chronicles exhibit was there -- and she was doing several presentations.

The Grout Museum is part of the Sullivan Museum in Waterloo, Iowa. The Sullivan Museum is named after the Sullivan brothers. Their story is well known here in Iowa -- and it is the saddest thing I ever heard....

From Wikipedia:

The five Sullivan brothers enlisted in the US Navy on January 3, 1942 with the stipulation that they serve together. All five were assigned to the light cruiser USS Juneau.

The Juneau participated in a number of naval engagements during the months-long Guadalcanal Campaign beginning in August 1942. Early in the morning of November 13, 1942, the Juneau was struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw. Later that day, the Juneau was struck again, this time by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. The torpedo likely hit the thinly armored cruiser at or near the ammunition magazines and the ship exploded and quickly sank.

Approximately 100 of Juneau's crew survived the torpedo attack and the sinking of their ship and were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, under orders not to break radio silence, did not pass the message about searching for survivors to their headquarters until they had landed several hours later. The crew's report of the location of possible survivors was mixed in with other pending paperwork actions and went unnoticed for several days. It was not until days later that headquarters staff realized that a search had never been mounted and belatedly ordered aircraft to begin searching the area. In the meantime, Juneau's survivors, many of whom were seriously wounded, were exposed to the elements, hunger, thirst, and repeated shark attacks.

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days before, suffering from delirium (though some sources describe him being "driven insane with grief" at the loss of his brothers), he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of the Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried.

The brothers' parents were notified of their deaths on January 12, 1943. That morning, the boys' father, Thomas, was preparing to go to work when three men in uniform approached his front door. "I have some news for you about your boys," the naval officer said. "Which one?" asked Thomas. "I'm sorry," the officer replied. "All five."
George, Frank, Joe, Matt and Al Sullivan.
The focus of the Sullivan Museum is WW II, with many military exhibits and displays.
A beautiful mosiac, honoring all the branches of the Military
The Sullivan Museum is jam packed with information I never knew...
Of course, they tell the heart-breaking story of the Sullivan family
During WW II, the whole country was caught up in a spirit of patriotism...but the sacrifice of the Sullivan family was so devastating....I cannot imagine. The family never recovered...
As a direct result of the deaths of the five Sullivan brothers, the U.S. War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy.

The new policy applied to all branches of the military.  Brothers could no longer serve in the same unit, or on the same ship.  And if you were the last surviving son, you would not be sent into combat (remember the movie Saving Private Ryan?)

If you are ever in Waterloo, Iowa -- the Sullivan Museum is well worth your time.

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