Remembering Waterloo’s five Sullivan brothers

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WATERLOO, Iowa — In 1942, the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. It was heralded with a recruiting campaign using photos of the five brothers awaiting their first assignment onboard the USS Juneau.

“The five Sullivan brothers is a unique story because five brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, enlisted in the Navy in January 1942.” said Bob Neymeyer, a historian with the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. “They enlisted together and the Navy agreed that they could serve on the same ship.”

However, their experience ended in tragedy.

“In November of 1942, the Sullivans were on the USS Juneau at the naval battle of Guadalcanal. Their ship was damaged and as the ship went for repairs it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. All five brothers died,” said Neymeyer.

The family in Waterloo was asked to give more, even after the loss of their sons. Thomas and Alleta Sullivan toured the country for around 18 months promoting war bonds. The Sullivans, along with their daughter Genevieve, all died in the late 60s and early 70s.

An exploratory dive in the South Pacific discovered wreckage from the USS Juneau in 2018. A video of that dive is on display in the museum, which is located inside the Grout Museum District in Waterloo.

For more on the Five Sullivan Brothers Museum, click here.

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