The Sullivan Brothers are amongst the most well-known familial casualties of World War II, their shared tragedy igniting a wave of profound grief that swept across the United States.

Born to Thomas and Alleta Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa, George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert Sullivan were five siblings who met their untimely demise in the service of their country.


Brothers In Arms

The Sullivan brothers, ardent patriots all, enlisted together in the U.S. Navy following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Despite an unwritten rule that discouraged family members from serving on the same ship, the brothers’ request to serve together was granted.

The Atlanta-Class light cruiser USS Juneau CL-52.

They boarded the USS Juneau in February 1942, ready to face the dangers of war side by side.

In the early morning hours of November 13, 1942, the USS Juneau was engaged in the Battle of Guadalcanal.

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In a disastrous turn of events, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the ship, causing it to sink swiftly. All five Sullivan brothers, along with nearly 700 other crew members, were lost at sea.

After The Attack

The Navy’s communication regarding the mens’ fate was marred by bureaucratic delays and mishandling. It was nearly three months later, in January 1943, that their parents were officially notified of their sons’ deaths.

The heartbreaking news soon became public, sending shockwaves across the nation. Their sacrifice was seen as emblematic of the heavy toll the war had exacted on American families, and they were hailed as heroes.

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The tragic loss of the Sullivan brothers prompted significant changes in military policy. The U.S. War Department enacted the Sole Survivor Policy to protect members of a family from the risk of a similar total loss.

The brothers on board USS Juneau.

This policy gave families the option to exempt any surviving siblings from active combat duty if their brothers or sisters had been killed in military service.

Their story, charged with both valiance and sorrow, has inspired various artistic and commemorative endeavors.

From a Hollywood film, “The Fighting Sullivans,” to naval ships named in their honor, the memory of the Sullivan brothers endures, a testament to their extraordinary sacrifice.

Did Any of The Sullivan Brothers Have Children?

The Sullivan brothers are remembered for their heroic sacrifice during World War II, but what about their legacy? Did any of them have children to carry on their family name?

As it turns out, only one of the Sullivan brothers name Albert was married and had a child. That child carried on the family line and recent times, six of Albert’s descendants recently visited the Mayport Naval Station to pay tribute to the Mayport-based destroyer named after the brothers.

The visit was part of a reunion for crew and family members from both ships named after the Sullivans.

Legacy Of The Sullivan Brothers

The Sullivan Brothers tragedy is a poignant reminder of the human cost of war.

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Their collective sacrifice brought about important policy changes aimed at protecting families from complete loss.

Today, their story remains a significant chapter in American history, a symbol of the bravery and selflessness exhibited by countless individuals during World War II.