WWII Sullivan Brothers – 1940’s Sole Survivor Policy

It was nearly 70 years ago when the US Navy informed Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa of the loss of their five sons after the sinking of our light cruiser, the USS Juneau.

The Juneau was sunk during the WWII Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, near the Solomon Islands in a torpedo attack.

The five brothers, George Thomas Sullivan 27, Francis "Frank" Henry Sullivan 26, Joseph "Joe" Eugene Sullivan 24, Madison "Matt" Abel Sullivan 23, and Albert "Al" Leo Sullivan 20 joined together to avenge the death of a friend killed at Pearl Harbor, and enlisted with the provision that they not be seperated.

Survivors reported that Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days before going over the side of his raft, and was never seen or heard from again.

As a direct result of the Sullivans' deaths, the U.S. War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy.

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A determined contributor to the memory and preservation of a decade.

5 Comments

  1. Brandon
    January 12, 2012, 6:37 pm   /  Reply

    Even at 70 years, this story is still very moving.  Thanks for posting this.

  2. Diane Phillippe McGowan
    January 17, 2012, 9:03 pm   /  Reply

    Thank you for keeping history alive.  My Dad was 1 of 5 children, 4 boys and a girl.  My Dad, James Nelson Phillippe served on Oahu, Uncle Wm. Arnold in Cordova, AK, Uncle John David in Europe, Aunt BeatricePhillippe Lamb in California (aiding war effort), Uncle Howard Hunt Phillippe at home.  My Great Uncle Arthur? Morton Trice had a son wash overboard off Alaska coast at end of war.  Would like info on Great Uncle Morton's son – records must be available somewhere in archives.   Can't locate name; MO. names usually go by middle and last names.  My Great Uncle's real name was Clarence Morton Trice, married Mable Dot Daly on 7-20-1912.  Would like info on Trice's son from end of WW2.  Please fill in blanks of family history.
      We appear  to go back in American from 1600's.
      Sincerely,
      Diane Phillippe McGowan

  3. Corkie
    February 12, 2012, 2:09 pm   /  Reply

    Loved the movie!!  It needs to be brought back.

    • Ruth Mitchell
      June 26, 2016, 4:36 pm   /  Reply

      Corkie, I watched for the first time yesterday on TCM. My husband was an U.S. Army vet. and told me about “The Sole Survivor Policy”. In spite of the fact that my father was one 7 sons serving during WWII, no one had told me. They didn’t talk about the war but I was interested and used to ask questions. There were two sister. One was married to a soldier. When Saving Private Ryan came out, I remember the part that Tom Hanks played whose duty was to locate a soldier, whose brother was killed in the war, and send him home.This was the result of the Sole Survivor Policy. Ironically, the Tom Hanks character lost his life trying to save another. Brutally realistic film. I would recommend contacting TCM to find out when “The Sullivan Brothers” will be broadcast again. Nice movie, that made it’s point without showing “blood and guts”. Good luck. Hope you locate it.

  4. Robert Rodgers
    February 12, 2012, 9:04 pm   /  Reply

    Born in 1938 I had my first memory of WWII in 1942. I asked my father why he didn't join the army, and he said, because he had too many children. I can stil remember lights out over our city for fear of German bombers. It was a scary and different world then.In 1945  cars drove up and down the main boulevard with their horns blaring war has ended. Japan surrenders.    

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