WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A research team funded by billionaire Paul Allen has found the wreckage of the USS Juneau, the ship Waterloo's five Sullivan brothers were on when it sank during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.
An expedition funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen found wreckage of the USS Juneau on March 17, 2018. The five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo died when the ship sank during the Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. (Courtesy: Paul G. Allen)
A Japanese torpedo sank the Juneau, killing 687 crew members, including the Sullivans. The brothers had joined the Navy in early 1942 and asked to serve together.
According to Allen's website, the crew of the Research Vessel Petrel found the wreckage on St. Patrick's Day nearly three miles below the surface, resting on the floor of the South Pacific off the coast of the Solomon Islands. (See video of the wreck from the R/V Petrel below.)
The Juneau sank on November 13, 1942 in only about 30 seconds. Due to the risk of further Japanese attacks, the American task force did not stay to check for survivors. When rescue efforts began eight days later, only 10 men had survived.
The Sullivan family lost sons George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert. The Irish-American family's story inspired the 1944 movie "The Fighting Sullivans."
The Sullivan family's loss touched the nation. The brothers' deaths "became a rallying point for the war effort, with posters and speeches honoring their sacrifice. Extensive newspaper and radio coverage of the incident made the loss of the brothers a national story, producing 'a wave of humility and sympathy,' and condolences poured in on the Sullivan family in Waterloo, Iowa," according to Navy History and Heritage Command.
"It also drove home for families all over the country the loss that they would be experiencing for years to come," said Billie Bailey of the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. The museum aims to preserve the memory of the brothers, and their families' immense sacrifice.
The Navy has named two destroyers in honor of the Sullivan brothers.
Allen-led expeditions have also discovered wreckage of the USS Lexington, USS Indianapolis, USS Ward, and USS Astoria.