Five Irish-American brothers, whose deaths in the same World War II battle became one of the most poignant tragedies of the war, were the focus of Memorial Day events held in Belgium.
The group Irish In Europe (IIE) honored the five Sullivan brothers to mark the 80th anniversary of their deaths aboard the light cruiser USS Juneau in the Pacific Rim.
Hollywood’s epic war film Saving Private Ryan was inspired by the story of the Irish-American brothers.
George, Frank, Joe, Al, and Matt Sullivan all died when the USS Juneau was hit by a Japanese torpedo on November 13, 1942 and sank after ammunition magazines exploded.
The deaths of all five brothers in a single action shocked American public opinion – and the US Navy immediately changed its regulations to prevent siblings from serving together on the same ship.
Such was the impact of her death that various ships named “USS Sullivans” have been in the US Navy fleet for eight decades.
Though all hail from Iowa in the American Midwest, the Sullivan family had strong ties to Cork.
In 2003, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Sullivans moored off West Cork to mark the 400th anniversary of clan chief O’Sullivan Beara’s march from West Cork to Leitrim after the failed Irish rebellion against the English Celebrating domination and defeat of the Spanish invasion.
The IIE group, led by Denis Buckley, helped organize the special tribute at the Memorial Day events in Brussels.
Descendants of the brothers expressed their gratitude to the Irish group, who honored the five on the 80th anniversary of their deaths.
Kelly Sullivan is Al Sullivan’s granddaughter and still resides in Waterloo, Iowa.
“On behalf of the Sullivan family, I wanted to thank you for honoring the 80th anniversary of the sinking of the USS JUNEAU. We are grateful to you for that,” she wrote.
Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart said her community is still deeply proud of the sacrifice of the five Irish-American brothers.
“You have made the ultimate sacrifice — the Sullivan family holds a special place in the hearts of our citizens, as well as the nation and the world,” he said.
“Waterloo is proud of her native sons and their contribution to world peace.”
“We are eternally grateful for their service. Every August, Waterloo hosts the Iowa Irish Fest – this year’s celebration honors the Sullivans and the 80th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Juneau.”
A museum in Waterloo has a special exhibit dedicated to the Irish-American Brethren and immigrant genealogy.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/five-brothers-whose-deaths-during-world-war-ii-inspired-saving-private-ryan-movie-commemorated-on-remembrance-day-42140841.html Five brothers whose deaths during World War II inspired the film “Saving Private Ryan,” commemorated on Remembrance Day