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WATERLOO – The discovery on Saturday of the wreckage of the USS Juneau, on which the five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo served and perished with nearly 700 comrades during World War II, was a touching and bittersweet experience for the descendants of fallen sailors.

“There are over 700 Navy families affected by this and my hearts go out to all of those people,” said Kelly Sullivan, granddaughter of Albert Sullivan and grandniece of George, Francis, Joseph and Madison Sullivan, who all died after the torpedoing of the Juneau by a Japanese submarine and sunk on November 13, 1942.

“For me, it’s like finding my grandfather’s grave,” said Knute Swensen of Huntington Beach, Calif., The grandson of the Juneau’s commanding officer, Captain Lyman K. Swenson, also among the dead. Juneau.

The crew of the research vessel Petrel, on an expedition funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, found the wreckage of the Juneau at the bottom of “Ironbottom Sound” off Guadalcanal in the Solomons on St. -Patrick.

In an audio accompanying a video of the wreckage, Robert Kraft, the expedition’s director of underwater operations, noted that it was appropriate that Juneau’s remains had been discovered on St. Patrick’s Day, given the Irish heritage of the Sullivan brothers.

“The luck of the Irish was with them,” said Kelly Sullivan, echoing a wish she made for the USS The Sullivans, the current Navy destroyer named after her grandfather and greats. -uncles, when she christened the ship in Bath, Maine, in 1995. She is the official Navy sponsor of this ship.

The crew of the Petrel sent a message to The Courier, which said: “Our team is made up of professional submarine operators and engineers with years of experience in the industry who are truly affected by the an opportunity to honor our fallen servicemen and provide some closure for Their families. “

The crew credited Allen with making the expedition possible.

Ironically, Kelly Sullivan was aboard USS The Sullivans on St. Patrick’s Day at her home port of Mayport, Fla., To attend a retirement celebration for one of her former commanders.

“When this discovery happened, I was sitting on the Sullivan’s fantail… It’s amazing,” Sullivan said.

On her trip home Sunday, she heard about the discovery from U.S. Vice Admiral Rich Brown, Commander of the Navy’s Surface Forces and former commander of USS The Sullivans. Brown was in Waterloo last November for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Juneau. On Monday, Knute Swensen contacted her.

“It’s bittersweet, that feeling,” Sullivan said. “There is a closure. It also opens a wound.”

She said her father, Albert’s son Jim Sullivan reacted with surprise and had similar feelings.

The wreckage of the USS Juneau was discovered on Saturday by the crew of the Petrel research vessel expedition, owned by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen.


“My first thought was my prayers for all of the Juneau families, not just the Sullivan brothers,” said Kelly Sullivan, as well as all of the veterans and their families. She said her great-grandmother, Alleta Sullivan, never really had a shutdown because her sons’ bodies were never found and gave hope that they might have survived.

Swensen said he watched the Petrel’s underwater video in amazement as the crew made out Juneaus’ name inscribed on the fantail.

“Watching this video gave me chills,” he said.

He also thought of his father, Cmdr Robert Swensen of the US Navy, who died in April 2016 at the age of 93 and who was very close to his father, Commander Juneau. Knute’s grandfather’s last name was misspelled as “Swenson” by a staff member at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., And he never had it corrected. It was in Annapolis, when Robert was a cadet, that Commander Juneau and his son had their last meeting.

In an accompanying audio to the video, Kraft of the Petrel Expedition notes that the bow and stern of the ship were found relatively close to each other, but the debris of the ship was scattered for a mile to the bottom of the ship. ‘ocean – an indication of the devastating explosion that sank it.

Most of the sailors were killed during the actual sinking; more than 100 died at sea in the days that followed from injuries, exposure or attacks from sharks, including George Sullivan, the eldest brother. Ten sailors survived the actual sinking as well as a four-person medical crew sent to the USS San Francisco to treat the injured before the attack.

Swensen hopes the value of Juneau’s crew will be remembered as well. The ship won several Battle Stars for the battles it fought in, including one the night before it sank, when it rolled back, along with other US ships, a Japanese task force on its way to the troops. Americans besieged at Guadalcanal.

Sullivan praised Paul Allen’s passion for continuing the expedition – a lesson she used as an example for her third-graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Falls.

“I really admire Mr. Allen and his team for having the faith to do this,” she said, and encouraged his students to pursue their passions as well.

The two were in New York last November during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Juneau at the same pier on Staten Island where the ship was commissioned in the Navy in 1997. The ceremony took place from the across New York Harbor from Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the Juneau was commissioned in the Navy and sailed out of port, never to return.

She hopes the USS The Sullivans can sail to the Juneau’s final resting place on a future mission, with some of her surviving sailors family members.

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