Saturday, July 16, 2011

Iowa Falls, IA to Waterloo, IA - 57 miles

Today we left Iowa Falls, IA and headed to Waterloo, IA. We traveled through a few small towns and one of them, Parkersburg, IA had a beautiful historic home that was built in 1895.

Waterloo, Iowa is known as the hometown of the Five Sullivans.

The Five Sullivan Brothers
The Sullivan brothers were five siblings who were all killed in action during or shortly after the sinking of the light cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52), the vessel on which they all served, on November 13, 1942, during WWII.
The Sullivans, natives of Waterloo, Iowa, were the sons of Tom and Alleta Sullivan. They were:
  • George Thomas Sullivan, 27 (born December 14, 1914), Gunner's Mate Second Class 
  • Francis "Frank" Henry Sullivan, 26 (born February 18, 1916), Coxswain 
  • Joseph "Joe" Eugene Sullivan, 24 (born August 28, 1918), Seaman Second Class
  • Madison "Matt" Abel Sullivan, 23 (born November 8, 1919), Seaman Second Class
  • Albert "Al" Leo Sullivan, 20 (born July 8, 1922), Seaman Second Class
The Sullivans enlisted on January 3, 1942 with the stipulation that they serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but this was not strictly enforced. George and Frank had served in the Navy before, but their brothers had not. All five were assigned to the light cruiser USS Juneau.

The Juneau participated in a number of naval engagements during the months-long Guadalcanal Campaign beginning in August 1942. Early in the morning of November 13, 1942, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Juneau was struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw. Later that day, as it was leaving the Solomon Islands' area for the Allied rear-area base at Espiritu Santo with other surviving US warships from battle, the Juneau was struck again, this time by a torpedo from Japanese Submarine I-26. The torpedo likely hit the thinly-armored cruiser at or near the ammunition magazines and the ship exploded and quickly sank.

Captain Gilbert C. Hoover, commanding officer of the USS Helena and senior officer present in the battle-damaged US task force, was skeptical that anyone had survived the sinking of the Juneau and believed it would be reckless to look for survivors, thereby exposing his wounded ships to a still-lurking Japanese submarine. Therefore, he ordered his ships to continue on towards Espiritu Santo. Helena signaled a nearby US B-17 bomber on patrol to notify Allied headquarters to send aircraft or ships to search for survivors.

Approximately 100 of Juneau's crew had survived and were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, unwilling to disobey orders not to break radio silence, did not pass the message about searching for survivors to their headquarters until they had landed several hours later. The crew's report of the location of possible survivors was mixed in with other pending paperwork actions and went unnoticed for several days. It was not until days later that headquarters staff realized that a search had never been mounted and belatedly ordered aircraft to begin searching the area. In the meantime, Juneau's survivors, many of whom were seriously wounded, were exposed to the elements, hunger, thirst, and repeated shark attacks.

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days before being driven insane with grief at the loss of his brothers, finally going over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of the Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried.

The brothers' parents were notified of their deaths on January 12, 1943. That morning, the boys' father, Thomas, was preparing to go to work when three men in uniform approached his front door. "I have some news for you about your boys," the naval officer said. "Which one?" asked Thomas. "I'm sorry," the officer replied. "All five."

The brothers left a sister, Genevieve. Albert was survived by a wife and son. The “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” were national heroes. President Franklin Roosevelt sent a letter of condolence to Tom and Alleta. Pope Pius XII sent a silver religious medal and rosary with his message of regret. The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the Sullivan brothers.

Thomas and Alleta Sullivan made speaking appearances at war plants and shipyards on behalf of the war effort. Later, Alleta participated in the launching of a  destroyer USS The Sullivans, named after her sons.
The song "Sullivan" by the alternative rock band "Caroline's Spine" tells the story of the Sullivans.

The Quality Inn, Waterloo, Iowa

Our stay at the Quality Inn was marred by a burst water pipe which flooded Frank H's room. Many of the riders were in rooms near his and ended up being reassigned to different rooms on different floors as a result of the flooding. Marnie R and I got reassigned to a suite on the 3rd floor. The new room is very nice. We even managed to watch Stage 14 of the Tour de France sitting on a couch instead of sitting on a bed. The little things are sometimes the best.
 Marnie R checks out the flood on the 2nd floor while talking to Bill K.
Marnie R. checks our room while the flood continues to flow down the hall.
Tomorrow we are off to Dyersville, IA and the Field of Dreams!

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