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Pacific News Minute: Research Team Locates Wreck of USS Juneau Near Guadalcanal

U.S. Navy

After locating the wreck of the famous aircraft carrier USS Lexington earlier this month, a team funded by billionaire Paul Allen reports discovery of another ship lost in the early days of World War II. The USS Juneau, which sank off Guadalcanal in 1942. 683 crewmen died, including the five Sullivan brothers - we have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute

George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa all joined the navy in early 1942, and insisted on serving together. They were assigned to the new light cruiser USS Juneau, which was specialized as an anti-aircraft escort.

On the eighth of November, Juneau helped drive off a Japanese attack on a convoy of troop ships, and was credited with six planes destroyed. On the night of November 13th, Juneau was hit by a torpedo during a furious close range battle on the first night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The following morning, as a group of damaged ships limped away for repairs, Juneau took another torpedo, this one from the submarine I-26. An eyewitness reported that Juneau didn’t sink: “She blew up with all the fury of an erupting volcano.”

Credit U.S. Navy
The five Sullivan brothers onboard Juneau (CL 52) at the time of its commissioning ceremonies at the New York Navy Yard, Feb. 14, 1942. All were lost with the ship following the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The brothers are (from left to right): Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison, and George Sullivan. George survived Juneau's sinking on 14 November, but died in the waters off San Cristobel Island five days later.

Believing no one could have survived and worried about more torpedoes, the rest of the ships sailed off – leaving at least a hundred men in the water. Adrift for ten days on life rafts, all but fourteen died from their wounds, from exposure and from shark attacks. The officer who left them behind was relieved of his command. 

The death of the five brothers became a national story and inspired the 1944 movie, “The Fighting Sullivans.” Two destroyers have since been named USS The Sullivans in their honor; by coincidence, the research vessel Petrel discovered the wreck of their ship on Saint Patrick’s Day

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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