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Sullivan Brothers historical story captures national attention with listing ship

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)  On April 4, 1943, a still grieving Waterloo mother, Aletta Sullivan, Christened a new World War II Fletcher-Class Destroyer, USS The Sullivans.

The highly publicized national event took place only a few months after Aletta and Thomas Sullivan, of 98 Adams, Waterloo, learned that all five of their sons had died together at sea in the six-month Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Two Japanese torpedoes sank the Sullivan Brother's light cruiser, USS Juneau (CL-52) in November, 1942. 

687 U.S. Sailors died. Only 10 survived. 

Kelly Sullivan, Cedar Falls elementary school teacher and granddaughter of Albert, the youngest of the Sullivan Brothers, says the ship Aletta Christened that day wasn't originally supposed to be named USS The Sullivans. 

It was going to be Christened USS Putnam, but President Roosevelt changed the name to USS The Sullivans, in honor and memory of the Five brothers from Waterloo.

In addition to the five Sullivan Brothers, The Juneau had several sets of brothers, including the Rogers brothers.

The U.S. Navy was very concerned about brothers serving together in dangerous battle conditions. The Navy offered the sets of brothers a chance to separate. 

Two of the Rogers brothers accepted the offer to separate. 24-year old Joseph and 18-year old Jimmy.

The Sullivan Brothers did not want to separate, as their motto was "We Stick Together.'

However, Kelly Sullivan says the brothers later changed their minds, and decided they would separate when given the opportunity at next the port. They never got that chance.

While the Sullivan's story is well known in American history, the story again captured the attention of the nation in recent weeks, when USS The Sullivans began taking on water in Buffalo, where it has been on display since 1976, at The Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

A massive effort to 'Save The Sullivans' is underway to right the ship, which has been listing badly starboard, as it takes on water from the Buffalo River, just before it empties into nearby Lake Erie.

Kelly Sullivan and KWWL's Collin Dorsey, who reported from Buffalo for KWWL News, stop by KWWL to talk about that effort and the Sullivan's history for this week's edition of The Steele Report.