Skip to comments.Albert Sullivan's widow looks back
Posted on 05/26/2014 5:07:35 PM PDT by lowbridge
It would not be unusual for a 90-year-old woman to have shelves full of old photos, daily reminders of days gone by.
That's not the case with Katherine McFarland. She has memories, to be sure --- good ones --- and she has known tragedy and loss. But she's never been bound by self-pity and second guessing.
Her late first husband and his brothers would have wanted it that way.
Keep your chins up, they would say.
McFarland is the widow of Albert Sullivan, youngest of the five Sullivan brothers killed 70 years ago this month during World War II.
"Has it really been 70 years? My gosh!" she said
She has not brooded on the loss or simply marked time since. For years she has remained in the background during various events honoring the five brothers, because she had a full life after their passing. She raised her and Albert's son, Jim, now retired and living in Waterloo. And she enjoyed a nearly 40-year marriage to Dean McFarland, a World War II veteran and United Auto Workers Local 838 president, who died in 1986.
But, with granddaughter Kelly Sullivan Loughren by her side, she recently shared her recollections of the five brothers with the Courier.
It was not a sad reflection.
McFarland told a story of a household and family full of joy, laughter, more than a little raucousness, and love.
And, in the case of Albert Sullivan, she told a story of a big case of premarital jitters on May, 11, 1940, when he married McFarland, then Katherine Rooff, known as "Keena" to family. Sullivan passed out cold at the altar at their wedding Mass, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
"No kidding. Balk! Down he went. He was so nervous," Katherine said with a laugh.
(Excerpt) Read more at wcfcourier.com ...
As I recall, the Sullivan brothers had a surviving sister. Also, there was an original destroyer named The Sullivans during WW2 and I believe there is a newer ship also with the name. God Bless them, their heroism and devotion to this country will forever be a shining light!
Thank you for posting this about the Sullivan Brother’s.
One of my favorite movies growing up.
The end where the four brothers in heaven whistle for their brother to catch up with them, and he does and they go walking away together, always got to me, even as a kid.
USS Tawasa (AT-92) was a Cherokee-class fleet tug constructed for the United States Navy during World War II. Her purpose was to aid ships, usually by towing, on the high seas or in combat or post-combat areas, plus “other duties as assigned.” She served in the Pacific Ocean and had a very successful career marked by the winning of three battle stars during World War II, two during the Korean War, and seven campaign stars during the Vietnam crisis.
Tawasa was laid down on 22 June 1942 at Portland, Oregon, by the Commercial Iron Works; launched on 22 February 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Thomas F. Sullivan, mother of the five Sullivan brothers; and commissioned on 17 July 1943, Lt. Fred C. Clark in command.
The elementary/middle school at the naval base in Yokosuka Japan is named “The Sullivans School.”
The high school at the base is named “The Nile C. Kinnick High School.” Kinnick was the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner, killed in a naval aviation training accident during WWII.
I went to the Sullivan’s Elementary School...:)
Me too - when were you there ???
Thank you so much for posting. Reading this article about Mrs. Sullivan, as she was, made me remember people as they were when I was growing up, in the ‘60s. They still had people like this then — modest, decent people, who were prepared to sacrifice for their country and didn’t want to be on television or made a fuss over. I can’t imagine our country being able to survive as it is without people like that, and I don’t know very many of them any more.
1967-1969. 4th, 5th and part of 6th grade.
I had a great time there as a kid. Interesting place...:)
Thank you for the ping. Lest we forget ...
I was 1962-1965 at the Sullivan School ...
The base was amazing - free movies, Green Beach Swimming Pool [I swam on the swim team ... Go Seahawks !!!], Summer Rec programs, etc.
Thank God for these heroes!
The movie was on TCM today. My wife had never seen it. I told her it was a true story and when they joined the Navy and left home, I got up. She said where ya going? I said I didn’t want to watch the end again. Asked her later and she said she cried and cried. That scene with the dad rips a hole through me every time.
Re: the movie ending: You too, huh? See my post 6 upthread.
The Sullivans enlisted in the US Navy 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.
In the event, approximately 100 of Juneau's crew had in fact survived the torpedo attack and the sinking of their ship and were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, under 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, suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being "driven insane with grief" at the loss of his brothers), he went 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 - a lieutenant commander, a doctor, and a chief petty officer - 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 (1917-1975). 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.
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