Sunken US warship wreckage found after 76 years in our shores

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By Alfred Sasako

THE wreckage of a United States warship, sank during the Second World War in our waters, has been found after lying on the ocean floor for some 76 years.

USS Juneau was discovered on 17th March this year by philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s expedition crew on the Research Vessel Petrel.

The expedition team said in a statement it first identified the USS Juneau on Saturday using sonar technology and then used a remotely operated underwater vehicle to verify the wreckage on Sunday.

The USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo with the loss of 687 sailors.

The Sullivan brothers photographed on board the USS Juneau, 14 Feb. 1942. From left to right: Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George Sullivan (Courtesy
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Five brothers from the Sullivan family were famously lost on the USS Juneau. Their story, which attracted widespread attention, was depicted in the 1944 movie “The Fighting Sullivans.”

Two USS Navy ships have been named “The Sullivans” in memory of the brothers. The brothers wanted to serve on the same ship, despite naval policies preventing siblings from serving together.

According to a statement issued on the discovery, the USS Juneau was found on St. Patrick’s Day resting on the seafloor near the Solomon Islands. An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) from the research vessel Petrel first identified the wreck using sonar on March 17.

“The following day, a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) was deployed from Petrel to verify the wreckage, capturing video footage of the Juneau.

“We certainly didn’t plan to find the Juneau on St. Patrick’s Day. The variables of these searches are just too great,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Paul Allen, in a statement. “But finding the USS Juneau on Saint Patrick’s Day is an unexpected coincidence to the Sullivan brothers and all the service members who were lost 76 years ago,” the statement said.

The USS Juneau In New York Harbor, 11 Feb. 1942. (Courtesy the U.S. National Archives).

Juneau was sunk on 13 November 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

When a second torpedo hit her port side, an explosion cut the ship in half, killing most of the crew. The light cruiser sank in just 30 seconds. Around 115 of Juneau’s crew are believed to have survived the sinking, including, possibly, two of the Sullivan brothers. However, with U.S. forces concerned about the risk of further Japanese attacks, rescue efforts did not take place until eight days later. Only 10 men were rescued from the water.

The first ship named after the brothers, USS The Sullivans (DD-537), was commissioned in 1943 and is now a museum ship in Buffalo. The second ship to bear the family name (DDG-68) is in active service as a guided missile destroyer.

“As the fifth commanding officer of USS The Sullivans (DDG 68), a ship named after five brothers, I am excited to hear that Allen and his team were able to locate the light cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52) that sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal,” said Vice Adm. Rich Brown, commander, Naval Surface Forces, in a statement.

“The story of the USS Juneau crew and Sullivan brothers epitomize the service and sacrifice of our nation’s greatest generation.”

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