True Sacrifice… The Sullivan Brothers….

I believe these days, young people have a very different idea of what “sacrificing everything” means. Most of them have never known real, actual sacrifice, real want or “true” need…. Some have…. But the overwhelming majority have not. So let me tell you about the Sullivan brothers, these brothers were, for the most part, one of the inspirations the movie saving Private Ryan was based on.

Who were the Sullivan Brothers?

Near the beginning of America’s entry into World War II, the family of Thomas and Alleta Sullivan from Waterloo, Iowa endured a tragedy so all-encompassing that it made national news. In November 1942, all five of their sons, George, Frank, Joe, Matt, and Al Sullivan, died after the sinking of the light cruiser USS Juneau in the Pacific. The youngest of them, Al, was aged 20, with oldest brother George being one month shy of his 28th birthday.

Before their deaths, the U.S. Navy already made it a policy to separate siblings upon enlistment, but it was never strictly enforced. And as George and Frank had served in the Navy before, they wanted to take the three younger brothers under their wing. All five volunteered to enlist in January 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But they did so only upon the written stipulation that they serve on the same ship.

“We will make a team together that can’t be beat,” George Sullivan wrote to the military. “We had 5 buddies killed in Hawaii. Help us.” The Navy granted that wish, putting them on the Juneau, which soon headed to Guadalcanal where an Allied campaign began in August to wrest the island from the Empire of Japan.

The Juneau participated in a series of naval engagements before the ship was struck by a Japanese torpedo on Nov. 13 during a naval battle near the Solomon Islands. The cruiser was forced to withdraw, and later that day it traveled with other damaged U.S. warships toward the Allied rear-area base on Espiritu Santo. The Juneau was the lone vessel not to make it there. Torpedoed again, this time by Japanese submarine I-26, the cruiser’s ammunition magazines were struck by the blast and the ship exploded, sinking immediately.

It would be several days before there was any attempt to search for survivors.

At the time of the sinking, Capt. Gilbert C. Hoover of the USS Helena deemed it unlikely anyone survived the Juneau’s explosion and considered it reckless to look for survivors, thereby exposing more wounded ships to the unseen Japanese submarine. The other ships did not turn back. Instead the Helena signaled a nearby B-17 bomber to tell headquarters to send other aircraft out to search for survivors. However, the bomber could not break radio silence and did not report the sinking until the plane landed.

The bomber’s report went unnoticed for more than 48 hours under paperwork. By the time naval staff realized the clerical error, the more than 100 initial survivors of the Juneau’s sinking had long begun to see their numbers dwindle. This included several of the Sullivan brothers.

Of the 100 or so men who went into the water after the Juneausank, only 10 were alive when a PBY spotted them eight days later. All five Sullivans were gone. According to those who did survive, Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly on the second torpedo’s impact. Al drowned the next day. George, meanwhile, survived for four or five days before delirium set in, apparently caused by hypernatremia (a high concentration of sodium in the bloodstream). As a result, he jumped off the raft he was sharing and was never seen again. He was one of many who died from exposure to the sun, starvation, dehydration, and of course shark attacks.

Their parents Tom and Alleta did not know any of this for months. The U.S. Navy deemed it necessary to keep the Juneau’s loss classified, so as to not provide crucial information to the Japanese. But as days became weeks, and then months, parents of all the sailors grew fearful when communication with their children stopped.

After one anxious letter by Alleta was sent to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, inquiring about a rumor that all five Sullivan boys were dead, no less than President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded.

“As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I want you to know that the entire nation shares in your sorrow,” Roosevelt wrote. “I offer you the condolences and gratitude of our country. We who remain to carry on the fight must maintain spirit, in knowledge that such sacrifice is not in vain.”

The day before the letter arrived on Jan. 13, 1943, the Navy informed the Sullivans their sons were dead. When Tom Sullivan asked the approaching chief petty officer which son had died, the Navy man responded, “I’m sorry. All five.”

The brothers left behind a younger sister named Genevieve, as well as Al’s widow and son (Al was the only brother married). It became an international story, with Roosevelt sending another letter, and Pope Pius XII sending a silver religious medal and rosary with a message of condolence to the Catholic family. Alleta was there when the Navy launched a new destroyer, USS The Sullivans, in 1943. She and her husband also became regular speakers for the war effort in the following years.

As a result of the Sullivans’ sacrifice, plus another family’s suffering, the newly named Defense Department soon implemented the Sole Survivor Policy.

Never Forget


Remembering Dora Snoek, a lovely Jewish girl from Den Haag, Netherlands. During WWII, Dora and her parents,

Michiel and Ementa, were arrested and sent to the Sobibor Extermination Camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Upon their arrival on May 7, 1943, they were immediately murdered in a gas chamber. Dora was only 8 years old.

Rest in peace little angel, and rest assured that we will never forget you.

Victory in Europe

Because these brave souls paid the ULTIMATE sacrifice; and truly/actually gave it all, others could live. Ask any WW2 Vet—they all say the same thing… “The kids who never made it home..The 5 Star Mothers…They are the real heroes….” They are known as the GREATEST GENERATION for a reason….Inspire the next… Email your children’s school executives & board and ask them to add FREE Greatest Generation Teaching supplements to the curriculum… Visit
Our materials/videos/classes are 100% FREE to Schools and Parents world-wide….Think we are providing a good service? Should you ever want to help support with a small donation just click here: (BTW-If the link does not open simply copy and paste into a browser address bar).

Bastogne… A Defining Moment…

One battle truly showed the world the fire that burns in the hearts of these soldiers. Put up against unfathomable odds and pushed to their absolute limit, the 101st stood their ground and turned the tides of war. This was the Siege of Bastogne.

There’s no unit in the United States Army that can boast an impressive relationship with destiny like the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division. The invasion of Normandy, the Battle of Hamburger Hill, the left-hook of the Persian Gulf War, and Operation Dragon Strike in Afghanistan would each make for a pretty feather in the cap of any unit — but it’s the 101st who heroically fought at all of them.

It had been six months since the invasion of Normandy. U.S. troops had mostly pushed the Germans out of France and back to the Ardennes Forest. The same soldiers who landed on D-Day found themselves still fighting, day-in and day-out. The tempo of war had pushed them much further than originally anticipated and supplies were running low.

It wasn’t a secret that the only hope for the Allies was the tiny shipping village of Antwerp, Belgium. Without it, any continued assault against the Germans would end immediately. Knowing this, the Germans devised a plan that would effectively cut the Allies off from Antwerp in one massive blitzkrieg through the Ardennes. If they could cut the Americans off from each other and their supplies, they’d be forced into a peace treaty in favor of the Axis. And the only thing stopping them was the collection of battle-weary soldiers sparsely populating the forest.

On December 16, 1944, after two hours of constantly artillery bombardment, the Germans sent in 200,000 fresh troops. So far, everything was going in the Axis’ favor, from the weather to the landscape to the element of surprise. The only thing the Americans could do was to hold up in Bastogne and St. Vith.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Since Bastogne had large open farmlands around it, this wasn’t much… But it was something.

Two days later, on December 18, the soldiers of the 101st were completely surrounded in the town of Bastogne. They had little ammunition, barely any food, and most soldiers didn’t even have cold-weather gear. Reinforcements were inbound, but it would take a week for Patton to arrive. Most of the senior leadership was elsewhere, leaving the task of holding ground entirely on the shoulders of the troops.

A night-time raid by the Germans on the Division Service Area took out almost the entirety of the 101st medical company. By the time of the morning of December 19, Americans were outnumbered five to one — and so the Germans moved in.

On paper, this was a completely uphill battle. The only thing Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe could do was have his men form a 360-degree perimeter around the 333rd Artillery Battalion’s guns. Ultimately, this tightly controlled circle was the advantage they needed.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
The funniest part of this battle was that the Germans spent hours trying to decipher the hidden meaning behind McAuliffe’s message. It was just a politely worded, “f*ck you.”
(U.S. Army)

As the Germans prodded, trying to find a hole in Allied defenses, troops were be able to communicate with each other and quickly adjust, fortifying areas to meet their attackers. When the Germans pivoted and believed they’d found a new approach, the protected artillery guns opened fire. They’d regroup and try another approach, only to be met by American troops once again. This pattern continued on through the battle.

The fighting was intense but McAuliffe’s defense held like a charm. On December 22, General von Lüttwitz, the German commander, gave the American’s their “demands.”

“There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.”

McAuliffe’s response, in its entirety, was as follows:

To the German Commander. NUTS! The American Commander.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

“This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.” – Churchill

This riled the Germans up even more. The Germans put all of their efforts into trying to wrest Bastogne from the 101st Airborne — at the expense of securing Antwerp. The American line was broken several times by panzers, but artillery shells would effectively pluck German armor out long enough for Allied infantrymen to retake their position.

On December 23, the skies finally opened up and the 101st started to bring in reinforcements and supplies via airdrop. It’s not an understatement to say that they were only holding on by the skin of their teeth. American P-47 Thunderbolts came to the rescue, relieving artillery who’d almost entirely run out of ammo. The panzers, which had been painted green and brown for summertime, stuck out like a sore thumb against the snow. The narrow passageways the tanks had to travel meant the tanks couldn’t escape the wrath of the Thunderbolts.

Throughout it all, the Battered Bastards of Bastogne endued. Patton arrived on December 26th, finally evening the odds and breaking off the Ardennes Offensive. But all of that couldn’t have been done without the ferocity of the Screaming Eagles holding down Bastogne.