Family Legacies Unite At the Quarterdeck of the Navy
A chance encounter at RTC showcases the rich history of the Navy
Throughout a Navy career, worlds often collide in surprising ways. Occasionally, paths cross in a manner that is truly amazing. I recently experienced an astonishing twist of fate at the Navy Recruit Training Command.
The first event was dinner with recruits who recently completed the eight week boot camp, and were to graduate the next morning. We remained spread throughout the mess hall as recruits sat down to eat around us. Nervously, they answered our questions. Some even asked a question or two. This was the first meal in eight weeks at which they were allowed to talk.
During the meal, I spotted a shipmate from a previous tour at the Pentagon. He is now the commanding officer of the RTC, and I went to talk with him. He was surprised to see me, and talked about the job and all the challenges that come with transforming young Americans into Sailors.
He then pointed out a civilian talking with the recruits, and mentioned that she was a school teacher and was there as sponsor of the graduating class. He then said something that immediately snapped my mind to attention...she was the granddaughter of one of the five Sullivan brothers.
For those not aware, the Sullivan brothers were from Waterloo, Iowa. They enlisted in the Navy during World War II, under the condition they could serve together. Navy agreed despite the rules against this, and they ended up together on board the cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52).
Also serving on the Juneau was a relative of mine, Lt. Cmdr. John Stuart Blue, who was the ship's Navigator. It was not surprising Lt. Cmdr. Blue was in the Navy. His father retired as a Navy admiral. The destroyer USS Blue was named in the admirals honor, and was the only ship to get underway from Pearl Harbor during the attack. Early in the Guadalcanal campaign, the USS Blue was damaged by Japanese torpedoes and scuttled.
The Juneau also joined the fight off Guadalcanal. Just after midnight on November 13, 1943, the Juneau was struck by multiple Japanese torpedoes. The mighty ship exploded and sank in seconds. Of the nearly 700 crew members, most died in the explosion and subsequent sinking. Some survived, only to perish in the sea. Ultimately, just 10 crewmembers were rescued.
The five Sullivan Brothers and LCDR Blue all perished.