A U.S. World War II Navy ship that sunk in 1942 was discovered on St. Patrick’s Day, thanks to the efforts of an American billionaire.
The USS Juneau was discovered by the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which has been funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The Juneau went down after it was struck by a Japanese torpedo during the Battle of Guadalcanal, killing all 687 men aboard, including five brothers from Iowa.
The Sullivan brothers — George, Francis “Frank,” Joseph, Madison “Matt” and Albert — of Waterloo, Iowa, joined the Navy in early 1942 and asked to serve together. The clan was assigned the Juneau, which went down near the Solomon Islands.
“We certainly didn’t plan to find the Juneau on St. Patrick’s Day,” Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Paul Allen, said in a statement. “The variables of these searches are just too great, 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 explorers and researchers say they located the Juneau with the help of sonar technology. They were then able to send remote cameras down to the lower depths of the ocean to find and film the ship.
Video of the discovery was shared by Allen and shows the spot where the torpedo struck. In the video, viewers can hear the exact moment that researchers discover they found the Juneau.
The Juneau served a short time at sea and was commissioned less than a year before the sinking.
The death of the five Sullivan brothers struck a chord with the American military and the country back home. According to naval historians, the brothers’ deaths became motivation to fight the allied forces.
“News of the deaths of all five brothers became a rallying point for the war effort, with posters and speeches honoring their sacrifice. Extensive newspaper and radio coverage of the incident made the loss of the brothers a national story, producing ‘a wave of humility and sympathy,’ and condolences poured in on the Sullivan family in Waterloo, Iowa,” according to a statement from Navy History and Heritage Command.
The Navy later named two destroyers in honor of the Sullivan brothers.
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,” Vice Adm. Rich Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces, said in a statement. “The story of the USS Juneau crew and Sullivan brothers epitomize the service and sacrifice of our nation’s greatest generation.”
Allen has also reportedly found the wreckage of other ships, including the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier that was also lost during World War II.