From the Museum

“The Five Sullivan Brothers” Poster (MO 2005.


On November 13, 1942, the USS Juneau, a light cruiser, was attacked and sunk during the battle for control of the island of Guadalcanal. On board the vessel were the five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo, Iowa:

George Thomas – 27, Gunner’s Mate Second Class

Francis “Frank” Henry – 26, Coxswain

Joseph “Joe” Eugene – 24, Seaman Second Class

Madison “Matt” Abel – 23, Seaman Second Class

Albert “Al” Leo – 20, Seaman Second Class

The five brothers had enlisted in the Navy on January 3, 1942 and requested to serve together. Four died during the attack on the Juneau. The fifth, George Thomas, made it onto a life raft where he survived for five days before succumbing either to wounds and exhaustion or a shark attack.

The story of the Sullivan brothers quickly became the focus of national attention and efforts to rally Americans around the war effort. This government poster commemorated the heroism and sacrifice of the men and their family. The photograph on the poster depicts the boys aboard the Juneau. There are five blue stars along the top, one star for each brother.

On this Memorial Day, we remember and honor those brave men and women who have served and died in defense of our country.