The USS The Sullivans DD-537 was a Fletcher-class destroyer and was the first ship in the history of the US Navy to be named in honor of more than one individual. The ship was named in honor of the five Sullivan brothers who died in action aboard the USS Juneau off Guadalcanal on 13 November 1942. The brothers became heroes in the US and were known as the “Fighting Sullivans”. As a result of the brothers’ deaths several policy changes were made by the US Navy in regards to siblings serving together and the sole survivor policy.
Action in World War II
The USS The Sullivans DD-537 was commissioned on 30 September 1943 and after completing shakedowns got underway on 23 December 1943. A few weeks later the Sullivans departed Pearl Harbor en route to the Marshall Islands with Task Group 58.2.
Her first major engagement was the Battle of Kwajalein, where she acted as a picket ship in support of aerial strikes on the island launched by the main carrier force. Moving north with TG 58.8, she continued her picket ship role during strikes on the island of Truk. In the following months, the Sullivans continued its screening operations in support of the main carrier group in the island hopping campaign. The Sullivans participated in actions at Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, culminating with her action in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
As part of TG 58.2, the Sullivans sortied to Okinawa to support carrier operations and amphibious landings on the island, protecting the main carrier force from the onslaught of Kamikaze attacks. The Sullivans was used primarily as a radar picket ship for early warning during the invasion of Okinawa but acted heroically in saving many sailors forced in to the water after their ships were damaged or sunk by Kamikaze planes. It was at Okinawa that the Sullivans saw her last battle action of the war.
After having been sent to the west coast for overhaul, the Sullivans was decommissioned at San Diego on 10 January 1946 and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Action in the Korean Conflict
The Sullivans was reactivated in 1951 for service in the Korean conflict where she served until ordered home on 26 January 1953, reaching her home port of Newport R.I. on 11 April. The USS Sullivans had been awarded a total of nine battle stars for her service in WWII and Korea.
The Sullivans is now on display at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, New York.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially during World War II, naval destroyers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.