Original U.S. WWII Office of War Information 1943 Propaganda Poster - Sullivan Brothers, They Did Their Part
Original Item: Only One Available. A spectacular and iconic poster produced by the US Government Printing Office during World War II. It commemorates the loss of five brothers on the SS Juneau - an incredible loss for the Sullivan family and the entire country.
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. One woman told the Associated Press, "And now I wonder how the sugar and coffee hoarders feel." War bond drives and other patriotic campaigns culminated in the 1944 movie, "The Sullivans. It was the death of the five Sullivan brothers during the war in the Pacific that inspired the 1998 film "Finding Private Ryan." The tragedy was also responsible for the military regulation that only a certain number of family members can serve in combat at the same time.
At least thirty sets of brothers served and died on the Juneau.
The poster features a five blue star service flag in the background with the 5 Sullivan brothers in the foreground standing behind a U.S. Navy ship’s crewman quarters hatch, they are all dressed in U.S. Navy cold weather uniforms. The text that can be found on the bottom of the poster reads:
the five Sullivan brothers
“missing in action” off the Solomons
THEY DID THEIR PART
OWI Poster No. 42. Additional copies may be obtained upon request from the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information, Washington, D.C.
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1943-O-510254
This poster was originally folded, but has been mounted on thick poster board and now the colors are beautifully saturated and vivid. The overall condition is excellent, with minor wear on the corners and edges due to age and storage.
Measurements: 40” x 28.4”
This rare and iconic poster is a must have and welcomed into any military history collection.
The five Sullivan brothers were World War II sailors, brothers of Irish American descent who, while serving together on the light cruiser USS Juneau, were all killed in action in and shortly after its sinking around November 13, 1942.
The five brothers, the sons of Thomas (1883–1965) and Alleta Sullivan (1895–1972) of Waterloo, Iowa, were:
George Thomas Sullivan, 27 (born December 14, 1914), Gunner's Mate Second Class (George had been previously discharged in May 1941 as Gunner's Mate Third Class.)
Francis Henry "Frank" Sullivan, 26 (born February 18, 1916), Coxswain (Frank had been previously discharged in May 1941 as Seaman First Class.)
Joseph Eugene "Joe" Sullivan, 24 (born August 28, 1918), Seaman Second Class
Madison Abel "Matt" Sullivan, 23 (born November 8, 1919), Seaman Second Class
Albert Leo "Al" Sullivan, 20 (born July 8, 1922), Seaman Second Class
The Sullivans enlisted in the US Navy on January 3, 1942, with the stipulation that they serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but this was not strictly enforced. George and Frank had served in the Navy before, but their brothers had not. All five were assigned to the light cruiser USS Juneau.
Juneau participated in a number of naval engagements during the months-long Guadalcanal Campaign beginning in August 1942. Early in the morning of November 13, 1942, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Juneau was struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw. Later that day, as it was leaving the Solomon Islands' area for the Allied rear-area base at Espiritu Santo with other surviving US warships from battle, the Juneau was struck again, this time by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-26. The torpedo likely hit the thinly armored light cruiser at or near the ammunition magazines and the ship exploded and quickly sank.
Captain Gilbert C. Hoover, commanding officer of the light cruiser USS Helena, and the senior officer present afloat (SOPA) of the battle-damaged US task force, was skeptical that anyone had survived the sinking of Juneau and believed it would be reckless to look for survivors, thereby exposing his wounded ships to a still-lurking Japanese submarine. Therefore, he ordered his ships to continue on towards Espiritu Santo. Helena signaled a nearby US B-17 bomber on patrol to notify Allied headquarters to send aircraft or ships to search for survivors.
But in fact, approximately 100 of Juneau's crew had survived the torpedo attack and the sinking of their ship and were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, under orders not to break radio silence, did not pass the message about searching for survivors to their headquarters until they had landed several hours later. The crew's report of the location of possible survivors was mixed in with other pending paperwork actions and went unnoticed for several days. It was not until days later that headquarters staff realized that a search had never been mounted and belatedly ordered aircraft to begin searching the area. In the meantime, Juneau's survivors, many of whom were seriously wounded, were exposed to the elements, hunger, thirst, and repeated shark attacks.
Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt were all killed instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days, before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being "driven insane with grief" at the loss of his brothers); he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.
Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.
This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivans were missing in action, but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12. That morning, the boys' father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. "I have some news for you about your boys," the naval officer said. "Which one?" asked Tom. "I'm sorry," the officer replied. "All five."
The brothers left a sister, Genevieve (1917–1975). Al was survived by his wife Katherine Mary and son Jimmy. Joe left a fiancée named Margaret Jaros, while Matt left behind a fiancée named Beatrice Imperato. The "Fighting Sullivan Brothers" became national heroes. President Roosevelt sent a letter of condolence to their parents. Pope Pius XII sent a silver religious medal and rosary with his message of regret. The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the Sullivan brothers.
Tom and Alleta Sullivan made speaking appearances at war plants and shipyards on behalf of the war effort. Later, Alleta participated in the launching of a destroyer USS The Sullivans, named after her sons.
On Saturday, March 17, 2018 the wreckage of the USS Juneau was discovered by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen off the coast of the Solomon Islands.
- This product is available for international shipping.
- Eligible for all payments - Visa, Mastercard, Discover, AMEX, Paypal, Amazon & Sezzle