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Friday 20 July 2018

Discovery of ship blown apart during Second World War brings closure

The wreckage was found over the weekend.

The USS Juneau, a Navy ship sunk by the Japanese 76 years ago, has been found in the South Pacific. (US National Archives/AP)
The USS Juneau, a Navy ship sunk by the Japanese 76 years ago, has been found in the South Pacific. (US National Archives/AP)

By Becky Bohrer, Associated Press

The recent discovery of the USS Juneau in the depths of the South Pacific has provided some closure to people with connections to the ship which was blown apart during the Second World War.

Hundreds died, including the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, whose story was chronicled in a 1944 movie.

An expedition backed by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen reported finding the wreckage over the weekend.

Wreckage of the USS Juneau — named after the city in Alaska — was found about 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometres) underwater, off the coast of the Solomon Islands, Mr Allen’s organisation said.

Bob Neymeyer, a historian at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, called the discovery of the ship’s wreckage “stunning news.”

We have people visit the museum and many of them want to know where the Sullivans are buried and we would tell them somewhere in the South Pacific

The brothers, “blue collar kids living in a factory town of Waterloo, Iowa,” had convinced the Navy to assign them to the same ship, he said.

Even after so many years, and at a time when most Second World War veterans have died, Mr Neymeyer said the Sullivan family’s sacrifice stands out. He said the deaths were the largest single-family combat loss in American military history.

“We have people visit the museum and many of them want to know where the Sullivans are buried and we would tell them somewhere in the South Pacific,” Mr Neymeyer said.

“Now we can tell them more specifically where the remains are after 75 years and that brings more closure than somewhere in the South Pacific.”

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The five Sullivan brothers were on board the USS Juneau (US National Archives/AP)

Mr Reams said the team does not publicly disclose exactly where they have found ships to discourage wreck hunters but for US ships it does provide that information to the Naval History and Heritage Command for its own records.

Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, said he was struck at how well preserved the three most recent ships found were.

With the USS Juneau, he said the extreme violence with which the ship met its end was obvious from the images captured, including twisted metal and guns blown from their normal position.

He said discoveries like this, made by reputable organisations with no intent to disturb a site, can provide important information on the condition of a wreck site and even on what happened.

It also can help provide closure for families, and it is important that the sacrifices that have been made are not forgotten, he said.

Mary and Raymond Testa, who live in Texas, were excited when they heard the USS Juneau had been found.

Mary Testa had inherited letters from her mother that had been written by a sailor aboard the ship, William Meeker Jr.

Ms Meeker’s mother also was Mary Testa’s godmother, and the letters have since been donated to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, in Alaska’s capital city.

Mary Testa said the discovery of the ship was unbelievable. Her husband said he couldn’t stop talking about it.

“I contacted everybody I could possibly think of … who has any relationship to the ship,” Raymond Testa said.

The vessel was destroyed on November 13, 1942, during intense fighting with the Japanese during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

It was hit twice by torpedoes, the second of which split the ship in two. While about 115 men survived the explosion, rescue efforts did not start for several days in part because of the danger in the area, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Ultimately, 683 of the ship’s 697 sailors died. Ten survived and four had transferred to another ship to provide medical aid before the USS Juneau sank.

Press Association

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