As part of the chain of festivals from Leitrim to Beara in the summer of 2003, a flotilla of naval ships arrived in Glengarriff, County Cork on August 29. Chief among the ships was the Naval destroyer USS The Sullivans, which moored near Castletownbere for the 400th anniversary of O’Sullivan Beara’s historic march from Beara to County Leitrim.
Donal Cam, chieftain of the O’Sullivan Bere Clan, having lost his lands and his herds to the English, left the Beara peninsula in December, 1602 to begin the long march to Leitrim to meet the O’Rourkes. Accompanying him were 1,000 men, women and children. In the middle of January 1603 they finally reached their destination with only 35 people remaining, many having settled along the route.
The USS The Sullivans was named for the five Sullivan brothers who were the children of Thomas and Alleta Sullivan, first-generation Irish immigrants who settled in the quiet midwestern town of Waterloo, Iowa.
The brothers all enlisted together, but under the stipulation that they be allowed to serve on the same ship. In February 1942, the brothers were assigned to the cruiser USS Juneau, bound for the Pacific war zone. During the night of November 12, 1942, Juneau was badly damaged in a fierce surface engagement. At 11 o’clock the following morning, a Japanese submarine spied the crippled ship and dispatched it with two torpedoes. Juneau went to the bottom within seconds.
Of the nearly 800 crewmembers onboard, only about 115 survived the morning attack. Four of the five Sullivan brothers perished when the ship sank; George Sullivan survived the sinking itself, but died in the sea awaiting rescue.
The Sullivans was christened on April 4, 1943 by Mrs. Alleta Sullivan, mother of the Sullivan brothers. The Sullivans was in service from 1943-1965 earning nine battle stars in World War II and two in the Korean conflict. The new The Sullivans was christened on August 12, 1995 by Kelly Ann Sullivan Loughren, the granddaughter of Albert Sullivan. It has a crew of 26 officers and 315 sailors. ♦