top of page

Iowa History Daily: February 3 - "The Fighting Sullivans"

Iowa History Daily: On February 3, 1944, “The Fighting Sullivans” debuted in theaters. The biographical war film retells the lives of five Irish-American Sullivan brothers, who grew up in Iowa during the days of the Great Depression and served together in the United States Navy during World War II.

On November 13, 1942, the five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo all died while serving together on the USS Juneau during the Battle of Guadalcanal. George, Frank, Joe, Matt, and Al Sullivan left a legacy of service which forever changed the American military. Although Al and George survived the initial explosion, both joined their other three brothers as ‘Killed in Action’ before rescuers reached the stranded sailors.

Directed by Lloyd Bacon and written by Edward Doherty, Mary C. McCall Jr., and Jules Schermer, the film debuted not even two years after the initial tragedy. Nominated for a now-discontinued Academy Award for “Best Story,” the film dramatizes the incident while taking some creative license. 

In addition to the film, the United States Navy named two ships after the Sullivans: a Fletcher class destroyer, USS The Sullivans (DD-537), as well as an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, USS The Sullivans (DDG-68). The former was the first American navy vessel ever to be named after more than one person. Each of the two vessels shared the same motto which was the Sullivan brothers' motto: "We Stick Together." #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


bottom of page