L-R: Joe, Frank, Al, Matt (Madison), and George Sullivan on the Juneau.

The five Sullivan brothers, George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert, were killed when the light cruiser they were all serving aboard, the USS Juneau, was sunk.

Their deaths prompted the U.S. War Department to institute the Sole Survivor Policy, which is intended to protect members of a family from the draft or combat duty if they have already lost family members in service. This policy was part of the inspiration for the landmark film, Saving Private Ryan.

The Navy also named two destroyers The Sullivans after the brothers (DD-537 and DDG-68).

The Sullivans were from Waterloo, Iowa, which is right next to my hometown of Cedar Falls. Members of their family still live in the area, and in 2008, a museum was opened in their honor in Waterloo.

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The band Caroline’s Spine released a song about the brothers in 1995.