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Kelly Sullivan Named to the Commissioning Committee for USS Iowa

Posted by Pat Kinney on Monday, November 05, 2018

The granddaughter and grandniece of Waterloo’s five Sullivan brothers killed during World War II has been named to the commissioning committee for a new U.S. Navy submarine to be named the USS Iowa.

Kelly Sullivan, who teaches third grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Falls, is one of the first members of the committee to be named. It is still being formed. The committee will work with the Navy on the commissioning ceremony, celebrating the ship being brought into readiness for active service.

“It’s a true honor,” said Sullivan, who also is the official sponsor of the Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans, named for her grandfather and great uncles – the namesakes of the Grout Museum District’s Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.

“It’s sort of coming full circle,” Sullivan said. “When I was in New York for the 20th anniversary of the USS The Sullivans commissioning” last November, “there were commissioning committee members at that ceremony,” from that ship’s 1997 commissioning. She anticipates remaining involved over the long term with the new USS Iowa as well.

She was contacted by retired Navy submarine officer and Cedar Rapids attorney Pete Welch, chairman of the USS Iowa commissioning committee, and asked to serve on that group.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in a 2015 an event at Iowa State University in Ames that a new Virginia-class nuclear submarine would be named the USS Iowa (hull number SSN-797). There have been several Navy ships named for the Hawkeye State. The most previous one was a World War II battleship (hull number BB-61), which also saw service in Korea and the 1980s and is now a museum in the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro, Calif. The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum is planning an exhibit on that battleship, anticipated to open in mid-2019.

Welch said the new USS Iowa submarine is under construction in Groton, Conn., along with other vessels which will be completed before it. 

Sullivan said she and Welch met at a Navy ball many years ago and they had seats in close proximity at Iowa Hawkeye football games. So she said, a friendship was formed by their shared “love of the Navy and love of the Hawkeyes.”

Welch said many details associated with the Iowa commissioning are still being worked out, including filling out the committee, setting up a mechanism for public donations and selecting a sponsor for the submarine. Christening is anticipated in 18-20 months and commissioning in 24-26 months but nothing is definite but no exact dates have been set. Sullivan cannot be the sponsor since she is already sponsoring the USS The Sullivans. The sponsor christens the ship – as she did with the USS The Sullivans in Bath, Maine in 1995 – and also remains involved with the ship and crew throughout its service. Sullivan had attended many ceremonies and events with the USS The Sullivans over the past 20 years. That included a November 2017 event marking the the 20th anniversary of its commisioning and the 75th anniversary of her grandfathers’ and great-uncles’ deaths during World War II.

George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan died after their ship, the USS Juneau, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk on Nov. 13, 1942 following the naval Battle of Guadalcanal. All but 14 of the Juneau’s crew of nearly 700 perished, including all five Sullivans. Kelly Sullivan is the granddaughter of Albert Sullivan.

The $11.5 million Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum was built as an addition to the Grout Museum and opened in November 2008. The museum will be celebrate its 10th anniversary with special events Nov. 11-15.

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