USS The Sullivans DDG-68
The Sullivans We Stick Together

USS The Sullivans DD-537 at the Buffalo Naval Park

Today the proud World War II destroyer is a main attraction at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, where she is remembered and maintained by volunteers of the USS The Sullivans DD-537 / DDG-68 Association.
Photos by Hal Burke. Click to enlarge.

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Artist Ray Massey
Hort & Julie Spitzer, Mr. & Mrs. Ray Massey, and USS The Sullivans DDG-68 Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Sam De Castro stand with Raymond A. Massey’s original oil painting, “Convoy of the Cripples.” Click on image to enlarge.

Convoy of the Cripples

The Sullivans History on Display
By Hal Burke
excerpted from an article in The Tin Can Sailor March 2015

On Saturday, 23 August 2014, a group of active and retired naval officers, tin can sailors, the granddaughter of Albert Sullivan, and community leaders came together to commemorate Horton Spitzer’s donation of Raymond A. Massey’s original oil painting, “Convoy of the Cripples” to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, New York.

THE SULLIVANS (DD-537) was one of five destroyers operating east of the Philippines and 100 miles south of Formosa. She was assigned to a screening group to escort the battle-battered cruisers USS HOUSTON and USS CANBERRA to Ulithi for repairs. The HOUSTON and CANBERRA had been torpedoed the day before duing the Battle of Formosa. The CANBERRA can be seen in the background of the painting being towed by the U.S. Navy Tug, USS MANSEE. Navigating THE SULLIVANS was helmsman George Mendonsa QM1, who ten months later would become known as “The Kissing Sailor” photographed by Life Magazine’s Alfred Eisenstaedt as he kissed the nurse on V-J Day in New York’s Times Square.
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The 2017 Reunion - Remembering the Sullivan Brothers

The Sullivan Brothers
Mrs. Sullivan
April 4, 1943: The parents of the five brothers lost at sea when The USS Juneau went down, attended the christening of the ship named after their sons. Thomas Sullivan, father of the five brothers, stands next to Commander Charles Holzer while Mrs. Sullivan receives an orchid from sonar technician Cecil Marks of Tampa, Florida. Young James Sullivan who had lost his dad stands next to his grandmother. James grew up to have a daughter he named Kelly. Many years later on August 12, 1995, Kelly sponsored USS The Sullivans DDG-68, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, and her grandfather and great uncles would continue to be honored by a US destroyer.
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Kelly Sullivan with Cecil Marks
Above: Kelly Sullivan Loughren, granddaughter of Albert Sullivan, with Cecil Marks who had been the young seaman pinning the corsage in the 1943 photo above taken at the christening of USS The Sullivans DD-537.
A Very Special Reunion
The same Cecil Marks who 74 earlier as a young seaman had pinned a corsage on her grandmother came to the 2017 reunion in Buffalo and presented Kelly Sullivan Loughren with a similar corsage. At right: Kelly and Captain Brian Roche (USCG-retired) executive director of the Buffalo Naval Park, cut the special reunion cake with images of the Sullivan brothers. Below: Hal Burke, reunion chairman, presents Captain Roche with a commemorative print signed by Kelly Sullivan and George Mendonsa, the Kissing Sailor.
Hal Burke with Captain Roche
Kelly Sullivan with Captain Brian Roche
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Veterans Day 2017

Kelly Sullivan with USS The Sullivans DDG-68
Kelly Sullivan (granddaughter of Albert Sullivan, and sponsor of USS The Sullivans DDG-68) waves as the destroyer arrives from Naval Station Mayport, Jacksonville, FL at Staten Island, NYC on November 9.
Photos left to right: click to enlarge. 1.) Five Gold Star Flag. 2.) CDR Russell Moore, CO USS The Sullivans DDG-68. 3.) Kelly Sullivan addresses Memorial Service commemorating the 75th Anniversary of USS Juneau sinking. 4.) Knute Swensen (grandson of Captain Lyman “Knute” Swensen, CO USS Juneau CL-52 being introduced to audience. 5.) Gerry Roncolota, first CO USS THE Sullivans DDG-68 (Captain-Retired),Kelly Sullivan,Knute Swensen, Hal Burke
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George Mondonsa - a proud World War II veteran who served aboard USS The Sullivans DD-537 in the Pacific Theatre
The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria
Although George Mendonsa never doubted that he was the sailor captured on film in that famous moment in Times Square by Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstadt, not everyone in the world was convinced. In 1980, Life published the photo and invited the original sailor and nurse to come forward. A lot of people were kissing on that day, and an number of men came forward to claim to be the one.

Lawrence Verria, an award-winning Rhode Island history teacher took an interest in the question when one of his students said he knew the Kissing Sailor in Newport. Together with Capt. George Galdorisi, USN (Ret.), he embarked on a thorough investigation of the question and published a book in 2012 that proves beyond a doubt that George is indeed the one who kissed the nurse on VJ Day. I was convinced in 1980 when George came to my darkroom in Newport where I made internegatives of the photo and blew it up so we could clearly see the GM tattoo on George's right arm along with other details.

In recent years some people have complained that grabbing the nurse and kissing her was an example of assault. That notion is absurd, and anyone who thinks it doesn't understand what the American people were feeling on that day. Just moments earlier every American was dreading the planned invasion of Japan in which tens of thousands of their sons and husbands and neighbors would surely lose their lives. Hearing that the war was over brought on a joy and relief that I doubt any of us can fully imagine today.

George Mendonsa rembers
You can see George Mendonsa recounting that moment in an interview published by The American Veterans Center in 2015 and preserved on YouTube:
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The Lady who grabbed and kissed a sailor
My dad wrote about that day. His ship had put in at Portland, Maine, and like everyone else he dreaded the planned assault on the Japanese mainland. This is his account of that moment:

I went to lunch with several of my shipmates in a restaurant in an old house not far from the railroad station. We were in the midst of our lunch, at a table near a French door opening out onto a small yard between us and the street, when suddenly, all hell broke loose — whistles and sirens blowing, car horns tooting, people pouring into the streets. An older woman, on the sidewalk beyond the low fence of the yard, called to me, beckoning me to come to where she stood. I stepped through the door, ran to the fence, and she leaned over it, embracing me and planting a big kiss on my mouth. “I promised myself I would kiss the first serviceman I saw when the war ended,” she exclaimed, before releasing me and hurrying off.

Phil Dickinson
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Dick Lillie, survivor of the horrific kamikaze attack on the USS Bunker Hill CV-17
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Above: Navy photo of the deck of the USS Bunker Hill CV-17 shortly after the kamikaze attack
Dick Lillie survivor of USS Bunker Hill
Hal Burke visited Dick Lillie in August 2017 and presented him with a framed poster that commemorates George Mendonsa and the USS The Sullivans DD-537.
From an article by Hal Burke in American Legion News

In fact, the Nurse (Greta Zimmer) was actually a Dental Assistant. In his own words, George Kissed the woman he thought was a nurse, as a way to "Thank" all nurses that had aided wounded servicemen during WWII. Three months earlier, Quartermaster Second Class George Mondonsa was serving as USS The Sullivans DD-537 helmsman and witnessed the horrific Japanese attack on Essex Class aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill CV-17 during the Battle of Okinawa (11 May 1945). Two kamikazes crashed into the Bunker Hill within 30 seconds killing 370 sailors and Marines. George navigated The Sullivans through the naval battle zone and rescued 166 Bunker Hill sailors and Marines. The badly wounded crew rescued were brought to the hospital ship, USS Bountiful, and those not wounded were brought back to the Bunker Hill to help bury at sea shipmates lost in the explosions by the two kamikazes.
One of the fortunate Bunker Hill sailors rescued was Dick Lillie. Dick resides at Berkeley Lake, GA., and considers George Mendonsa and The Sullivans crew his hero. Dick and his four shipmates were the last of the Bunker Hill crew rescued. Sadly, 43 shipmates waiting to be rescued perished, because the ships were called back to battle conditions and the search mission terminated.
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Hal Burke with George Mendonsa
In July of 2017 Hal Burke visited the 94-year-old George Mendonsa in Newport and presented the famous veteran with the Great American Ships poster that honors his World War II experience.
Hal Burke with George Mendonsa
George signed the poster that commemorates the five Sullivan brothers.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Hal's lovely wife Nancy takes advantage of an opportunity to be able to tell grandchildren that she has kissed the famous Kissing Sailor.
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Header Photo: Guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans DDG-68, the ship that Kelly Sullivan sponsored, flies the ship's battle flags during exercises in the Pacific in 2009.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker.
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© 2017 Phil Dickinson
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