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USS The Sullivans is just one of the highlights at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park

June 2022

The Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, New York, is a popular tourist attraction for military enthusiasts. Situated along the Buffalo River, it’s the home to four decommissioned U.S. Navy vessels, United States Ship (USS) Little Rock, USS The Sullivans, USS Croaker and PTF-17, along with various aircraft, tanks, and armoured personnel carriers from all four American service branches in the outdoor display area, and other artifacts inside the museum building.

Originally opened on Independence Day 1979, the park welcomes visitors from April to November each year.

PTF-20, is one of only four of the twenty Nasty-class fast patrol boats built for the United States Navy that remain. In the 1960s, the Nasty-class boats were originally used in covert operations during the Vietnam War, but remained in service until the early 1980s.

USS Little Rock is the only Cleveland-class light cruiser remaining.

USS The Sullivans (DD-537) has the unique distinction of being the first ship commissioned in the U.S. Navy that honored more than one person. Commissioned on 30 September 1943, the Fletcher-class destroyer was named in hounour of the George, Francis (Frank), Joseph (Joe), Madison (Matt), and Albert (Al) Sullivan, five brothers who died when their ship, USS Janeau, was sunk on 13 November 1942, during the battle of Guadalcanal in the south Pacific. The brothers, from Waterloo, Iowa, ranged in ages from 27 (George) to just 20 years old (Albert). Francis, Joseph and Madison were 26, 24 and 23 years old respectively.

After earning nine battle stars in World War II and another two for service during the Korean War, The Sullivans was assigned to the 6th Fleet, where it saw operations in waters off the U.S. east coast, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, based out of U.S. Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island.

By 1962, The Sullivans was designated as a training ship with the Destroyer School at Naval Station Newport, but was also assisted in the investigation of the loss of nuclear submarine USS Thresher, which sank on 10 April 1963, 220 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, while conducting deep-diving tests. All 129 personnel aboard, both crew and shipyard personnel, were lost in what became the first nuclear submarine to be lost at sea.

The previous October, The Sullivans was a part of the American naval forces that blockaded Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Sullivans was transferred to the Naval Reserve, with her homeport changed to New York City on 1 April 1964, but this would be short-lived, as USS The Sullivans was decommissioned on 7 January 1965 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

In 1977, The Sullivans was donated to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, which has become the largest inland Naval Park in the United States. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Sadly, time and the harsh Buffalo weather has taken its toll on The Sullivans. On 26 February 2021, it was reported that a leak below the waterline was causing The Sullivans to take on water and list.

By April 2022, it was reported that The Sullivans had suffered “a serious hull breach,” leaving part of the ship resting on the riverbed. There was considerable damage to the ship’s interior below the waterline. More than $1 million was raised last year to repair the ship but until it is, The Sullivans will remain closed to the public.

Donations to help repair The Sullivans, or to help support the museum itself, are always appreciated and can be made through their web site, which also has an on-line store to purchase merchandise.

Donate | Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park (buffalonavalpark.org).

USS The Sullivans DD-537

Length: 376 feet
Beam: 39 feet
Draft: 19 feet
Displacement: 2,100 tons
Armament: Four 5-inch/38 caliber guns; one 3-inch/50 caliber gun; two twin-40 mm guns; depth charges
Complement: 310 Sailors

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Sources: Crews work to save WWII destroyer taking on water in Buffalo | The Star, About Us | Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park (buffalonavalpark.org), United States Nasty-class patrol boat – Wikipedia, Sullivan brothers – Wikipedia, USS The Sullivans (DD-537) – Wikipedia, USS Thresher (SSN-593) – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/uss-the-sullivans-is-just-one-of-the-highlights-at-the-buffalo-and-erie-county-naval-military-park/

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