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Crew remembers discovering USS Juneau, the ship where Sullivan brothers perished

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – Two of the men responsible for discovering the USS Juneau came to Waterloo Thursday to present footage of the discovery to the public at the Grout Museum.

Rob Kraft and Paul Mayer both worked on the RV Petrel, the vessel responsible for discovering the USS Juneau in March of 2018.

“It’s kind of a stark reminder of the sacrifices that were made,” said Kraft.

The ship rests on the bottom of the Pacific, serving as a final resting place for hundreds of sailors.

“You realize that people died here, so there’s so much solemn and humbling,” said Mayer.

“To me, they found my grandfather’s grave,” said Lyman Knute Swensen, who’s grandfather was the captain of the Juneau when it sunk on November 13th, 1942. He says his father told him a number of stories growing up regarding his grandfather’s service.

Among those who perished were the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo. A descendant of the youngest brother, Albert, is Kelly Sullivan, who teaches in Cedar Falls.

“It was a really intense moment and I was blessed to share it with my third graders,” said Sullivan, recounting the first time she saw the discovery footage. Sullivan sponsors the USS Sullivans, a ship named in honor of her grandfather and great uncles.

“There’s this constant connection between the past and the present,” said retired US Navy Captain Gerry Roncolato, the commissioning commanding officer of the USS Sullivans, the ship that Kelly Sullivan sponsors.

Capt. Roncolato adopted the Sullivan brothers’ motto of “We stick together” as the motto of the ship.

“It really has an impact on the crew,” said Capt. Roncolato.

Sullivan was on the ship for a retirement ceremony when she got the news of the Juneau’s discovery.

“At the moment that I was on the ship, on the flight deck, for that retirement ceremony for the captain, the RV Petrel had found the USS Juneau at that exact moment,” said Sullivan.

She says the fact that two of the crew of the Petrel would come to Waterloo shows respect for all who served.

“The Sullivans represent all veterans. My family didn’t sacrifice more than any other family,” said Sullivan.

The Grout Museum hopes to create a permanent display of footage of the historic discovery.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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