Widow of 1 of 5 Sullivan Brothers Killed During WWII Dies at Age 93

During World War Two five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo in Iowa, U.S. were killed in action on the front line. Today the widow of one of those brothers has died at the age of 93.

Katherine McFarland was the World War Two widow of Albert Sullivan, the youngest of the five Sullivan brothers who were all killed during World War Two. Albert was the only brother of the five to have been married before he joined the US Navy.

Katherine died on January 1, 2016, at the Western Home Communities in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she had been living.  Katherine’s granddaughter, Kelly Sullivan, said that her grandmother died at peace and that she was grateful to see in 2016 with her. Kelly and her grandmother were very close, and Kelly says that her grandmother was her best friend.

Katherine had become a familiar and friendly face at the home where she was staying.  She would entertain the other residents by singing karaoke; and became known as “Kate the Great” by the home’s staff.

Katherine and Albert were married on May 11, 1940; Albert was so nervous he fainted at the altar. Albert was revived to finish the ceremony. The couple had known each other for a year before getting married. They also both worked at the local Rath Packing Company, since it was the town’s largest employer.  Albert also worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps where he had to undertake building work for nearby Backbone State Park.

Katherine said that all the five brothers and their families were very close. Every Sunday they would all gather for Sunday dinner. She recalled that it was at one of those dinners that they heard on the radio the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the brothers’ friends died in the attack as he was serving on the USS Arizona.

It was not long after the attack that all five brothers decided to enlist in the US Navy.  Katherine and Albert had only been married for two years but had one son, Jim, before Albert left for the Pacific.  Katherine said that they were all so young and didn’t really understand what going to war meant – that was until none of the brothers returned. In early 1943 a US Navy officer called at Katherine’s house to tell her that all five of the Sullivan brothers had been killed. They died when their ship, the USS Juneau, was attacked by a Japanese submarine and was sunk. The entire crew died.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE