Letters between Alleta Sullivan and Franklin Roosevelt

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13 Jan 1943

ww2dbase----- Letter -----
From: Alleta Sullivan
Sent: Jan 1943
To: Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States

Waterloo, Iowa
January 1943

Bureau of Naval Personnel

Dear Sirs:

I am writing you in regards to a rumor going around that my five sons were killed in action in November. A mother from here came and told me she got a letter from her son and he heard my five sons were killed.

It is all over town now, and I am so worried. My five sons joined the Navy together a year ago, Jan. 3, 1942. They are on the Cruiser, U.S.S. JUNEAU. The last I heard from them was Nov. 8th. That is, it was dated Nov 8th, U.S. Navy.

Their names are, George T., Francis Henry, Joseph E., Madison A., and Albert L. If it is so, please let me know the truth. I am to christen the U.S.S. TAWASA, Feb. 12th, at Portland, Oregon. If anything has happened to my five sons, I will still christen the ship as it was their wish that I do so. I hated to bother you, but it has worried me so that I wanted to know if it was true. So please tell me. It was hard to give five sons all at once to the Navy, but I am proud of my boys that they can serve and help protect their country. George and Francis served four years on the U.S.S. HOVEY, and I had the pleasure to go aboard their ship in 1937.

I am so happy the Navy has bestowed the honor on me to christen the U.S.S. TAWASA. My husband and daughter are going to Portland with me. I remain,


Mrs. Alleta Sullivan
98 Adams Street
Waterloo, Iowa

----- Letter -----
From: Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States
Sent: 13 Jan 1943
To: Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan Sullivan

Prepared 13 Jan 43

My dear Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan:

The knowledge that your five gallant sons are missing in action against the enemy inspires me to write you this personal message. I realize full well there is little I can say to assuage your grief.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I want you to know that the entire nation shares in your sorrow. I offer you the condolences and gratitude of our country. We who remain to carry on the fight must maintain spirit, in the knowledge that such sacrifice is not in vain.

The Navy Department has informed me of the expressed desire of your sons, George Thomas, Francis Henry, Joseph Eugene, Madison Abel, and Albert Leo, to serve in the same ship. I am sure that we all take heart in the knowledge that they fought side by side. As one of your sons wrote, "We will make a team together that can't be beat." It is this spirit which in the end must triumph.

Last March you, Mrs. Sullivan, were designated to sponsor a ship of the Navy, in recognition of your patriotism and that of your sons. I understand that you are now even more determined to carry on as sponsor. This evidence of unselfishness and of courage serves as a real inspiration for me, as I am sure it will for all Americans. Such acts of faith and fortitude in the face of tragedy convince me of the indomitable spirit and will of our people.

I send you my deepest sympathy in your hour of trial and pray that in Almighty God you will find the comfort and help that only He can bring.

Very sincerely yours,

[signed "Franklin D. Roosevelt"]

Mr. and Mrs. T. F. Sullivan
98 Adams Street
Waterloo, Iowa

United States National Archives

Added By:
C. Peter Chen

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Robert Olufs says:
13 Dec 2018 09:27:56 PM

I have served in the US Navy and this fact is told as part of the fighting spirit of the Navy to us in boot camp when I joined.
The Navy has always been a "Volunteer" Navy since the times of John Paul Jones until this present day (if drafted it is into the Army or Marines). I have seen this spirit in men that I served with and I understand this to be true today as my sons serve (they went Army, but nobody is perfect). Please keep honoring our hero's memory and in life for they are testament to our beliefs and strength of our Nation. God bless the Sullivan's and all of those they have raised, God bless Iowa.
2. Anonymous says:
22 Jul 2021 09:12:34 PM

This is a transcription. Where is the citation for the original document? I do know for a fact that the original letters are located at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. but this site should be providing proper citations.
3. Commenter identity confirmed C. Peter Chen says:
26 Jul 2021 06:06:40 AM

To Anonymous of 22 Jul 2021: Thank you for your message. As this page already cited, the original text was from the US National Archives. Specifically, it is from its "A People at War" online exhibition.

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Associated Figure(s):
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Associated Ship(s):
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