Sullivan, survivor of Battle of Okinawa

J. E.

November 11, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

John E. Sullivan Jr., who survived the bombing and sinking of the USS Twiggs after the Battle of Okinawa, died Sunday of a stroke at Howard County General Hospital. The Columbia resident was 77.

On the night of June 16, 1945, the destroyer, participating in a shore bombardment, was hit in a surprise attack by a Japanese torpedo plane.

The plane flew in low over the bridge and dropped a torpedo that hit the vessel's forward magazine, causing an explosion that blew off the ship's bow.

A kamikaze plane then plummeted into the aft section of the vessel, starting fires that engulfed the ship.

Eighteen of the ship's 20 officers and 108 crewmen were killed and 30 men were wounded in the attack. The ship sank an hour later.

Shipmate Joseph Krotki of Fairfield, Conn., said of Mr. Sullivan, "We were both from Connecticut and had both worked in aircraft plants. He was a great buddy and a quiet fellow. A very good man."

He doesn't recall how Mr. Sullivan was rescued but remembers being plucked out of the sea after waving a flashlight and catching the attention of a rescue crew in a whaleboat.

"I was covered in bunker oil, and they placed me on the deck and gave me a shot of brandy, that's all I remember," he said. "The irony of the situation was that we were to return home to the States the next day."

Both men were active in the USS Hamilton and Twiggs DD-591 Association, which was founded in 1982. They were looking forward to the group's next convention in Baltimore in the fall of 1994.

Mr. Sullivan, who was born and reared in New Haven, was a 1936 graduate of Hill House High School and attended the New Haven Business College. His father, Jack Sullivan, was a sports reporter for the New Haven Register.

He briefly worked for the Journal Courier in New Haven before going to work in the Sikorsky Aircraft plant in Stratford, Conn., working there until 1944 when he enlisted in the Navy. He was an electrician/fireman first class and was discharged in 1946.

In 1941, he married the former Dorothy O'Brien of New Haven. After the war, they made their home in West Haven, Conn., where they lived for 44 years. He managed an apartment house and also was a correctional officer at Cheshire Reformatory. He took early retirement and the couple moved to Columbia in 1986.

Mr. Sullivan had been active in the Volunteer Stroke Rehabilitation Program in New Haven. After moving to Columbia, he established a stroke support group that met at the Florence Bain Center.

While living in West Haven, he enjoyed coaching Little League. He was a member for many years of Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church there and the Lester Rochford Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Cheshire.

A Mass of Christian burial was to be celebrated at 10 a.m. today at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road, Columbia, with interment in Columbia Memorial Park.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Maureen E. Collins of Gibson Island; three grandsons, George B. Collins of Silver Spring, David A. Collins of Pasadena and Jonathan A. Collins of Columbia; two sisters, Elizabeth Greenvall of Madison, Conn., and Joan Lee of West Haven; and a great-grandson, George B. Collins Jr. of Silver Spring.

Memorial contributions may be made to a favorite charity.

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