USS The Sullivans WWII Destroyer DD-537
The USS The Sullivans museum is located in Buffalo, NY.
DD-537's specifications are:
Length: 376 feet 6 inches
Beam: 39 feet 8 inches
Draught: 17 feet 9 inches
Displacement: 2,050 tons
Max Speed: 35 knots (40mph)
Fuel Capacity: 492 tons of fuel oil
Range: 6,500 nautical miles
Five 5 inch 38 cal gun mounts
Ten 40mm Bofors AA cannon in five dual mounts
Seven 20mm Oerlikon AA cannon
Two 5 tube 21 inch Torpedo Tubes
Two 24 round Hedgehog Anti Submarine Mortar Projectors
Six Depth Charge Projectors
Two Stern Depth Charge Racks
Four 5 inch 38 cal gun mounts
Four 40mm Bofors AA cannon in dual mounts
Four 20mm Oerlikon AA cannon
Two 3 tube Mk32 Torpedo launchers
Two 24 round Hedgehog Anti Submarine Mortar Projectors
One Stern Depth Charge Rack
Power Plant: 4 Babcock & Wilcox oil fired boilers powering 2 General Electric steam turbines driving 2 screws with 60,000 Shaft Horsepower
Launching Date: April 4, 1943 at the Bethlehem Steel Company, San Francisco, CA
The Destroyer USS The Sullivans was named for the 5 Sullivan brothers who lost their lives serving together on the same ship when a Japanese Submarine torpedoed the cruiser USS Juneau on November 13, 1942 off Guadalcanal. George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert were the sons of Tom and Alleta Sullivan of Waterloo Iowa. Theirs was the greatest loss of family in the entire war, and subsequently family members were not allowed to serve aboard the same vessel for the remainder of WWII.
DD-537 saw a great deal of action in the Pacific Theater in WWII, and the Fletcher Class Destroyer shot down at least 8 Japanese aircraft, destroyed 3 coastal barges and a Japanese LST and participated in several shore bombardments. During the Korean War the destroyer served screening aircraft carriers and bombarding railway lines, bridges, and rolling stock along the shore of North Korea. DD-537 also supported the splashdown and recovery of one of the Mercury space capsules, and participated in the embargo of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The exterior is in good shape with much of the deck and superstructure being freshly painted. The Hedgehog Antisubmarine Mortar Projectors are still in place, and the staff have fabricated a few dummy rounds to give a sense of how they would have looked loaded. The interior has been very well restored. The staff have done a great job of cleaning and painting, and an outstanding job of sourcing and refitting period equipment and materials you would have found on board when DD-537 sailed in WWII. The ship's barbershop is well equipped, the ship's store is fully stocked with period items, and the sickbay is complete with bandages, medical supplies, surgical instruments, sterilizer, and an injured crewman on the operating table. The Bridge is accessible and the Pilot House has been restored and is visible though portholes and plexiglas. The crew's bunks, which seem to go AWOL from some museum ships, seem to all be in place and there are a LOT of them. It gives you a feel of how crowded it was and how little privacy there was on board for our fathers and grandfathers who served on Fletcher class destroyers.
The Engine Room on the USS The Sullivans, unlike some other tour ships, is accessible and appears very complete. Ship's engine room areas tend to get pretty dirty and the staff have done a great job of cleaning and painting that compartment. Walking the engine room gangways gives the visitor a better sense of how massive the boilers and steam turbines are that drove the destroyer through the swells. You will need to be able to do some ducking and climbing to make your way though this compartment. One of the 5 inch gun mounts is accessible and the staff have done a good job of reaching and painting areas that are within reach. It is a tough area for the staff to keep up and exposure to the humid air and elements doesn't make their job any easier. Getting in is a little bit of a climb then swinging yourself over the threshold so you'll need to be somewhat active to tour the interior.
The full time staff were busy painting and scraping, and volunteers gave tours and answered questions for visitors. The staff were friendly and quick to answer questions and tell you more information on the history and details of the destroyer.
Tours of the Destroyer (and Cruiser USS Little Rock and Submarine USS Croaker) were unguided, but if you call in advance in the warmer months you may be able to get on one of the two reserved guided tours held 6 days a week. You'll need to check the museum's website for the current schedule and reservation instructions.
There is no food onsite at the museum. Buffalo Naval Park is in walking distance of a deli that made pretty decent sandwiches just across the street from the parking lot. The museum building is handicap accessible with an elevator to the second floor, but the Destroyer is not. You must be able to step over bulkhead partitions, navigate a boarding ramp and climb and descend stairs so the ship itself is not handicap accessible.
Allow yourself a good portion of a day for your visit. Along with the USS The Sullivans, there are the Cruiser USS Little Rock and the Fleet Submarine USS Croaker. There is also an indoor museum with a variety of naval exhibits and a Bell P-39 Airacobra WWII fighter plane, and an outdoor exhibit area with a Trumpy PT Boat, two jet fighters, a medium US Army tank, an armored personnel carrier, and other military related exhibits. Visit the Buffalo Naval Park Museum's Website for hours and directions.
If you are looking to contact former crewmen of the DD-537, Paul Bernard administers a page with a directory of emails and contact information for former shipmates of the USS The Sullivans. Although many of the links to geocities pages and images are no longer available, the address book is still useful.
US National Park Ranger Mannie Gentile uploaded this Youtube video of the history of the USS The Sullivans. It's not bad and includes a bit of history of US destroyer development, and continues to present day (2003 actually - before the Buffalo Naval Park ships were moved to their current locations) showing the museum staff hard at work painting and scraping DD-537. Here's Part two of the Youtube video on the USS The Sullivans. Manny takes the viewer inside the destroyer, and conducts short interviews with former DD-537 crew members and other volunteers who have traveled in from throughout the US for a weekend to help in the restoration of the ship.