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Crews work to fix sinking decommissioned destroyer USS The Sullivans

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Crews are working to fix the hull of USS The Sullivans, a 78-year-old decommissioned Fletcher-Class destroyer, that was pictured apparently sinking at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard Buffalo Sector/Facebook
Crews are working to fix the hull of USS The Sullivans, a 78-year-old decommissioned Fletcher-Class destroyer, that was pictured apparently sinking at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard Buffalo Sector/Facebook

April 15 (UPI) -- Crews are working to fix the hull of USS The Sullivans, a 78-year-old decommissioned Fletcher-Class destroyer, that was sinking at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.

The ship, which earned 11 battle stars in World War II, as well as the Korean War and Cuban missile crisis, has been in the care of the nonprofit military park in western New York. The Buffalo Naval Park has been working since November 2021 to repair its hull.

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The USS The Sullivans began taking water Wednesday night and was tipping on its starboard side by Thursday morning, according to photos shared by the nonprofit.

"The breach that occurred yesterday appears to be a new issue and we are working diligently to understand the cause and address it as quickly as possible," the military park said in a statement.

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"We appreciate everyone's support and the offers to help. This is truly the City of Good Neighbors and this historic ship continues to guide us to stick together."

A dive team and other emergency crews from Bidco Marine Group have been working to determine what caused the breach on the aft, or back, side of the ship, WKBW reported. Water pumps have been able to keep the ship in equilibrium with as much water being pumped out as is entering the vessel.

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The U.S. Coast Guard's Sector Buffalo said in a statement that it has been using large pumps capable of removing more than 13,000 gallons a minute.

"The Coast Guard will continue to monitor progress and we look forward to USS The Sullivans' return to operational status," the statement reads.

Local residents who flocked to the pier told WIVB that they were "devastated" to see the listing 2,100-ton destroyer.

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"It's such a legend. Such a historical feature in our area so when you say the words heartbreaking and tragic, if somehow this is unable to be saved it truly is heartbreaking," local resident Michele Starwalt-Woods said.

USS The Sullivans, now a historic landmark, was commissioned in 1943 and named after five brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, according to the Buffalo Marine Park.

It was responsible for "shooting down eight Japanese planes, bombarding Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as rescuing American pilots and crew from burning or sinking vessels."

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The destroyer was initially intended to be named the USS Putnam, but the name was changed to honor the five brothers from Waterloo who all died when the USS Juneau sunk during the battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, according to Naval History and Heritage Command.

The brothers -- whose names were Albert Leo, Francis Henry, George Thomas, Joseph Eugene and Madison Abel -- had insisted that the U.S. Navy station them on the same ship.

"The brothers all received the Purple Heart Medal posthumously and were entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four engagement stars and the World War II Victory Medal," according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

"They had also earned the Good Conduct Medal."

The Sulllivans were survived by their parents and a sister, as well as Albert Leo Sullivan's wife Katherine Mary Sullivan and their son, James Thomas.

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