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Emergency repairs needed to preserve Buffalo museum ship, USS The Sullivans

Ian Cherico

One of the three ships on display at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park is in need of some vital emergency repairs. 

It was discovered that Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans is taking on water and listing slightly. Leaks and small holes are nothing new for the 78-year old ship that has been in Buffalo since the 1970’s, but park president and CEO Paul Marzello said this year's harsh winter has done more damage than usual.

“We know it's been in more than one spot, we don't know what size the holes are, but we're going to find out. Beyond that, we need to patch them from the inside,” Marzello said. “So that's where the short term goal is, the long term goal is to have the hull completely refurbished with a proposal that came from a local engineering firm. That is going to apply a two part epoxy to the hull, stem to stern, and hopefully hold it together for the next 25 years.” 

The Naval and Military Park is undertaking a drive to fundraise $100,000 to complete those emergency repairs to The Sullivans. Marzello said when the park announced the dire situation the WWII and Korean War-veteran ship was in, they got an immediate outpouring of support. 

“We've had calls from people that have cranes, and from welders and boilermakers and repairmen are willing to come down,” said Marzello. “I had a call from someone who’s active [duty] Navy who said, ‘I'm in Norfolk, Virginia, do I need to put together a volunteer group to come down and do what we need to do?’”

A National Historic Landmark named in honor of the five Sullivan brothers who were all killed in action when the cruiser USS Juneau was sunk in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, Marzello said USS The Sullivans stands as a testament to those who have made sacrifices in service to the nation.

“We realize that there are probably in excess of 60,000 veterans in this area. So this ship means a lot to them in preserving the honor and the dignity and the courage that they had in serving our country,” said Marzello. “But, maybe more importantly to the five Sullivan boys who died, and that this ship is named after. So we owe not only our veterans the honor of keeping her afloat, but the Sullivan family as well.” 

By the evening of the first day the need for repairs was announced, the Buffalo & Erie County Naval Park reported they had received 25% of the $100,000 goal. To learn more about the fundraising drive and the mission of the naval park, you can visit their website at buffalonavalpark.org. 


Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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