BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It is all hands on deck as crews pump thousands of gallons of water out of the USS The Sullivans. The historic WWII ship began taking on water late Wednesday night, but many Western New York residents and officials began noticing the vessel was listing Thursday morning.
“It’s very sad. It really is,” Paul Zaky of West Seneca said. “I’m devastated.”
A flag at the Naval Park says “Don’t Give Up The Ship” and bystanders who streamed to the park say they will not give up hope yet.
“It is quite shocking to see that. You never thought it would happen,” Paul Krehl said.
Many residents came to Buffalo from near and far to take pictures and share memories of the ship now in distress, hoping it will stand tall again.
“It’s such a legend. Such an 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,” Michele Starwalt-Woods of Dunkirk added.
It’s been just over 79 years since USS The Sullivans was launched. In recent years, it has desperately been in need of repairs to keep it from taking on more water. Work to fix the ship started in August but stopped two months later. The plan was to continue the work this Monday.
“I thought this problem was over a year ago when it was sinking the first time, but apparently not. It’s kind of upsetting,” said Sgt. Mark Francis, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2010 to 2014. “It’s our history just going down in the water.”
Earlier this month, Congressman Brian Higgins made an announcement about $490,000 in federal funding that had been awarded to the Naval Park. Saving The Sullivans has been an ongoing effort, with support coming from multiple sources, including at least 25 states and seven countries. After the Naval Park raised $1 million to keep it shipshape, another fundraiser took place last month at Seneca One Tower.
Even people who work on the waterfront were shocked to see the ship listing toward Marine Drive.
“I work at the Buffalo Maritime Center so I when I got to work I was hanging up my jacket and looked out the window and was like ‘whoa what’s going on with that’,” Krehl added.
Other residents recalled fond memories of coming to the Naval Park to see the ship or even step on board.
“I’ve been on it actually and my dad was here for the color guard when they dedicated the ship, so it’s kind of depressing to see it sinking,” Zaky told News 4.
The ship is even more special for veterans. It pays homage to the five Sullivan brothers who died together 80 years ago in World War II.
“It’s terrible. I mean the ship has been through so much and we’ve raised so much money for it. I hope the damage is as little as it can be,” U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Todd Gardner, who is also a volunteer tour guide for the vessel, added.
USS The Sullivans was commissioned in 1943 and later decommissioned in 1965. Earning 11 battle stars over more than two decades, the ship was used in World War II, the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.