He was born 22 Aug 1895 in Somersworth, Strafford County, New Hampshire. On 6 Jul 1921, he married Mary Ewing Parks in Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan. Major Fullerton (see below) says he died 12 Nov 1942 aboard a Japanese Hell Ship en route to Davao on Mindanao. However, a letter from Major General Edward F. Witsell, dated 1 Nov 1945, says that he died of amoebic dysentery and pneumonia. A subsequent letter from Major Robert E. Gambrill, dated 27 Nov 1945, gives the same cause of death and specifies that he died at Dapecol, Davao.
Newmarket News, (NH) 23 Jul 1943, page 1
On word received from the War Department, Mrs. Elizabeth Sullivan announced Thursday that her son, Lt. Col. Joseph Sullivan, 47, who since the fall of Bataan has been a prisoner of war of the Japanese, died recently in the Phillipines.
The war department notified Mrs. Sullivan on June 17, 1942, that her son was missing in action. It was explained at that time that confusing circumstances made it impossible to determine the fate of Lt. Col. Sullivan. In December, Mrs. Sullivan was notified that her son was a prisoner of war.
Lt. Col. Sullivan was 47 years old and was born in Somersworth on August 22, 1895. He resided in Dover most of his life where his father was employed as a barber. His father was Dennis E. Sullivan who died several years ago.
In 1916 he was graduated from the University of New Hampshire and during the following year, when the United States declared war on Germany he enlisted as a private and had remained in the army since.
In January, 1942, Mrs. Sullivan received a letter from her son who was then in San Francisco, saying that he was sailing in an hour under sealed orders. The next information received came shortly afterward from his wife in San Francisco stating that he had arrived in Bataan. His mother sent him a letter when he was shipped overseas, but it was censored and returned to her. She had not seen her son since he came to Rochester to visit her almost six years ago.
One of her most cherished possessions is a copy of his commission as a lieutenant colonel, effective March 21, 1942 shortly before Bataan fell. She received the copy from the War Department which mailed it August 10, 1942, with the explanation that it was for safekeeping in view of the fact that the present location of Lt. Col. Joseph Albert Sullivan was unknown.
Lt. Col. Sullivan is survived by his wife; three sons, Joseph, Robert and Donald Sullivan residing in San Francisco; and two brothers, Edward Sullivan of Chicago and Phillip Sullivan of Connecticut.
Information about the death was transmitted through the Red Cross after the War Department had been notified of the circumstances by the Japanese government. It is also said that Secretary of War Stimson extended his deepest sympathy and that a letter was following.
30 Nov 2001 e-mail to Larry Sullivan from Major Albert L. "Duke" Fullerton
I am glad to respond to your inquiries about your grandfather. I admired him greatly. He was always understanding about the problems I had with the GRS company work, over which he had supervision. He trusted me and my officers to the extent that he did not enter the picture except when we needed some supplies or additional labor force. I was a 1st Lieutenant when I first met him at Fort McKinley shortly after the attack began. He had been a QM officer at Fort Stotsenberg and after Stotsenberg got hit hard he transferred to Ft. McKinley, where he assumed the assignment of Post Quartermaster. Almost all the post officers had gone to Bataan by this time. Shortly thereafter Col Sullivan went to Bataan too, and I did not see him again until about three weeks later on the peninsula. There were no supply jobs left when I got there so I was assigned to the GRS under Col Sullivan. You asked my age. It was 28. He was a very congenial man and a delight to listen him tell of his days in the artillery in WWI. He made his headquarters close to Hospital No. 2 at approx. 352 km. post. When the company commander of GRS Co. No l was wounded in the radial nerve of his arm and hospitalized, your grandfather then promoted me to Captain and commander of GRS Co. No. l. I established 4 US Army Cemeteries under his overall supervision. He always trusted me to do it right and never interfered. When the fall of Bataan came, the Col. ordered me to take all my personnel and equipment over the bombed road to Mariveles, at the tip of the peninsula, and await further orders. I did not see him again until July as he got to Corregidor and I to the big hike out of Bataan. We met again, then at Cabanatuan where the Corregidor people were taken, and I had been shipped in from O'Donnell. In the fall of 1942, Col. Sullivan was sent to Davao on Mindanao on one of those hell ships. It wasn't until some months later when that detail returned from Davao that I learned he had died aboard the ship while en route to that camp. From my later experiences on three of those ships, I believe he may have perished from heat exhaustion.
I am very happy to recall my times with your grandfather. I admired him.
Major A. L. "Duke" Fullerton