Twentieth Century Wars on Tape

Lost and Found Sound: Legacy of Those Who Served

The Five Sullivan Brothers at the U.S. Navy yard, 1942.

The Sullivan Brothers at the U.S. Navy yard, 1942. hide caption

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Bill Chritton at age 33 in Vietnam, 1966

Bill Chritton at age 33 in Vietnam, 1966 hide caption

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Curator Jay Allison and members of his team went through messages left by more than 1,500 callers to NPR, as part of a year long Quest for Sound project. People called in with snippets of sound or stories – often in recordings that had been kept for decades. Many of the voices on the recordings came from American servicemen. Some recorded messages when far from home. Others told stories long after they returned.

In this edition of Lost and Found Sound, we present highlights. One is the only known recording of the five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo, Iowa. All of them were posted to the same navy ship – the USS Juneau – and died when the ship was sunk by a torpedo in 1942. (The tragedy led the armed forces to change policies about posting family members to the same ship.) There is a helicopter pilot in Vietnam corresponding with his family by cassette; testimony from a former prisoner during the Korean War; a Gulf War conversation between two brothers that was interrupted by a missile attack; and a veteran of World War I telling how he survived five days spent trapped in "no man’s land" between the German and Allied lines.


Produced by Jay Allison, with help from Art Silverman, Darcy Bacon and Kate Volkman at NPR in Washington.

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