Col. Charles P. "Sully" O'Sullivan

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July 31, 1915 - Sept. 20, 2013
NOTRE DAME - Col. Charles P. "Sully" O'Sullivan, 98, World War II ace fighter pilot, missile wing Commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, and Worthen Bank executive, died September 20, 2013. He resided with his wife, Mareelee, in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and most recently in Notre Dame, Indiana. O'Sullivan (he restored the O' to his name in 1973) was born in Eureka, Illinois on July 31, 1915, to parents Peter Anthony Sullivan and Mary Alice Pifer Sullivan, Washington, Illinois. He had two brothers, Roger Anthony Sullivan and Edward Earl Sullivan. He grew up on a farm and taught school in a one-room school house. He married Mareelee Frances Legel of Roanoke, Illinois, on October 12, 1941. They would later have five sons. "Sully" graduated from Eureka High School, attended two years at Eureka College and graduated from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in June, 1950. He was also a graduate of the Air War College, 1955. O'Sullivan began his aviation career in 1941 by enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He became a decorated fighter pilot in the air war in the Pacific, including action in the Bismarck Sea Battle. He also became a national news hero and example of determination by surviving a 30-day trek alone out of the jungles of New Guinea following an aerial dog-fight, crash landing and encounters with native headhunters. On September 20, 1943, while on a New Guinea raid, O'Sullivan's plane was shot up by a Japanese fighter. He eluded the fighter and crash landed in the jungle. He survived a 30-day trek, during which he encountered hostile natives. After a dramatic evening around a campfire, he had a serious altercation with the natives and escaped to continue walking alone through the jungle with little to eat for three more weeks. He finally came upon Australian commandos, who helped him contact his home base. After catching a ride in a small plane, he experienced a second forced landing in the bush before arriving safely at his home airfield, having lost 40 pounds during his trek. Fifty years later, in September 1993, O'Sullivan's crashed P-38 fighter plane was discovered in the New Guinea jungle. His World War II story is told in the movie, "Injury Slight, Please Advise." After the war, he continued his distinguished aviation career nationally and abroad. As the atomic age dawned, he was called to Washington, D.C., where he served as chief of plans for a secret world-wide operation that detected the first atomic detonation by the Soviet Union. In 1956 he was asked to serve for four years as Air Attaché with the U.S. Embassy in Portugal. During that time, he had the opportunity to completely circumnavigate by air the continent of Africa as part of his diplomatic mission. With the acceleration of the Cold War in 1960, Col. O'Sullivan was assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and in 1961 began his association with the State of Arkansas as the first Wing Commander of the 308th Strategic Missile Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, commanding the 18 ICBM missile sites in Arkansas. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1969. His decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Order of Military Merit from the Portuguese government. In 1998, he was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame. Having lived and worked all over the world, he and his family chose Arkansas as their permanent home following his Air Force career. In the ensuing years, he was active in Arkansas civic, aviation and business community activities, including serving 12 years as vice president and division manager of Worthen Bank in Little Rock. O'Sullivan was a life member of the Air Force Association, the American Fighter Aces Association, the Daedalian Society of Military Pilots, the P-38 National Association, and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. He was a board member of the Arkansas Aerospace Education Center, the Jacksonville Military Museum, past president of the Arkansas State Festival of Arts, and past president of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). He was a member of the LRAFB Community Council, the Serra Club of Greater Little Rock, the "Old Goats" Club and Apelo Club, a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and received the Alumnus Award of Merit from Eureka College in Illinois. Mareelee, his beloved wife for 66 years, died in 2007 in Notre Dame, IN at the age of 92. He subsequently lived at Holy Cross Village in Notre Dame, IN. He and Mareelee considered one of their proudest accomplishments to be the raising of their five sons, all graduates of the University of Notre Dame. The sons include Steven Charles Sullivan (wife, Kathy Huisking), retired Federal Express pilot, Cordova, Tennessee; Peter Kent Sullivan (wife, Mary Jo Yonto), retired Major General in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, South Bend, Indiana; Patrick Dennis O'Sullivan (wife, Eileen Henderson), executive director of the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas; Don Jeffrey O'Sullivan (wife, Kathy King), TV news photographer, Providence, Rhode Island; and Jon David O'Sullivan (wife, Jane Wellin), vice president of PentaVision video production company, South Bend, Indiana. Grandchildren include Todd (deceased) and Bryan Sullivan; Kirk, Katie, Anne and Joe Sullivan; Kelly and Kevin O'Sullivan; Piper O'Sullivan; and Connor, Margaret and Robin O'Sullivan. Great-grandchildren include Milliana Mammolenti, Alexander Sullivan and Sullivan Mammolenti. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 24, 2013 in Our Lady of Holy Cross Chapel at Dujarie House, Holy Cross Village, Notre Dame, IN, where family and friends may visit one hour prior to the Mass. Cremation will follow. Memorial contributions may be made to: Todd Sullivan Memorial Scholarship Fund to either: Director of Donor Relations, St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN 46556-5001 or Development Donor Services, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, IN is handling arrangements. To send condolences, please visit,
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Kaniewski Funeral Homes
3545 North Bendix Drive South Bend, IN 46628
(574) 277-4444
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Published in South Bend Tribune on Sept. 23, 2013
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