The US warship named after the five Irish-American Sullivan brothers who all died on the same during the Second World War is taking on water and is in danger of sinking. 

The USS The Sullivans suffered a serious hull breach on its starboard side last Wednesday, causing it to tilt back and to the right. 

The ship, which is housed at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, is now dipping its side into the waters of Lake Erie at a stark angle, officials at the park have confirmed. 

Park chief executive Paul Marzello said the cause of the breach was currently unknown. 

"We have a problem and we don’t know what it is," Marzello told the New York Times. 

Marzello said work to save the warship began on Thursday morning and said crews were pumping out water at a rate of 13,000 gallons per minute. 

He said he is currently optimistic, adding that crews were now pumping out water faster than it was coming in. 

He said workers were "proceeding very cautiously" to save a "cherished artifact" for generations to come. 

The USS The Sullivans was built in 1943 and is one of four surviving Fletcher-class destroyers left in the world, according to park authorities. 

The ship left Pearl Harbor in 1944 and served in the Pacific for the final years of the Second World War. It also supported carriers in the Korean War as they attacked North Korean supply lines. 

The destroyer was decommissioned in 1965 and arrived at its current home in Buffalo in 1977.

In 2018, a crack in its hull put the ship in danger of sinking, but a "Save the Sullivans" fundraising campaign helped raise $1 million to repair the damage. 

Repair work began on the ship last summer but was halted last October due to unsuitable conditions in Buffalo. 

Marzello told the New York Times that the water in Lake Erie must be at least 54F for the epoxy filling used in the repairs to adhere to the ship's steel. 

Repair work was scheduled to resume on Monday before the breach occurred. 

Marzello suggested that the ship's age may have played a role in the recent breach, adding that the destroyer was only ever designed to last 25 years. 

"The problem is that we have an 80-year-old vessel that was meant to serve about 25 years, and she served us honorably. Was she meant to be a museum ship? That was never in the plan. We are making it the plan because of what she symbolizes," he told the New York Times. 

He pledged to "right the ship" and prevent it from going down.