War on Their Minds
mrs. tully in 1940s   Mrs. Margaret Soule Tully
Age in 1941: 27

Interview Team: Crissy Lopez and Gail Winning

This is Crissy Lopez with my partner, Gail Winning, and we are interviewing Ms. Margaret Soule Tully at my house. The date is May 10, 2002.

Q: Okay, what is your full name?

Mrs. Tully: Margaret Soule, S-O-U-L-E, Tully, T-U-L-L-Y. Now, I was Margaret Soule when I was over there.

Q: And you were Tully after you were married?

Mrs. Tully: Yes, that was after I came back.

Q: How old were you in 1941, do you remember?

Mrs. Tully: Well, I was born in 1914 so, well anyway subtract 1914 from 1941.

Q: So that would make you about 27? Does that sound right?

Mrs. Tully: Yes, I was 26 or 27.

Q: Where were you born, and where were you raised?

Mrs. Tully: I was born in Watervliet, New York. And I was raised in various places because Pa was with the International Harvester so they transferred him all over.

Q: Where were you living right before the war?

Mrs. Tully: I was living in Albany.

Q: Were you aware of the dangers in Japan and Asia, such as Emperor Hirohito?

Mrs. Tully: Oh, we were aware of all that. You mean before the war? Yes. Well, they didn't write or do too much about it, you know? We didn't have the news like we have now. From what I understand, like today, they try to keep a lot from you. Our government did.

Q: What do you remember about the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Mrs. Tully: Oh dear [long pause]. I've got this all written down somewhere. Well what was the date?

They bombed in 1941.

Mrs. Tully: Ok, I was in St.Petersburg hospital, I was, you know, working there as a nurse. And I was also doing other work, volunteering. And when I heard that I had plans to go in and take a course in one of the colleges, but when I heard that, I left and went in service.

Q: So you volunteered after Pearl Harbor?

Mrs. Tully: As soon as I heard that.

Q: What branch of the armed forces did you volunteer for?

Mrs. Tully: I was in the army. Now, in those days they did not recognize you as an army nurse. You were a woman.

Q: What was it like saying goodbye to your family, and boyfriend?

Mrs. Tully: I didn't really have a definite boyfriend [By the time I left] all the men, if they were capable and able, had to go off to service.

Q: Did you get sent for military training first?

Mrs. Tully: No, we did not. They were supposed to, but they just sent us wherever we were essential.

Q: Where were you first stationed?

Mrs. Tully: Fort Dix, outside of New York.

Q: So then where were you sent when you left for the war?

Mrs. Tully: Well we were put on the ship and we were supposed to go...hold on...all I know is I was on the Uruguay, the ship. And, of course they never told you because it was supposed to be kept absolutely secret because if there was anybody on the ship who could give information out to anyone else or pass it on, which was difficult to do because they didn't have the kind of equipment they have today. But I do know that there were thousands of men down in the bottom of the ship, you know, a big ship. And they had it all outfitted with these cots, or these beds, they were like tiered. One on top of another, and they just had enough space to get out in-between the tiers.

Q: Where did the boat take you?

Mrs. Tully: Uh, it took us to a lot of places. A lot of the different islands. But we finally landed in New Guinea.

Q: Okay, how many other nurses were at your camp?

Mrs. Tully: There were five of us that started out, and then five of the original and they brought in much a few more.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your days at the nursing camps. Your duties, the food you ate..?

Mrs. Tully: We worked 24 hours around the clock. We were doing everything. We were living in tents and we had to keep them covered with the netting mosquito netting. There were all kinds of different insects. And let me see, in the tent there were 5 of us. And, oh! We had to deal with a lot of terrible snakes. I've never forgotten one. I heard some screaming and I was dozing off, and I looked up and at the big pole that holds the tent up in the center, there was a big snake wound around it. Oh it was terrible! We screamed and we're not supposed to have hold of any ammunition or guns but some of our men got a hold of it to defend themselves because they heard about natives and animals, they didn't know what was crawling around the woods. And he shot the reptile.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about how you took care of the injured men at the camp?

Mrs. Tully: Well we didn't have too much in the way of necessary equipment so a lot of the stuff that was brought in was improvised, it's hard to tell about that because you have to almost be there to see.

Q: Right. So how many men did you take care of in a given day?

Mrs. Tully: Oh my god I couldn't tell you. Oh, a lot hun. Sometimes we had to work 24 hours around the clock, we were lucky if we got some sleep.

Q: What did you do for fun there? Was there any time left for socializing?

Mrs. Tully: Oh absolutely not. Oh not for a long time. It was very serious, you were in an area where you had to protect yourself and protect those around you.

Q: How were you treated by the other men such as the doctors and the GI's?

Mrs. Tully: Oh, our GIs were wonderful. The men! Oh they knew that there were only a few of us. They were most respectful because they were so glad to think that when they opened their eyes there was a woman! They were some of the most respectable men I think I've ever met in my life.

Q: Did you meet any of the famous war generals during your time in New Guinea?

Mrs. Tully: MacArthur came through our area, and a couple other big shots. Because that was an area where all the necessary people were, the ones that were fighting the war. And New Guinea, they had a lot of them, but I remember MacArthur.

Q: What was your attitude towards the Japanese?

Mrs. Tully: I didn't have too much an attitude towards them because they were going through the same kind of stuff we were going through. There was a big discussion that they weren't sure that the ones that were suspected had done what they were accused of doing.

Q: Did you have any contact with any of the Japanese prisoners of war? Did you take care of any of them?

Mrs. Tully: I took care of one of them that had lost his legs. But those that did come through were really serious. A lot were killed off, the ones that were found. We were supposed to, our men, were supposed to be defending themselves.

Q: Did you ever experience the Japanese being vicious like any of the rumors around then?

Mrs. Tully: No.

Q: Did you have contact with the Natives of the Island of New Guinea?

Mrs. Tully: Um. They really had a way of hiding. [Many of them brought our men in if they found them injured. Word got around we were there. We didn't really have too much to do with them. But I remember this one priest taking us up to a camp where the missionary had a school for the Natives. And he took us to visit that. And I remember that when we went along there were bananas hanging, and when we stopped we would take a bunch on the cord that they grew on and he told us to always take the un-ripened ones because they ripened so fast.]

Q: What did you miss most about the United States?

Mrs. Tully: I missed my family terribly. More than anything else. And of course we had a good life, our family did, and we're very close. It was very difficult to hear from them and write to them to be sure that anything would get to them.

Q: Why?

Mrs. Tully: Well because there was no mail. I mean, stop and think. If you were under siege, you did very little writing. You were defending yourselves.

Q: Were your letters censored?

Mrs. Tully: Oh yes. Oh everything was censored.

Q: Did your family know that you were stationed in New Guinea?

Mrs. Tully: Not for quite some time.

Q: What was your most memorable experience

Mrs. Tully: Oh heavens I have so many I couldn't even tell you.

Q: Could you tell me one?

Mrs. Tully: Well a nice one was when we hadn't heard mass and we hadn't received communion. And we heard that a priest was coming on the Uruguay. And I was signed out on the outside deck with a few other nurses. You took turns being out of the cabin to get some breaths of air and to relieve yourself. And I happened to be by the steps that they had to pick someone else up from another boat, and I had went down to pull the rope across, and I looked, and it was Father Kaninsky. I saw the bald head coming up, the guy that graduated with my [future] husband at St.Johns Academy! That was really something. Because neither of us have ever forgotten that. We don't bring it up all the time, but we remember.

Q: Any others?

Mrs. Tully: Well, one time they were shelling the place, and the car I was in, the jeep, there was this guy who was driving me over to visit another camp. He started out as a pharmacist. And he got under the car. And I said, " Get out from under there because if anything hit it will blow up and you'll be gone." He couldn't figure out how I could figure that out. I had common sense I tell ya. I never forgot that, and he never forgot that.]

Q: How did your family welcome you home?

Mrs. Tully: Oh with open arms! [Laughter] I arrived in South Carolina, and Jim came down and he brought my wedding dress. My mother wrapped it up. And that was what I was married in. The white dress. [The had stopped manufacturing shoes then, and I had tried to go in and buy white ones for the wedding. But the man said there were none left. He gave me a pair of white slippers instead]

Q: So you got married as soon as you got off the ship?

Mrs. Tully: No, we got back and were stationed at South Carolina. We were supposed to be on rest period. But instead we took care of different hospitalized patients. Then Jim came down (the guy I married) and that was where I was married.

Q: Did you maintain contact with any of the nurses from your unit?

Mrs. Tully: Oh heavens yes. It really brought you together. Some of the girls were even closer than they were with their family. We went though so much together.

Q: Were you aware of the Japanese Americans that were detained at the internment camps at the US?

Mrs. Tully: I think we were brought up to date on it. It was bad because many of them were citizens. And, believe me, a lot of them went through hell and high water.

Q: What was your personal opinion on the camps?

Mrs. Tully: Oh, terrible because they were American citizens and some of them were born here of Japanese parents.

Q: How did you view President Franklin D. Roosevelt's leadership during the war?

Mrs. Tully: I agreed with some things and disagreed with others.

Q: Did you like him overall?

Mrs. Tully: Oh yes, I mean I respected him. And I thought he was doing a good job. Somebody had to do it.

Q: How did you react to the news of his death?

Mrs. Tully: Well, it was sad. I felt badly. I saw so many die that I just I can't explain it. There are some things you just can't explain.

Q: What did you feel about President Truman's war leadership?

Mrs. Tully: They all had good and bad moments. I didn't agree with everything.

Q: What was your reaction and where were you when we dropped the atom bomb in 1944 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Mrs. Tully: Oh it was terrible. Because after all there were a lot of innocent people still.

Q: When the war ended, did you anticipate future wars, or did you believe that was the last war?

Mrs. Tully: Oh no, I didn't think that, not the way the world was.

Q: What do you think some of the lessons are that war has taught us?

Mrs. Tully: If you care for somebody, don't put off for tomorrow what you should be doing today. Respect the rights of other countries, don't just jump into something.

Q: From your perspective how did the roles of women change after the war? Did you see yourself being treated differently.

Mrs. Tully: No, the ones I noted were the navy nurses. Why, they were being honored and some of them were never even in the war. They weren't considered nurses until quite a while after.

Q: Did you see women working more, or having better jobs?

Mrs. Tully: No. Well, a certain number if they held high positions gained a certain amount of respect. But I don't think they ever treated the women as they should. It was a long timewell today they don't still if you stop and think about it.

Q: What was your reaction to 9-11? The bombing of the World Trade Centers?

Mrs. Tully: Oh it was terrible! You think of the people who died, and what happened, that was one of the worse things. It reminded me of the ones who died and what they went through. They were shelling, in those days. They shelled the camps and all villages. And people died. And the Natives died. And it would remind you of almost the same things. When you shell them, you die, and there is not much difference in dying. It's all wrong.\par

Q: Do you have any parting advice for kids today

Mrs. Tully: Study, get all the credits you can. Keep close to your family, if you have any, a lot don't have any. Do your best. Help the other guy out; don't be miserable and mean like a lot of them are.

Q: Okay Grandma, Thank you so much for letting me ask these questions.

Mrs. Tully: Of course dear.


Nurse Tully describes life in a nursing camp (Quicktime)

Father K
Father Konisky

Mrs. Tully's Legion Cap

mrs t
Mrs. Tully is the 3rd on the ramp

Newspaper clipping

Disembarking in New Guinea

Nurse Tully's cap from the 40's

Nurse Tully and pals having a sing along

NY Daily News

Nurse Tully's friend Pooler all dressed up with no place to go

Port Moresby New Guinea

SS Uruguay and Nurse Tully's embarkation card