World War II

James J. Tully

World War II Oral History Interview
US Navy, USS New York / USS Severn
Date: October 25, 2002
Interviewer: Michelle Carrara
Summarizer: Irving Bauman
Veterans History Project


James J. Tully was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in February, 1923. Following graduation from high school he worked as an expediter and clerk for the Western Union Telegraph Company.  Tully learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor while visiting his parents. His brother was already serving in the army air corps, but he favored the navy, since he had always liked the ocean and thought it had better food than the other branches of service.  He enlisted in the US navy in October, 1942.

Tully completed eight weeks of basic training at Sampson, New York, and then went on to sixteen weeks of advanced training in the Navy’s Quartermaster school, also located at Sampson.  Among other things, he learned to prepare charts and maps, take sightings and bearings at sea and work with the ship’s navigator on the bridge. When necessary, Tully was expected to take over steering a ship.  After training he traveled to Portland, Oregon, where he was assigned to the battleship USS New York as a Quartermaster third class.  With Tully aboard, the New York, an older battleship, sailed to Norfolk, Virginia.

While Tully was a crew member in 1943 and 1944, the New York escorted troop and supply convoys to North Africa, then, based in Chesapeake Bay, acted as a training ship for gun crews that would serve on battleships and destroyers.  The New York also conducted three training cruises to Trinidad for Annapolis naval cadets. 

In 1944 Tully was transferred to the USS Severn, a new ship designed to carry fresh water supplies to naval and land forces operating in the Pacific. As a quartermaster, Tully steered the Severn through the Panama Canal and then on to Hawaii, Eniwetok and the Marshall Islands. The ship then supported the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte.  Tully recalled that access to good meals and shower facilities kept crew morale high, although sailing through the tropics could be unpleasantly hot. The Severn arrived at Leyte the day after the invasion force landed and was in the middle of Japanese air attacks on the VIIth Fleet. A ship next to Tully’s was hit by a bomb that killed several sailors and sent shrapnel flying through the air.  He recalled that the Severn remained anchored off Leyte for thirty-eight days, and that Japanese aircraft attacked the fleet daily.

Following the Philippine invasion, the Severn moved to Okinawa, where the fleet was subjected to daily kamikaze attacks. The Severn did not remain static at Okinawa, but sailed to Saipan and Guam and other islands in search of fresh well water to refill its tanks. Once refilled, the ship returned to Okinawa, where it rode out a powerful typhoon that made most of the crew seriously seasick.

When the sailors on the Severn learned of the end of the war, there was, Tully recalled, “great elation, with guns discharging lots of ammunition.” The ship then traveled directly to Japan, where it visited several ports before departing from Wakayama for the United States on December 27, 1945.  Tully’s ship arrived in San Pedro, California on January 10, 1946. He boarded a plane for LaGuardia airport in New York City shortly afterward.  James Tully received an honorable discharge as a quartermaster first class from the navy at Lido Beach, New York on January 16, 1946. His service awards included the Asiatic Pacific with two battle stars, Philippine Liberation with one battle star, American Theater, World War II Victory and Good Conduct medals.

On his return to civilian life, Tully resumed his employment with Western Union and later joined the Port of New York Authority Police and purchased a home in Spring Lake, New Jersey.  He was aboard the famous “Broker” train when it was wrecked with high loss of life in the 1950s in Woodbridge.  Tully kept in touch with two of his navy friends to the date of the interview, and said that he learned a lot from his navy experience and does not regret his service.  He showed the interviewer a photo of the Severn and gave her a copy of his handwritten record of the ship’s mileage log, which was placed in his file.

James J. Tully passed away on July 30, 2010.