Seaman 1st Class James A. Tull (1910–1945)

James A. Tull (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives, enhanced using MyHeritage)
Home StateOccupation
DelawareMilk dealer
BranchService Number
U.S. Naval Reserve9064873
PacificU.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35)
Purple HeartOperation Jamboree, Iwo Jima, Okinawa

Early Life & Family

James Albert Tull was born in Seaford, Delaware, on August 27, 1910.  He was the second of four children (one of whom died very young) born to Edward Bird Tull (a farmer, 1883–1954) and Marion Louise Tull (née Lank, 1883–1920).  His name was listed in some records as Albert J. Tull.  When recorded on the census on January 5, 1920, he was living with his family on Arch Street in Seaford (probably at 206 Arch Street, his father’s address in 1930).  Tull’s mother died on February 29, 1920, when he was nine.

Tull was working as a clerk when he married Doris Virginia Waller (later Doris W. Tull Walls, 1915–1977) in Laurel, Delaware, on February 1, 1938.  The couple had three children.

When Tull registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was living in Laurel.  The registrar described him as standing about five feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 150 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes.  He worked as a milk dealer in Laurel prior to entering the military.

U.S. Navy Career

After he was drafted, Tull joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in Camden, New Jersey, on February 28, 1944.  He began his training in Maryland at the United States Naval Training Center, Bainbridge.  A member of his family (likely his wife) who filled out his State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record wrote that after completing training on October 21, 1944, Tull was promoted from apprentice seaman to seaman 1st class.  He or she added that Tull “Was to receive Gunners Mate Rating when he arrived on ship.”  U.S. Navy records show that on December 7, 1944, Seaman 1st Class Tull joined the crew of the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35) from the Naval Training & Distribution Center at Camp Shoemaker, California.  The ship had just been overhauled at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard near San Francisco.

U.S.S. Indianapolis photographed at Mare Island on December 9, 1944, two days after James A. Tull joined her crew (National Archives via U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Muster rolls during his service aboard the Indianapolis state that Tull was a “S1c (GM)”—which indicates that he was a seaman 1st class “striking” for the rating of gunner’s mate.  That is, he was training for a job aboard a ship at sea rather than in a school on land.  Indianapolis escorted carriers of the Fifth Fleet while they launched airstrikes against mainland Japan during Operation Jamboree, beginning on February 16, 1945.  The ship subsequently supported the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  On March 31, 1945, Indianapolis was struck and heavily damaged by a bomb dropped from a Japanese plane off the coast of Okinawa.  The ship was out of action for repairs back at Mare Island until mid-July.  According to a September 5, 1945, article in Journal-Every Evening, “Seaman Tull spent a five-day leave here [in Delaware] with his family” during the overhaul.

In his book, A Grave Misfortune, Dr. Richard A. Hulver wrote that “Notice on 12 July that Indianapolis was chosen to perform a top-secret delivery at high speed to Tinian on 16 July pushed up redeployment plans approximately two months.”  After delivering personnel and materials for the atomic bomb on July 26, 1945, Hulver continued, Indianapolis was ordered “join Task Group 95.7 for two weeks of training” off Leyte in the Philippines.  

Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, the Japanese submarine I-58 torpedoed and sank the Indianapolis.  It is unknown of Seaman First Class Tull was killed in the sinking or in the days that followed.  Those survivors of the sinking still alive by August 2–3, 1945, were rescued, but Tull was not among them.

The Wilmington Morning News reported on September 19, 1945, that the day before, “Mrs. Doris Waller Tull of near Laurel received a telegram from the War Department today staying that her husband[…]was now assumed to have been lost.”  The person who filled out the State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record paperwork wrote: “I received the Purple Heart, thru mail, for him, and am keeping it for the children (3) when they get older.”

Although his body was lost to the sea, Seaman 1st Class Tull is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines, with a cenotaph in the Beechwood Memorial Cemetery in Princess Anne, Maryland, at Veteran’s Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware, and at the U.S.S. Indianapolis Memorial in Indianapolis, Indiana.


1930 Census

Tull’s whereabouts between 1920 and 1938 are not well documented.  He was not living with his father in Seaford at the time of the 1930 census.  There was an Albert Tull documented on April 14, 1930, living at 840 North 12th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was described as a 19-year-old clerk at a factory who was born in Delaware, with parents who were also born in Delaware.  That is consistent with James Albert Tull’s characteristics—and his occupation as of 1938—though it is hard to know for certain if it is the same man.


Years after the death of Tull’s mother, his father remarried in Seaford on March 13, 1943, to Mary Alice Johnson (1897–1984), herself a widow.  One of her children, 2nd Lieutenant George McCullen Johnson (1920–1944) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, was killed in action when his B-24 crashed on takeoff from Hawkins Field in the Tarawa Atoll. 

Photo Enhancement

The photo at the top of this page was digitally enhanced using tools on the genealogy website MyHeritage.  This software is useful in instances where the only known photograph is of limited resolution (in this case, because the original print was blurry and damaged).  I believe this to be an accurate reconstruction, but the software could potentially introduce errors by misinterpreting fuzzy details in the original photograph.  A comparison of the original and enhanced versions of the photos can be viewed below. 

Comparison of the original (left) and the product of MyHeritage’s enhancements (right)


Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo.


Delaware Birth Records.  Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware.

Delaware Marriages. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware.

Hulver, Richard A.  A Grave Misfortune: The USS Indianapolis Tragedy.  Naval History and Heritage Command, Department of the Navy, 2018.

“J. A. Tull of Laurel Lost in Ship Sinking.”  Wilmington Morning News, September 19, 1945.  Pg. 12.

James Albert Tull.  Find a Grave.

James Albert Tull Individual Military Service Record.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware.

“Mrs. George F. Walls.”  The Daily Times, March 6, 1977.  Pg. A11.

Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939-01/01/1949.  Record Group Number 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. (December 1944), (March 1945), (July 1945)

Silverman, Lowell.  “2nd Lieutenant George M. Johnson (1920–1944).”

“State Casualty List Increased.” Journal-Every Evening (Wilmington, Delaware), September 5, 1945.  Pg. 6.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.  National Archives at Washington, D.C.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. and

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri.

Last updated on October 20, 2021

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