Prewar Life

Basic Training and Overseas

New Caledonia to Russell Islands

Moving Around the Pacific

Invasion of Saipan

Having an Appendectomy on Tinian

Invasion of Peleliu

Captured and Interrogated

Prison Camp Torture

The Japanese Leave the Camp

Coming Home

A New, Good Life

Segment stub for 56187

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George Joseph Sullivan goes by "Joe Sullivan" because he has great relatives who were named Joe Sullivan, all the way back to the Battle of Brandywine [Annotator's Note: also called Battle of Brandywine Creek, American Revolutionary War, Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania, 11 September 1777]. The only time he was called by his first name was by the Navy. He was born in August 1926 in the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He had two brothers. His parents were from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His father served in the Marine Corps in World War 1 and in the battle in Cuba [Annotator's Note: during the Spanish-American War, 21 April to 13 August 1898] just before World War 1. His father [Annotator's Note: Sullivan's grandfather] was in the Army and served under Theodore Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt; 26th President of the United States]. His father [Annotator's Note: Sullivan's great-grandfather] was in the Civil War [Annotator's Note: American Civil War, 1861 to 1865]. His great-grandmother would tell him about the Indians [Annotator's Note: Native-Americans]. It took years for him to find out she was an Indian. She told of the soldiers tearing down the teepees [Annotator's Note: also spelled tipi; Native-American lodging typically constructed of wood and animal skins] and driving the people out. He has a long family history. Their family Bibles were destroyed in Katrina [Annotator's Note: Hurricane Katrina in August 2005]. They had records from 1680 for measles, chickenpox and things that happened in Portland, Maine. His ancestors were moving West. Their wagon broke down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama so they settled there on large land. They had their own church and cemetery. Sullivan's father was an electrical and mechanical engineer at the University of Alabama [Annotator's Note: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama]. He attended there after World War 1. He worked on natural gas systems in New Orleans. Sullivan's great-grandfather was a Civil Engineer in Alabama. He did land surveying. In high school, Sullivan received a scholarship to Tulane University [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] but did not attend because of the war. Late one day, he was out by a lake and his father came out and told him the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He was 15 and ready to go. He doctored up a birth certificate. The Marine Corps turned him down. The Navy said he looked young but took him later on. He used chlorine bleach to eradicate the ink but it tore up the paper. He tried to paint it, but it did not come out well. He was probably lucky. He went in when he turned 17 years old on 25 August 1943.

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George Joseph Sullivan was sworn in at the Customs House in New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana] and immediately boarded a train for San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California] for basic training. Boot camp was light on him. He did not think much of it. His father was a Marine and a very strict person. Boot camp was a lightening up of how he lived his life. He asked to go into aerial gunnery. He pictured himself flying in the back of an SBD [Annotator's Note: Douglass SBD Dauntless dive bomber]. He was put into gunnery school. It was a detailed school. He stayed up every night studying. Out of 125 students, he and two others came out as Third Class Petty Officers [Annotator's Note: Petty Officer 3rd class; fourth enlisted rank in the Navy and Coast Guard]. He had gone through all of the big guns up to 16 inch [Annotator's Note: 16 inch guns mounted on some American battleships]. The concentration was on five inch 38s [Annotator's Note: five inch 38 caliber gun] and smaller. He ended up on a three inch 50 [Annotator's Note: three inch 50 caliber gun] on the back of an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. He qualified as gun captain in school. The gun captain worked the phones and determined the settings. His right ear is bad now because his gun was the loudest gun in the Navy. Their record was 17 rounds a minute with manual loading. They would get on the mount as quickly as they could, in seconds from a dead sleep at night. They would put their shoes at the side of the bunk. He was in third bunk at the top. He would jump out first. If he hit his shoes, he ran with them; if not, he ran barefoot. The bottom person waited until last to get out. They would get their life jackets and helmets and get in position. There was a pointer on each side of the gun who fired the gun. They had a first loader who rammed the shell into the breech. Sullivan always kept a rawhide maul [Annotator's Note: a type of hammer or mallet made of rawhide] so he could close the breech plug if needed. They had a second loader who put in the fuse setting. They had a small hoist. They did well. Sullivan got scarlet fever and had to go the hospital. He missed his draft. Then an amphibious draft came up and he got ordered to a troop ship. It was an Italian luxury liner called the SS Conte Grande [Annotator's Note: USS Monticello (AP-61)]. It was set up for 250 luxury passengers and cargo. They had converted the cargo hold to five-high racks. The ship now held 15,000 passengers. They headed for New Caledonia [Annotator's Note: collectivity of France in the South Pacific Ocean].

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[Annotator's Note: George Joseph Sullivan shipped out of San Diego, California to New Caledonia aboard the USS Monticello (AP-61).] It was a short trip. They did not zig-zag [Annotator's Note: a naval anti-submarine maneuver] and had no escorts. They got off onto barges. There were 36,000 Navy people in one big compound. Sullivan was given Master-at-Arms [Annotator's Note: naval petty officer appointed to carry out or supervise police duties aboard ship] duty due to his status. A shipment of sheep liver came in from Australia. They were cooking it one room. Sullivan had to keep the men from jumping out of line to get the food. He got his liver, and it was not cooked well. He woke up the next morning and had to use the bathroom. He heard a low moaning sound and people talking. Everybody who had eaten sheep liver was sick. The Masters-at-Arms were given loaded rifles and told to shoot anyone caught defecating on the ground. Sullivan asked who was going to hold his rifle because he was sick too. This was around Christmas 1943. He was only there a short period of time. The logistics were horrible at this time. The Kellogg's company [Annotator's Note: Kellogg Company; American food manufacturer] shipped in cases of Kellogg's Corn Flakes [Annotator's Note: breakfast cereal], but they had no milk, no sugar, and no bowls. That stayed on the dock until the rain made the boxes come apart. Vehicles were spinning their wheels in the wet Corn Flakes. He then headed for Guadalcanal [Annotator's Note: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands] on a vessel he had been on as a small child, the Dixie [Annotator's Note: unable to verify vessel], it had been renamed the Alcoa [Annotator's Note: unable to verify vessel]. They unloaded into Ducks [Annotator's Note: DUKW, six-wheel-drive amphibious truck] via cargo nets. They carried their kits and shovels in their packs. He had a Garand [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber M1 semi-automatic rifle, also known as the M1 Garand]. He got a star gauge Springfield [Annotator’s Note: .30 caliber Model 1903, or M1903, Springfield bolt action rifle; a star gauge barrel was a barrel manufactured for high precision and stamped with a star at the bottom of the muzzle] that a Marine officer later took away from him. It had belonged to a marksman. It was a nice gun. He tried it out by shooting coconuts in the water off the beach. The Marine saw that and took the gun, Sullivan thinks it was because he wanted it for himself. There was a standing order to not fire a gun unless necessary. Guadalcanal had been invaded in 1942 [Annotator's Note: Guadalcanal Campaign, 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943; Solomon Islands] but there were still hold-outs there. He came in at Lunga Point [Annotator's Note: promontory on the northern coast of Guadalcanal] near the Tenaru River which was an open area near Henderson Field [Annotator's Note: airfield; now Honiara International Airport]. He left there on an APC, All Purpose Craft [Annotator's Note: small coastal transport], and went to Mbanika [Annotator's Note: Mbanika, Russell Islands]. There were airstrikes everywhere they went. He recalls being strafed there. The crack of the guns precedes the airplane [Annotator's Note: the sound of ammunition comes before they hear the sound of the aircraft]. That was part of the South Pacific and it still spooks him that you hear the noise and then find out what is happening to you. Rabaul [Annotator's Note: Japanese military base at Rabaul, New Britain, Papua New Guinea] was near there. Sometimes they would see a Corsair [Annotator's Note: Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft] right behind them. Later at Bougainville [Annotator's Note: Bougainville, Papua New Guinea], they were moving back and forth on an LCT [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Tank] and the pilots were briefing them about those flights.

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George Joseph Sullivan moved from Mbanika [Annotator's Note: Mbanika Island, Solomon Islands] on an APC [Annotator's Note: All Purpose Craft; small coastal transport vessel] to Carter City [Annotator's Note: Carter City, Florida Island; now Nggela Sule Island; Solomon Islands], a small LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] rendezvous point between Purvis Bay [Annotator's Note: Purvis Bay, Florida Island] and Tulagi [Annotator's Note: Tulagi Island, Solomon Islands] near Guadalcanal [Annotator's Note: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands]. He was told he was going back to Guadalcanal to "Hotel de Gink" [Annotator's Note: slang term for short term, less-than-desirable housing based on the name of a series of self-service hotels for homeless men created in 1913], which was a tent-type hotel near Henderson Field [Annotator's Note: airfield; now Honiara International Airport, Guadalcanal]. He crossed that night on an LSM [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Medium]. They saw a light on the beach and found out it was a mess hall. Sullivan, a coxswain [Annotator's Note: person in charge of a small boat], and a deckhand off the LSM were having dinner and someone yelled "attention." General Vandegrift [Annotator's Note: US Marine Corps General Alexander Archer Vandegrift, commander of the 1st Marine Division], some Red Cross ladies and perhaps Admiral Turner [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner] came through. They were showing a movie in another room. Sullivan went to a lot of movies. On the LCT [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Tank], one person would take a poncho to watch the movie. When the rain hit, everybody would pass their clothes to the man with the poncho and they would sit there naked in the rain. He remembers enjoying "Two Girls and A Sailor" [Annotator's Note: 1944 American musical film]. It took five nights to see it. They were at Bougainville [Annotator's Note: Bougainville, Papua New Guinea] then and a Japanese pilot would come over every night and break it up. They called him "Washing Machine Charlie" for how the engines sounded. All of the Betty bombers [Annotator's Note: Japanese Mistubishi G4M medium bomber, known as the Betty] had unsynchronized engines and they all sounded like that. Hotel de Gink was the holding complex. There was a C-47 [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-47 Skytrain cargo aircraft] there and they flew out the next morning to Bougainville. He went into Pavuvu [Annotator's Note: Pavuvu Island, Russell Islands, Solomon Islands] to land. He got on an LST and went to Green Island [Annotator's Note: Green Island, Papua New Guinea]. He then went to Emirau [Annotator's Note: Emirau Island, also called Emira; Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea]. He walked across the island [Annotator's Note: with the 4th Marine Division on 20 March 1944] with a Thompson submachine gun [Annotator's Note: .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun]. They found a radio station and tore it up. He then went to Saipan [Annotator's Note: Saipan, Mariana Islands]. Their LST got hit on the beach and burned. He went into an LCT. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer backs him up in the story.] They were never briefed on where they were going. They found out when they got there. There was always scuttlebutt [Annotator's Note: a period slang term for a rumor]. They were listening to Tokyo Rose [Annotator's Note: nickname given by Allied servicemen to any English-speaking female radio personality broadcasting Japanese propaganda in the Pacific Theater]. On the LCT, they would listen over an SBD [Annotator's Note: Douglass SBD Dauntless dive bomber] radio. Tokyo Rose was amusing. There was a fellow on the LCT who had no education at all. He could not read or write. He was the cook, and he would shake the cans to decide what was in them. All of the cans were olive drab so they never knew what they were getting. His name was Lewis Elton Caskey [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling; unable to verify identity]. Sullivan remembers that from reading his letters to him.

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George Joseph Sullivan was on a ship gun crew. When he would be sitting off the beach, he would ask to go ashore. Once he got on the LCT [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Tank], he wanted to go ashore with the Marines. He thinks he was a bad kid. Some of the officers resented that he wanted to be part of the action. He did not know fear and did not understand. At Saipan [Annotator's Note: Saipan, Mariana Islands], they had 600 tons of 100 octane gas in drums. They dropped a bomb on that LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank], and it burned. Sullivan was on the stern on the three inch gun [Annotator's Note: three inch 50 caliber naval gun] and went off the back. He was picked up by an LCT. When on the stern, he had heard over the phones the planes were coming in. They started firing immediately but he did not get much of a shot at them. He did not see the plane and found himself in the water. The first thing he heard was the 20mm [Annotator's Note: Oerlikon 20mm antiaircraft automatic cannon] firing. They had a good crew. They had a torpedo go through their gun tub once. The pilot had dropped it when he was trying to climb. This was on invasion day for Saipan [Annotator's Note: 15 June 1944]. They had been at general quarters all morning. He was knocked unconscious by the explosion. The LCT was backing out of the fire and someone used a boat hook to grab his life jacket and pull him aboard. He does not remember it. He woke up in the bunk. They pulled about five of his crewmates out of the water. There were 104 in the crew. The LCT needed a gunner's mate so he stayed aboard. He did not like that there was no way for advancement on the LCT. He wrote his mother back home. He tried to keep his mother up in spirits as she was bed-ridden at 38 years old. They could not send home any information. His father told him some of his letters had been censored. He never tried to send the war to his family. He was a rebel kid. At 15, he had a 1931 model Harley-Davidson [Annotator's Note: motorcycle] he had bought for 25 dollars due to the Great Depression. He had to sell it when he left. It would be worth a half a million dollars today. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer and Sullivan talk about Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans, Louisiana in August 2005 and a car he had.]

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George Joseph Sullivan left Saipan [Annotator's Note: Saipan, Mariana Islands] for Tinian [Annotator's Note: Tinian, Mariana Islands] as a gunner on an LCT [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Tank; in this case it was LCT-330]. It was an uneasy landing. For some reason, they showed the lights at night. He laid down on his cot because he did not feel well. He got up without sleeping and was vomiting. He saw a first-aid tent on the beach and went over. He was told he about 45 minutes before his appendix would rupture. They set up and operated on him. It was a Navy corpsman and a Marine flight surgeon who had never done the operation. They argued about how to do it. Sullivan could watch the operation on a light reflector made out of an ice cream can. They could not find his appendix. The concussion of the shells hitting the beach was causing the coral pieces to fall off the tent. Two corpsmen came in and held up a sheet over him. As they were sewing him up the spinal was wearing off. It started hurting his chest and then the cutting pain. It was excruciating. They did not have stretchers to take him out. His feet were hitting the floor and that is when the pain really started. [Annotator's Note: The interview is paused while the tape is changed then the interviewer and Sullivan talk about the interviews of veterans.] There were a lot of wounded. Every morning he got a glass of grapefruit juice and a shot of morphine. The Marines tried to show they were tough and not use their crutches. They would fall and people would have to help them. Sullivan did well. The morphine knocks you out for about six or eight hours. He was there about three days before going back to the LCT on duty. They did not have a sick bay at Tinian. He had to go back to work. His ship got shot up on one side, so they had to pump the water out until they got it fixed in a portable dry dock. They went from one invasion to another at that time.

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George Joseph Sullivan went to Peleliu [Annotator's Note: Peleliu, Palau] in the invasion of the Philippines. There was no real briefing other than to get to the airfield where the Japanese were doing recon from. They were told there would not be resistance. There were 9,000 Japs [Annotator's Note: a period derogatory term for Japanese] on the island. They went up on an LSD, Landing Ship Dock, which carried three LCTs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Tank]. An LCT was horribly slow. The only good thing was that the dive bombers missed them a lot. He only got hit once at Bougainville [Annotator's Note: Bougainville, Papua New Guinea], but the bomb went through the vessel and blew up underneath it. They continued to use the vessel after patching it up. They had a generator on the wall that ran all day and night. The generator was knocked off and water started coming in and his feet started getting wet. After that, they could just shut off the generator to get the men up and out. At Peleliu, the surf was coming into the LSD and bashing the LCTs against it. The breakers were over 15 feet high. They had the port [Annotator's Note: in naval parlance, port means left and starboard means right] engine go out going in and they knew they were going to get crashed onto the beach. They could not get the bow into wind and then the starboard engine went out. They only had the rudderless center engine for power. They were taking in Marines [Annotator's Note: from the 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division]. They went into the reef and the skegs [Annotator's Note: a fin shaped section on the bottom of a vessel which protects the propeller and may have a rudder mounted on it] on the bottom of the vessel broke off. Their fresh water ran out too. The crew quarters were filled with water. The tide went out at daylight and they could walk around. A crewman swabbing up the water put the mop over the side and a Japanese gunner shot the mop head off. They stayed on the boat for four days because they figured the Japanese wanted the vessel. The Marines were under a tent on board. Some [Annotator's Note: Japanese] swimmers came out, but the Marines took care of them. When they came off the ship later, only eight men of their crew of 14 were left. They had about 42 Marines left out of 250. All of the dead were piled in the bow. The Japanese did not do any heavy attacking. The Japs came aboard and took them ashore. The crew had run out of ammunition and were shooting their flare pistols at the end. They were out of water and in bad shape. They were not in radio contact. The Marines were staving off the Japanese coming aboard. It was a crazy way to be. They were severely outnumbered and knew no help was coming. Sullivan credits his survival to right place at the right time. They did everything they could for the wounded. Most of the Navy men were killed instantly.

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[Annotator's Note: George Joseph Sullivan was captured by the Japanese during the Battle of Peleliu.] There was nothing formal about the surrender. They [Annotator's Note: Japanese soldiers] surrounded them and took them all off. The worst feeling was stepping over dead Japanese, knowing they had you. You were stepping over their people. They were not kind to them and took them to some caves up in the mountains. They tied them up with their hands behind their backs. They all had two-inch round bamboo pieces that were about two feet long. They put them behind their legs and made them squat down on them. That separates the knee joints. The next day they pulled them by the neck and threw them into the middle of the cave. Their knees were so painful they could not even crawl. Some of them were told he had gone to gunnery school and he was beaten a lot for that. This was the time the proximity fuse [Annotator's Note: proximity fuse; detonates an explosive device according to a predetermined value] came about, and they wanted to know how it worked. Sullivan did not know either. He found out later it was radar. He heard that Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr.] was the only one who could use it on land. The Navy was using it over water. Some of the Japanese spoke English. In the interrogations they told the Americans they were not under the Geneva Convention [Annotator's Note: standards for humanitarian treatment in war] and they were not prisoners of war, they were captives. With Sullivan, they were only really concerned with the proximity fuse. They told him he was doing the wrong thing. They asked what religion he was and said it was wrong to kill people. He told them they called him Gunner on the ship. Then they would say to him, "Gunner, you might not see again." Sullivan knew that they could not get their information if they killed him. Sullivan gave his name, rank, and serial number. His mother would always put that information in her letters to him. He was never with any of the men he had come ashore with. He was always by himself. He does not know how they knew he had gone to gunnery school. He does not like to think one of his crew told them. The number of Japanese varied but there were usually about 12 people around. The knees were the worst thing. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer moves Sullivan's microphone due to him crossing his arms. He says he gets nervous thinking about these things.]

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[Annotator's Note: George Joseph Sullivan was captured by the Japanese during the Battle of Peleliu.] Normally, the prisoners were put to some kind of work first thing in the morning. They did not get fed until the end of the day. They never got water. That was the most intimidating thing that they would work on your mind with. They would get some rice in the afternoon and it was always bad. In the evenings, they got most of their beatings. One of the worst for Sullivan was when they tied his left arm to a tree and his right leg to a tree and pulled him off the ground. When he would try to reach down to relieve the stress, they would hit him with a bat. The mosquitos would be in his eyes and swarming all over. He still sees a doctor for back problems. He would hang there for six or eight hours. They would cut him down and send him to work. His legs were often out of their sockets. All he could think about was getting out of there. He is not a person who thinks about suicide, but he thought about taking out a few of them [Annotator's Note: Japanese guards]. There was never an opportunity and he was not very mobile. They were mostly breaking rocks. The prisoners had a handle that was rough on their hands. The maul was a rock that the handle could not support. They had to use it like it was on a rope. Sometimes he was with the other people. They were not allowed to speak to each other. As he gets balder, the splits [Annotator's Note: scars] on his head from the beatings start to show. He would pass some people laying down who had been beaten. He does not know what became of them. Not talking and not drinking water was torturous. You lose track of time. He does not think it was more than a month before they were loaded on a vessel with East Indian prisoners. They went into the holds where the cargo was stored. About every three feet there were wooden racks on posts. Everybody was stored there. You could not lay down or stand up. You had a person to the left, right, front, and back. The people above them were sick and would vomit and have diarrhea on them. When they got to a stop, they had to crawl over the ones who did not make it. Sullivan says he would not have lasted six more months of it. There was no day or night because the holds were kept closed. He would guess he was on ship three or four days. They were taken to Sandakan, Borneo [Annotator's Note: Sandakan Camp, also called Sandakan Prisoner of War Camp, Sandakan, Borneo; Sandakan, Malaysia]. He worked on a Japanese airfield there. It was the same routine, but they had stopped badgering him about the proximity fuse [Annotator's Note: proximity fuse, detonates an explosive device according to a predetermined value]. They built huts with an opening the length of the hut. There were never enough palmettos on the roof to keep the rain out. They would be awakened for work at three or four o'clock in the morning by being jabbed with poles. They were fed around noon. The latrine was a trench with poles across it to sit on. The latrines were up above where they slept. When it rained, it ran right through. It was mean-spirited intimidation. He had gotten some of the names of some of the camp commanders and he carried them in his wallet until just a few years ago [Annotator's Note: at the time of this interview]. He figured they were older than him and were dead by now anyway. One of the things he was going to do when he retired was go back and find some of those Japs [Annotator's Note: a period derogatory term for Japanese]. He knew better though, so he threw away the papers with their names and ranks. In Borneo, he still got one ball of rice a day and could not drink water or speak while working.

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[Annotator's Note: George Joseph Sullivan was a prisoner of war held at the Sandakan Prisoner of War Camp in Sandakan, Borneo; now Sandakan, Malaysia.] George Joseph Sullivan had been transferred to somewhere on the Malay Peninsula. He threw caution to the wind one day to get something to eat. He snuck out at night and got into Japanese supplies and got what looked like a fancy box of something. He made it back just before daybreak. He had gotten to where he could identify the different people just by their smell. [Annotator's Note: Sullivan starts a side story that happened after the war.] He came home one night from work and said to his wife that a Jap [Annotator's Note: a period derogatory term for Japanese] at been at their home. She said there had not. He told her he could smell him. His brother had visited with a lot of camera equipment. He had bought this equipment in Japan and had set it on their couch. That was what he smelled. [Annotator's Note: Sullivan returns to the camp story.] Stealing that case of food, he could smell every guard that came by. They opened it the next night. It was cans of caviar. Caviar on a sick on an empty stomach was not the best. He could not even swallow it. The Brits [Annotator's Note: slang for British soldiers] thought it would be good, but they could not eat it either. He buried it under his bunk. The Brits did the best thing Sullivan ever saw. They built the railway [Annotator's Note: Burma-Thai Railway, also called the Railway of Death; built between 1940 and 1944 using prisoner of war labor starting on 14 May 1942] there for the Japs under the same conditions or maybe worse. They would lay the railroad ties slightly off of 90 degrees. As the train goes down the track, it noses from one side to the other. Once the ties straightened out, the train fell through the track. Sullivan and the men were working to try to fix it. The tracks ran along the entire Malay Peninsula. He was there at the end of the war. He woke up one morning and heard people talking very low. It was daylight and he wondered what was happening. He went to look for the Australian Colonel Williams [Annotator's Note: likely Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel John Munslow Williams, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion] who was in charge of the camp; he was the ranking officer. Williams said he thought the war was over and he was going to wait to be liberated. Sullivan was about the only American in the camp. Williams told him he was free to go. Sullivan had a buddy who was Scottish and who said to let the Aussies [Annotator's Note: slang for Australian soldiers] stay there. They got to the road and an Australian was driving by so they flagged him down. He was going to Singapore [Annotator's Note: Republic of Singapore] and they went with him. They stole gas by using a pickaxe and a square can from cars. They even stole oil. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer backtracks a bit.] The Japanese were just gone that one morning. Sullivan did not look back; he just left. He was friends with that particular Scotsman that he left with. It took three or four days to get to Singapore. The roads were bad, and they could not drive at night. They crossed onto an island and a Navy destroyer dropped the hook [Annotator's Note: dropped anchor]. [Annotator's Note: Sullivan gets very emotional and says you cannot believe what it was like to see the flag on the back of the ship.] They sent a motor whale boat ashore and dropped off two officers who went into Singapore. Sullivan told his friends goodbye and went to the guy at the boat. Sullivan explained who he was, and the sailor did not believe him. All he owned was a pair of Japanese sandals, a pair of Marine underwear, a British pith [Annotator's Note: pith is a dried, milky-white spongey plant matter that can be pressed and shaped] helmet, and a British ammunition box with his only possessions. The sailor refused to let him aboard because Sullivan had a beard, long hair, and was dirty. Sullivan proceeded to call him every filthy word he could think of [Annotator's Note: Sullivan starts to get emotional] and the sailor said, "get aboard Gunner." That was the end of the war.

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[Annotator's Note: George Joseph Sullivan was a prisoner of war of the Japanese and was working as slave laborer on the Burma-Thai Railway somewhere on the Malay Peninsula on Borneo when the war ended.] He started out okay, but his clothes just rotted on him; when you cannot wash them or clean them. Eddie Stone [Annotator's Note: unable to verify identity] died. He had a real pith [Annotator's Note: pith is a dried, milky-white spongey plant matter that can be pressed and shaped] helmet and Sullivan got that. The British helmets did not protect your face. Stone probably died of malnutrition and beriberi [Annotator's Note: Severe, chronic Thiamine deficiency; Wet beriberi affects the cardiovascular system; Dry beriberi affects the nervous system]. [Annotator's Note: Some people come into the room to talk to him.] Most people got beriberi and hiccuped to death. They would lose the mobility in their legs. Sullivan had a little of it and he now flaps his feet when he walks. He was getting around pretty well when he boarded the Navy ship [Annotator's Note: he came across a Navy destroyer when he made it to Singapore]. He had an incident at the gangplank but the sailors recognized him and brought him down, bathed him, got him new clothes and shoes. [Annotator's Note: Sullivan gets emotional.] He said he was starving. They brought him food and he was eating some beans and they came flying back out. He asked for more. They brought a medic and he told them not to give him anymore beans or they would kill him. They took him to a hospital at Hollandia, New Guinea. There he was put on an Army hospital ship, the Xtavier [Annotator’s Note: unable to identify vessel], going back to the United States. The food was good. He ate mostly buttered toast; he thought he had died and gone to heaven. He came into San Pedro [Annotator's Note: San Pedro, California] at night. They were unloaded and there was not a soul there, not even the Red Cross with donuts. He went to a hospital near his home in New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana]. He had to travel by train in a car with five-high bunks. It was lousy but he was anxious to get where he was going. They had whiskey and some of them stayed drunk the whole time. They had a 13-hour layover in El Paso, Texas with no dining car. He had not been able to write home. He came into New Orleans and got in a cab. He did not have any money. His records had been lost and he could not get paid anywhere. He became a displaced person. His parents paid for the cabs. His mother said he now walked funny. His parents did not know he was coming home. In those days, you had to have money to make a phone call. He never told his parents what he went through. He never told his wife or children. He does not think he should. There is so much more that he is not saying now [Annotator's Note: for this interview.] People ask him if the hurricane is the worst thing he has even seen. He says no; World War 2 is the worst thing. He is not trying to keep anything from anybody, they just should not know it. What are you going to do? [Annotator's Note: With that knowledge.]

Annotation

George Joseph Sullivan spent six months in a hospital at home after he got back. The diet was one of the bad things. He spent two weeks on milk and bread; two weeks on boiled chicken. He could not eat certain meats. One day they said his treatment was over and asked what he wanted for lunch. He wanted four fried soft-shell crabs. He got two of them down. They started letting him go out at night. [Annotator's Note: Sullivan gets emotional.] He got every night and weekend off on liberty [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] for a few months. He had to be in bed by eight o'clock in the morning, or he could not leave at four o'clock in the afternoon. He and the others were known as Captain Sartin's boys. Sartin [Annotator's Note: US Navy Rear Admiral Lea Bennett Sartin] was a full Navy Captain captured in the Philippines. His name is on Sullivan's discharge. [Annotator's Note: Sullivan gets up to get some pictures. The interviewer then asks him to tell the story of how the Navy thought he was a deserter.] Sullivan's mother told him a while after he was back, that a man who lived next door thought Sullivan was a deserter. They went to see Commander Hull [Annotator's Note: unable to identify] and asked about it. Hull said to put it in the newspaper. The Times-Picayune put an article in the paper, but it was not a good one. Sullivan did not want to be labeled that he surrendered. He had run out of ammunition. They left out his prisoner status. What amazes him is what was left off his discharge. The Navy is not bad. He has friends who tell him he should sue them. He does not agree. [Annotator's Note: Sullivan gets emotional.] The minute he saw the flag on the back of the boat [Annotator's Note: he had come across a Navy destroyer in Singapore after leaving when the Japanese guards left their camp], he got a whole new life. He has done what he wanted to do. After he was discharged, he went back to school in New Orleans [New Orleans, Louisiana]. He went to Tulane University [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana]. He was told he should not try to go to a school like Tulane and should go to a small school. He went in under Public Law 16 [Annotator's Note: Public Law 16 emphasized vocational rehabilitation and quick reentry into the labor market] which is a law for a disabled veteran. It allowed 84 months of education and a different payment plan, including all books and lab fees. He only attended for four, nine-month years at Tulane. He got a degree in Civil Engineering. He has a Civil Engineer, an Environment Engineer, and a Surveyor's License. He has had a good life. He has two kids he is proud of. They lived in Portugal and the Azores [Annotator's Note: Autonomous Region of the Azores, Portugal] with his kids. He built a school there. His daughter stayed there because she loved it. It has been a real good life.

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