Thompson Document 22: Introduction to Lulu and Tun Shein
Lulu began her training as a nurse around 1837, when she was about fifteen years old. She and a number of fellow nurses and Tun Shein, who later became her husband, worked for Gordon Seagrave’s mobile surgical unit in 1942, and participated in the Walkout in May of that year. During the Walkout, as she told Henrietta Thompson in 1972, Lulu and British conscientious objector Martin Davies had been a couple, and she did not explain how she came to be married to Tun Shein.
Lulu's memories of the Walkout were mostly happy. She was forgiving toward the soldier who wanted to prevent the nurses from joining the Walkout (a number of Thompson's interviewees, including Jack Belden, refer to this incident). About him Lulu remembered: “We heard one time that one of the American officers didn’t think we nurses should be taken along on the trek out…Later in the mountains that officer got sick and one of the nurses took care of him. Later at Gauhati he send us all clothes and presents!”
Tun Shein met Gordon Seagrave before the war; Tun Shein was delighted to find the unit after the seminary he had been attending had closed: “here was the chance to help that I had been looking for,” he remembered. “Dr. Seagrave and his nurses were doing the surgical work, the rest of us were running around doing this and that.” Tun Shein drove a truck, cooked, and generally helped with any administrative work the unit needed. About the Walkout, he remembered: “as far as the countryside, it only interested me for finding food and I didn’t have time to notice the beauty.”
Tun Shein had been imprisoned for political dissidence, and still took precautions around the Burmese officials. For instance, Tun Shein had offered to meet Henrietta Thompson when she arrived in Rangoon in June 1972, but he did not appear in the customs shed. Instead, Thompson remembers after being searched by the authorities:
“I gathered up my belongings, and to my astonishment there was a little note in my right hand. I had no idea how it got there and it scared me....It said, ‘Mrs. Thompson U Tun Shein. With Brown Jerkin & green checked shirt.’ Just then a smiling gentlemen accompanied by a boy came up to me and said, ‘Welcome! I am Tun Shein.’”
Burma, Myanmar, Ruby Johnson, Henrietta Thompson, General Stilwell, Gordon Seagrave, Retreat With Stilwell, Burmese nurses
Asian History | European History | Military History | United States History | Women's History
Shein, Tun; Shein, Lulu; and Thompson, Henrietta, "Thompson Document 22: Introduction to Lulu and Tun Shein" (1972). Henrietta Thompson Papers. 12.