I'm his grandson and will be fielding the questions. He grew up in coal country Pennsylvania then served in the Pacific on a transport ship where he saw kamikaze attacks, gas attacks screens and mass Japanese suicides. The ship was named the USS George Clymer. He was all over the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands, the Philippines, Okinawa, Leyte, New Zealand, Guam, Japan. Aboard ship he worked in personnel, boxed and was a cartoonist. He then participated in Operation Crossroads in 1946 which was part of the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests.

I'll be fielding questions for as long as you guys are interested.

PROOF: http://imgur.com/450ESgt

ACTUAL PROOF (with date): http://imgur.com/WfwHN7p

EDIT: The interest so far is awesome. Thanks guys. Keep in mind that at his age some of the dates or places may be mixed up. I'm trying to catch what I can. Also, for anyone interested, he has written a memoir about his wartime days which I plan on putting up as a website and possibly a physical copy soon with pictures and his cartoons.

EDIT2: Big edit. During the Korean War, he was actually stateside at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. I always thought he didn't go overseas to Korea but this morning he said he did. Turns out he thought I was talking about WW2 still and mixed them up. He was in the military during the Korean War but only overseas during WW2 . Apologies!

EDIT3: Also, I realize I spelled Bikini Atoll wrong in the title.

EDIT4: The response to this has been incredible. He enjoyed it and I'm tremendously grateful there's this much interest in his story. Thank you all. I love Reddit. We're winding down for now. I'll try to keep up with additional questions later.

EDIT5: I should have caught this earlier but the gas attacks were not from the Japanese. It was from the United States who used the gas as a screen to hide the ships.

Comments: 1896 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

erevoz1230 karma

Holy shit gramps, you really are impossible to kill, aren't you?

PN1CFrankGulba1219 karma

(Grandson: He smiled and said "I don't remember saying that .")

klawehtgod986 karma

Is there a story about any of the men you served with that you feel should be told and remembered?

PN1CFrankGulba2294 karma

During a battle the left side of the mess hall was used for surgeries. Coming down the ladder you could see doctors working on the injured soldiers. You could see the doctors cutting off limbs and see the limbs laying along with the blood flowing back and forth on the deck. On the other side of the mess hall we went over and ate while this was going on. We could see the surgeries as we ate. Lots of guys couldn't handle it and threw up.

Ppitm1819 karma

Do you remember staring into the blast zone? Can you describe what you had seen?

PN1CFrankGulba1395 karma

When the bomb exploded, it appeared that all of the water inside the atoll formed a mushroom and its height must have been 2 to 3 miles high. There were many ships but I remember the biggest ship, the battleship, split in two. After the water settled, all the ships vanished. Nothing left at all.

blackpanda9439 karma

Its a long shot, but did you ever cross paths with some one named John Kopach? He would have also been at the testing.

PN1CFrankGulba536 karma

Sounds familiar. Aboard what ship?

JamesHunt21808 karma

How many nuclear tests did you personally witness and what was it like to witness them in person?

PN1CFrankGulba1404 karma

Three. Able, Baker, Charlie. Underwater, surface, and air.

It was awesome and destructive. We were 12 miles outside of the atoll and felt the impact. We had to wear dark sunglasses. On the return to San Francisco, they wouldn't let us on land until they had completed radiation testing.

(Grandson: He says three but it may have been two since it appears the third test was cancelled. He participated in the tests in the 40s.)

mjsulladogga673 karma

Which was worst WW2, coal mining, or the Korean war?

PN1CFrankGulba1190 karma

WW2 because of the Japanese bombers and kamikazes.

Staysis653 karma

What is your fovorite memory from your time serving?

PN1CFrankGulba1867 karma

Probably experiencing the customs from the different islands...and getting drunk...

Stoooooooo500 karma

What ports/stations have you gone back to visit or would still like to visit?

PN1CFrankGulba976 karma

I never went back after the war but I'd like to go back to Auckland, New Zealand. I could go now but age is against me.

skiller712451 karma

When you say that he 'Saw kamikaze attacks, gas attacks..' Was he affected by the gas at those places?

PN1CFrankGulba952 karma

Only to the extent that we had to wear gas masks and the masks were so tight to your face, your skin shriveled. You had a tendency to put a finger under the mask to get some fresh air and in doing so you permitted the gas to get in the mask. I did this and my eyes were burning and watery. It also caused me to vomit. The gas attack lasted for a day and a half. The Japanese dropped it from planes .The United States dropped it as a screen for the ships.

The only two people on ship that escaped the gases were the commanding officer and the lieutenant commander. They escaped it by going into the refrigerating room. It was the only area aboard ship that wasn't affected by the gas.

(Grandson: The gas was from the United States using it as a screen to hide the ships. Apologies for not correcting this earlier.)

RedTeamGo_417 karma

How do you feel about the environmental impact of coal and coal mining? How deep down was the mine you worked in?

I work in a salt mine 2000 ft below Lake Erie and I actually think it's kind of comforting.

PN1CFrankGulba609 karma

All I can say is that it's necessary to clean up the pollution especially in the coal area there's alot of death affecting the lungs. At the time that wasn't a concern. It was just day to day activities.

There was one mine that was at least 20 miles in length. The depth was half a mile or more.

No degree of comfort. No way! We were mindful of a mine collapse. You'd be a prisoner down in the mine. No escape.

revkaboose401 karma

After having fought in battle and been a part of the testing for nuclear weapons, what is your opinion of our use of such weapons in WWII with the potential for the war to drag on for years?

PN1CFrankGulba932 karma

They should be extinct. The only positive affect was that the war ended as a result.

mly61986361 karma

How did you feel about the atomic bombs dropped on Japan? Was it a relief to know it ended the war without an invasion of the mainland? Did anyone think Japan would surrender? Also did anyone in the Pacific celebrate when Germany surrendered even though their war continued on?

PN1CFrankGulba603 karma

The only positive affect was that the war ended as a result. It was a relief to not have to invade Japan.

(Grandson: He doesn't recall VE day.)

thebearsandthebees327 karma

What was your job in the Navy?

PN1CFrankGulba680 karma

At the outset, I was a deckhand. A swabby. I had tasks like chipping the paint off the side of the ship when it was in dry dock. Once the chief (Chief Johnson) of the personnel office learned I could type, I was brought in as a typist in the personnel office. In less than a year I took over as chief when Chief Johnson left. My responsibility was to reassign crew members aboard ship, disciplinary action, promotions, release of personnel for return to the United States.. All enlisted personnel matters.

snapsticks313 karma

How close were you to the Bikini test explosioins?

PN1CFrankGulba425 karma

12 miles at least.

ThatdudeAPEX312 karma

How were you feeling the moment you heard the war was over?

Also how did you feel when you saw an atomic blast?

PN1CFrankGulba757 karma

We were going enroute to Japan at the time it was announced. We were going underneath the Golden Gate bridge when it came on the radio. VJ day. Everybody was cheering. We still went to Japan.

RoxinoX299 karma

Would you do it all again if you could?

PN1CFrankGulba483 karma

I would! Absolutely.

AgentMZ280 karma

Was there any one particular battle that stood out to you and that you still think about regularly? Would you say all that you've been through has a had a major affect on your life?

PN1CFrankGulba537 karma

Leyte. Because the kamikaze suicide bombers were always attacking. There was one plane in particular approaching the ship that missed us by about twenty feet and exploded off the starboard side including the pilot.

No major affect on my life that I recall.

awwaygirl271 karma

Any advice for young people thinking of joining the armed services?

PN1CFrankGulba871 karma

Except those who are gainfully employed or are in school, I'd highly recommend military service. It would cut down on a large population of druggies.

Wh3r3Th3BuffaloRoam248 karma

Do you think that soldiers were more mentally prepared for war during WW2 than they are today? I understand that during WW2 Combat Exhaustion (PTSD) happened, but do you think it is more frequent now than back then, or is it that people are more open about it now?

PN1CFrankGulba475 karma

I would see no seperation from any combat. If you're in a battle, it's the same.

hbarSquared242 karma

In an earlier question you said your favorite memories were the customs from different islands, and getting drunk :)

Do you have any good stories from when you were on shore leave, from either war?

PN1CFrankGulba668 karma

There was more than one occassion. I had never been in an airplane and wanted to go up and a pilot told me he'd take me up anytime at all. I was on Kwajalein and had planned to go over but I drank too much alcohol on the way over and never made it.

Another time on Kwajalein, I got some homemade whiskey from the natives. I paid 20 bucks and ended up in the sick bay.

In New Zealand, every time a ship went to an island there was a dance arranged. There was a dance two days, one for the starboard crew and the other for the port crew. I went out that day and found two girls to meet me at the dance. However, later on that day I found a very beautiful girl and made arrangements to take her instead. When I got there the two girls were waiting and I told them I'd get them in then went in and sat at a table where the guys had a bottle of scotch. That was my first encounter with scotch. I must have been a pig to drink as much as I did. I got sick. Enroute from the ballroom to the men's room, the Catholic chaplain stopped me from going up to the restroom because the dance was starting. I got so darn sick I vomited. I might have puked on him I don't remember. I was so drunk. The ship's police (SP) took me back to the ship. My date saw me leaving and said "Whitey whitey where are you going?!" and I said I'd be back. They called me Whitey on account of my blonde hair. I never made it. I found her the next day to apologize and she didn't want any part of me at all.

dmcv78217 karma

My grandfather was also present at the Bikini Atoll testing. He passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2001, and my grandmother is convinced that it was due to his exposure to radiation from those tests (and Agent Orange in Vietnam). Do you have any health issues you would attribute to radiation exposure, or do you have friends who do?

PN1CFrankGulba324 karma

No. The Department of Defense had me do testing after the war in Philadelphia and the conclusion was there was little to no radiation.

amcmg211 karma

When you were a teenager, what were the kids doing that adults could not wrap their heads around? Things that were perceived as destructive to the moral fabric of society, like snapchat or tinder? In other words, was the greatest generation ever perceived as the opposite, like millennials are today?

PN1CFrankGulba388 karma

All I know is when I was a kid we used to play tic-tac-toe and we did alot of wrestling. I wrestled in high school. Baseball! We did alot of baseball. Hardball. I was a pitcher. When we played tic-tac-toe, we'd knock on the neighbors door then run away and watch their reaction. That's the worse we did to annoy the adults. We'd take a big long piece of string. We'd attach a safety pin to the string and we'd hang it on a window and hide. Then we'd use the string to tap on the window and they'd come out and no one would be there. We didn't think about stealing or anything of that nature.

mragent0028211 karma

Thank you for your service! While you were aboard the ship, what kind of cartoons did you do? Political or fun ones? Do you still have any of your work? Thanks!

PN1CFrankGulba472 karma

I had a cartoon I prepared for the monthly ship bulletin. The character was Longshanks. Longshanks was always sleeping and was always in trouble. It was about life on ship.

(Grandson: I have a copy of some of the cartoons. I plan on posting them along with his full memoir and wartime pictures in the future).

felisrufus189 karma

Can I ask what ship you were on? It sounds kind of like the type my grandfather served on, the USS James O'hara

PN1CFrankGulba276 karma

USS George Clymer.

(Grandson: I asked him if he's familiar with the USS James O'hara and he said no.)


What was the mentality you and your peers had going into the war and coming out of the war (either war, but more specifically WWII)?

PN1CFrankGulba348 karma

The thought was you're going into a battle and there's a possibility you may be killed. You just accepted it. When you're in a battle you really don't think about death because you're preoccupied about what you're doing.

black_flag_4ever160 karma

Where's your favorite place?

PN1CFrankGulba689 karma

New Zealand because I loved dancing and met alot of girls there. I was a good dancer then and a better dancer now.

pigpotjr154 karma

Any advice for a 18 year old?

PN1CFrankGulba479 karma

Avoid drugs!

HeyLittleMonkey146 karma

Does it still keep you awake at night?

PN1CFrankGulba343 karma

No. It never occurs to me unless someone talks about it.

Koean118 karma

What was your closest near-death experience?

PN1CFrankGulba227 karma

The kamikaze attack that missed us by about 20 feet.

programming_student1116 karma

Where did you see mass Japanese suicides? What did you personally feel when you saw it?

Also, what's the best place you've been to?

PN1CFrankGulba224 karma

Okinawa. My thought was they looked like ants coming off the cliff.

klawehtgod107 karma

Who was your favorite baseball player?

PN1CFrankGulba218 karma

Joe DiMaggio

PlaceTrashHere93 karma

Fighting against the Japanese and Korean in a war, how do you feel when you see Japanese & Koreans here in the US now? I've never served in a war so I don't know how it must feel.

PN1CFrankGulba269 karma

Doesn't affect me at all.

MrScorcher86 karma

What was the drug use among soldiers like during WWII? Did you ever try anything yourself?

PN1CFrankGulba176 karma

Alcohol is the only thing I remember.

stosh201482 karma

Who do you think started the Centralia fire?

PN1CFrankGulba182 karma

My guess is it would be a cigarette.

awwaygirl78 karma

Looking back on your military experience, what do you think of how modern warfare has changed? Do you find current enemies (such as the Daesh) any more "scary" or intimidating than the enemies you fought in the conflicts you participated in?

PN1CFrankGulba481 karma

That wars are initiated by politician. There shouldn't be any more war. The only thing more shady than a politician is another politician.

awwaygirl77 karma

What is your favorite breakfast?

PN1CFrankGulba232 karma

Scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and crispy bacon.

SilentlyCrying75 karma

Did you ever at one point hate the Japanese? Would/have you gone back to visit?

PN1CFrankGulba118 karma

No. I never went back.

diegojones474 karma


What do you think about what is going on in Korea now?

PN1CFrankGulba148 karma

No thoughts.

Corwin97873 karma

Did your transport ship carry troops and did it participate in any seaborne invasion? If yes, what was that like?

PN1CFrankGulba109 karma

Yes, it carried troops. We were in a defensive position because there was alot of enemy fire directed at the ships. I was aboard ship with the captain directing instructions to the crew members. Many of the troops were killed during the invasion. I could see them falling once they got off the boats and tried to wade to shore.

DieselFuel169 karma

What were the food rations like while serving in 2 wars? was there any dramatic improvement as time went by?

PN1CFrankGulba223 karma

There was an area on the ship where they did all the baking. The bake shop was near my bunk and they used to go by with trays of bread and we were always grabbing the bread and eating it between meals. We would rip the bread and you'd see baby roaches in there. We ate them. They looked like particles of pepper. You just ate em.

Commandermax_2866 karma

Thank you for doing this. What were your thoughts when you saw the power of the nuclear testing? Also, if I may, where was the best place you drank in all your travels?

PN1CFrankGulba90 karma

Auckland, New Zealand.

(Grandson: See other responses in regards to nuclear testing.)

NighthawkHall64 karma

Do you now or have you ever regretted serving?

PN1CFrankGulba131 karma

No. I matured rapidly in the military.

wondering22360 karma

At what age did you enlist?

PN1CFrankGulba133 karma

I was drafted at the age of 18.

ILoveCannabis60 karma

People often speak of the horrors of war but don't mention the bonds that it forged. What is your favorite memory concerning friendships you formed in the military?

PN1CFrankGulba141 karma

Beer parties on the islands.

Raz0rking58 karma

How was life on the ships when not beeing in battle or beeing attacked? I have seen a lot of pictures, but i have a hard time "seeing" something.

PN1CFrankGulba137 karma

I did weight lifting with a crew of guys. I could stand on my hands while the ship was listing. There was one big muscular guy who could walk around on his thumbs. Sometimes we'd go swimming off the ship and some guys would dive off the top while we were in port. We'd also swim at the islands. We never swam when were out at sea. I would also play accordion. I also had about 3 boxing matches.

sldfghtrike47 karma

Why were you allowed to be at the Bikini Atoll testing and other sites? Did you ask to be there or did others ask if you could volunteer?

PN1CFrankGulba79 karma

I was aboard the ship that participated.

ArgileCrocodile38 karma

You said you were a good dancer, any favorite dances? Thank you for your service.

PN1CFrankGulba61 karma

I like the waltz.

Shakie66637 karma

I've heard that during the nuclear tests the bombs were so bright that you could see the bones in your hands when you covered your eyes. Is this true, or did no-one cover their eyes (with their hands)?

PN1CFrankGulba52 karma

I don't recall that during the tests but I remember something similar at the Pitman Dunn labrotories at the Frankford Arsenal after the war.

404_Ninja_not_found28 karma

What ship did you serve aboard in the pacific?

PN1CFrankGulba38 karma

USS George Clymer.

DaRealDB0324 karma

What was the strangest thing you experienced?

PN1CFrankGulba68 karma

I was near a ballpark in Shamokin that's no longer there. There was a 14 or 15 year old kid that went up on one of the power towers and grabbed the hot wire with his hands and his body immediately turned and was charred. I have no idea why he climbed up there. He looked like a dried onion He was still living but he was frozen there. He lived for about 6 hours.

wsender23 karma

Where in PA are you from? My grandfathers were miners and lived in the Scranton area, Olyphant to be specific.

PN1CFrankGulba35 karma


doctapeppa20 karma

What is he sitting in in that picture? Is that the naval ship he was on? Sorry if it's obvious but that leather chair is throwing me off.

PN1CFrankGulba22 karma

That was the swivel chair on the nav deck. That was on the USS George Clymer.

xXminilex20 karma

Did you serve on any other ships (other than the USS George Clymer)?

My grandfather was on the USS Wasp when it got hit by a kamikaze in the south Pacific. He didn't know how to swim, hung onto a door and floated to land while his friends were being eaten by sharks around him. Crazy guys still around today to tell the story too!

If you could change one thing about any war, what would it be?

PN1CFrankGulba32 karma

I wasn't on any other ship.

Eliminate the politicians and there wouldn't be any war.

BigBiscuit-18 karma

Did anyone you meet from these different cultures have a lasting impression on you?

PN1CFrankGulba42 karma

The natives in New Guinea had huge leathery feet like pontoons. They could walk over anything, thorns. The natives in the Philippines cooked grasshoppers on huge tins over fire. Then they'd eat them like potato chips.

golfmade12 karma

Just wondering: Was he ever in Taiwan? If so, what did he think?


PN1CFrankGulba18 karma


Dirk-Killington12 karma

Sir, I'm an afghan war vet (army) and from the bottom of my heart I just want to say hooya.

So what's in the glass? Whiskey and coke?

PN1CFrankGulba15 karma

(smiling) Rum and coke!

twiitar8 karma

How many instances of people trying out the jap "knee mortars" can he remember and how fatal did they end?

Thanks for doing this AmA, both of you!

PN1CFrankGulba13 karma

(Grandson: He was on the transport ship during combat. He doesn't recall any of the troops talking about the knee mortars.)

higginsburrito4 karma

Thanks for taking time to do this! What do you think is the greatest invention you've seen in your lifetime?

PN1CFrankGulba6 karma

TV or molecular electronics