Franklin D Frost

Franklin D Frost

Franklin D Frost

Franklin D Frost served honorably in the World War II Navy Armed Guard Service as a Radioman. He served on the SS George Gipp, and then was selected to attend the Navy V-12 Officers Program. On Merchant Ships during World War II, gunners were usually the vast majority and Radiomen and Signalmen were in the minority, which makes for lonely voyages. I asked Frank to submit his story and he did and it is shown below.

February 21, 2002

To: Thomas Bowerman

In response to your request for information about the Armed Guard in World
War II, I offer the following information about myself and the duty aboard 
the S.S. George Gipp.  I am now 77 years old but I am confident that the data 
I send to you is quite accurate and may be a bit more than you are seeking, 
but please allow me to transmit what I have in my records and that which I 
remember as I reminisce those days of 1943 and 1944.

I enlisted in the Navy in January 26, 1943, at Cincinnati, Ohio, age 18.
Service Number 855 18 13.

Boot camp at Camp Greenbay, Great Lakes, Illinois, Jan 27 to Apr 15.  I had
requested duty on (1) a battleship or (2) a cruiser. Then, boot camp leave.

Radio School at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, Apr 29 to Sept
7. Upon graduation, the top ten, out of a class of several hundred, were
selected for Armed Guard Service and further training. I was ranked second, 
and  was now a Radioman Third Class (RM3/C) and made 70(?) bucks a month.
I felt this was a let down from my request for a battleship.

Convoy training at Noroton Heights, Connecticut, September 13 to Oct, 29.
It consisted of the use of code books for BAMS (Broadcast Allied Merchant
Ships),  TBS radio (Talk Between Ships), Signalman training, with flags
and blinker light, in case the signalman was killed.  He was on the flying
bridge and I was in the Radio Shack, protected by the steel and 6 inches of 
asphalt around the radio shack.  I was now 19 years old.

Brooklyn Navy Yard, South Brooklyn, New York, Oct 30 to Nov 4.

USN Armed Guard Center, South Brooklyn, New York, Nov 4 to Nov 9.

S.S. George Gipp at Philadelphia, PA, Nov 9, 1943 to Mar 20, 1944.

The Gipp was a Liberty ship named for the famed football player at Notre
Dame. Ronald Reagan played the role of George Gipp in the movie about Knute
Rockne. She was built in 1943 at the Kaiser shipyards at Portland, Oregon, and 
had sailed westward around the world, to Philadelphia in order to take on cargo
and change the Armed Guard Crew along with some of the Merchant Seamen.

The Armed Guard Crew mustered at 6am under the command of a green , Ensign
Gunnery Officer,  an obvious 90 day wonder.  He was a very young insurance
salesman from Washington, D.C.   There were two Signalmen 3/C, one
Coxswain, one Gunners Mate 3/C and the rest were Seamen 1/C.  We took a bus to 
Grand Central Station and a train to Philadelphia. We arrived at the ship about
2pm and stowed our gear.  As a Petty Officer, I was given a lower bunk bed, with
inner spring and mattress in Merchant Marine Officer’s Quarters.  The unit  was 
built for four men, but I had it all to myself.  It was one deck below the Radio 
Shack.  Nice!.

We were given liberty until midnight. Sailing time was before daylight the
next day.  Of course I wanted to go ashore for a last look around.  On the 
way to the gangplank I observed the deck cargo.  The huge wooden crates were 


That immediately triggered remembrances of the newsreels at the movies, pictures
in the Sunday Rotogravure, and the radio and newspaper accounts of  the losses 
of so many ships in the convoys going on the horrible Murmask run to the
northernmost seaport of Soviet Union.  To make this run in winter was almost 
suicidal. Few ships were able to make the round trip.  If a ship went down due 
to enemy action, there were no survivors due to the freezing water.  Just to think 
of it was a truly traumatic experience for this young kid.

I wish to point out at this time that there were no guards at the gangplank
of the ship or visible anywhere in the dock area.  There was just the name on 
the bow of the ship and a painted board on the main deck showing liberty hours 
and our sailing time.  If anyone wanted to jump ship, this would seem like an 
ideal time.

But this was World War II, and people were begging to serve, not to run.

I went ashore.  I felt I was unable to call my family in Ohio and explain
my situation, so I phoned my Aunt in Washington, D. C., and simply said I was 
sailing in a few hours, and that it was possible that I might not come back.  
I took a bus to a downtown area, walked around for a while, got back on the 
bus, went back to the Gipp and soon was fast asleep.

I had a sense of the bunk vibrating, heard a low rumbling and when I opened
my eyes it took a few seconds to reach reality.  We were underway.  I dressed, 
went out on deck and saw the lights on shore pass and recede as we sailed down 
the Delaware River, into Delaware Bay and joined the Convoy at Hampton Roads.

At daylight, I soon learned that this Radioman 3/C on this ship was very
much in a class by himself.  There was nothing in common with the gun crew. The
Signalmen were known to me from Noroton Heights and when off watch I often 
spent time on the flying bridge with them.  I stood watch in the Radio 
Shack alone and the area was off limits for all but Officers.  The Merchant 
Marine Radio Officer resented my presence, probably because I was an enlisted 
man. He had a salary of  $780 per month (my best recollection).   We seldom 
had any personal conversation.  I think my Navy scale was $93 per month 
including bonus for sea duty.

Also the  Master of the ship was informed that the Armed Guard officer was
in charge of the entire ship whenever he felt there was an emergency.  Since the
Radio Shack and the Chart Room were on opposite sides of the Enclosed Bridge, 
I heard the uproar when the green Navy Ensign read to the Master the Navy 
Regulation that put himself in charge of me in the Radio Shack.  But like the 
regimented gentlemen they were, all the rules were diligently followed.

We were supposedly in the largest convoy to date to cross the Atlantic.  It
took 21 days before we saw the Rock of Gibraltar.  We ran at a speed of 4.5 
to 5.0 knots. Radio silence was maintained but we talked to the ships in the 
other columns by Blinker Light for personal messages and flags were flown from 
the yardarm for messages from the convoy Commodore.  We had a rather large USA 
escort of several Destroyer Escorts and even a Baby Carrier.  Oh yes, we were 
finally assured that we were NOT going to Murmask.  And that was a big, pleasant 

At Gibraltar we were escorted by the British Navy through the Mediterranean
Sea to the Suez Canal.  It was in the Suez that British Soldiers at a hospital
looked at us and yelled:  "Wait until you’ve had five years of war you 

Later the Arabs in their white sheets called us a long string of filthy foul 
names.  I wondered to myself, "If these are our allies, what does our enemies 
think of us?"

I had been taught in school that we were the best loved nation on Earth.

A stop at Aden, at the southern end of the Red Sea, and then on a Zig Zag
course through the calm Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf. We were alone and no
escort.  13 ships left Aden, seven made it to Iran.  Submarines loved to sink 
ships in this area, especially the tankers, hauling oil from Abadan, Iran.  I 
would copy the Morse Code distress signal SSSS SSSS SSSS, meaning submarine, 
and then it would be followed by a reading of Latitude and Longitude.  I would 
walk around to the Chart Room to verify their relative location to us and 
notify the Gunnery Officer of the details.  When torpedoed at night, the 
tanker fires would light up the horizon for many, many miles.

Here I will mention that we had three mess halls. One each for the
Commissioned Officers, one for the Merchant crew, and one for the Armed Guard 
crew.  We usually had a choice of items from a chalk board on the wall, and it 
was served to us on a plate by a Merchant Marine mess boy.  While on watch in 
the Radio Shack, I had access to a receiver, and when I could find suitable 
programs, would pipe them down to the mess halls for their listening pleasure.  
Some of the best music was from Axis Sally in Germany.  She also was able to 
track our Convoy quite accurately through the Mediterranean.

We had Christmas dinner in the Indian Ocean.  I still have the menu given
to each man for the meal.  I will do my best to copy it.

                       NORTON - LILY  MANAGEMENT  CORP.


Vessel:  S.S. GEORGE  GIPP               Voyage:  #2
Date:   12-25-43

                                        XMAS DINNER AT SEA

                                           HORS  D’OEVRES



                                        PERFECTION SALAD

                                     CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

1/2 FRIED CHICKEN                                              BAKED VIRGINIA HAM

OYSTER DRESSING                                           PINEAPPLE SAUCE


CARROTS & PEAS                                                   ASPARAGUS TIPS

CRANBERRY SAUCE                                              MASHED POTATOES


MIXED PICKLES                       SLICED DILL                              GREEN OLIVES




ORANGES                                  APPLES
MIXED NUTS                        COFFEE & TEA LEMONADE


                    AS O’ER THE SEA’S WE ROAM


                    A TICKET FOR A SAFE PASSAGE HOME


We entered the Persian Gulf, then the Shatt-Al-Arab River, formed by the
confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq,  and went up to the 
port of Kohrammshar, Iran, where we tied up at a riverside dock.  It was New 
Years Eve.

We were unloaded by Iranian people who were working under the direction of
the United States Army soldiers.  Among the cargo were airplanes, trucks,
medical supplies, food of all kinds (including Spam), cubed sugar, tires, heavy
khaki colored cloth, railroad wheels and axles, etc.

It took three weeks for the cargo to be unloaded.  During that time, I, as
the only Petty Officer in the group, was in charge of four other sailors as 
we took a trip to Basra, Iraq.  When there, we were followed by crowds of 
people because we carrying cartons of cigarettes and bed sheets from the ship 
for barter.  We ate and slept at the Nuffield House YMCA Hostel, in Basra.  I 
have a receipt for one Dinar, less than a Dollar total payment, for bed and 
breakfast for "Frost and four friends". It gave us a large room with bunk beds.
Next day we rented a taxi and took the long drive to Bagdad, but had very little 
time there before returning to the ship.

The voyage home was enlivened one day as we approached the Island of
Masirah in the Indian Ocean off the south coast of the Arabian peninsula.   An
American built PBY airplane, owned by the British and flown by the Dutch 
(we learned later), approached us from the stern in low level flight.  The 
Ensign was touchy and gave the order to fire a round from the 4 inch stern gun.  
The plane quickly veered off to the right then landed on the island.  A later 
meeting on shore acknowledged the pilot error, as well as several shrapnel 
holes in the plane.

We were back in Baltimore, then home at the Brooklyn Armed Guard Center by
March 21, 1944.   I applied for and was selected for the Navy V-12 then
ROTC at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.  I left on June 30, 1944.
That was the end of my Armed Guard Service.


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