Guy Gabaldon: "The Pied Piper of Saipan"
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The Marines landed in Saipan in 1944, during World War II. Among those who landed was PFC Guy Gabaldon, a young man of Mexican-American heritage, who captured over 1,000 prisoners. No person in history has ever captured such a huge amount of enemy soldiers single-handed. When you take into account that each Japanese soldier was ordered to kill seven American soldiers, you begin to wonder how many deaths his actions prevented.
During World War II the United States considered the possibility of a full scale invasion of the Japanese mainland but decided that such a feat would be costly, with an estimated one million American casualties. The capture of Saipan was considered essential for the establishment of airfields which would accommodate the B-29 Superfortress bombers to be used for the planned invasion. On June 15, 1944, an armada of 535 ships carrying 127,570 U.S. military personnel which included Marines from the 2nd and 4th Divisions began the invasion of Saipan. Japanese soldiers seldom surrendered during World War II and, as the invasion went badly for the Japanese, they were ordered by their superiors on Saipan to kill seven U.S. Marine and Army troops for every man they lost, or commit suicide.
Guy Gabaldon (1926 - 2006) was born in Los Angeles, California. He was one of seven children born to a family of Mexican-American heritage. He was raised in East Los Angeles and, as a ten-year old, he helped his family by shining shoes on Skid Row. Gabaldon went to live with the parents of a Japanese-American friend at the age of 12. At the outbreak of World War II, his adoptive family was placed in a relocation camp.
Gabaldon joined the Marines when he was only 17 years old; he was a Private First Class (PFC) when his unit was engaged in the Battle of Saipan in 1944. Gabaldon, who acted as the Japanese interpreter for the Second Marines, working alone in front of the lines, entered enemy caves, pillboxes, buildings, and jungle brush, frequently in the face of hostile fire, and succeeded in not only obtaining vital military information, but in convincing well over 1,000 enemy soldiers and civilians to surrender.
Gabaldon began bringing in prisoners the very first day that he arrived on Saipan. According to Gabaldon:
"The first night I was on Saipan, I went out on my own...I always worked on my own, and brought back two prisoners using my backstreet Japanese."
Gabaldon was reprimanded by his superior officers, and threatened with a court-martial for leaving his post. However, the next night he went out and did it ''again.'' He carefully approached a cave, shot the guards outside, moved off to one side of the cave, and yelled in Japanese, "You're surrounded and have no choice but to surrender. Come out, and you will not be killed! I assure you will be well-treated. We do not want to kill you!"
He was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but was awarded the Silver Star instead. His medal was later upgraded to the Navy Cross. He turned in more enemy soldiers than Sergeant Alvin York, who was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War I for having captured 132 enemy German soldiers.
Gabaldon's actions on Saipan were later memorialized in the film ''Hell to Eternity'', in which he was portrayed by actor Jeffrey Hunter.
On August 31, 2006, Gabaldon died in Old Town, Florida of heart disease. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Gabaldon is survived by his wife, Ohana; his sons Guy Jr., Ray, Tony, Yoshio, Jeffrey and Russell; his daughters Aiko, Hanako and Manya.