Friday, December 5, 2014

Guy Gabaldon - Pied Piper of Saipan

Guy Gabaldon
  Most Americans, and especially Tennesseans, should know about the heroism of Sgt Alvin C. York. He earned the Medal of Honor in World War I for killing 25 German soldiers and capturing 132 single handed. But did you know that a Hispanic Marine named Guy Gabaldon killed 30 Japanese soldiers and captured 1500 soldiers and civilians in the battles of Saipan and Tinian?  Guy was born in East Los Angeles on March 22, 1926. He was an American of Mexican descent. To help the family get by he shined shoes. Later he would join a gang. At the age of 12 he moved in with an American family of Japanese descent. While living with them he attended a Japanese language school and also learned Japanese customs and culture. After the attack on Pearl Harbor Guy's adopted family was sent to an internment camp in Wyoming. Guy traveled to Alaska in order to work in a cannery. On his 17th birthday in 1943 he joined the U.S. Marines and went through boot camp at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

  The Army Air Forces tried to bomb Japan with the new B-29 Superfortress. Their bases in China proved to be too costly and impractical because of the distance involved. It would be necessary to capture Saipan in the Mariana Islands in order to build airfields that would be closer to Japan. The invasion of Saipan began on June 15, 1944 and ended on July 9. Like all battles against the Japanese it was brutal. The Japanese believed it was dishonorable to surrender and they had orders to kill as many Marines as they could before dying. The battle ended with a final Banzai charge of over 3,000 Japanese soldiers who nearly broke through American lines. In the end 30,000 Japanese troops were killed along with 2,949 Americans and 10,464 wounded out of a force of 71,000. Saipan was considered Japanese territory and at least 25,000 civilians lived on the island. The saddest chapter of this battle was the unnecessary death of so many civilians that were caught in the line of fire. Also Emperor Hirohito encouraged the civilians to commit suicide rather than surrender. This would guarantee them the same status in the spirit world as the Japanese soldier. In addition the civilians were told that the American would kill them if they surrendered. In the last days of the battle over a thousand civilians would commit suicide by jumping off of Suicide cliff and Banzai Cliff. Fathers would gather their whole family together in a group and pull the pin on a grenade killing everyone. Mother's would throw their children over the cliff and jump off after them. All the while American Marines and soldiers stood by begging them not to kill themselves. The Japanese were trying to convince the Americans that an invasion of Japan would be extremely costly for them. The military projected casualty rates as high as one million American deaths  

  This is what makes Guy Gabaldan's story so incredible. On the very first night of the battle Guy left American lines and talked two Japanese into surrendering by using what he called his backstreet Japanese. Guy was threatened with court martial by his superior officers for leaving his post. The next night he disobeyed orders again and found a cave guarded by two Japanese soldiers. He killed them and yelled to the men inside the cave to surrender. He lied by telling them they were surrounded. If they surrendered they would be well treated and he told them that the Americans did not want to kill them. The next morning he returned to American lines with fifty prisoners. After this episode his commanding officer gave him permission to operate on his own. On July 7, he was near Japanese caves when he overheard soldiers preparing for a last ditch Banzai charge. He reported this information which enabled the Marines to prepare an overwhelming defense. The attack was disastrous for the Japanese and the survivors returned to their caves. On July 8, he captured two Japanese guards Guy talked them into offering surrender terms to their unit. A Japanese officer appeared and after talking to Guy agreed to surrender his men. Over eight hundred soldiers and civilians surrendered to Gabaldan. For this exploit he was called (Pied Piper of Saipan). 

  At the battle of Tinian he captured even more Japanese. He was sent back to Saipan to fight Japanese guerrilla's and was seriously wounded in an ambush. Guy was credited with capturing 1,500 Japanese soldiers and civilians altogether. His commander put him in for the Medal of Honor with the citation that he had single-handedly captured ten times the number of prisoners captured by Sergeant York. Instead he was awarded the Silver Star. He was given an Honorable Discharge because of his combat wounds. In 1960 his Silver Star was elevated to the Navy Cross, which is one step below the Medal of Honor. Also in 1960 a movie about his exploits was released called (Hell To Eternity). Although Gabaldon was Hispanic a white blue eyed actor named Jeffrey Hunter portrayed Guy Gabaldan. He acted as an advisor to the movie. Guy Gabaldan would die at the age of eighty on August 31, 2006.         

Guy with Japanese people that he talked into surrender.

Guy talking Japanese into surrender

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