Military Wiki
Guy Gabaldon
PFC Guy Gabaldon
Birth name Guy Louis Gabaldon
Nickname Gabby, "The Pied Piper of Saipan"
Born (1926-03-22)March 22, 1926
Died August 31, 2006(2006-08-31) (aged 80)
Place of birth Los Angeles, California
Place of death Old Town, Florida
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo.svg  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1943 - 1945
Rank USMC-E2.svg
Private First Class
Unit 2nd Marine Regiment
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Saipan
Awards Navy Cross
Silver Star
Purple Heart

PFC Guy Louis Gabaldon (March 22, 1926–August 31, 2006) was a United States Marine who, at age 18, captured (or persuaded to surrender) roughly 1,500 Japanese soldiers and civilians during the Battle of Saipan (1944) in World War II. For these actions, Gabaldon was nominated for the Medal of Honor but was instead awarded the Silver Star, which was later upgraded to the Navy Cross Medal. His exploits were the basis for the 1960 Hollywood film Hell to Eternity. His friends called him, 'Gabby.' He was an outspoken member of right-wing political organizations, and wrote a book entitled, America Betrayed, which sharply criticizes the Kennedy family. He unsuccessfully ran for Congressman in his Southern California district.

Early years

Gabaldon was born in Los Angeles, California. His family was Mexican-American, and he was one of seven children. He was raised in East Los Angeles and, as a ten-year old, he helped his family by shining shoes on Skid Row.[1] Gabaldon was a member of a multi-ethnic gang known as the "Moe Gang,"[2] and he moved out of his house at age 12 to live with the Nakanos, a family of Japanese-American heritage whom he considered his extended family. He attended language school every day with their children and learned to speak Japanese. He also learned about their customs and culture.[3]

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II the Nakanos, his "adopted" [note 1] family, were sent to a relocation camp in Arizona. He went to Alaska to work in a cannery. On March 22, 1943, Gabaldon's 17th birthday, he joined the United States Marine Corps. After receiving his basic training at Camp Pendleton he was assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.

The Pied Piper of Saipan

The United States considered the possibility of a full scale invasion of the Japanese mainland but later 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.[4]

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."

Guy Gabaldon

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!" [1]

PFC Guy Gabaldon (right) poses with a few of the 1,500 Japanese soldiers and civilians who surrendered to him, during World War II

The next morning he returned with 50 Japanese prisoners. As a result, Gabaldon was permitted by his commanding officer to act as a "lone wolf" operator.[1]

On July 7, 1944, after spending a night near Saipan's northern cliffs, Gabaldon heard and listened to thousands of Japanese troops and civilians preparing for a large "banzai charge." Gabaldon quickly reported this information, which enabled the U.S. troops to prepare an overwhelming defense. The attack was disastrous for the Japanese, and the surviving Japanese returned to their positions.

The next day, on July 8, Gabaldon captured two more guards. He convinced one of them to return to his cave, with an offering of surrender. Shortly thereafter, a Japanese officer showed up. After speaking to Gabaldon, the officer accepted the conditions of surrender - and over eight hundred soldiers and civilians surrendered to Gabaldon, who turned them over to the U.S. military authorities. For his exploits, Gabaldon became known as The Pied Piper of Saipan.[1]

Gabaldon continued to capture more Japanese soldiers until he was wounded in a machine gun ambush. He was credited with the capture of 1,500 enemy personnel and was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his commanding officer, Capt. John Schwabe, who noted that he single-handedly captured more than ten times the number of prisoners taken by Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York in World War I. Despite this recommendation, Gabaldon was awarded a Silver Star.[1][5]

Post World War II



Gabaldon received an Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps as a result of his combat wounds. The United States Government awarded him a Silver Star Medal and, later, the Navy Cross Medal. Next to the Medal of Honor, this is the Marine Corps' highest military decoration.[6]

After returning to civilian life, he moved to Mexico and ventured into various businesses such as a furniture store, fishing, and the import-export of Mexican goods.[7] When his first marriage to June Gabaldon ended in divorce, he met the woman who became his second wife, Ohana Suzuki, while working in Mexico.[3]

External video
You can view a film clip from Guy Gabaldon's life story "Hell To Eternity" here.

Gabaldon's World War II exploits became public when in 1957, he was the invited guest of This is Your Life,[2] a popular television program aired by NBC in the 1950s. Hosted by Ralph Edwards, the show presented the life stories of entertainment personalities and "ordinary" people who had contributed in some way to society.[8]

The fact that Gabaldon captured at least 1,500 Japanese prisoners was verified on the national program by Marines Corps intelligence officers Colonel Walter Layer, Colonel John Schwabe, Major James High and several enlisted men from military intelligence.[9]

Hollywood producers became interested in Gabaldon's story and in 1960 released the film Hell to Eternity where his actions on Saipan were memorialized. He was portrayed by Jeffrey Hunter as an adult and by Richard Eyer as a boy. Gabaldon himself served as an adviser in the filming of the movie.[6]

Navy Cross citation



Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve)
Headquarters & Service Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division
Date of Action: June 15 - August 1, 1944

The Navy Cross is presented to Guy L. Gabaldon, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism while serving with Headquarters and Service Company, Second Marines, Second Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan and Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, South Pacific Area, from 15 June to 1 August 1944. Acting as a Japanese Interpreter for the Second Marines, Private First Class Gabaldon displayed extreme courage and initiative in single-handedly capturing enemy civilian and military personnel during the Saipan and Tinian operations. Working alone in front of the lines, he daringly 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 capturing well over one thousand enemy civilians and troops. Through his valiant and distinguished exploits, Private First Class Gabaldon made an important contribution to the successful prosecution of the campaign and, through his efforts, a definite humane treatment of civilian prisoners was assured. His courageous and inspiring devotion to duty throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.[10]

Approved by the Secretary of the Navy on November 23, 1960 (Upgraded from Silver Star)

Later years

File:Gabaldon GL dod 20040915.jpg

Guy Gabaldon speaking at Pentagon ceremony honoring Hispanic World War II veterans, September 2004.

Gabaldon ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress in California in 1964. In 1970, he moved to Saipan with his wife where he established a seafood business. There he authored and self-published a book; Saipan: Suicide Island, also re-printed as America Betrayed. He lived in Saipan for 20 years.[3]

Gabaldon returned to California in 1995 and moved to Old Town, Florida in 2003. On September 2004 he was honored by The Pentagon, in a ceremony which recognized the contributions of Hispanic American World War II veterans.

Various organizations have requested the Medal of Honor for Gabaldon, but their requests have been rejected. After lobbying by the Hispanic community, the case is currently under review by the Department of Defense so that Gabaldon's Navy Cross Medal be upgraded to the original recommendation, the Medal of Honor.[9]


On August 31, 2006, Gabaldon died in Old Town, Florida of heart disease. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.[11] Gabaldon is survived by his wife, Ohana; his sons Guy Jr., Ray, Tony, Yoshio, Jeffrey and Russell; his daughters Aiko, Hanako and Manya.[6]

Two members of his "adopted" family were actor Lane Nakano and his twin Lyle.[12]

Awards and recognitions

External video

You can view a newsreel of Guy Gabaldon receiving the Navy Cross Medal here:


On November 23, 1960, the United States Government upgraded Gabaldon's Silver Star Medal to a Navy Cross Medal. Next to the Medal of Honor, this is the Marine Corps' highest military decoration.[6]

During his lifetime, Gabaldon received many awards and recognitions, including resolutions honoring him from the City of Los Angeles, the City of Chicago, and the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas. He was also the recipient of the Chesty Puller Award.[13]

On July 7, 2006, Gabaldon was honored by the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa and the entire Los Angeles City Council. The Mayor and the City Council sent a resolution to the White House, requesting the Medal of Honor for Gabaldon. That same year the World War II Veteran’s Committee in Washington, D.C., a prominent organization which showcases the veterans of World War II and their history, featured Gabaldon on the cover of their quarterly magazine. Gabaldon was also honored by the National Council of La Raza, a national organization and a leading Latino civil rights advocate, at their annual conference that July.

In addition to the Hollywood movie Hell to Eternity, which recounted Gabaldon's heroism during World War II, Hollywood producer Steve Rubin made a documentary film about Gabaldon titled East L.A. Marine: the Untold True Story of Guy Gabaldon. Military artist Henry Godines also unveiled a commissioned portrait, titled The Pied Piper of Saipan, Guy Gabaldon.[9]

Military decorations

Among PFC Gabaldon's military decorations are the following:

Navy Cross
Silver Star
Purple Heart
Presidential Unit Citation Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal

See also


  1. "Gabaldon was not legally adopted by the Nakano family per se, he considered them his adopted family"


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 War Times Journal, Retrieved November 4, 2007
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Friendship Like No Other, Retrieved November 4, 2007[dead link]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Honolulu Star, Sunday, June 6, 2004, Retrieved November 4, 2007
  4. The Battle of Saipan, Retrieved November 4, 2007
  5. Medal of Honor Nominees Portrayed On Film, November 5, 2007
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Guy Gabaldon, 80, Hero of Battle of Saipan, Dies; New York Times; By Richard Goldstein; Published: September 4, 2006, Retrieved November 4, 2007
  7. Sendensky, Matt (2006-09-05). "Pied Piper of Saipan coaxed Japanese soldiers to give up". The Virginian Pilot (obituaries). The Associated Press. p. B9. 
  8. This is your Life, Retrieved November 4, 2007
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Guy Gabaldon, American Hero of the 20th Century, Retrieved November 4, 2007
  10. "Gabaldon, Guy L.". Full Text Citations For Award of The Navy Cross To U.S. Marines World War II. Archived from the original on 2006-08-29. Retrieved 2006-07-25. 
  11. Arlington National Cemetery, Retrieved November 4, 2007
  12. Varzally, Allison (2008). Making a Non-White America. Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 114–115. ISBN 978-0-520-25344-5. 
  13. Guy Gabaldon, Retrieved November 4, 2007

External links

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