A Lone-Wolf Marine: How One Man Captured 1,500 Japanese on Saipan
by Guy Gabaldon
Guy Gabaldon served with the 2nd Marine Division in the battle for Saipan. Prior to joining the military, he had grown up on the rough streets of East Los Angeles. Gabaldon, an American Hispanic, was raised by a Japanese American foster family, who had taught him the Japanese language. On Saipan, he put this skill to work. Going out on â€œlone-wolfâ€ patrols, Gabaldon would approach a cave here Japanese soldiers or civilians were hidden, shoot any guards, then yell in Japanese that any inside should surrender, and that he would not harm any who did. Using his fluent â€œstreetâ€ Japanese, Gabaldon developed an incredibly effective technique, which resulted in the surrender of about 1,500 Japaneseâ€”a remarkable feat considering that in the seizure of Tarawa only a few months earlier, only 146 prisoners were taken out of a garrison of 5,000. His extraordinary story was made into the 1960 movie, Hell to Eternity, and earned him the nickname â€œThe Pied Piper of Saipan.â€ Here, Gabaldon recounts how he single-handedly secured the surrender of nearly 800 Japanese in a single dayâ€¦
On the afternoon of 6 July I sneaked into the hottest and most dangerous Japanese area of the Campaign â€“ Marpi Point. Again I say, â€œIgnorance is bliss.â€ If Iâ€™d known of the thousands of Japanese in that area readying for the Banzai attack on the next day, I would not have attempted the incursion into their â€œimpenetrableâ€ area.
I went behind their lines before they attacked the Marine and Army units in San Roque and Tanapag. My position gave me a grandstand view of the formation of the biggest â€œGyokusai Banzaiâ€ attack on Saipan. Once behind the lines there was absolutely no way that I could rejoin my unit. I was caught behind the lines, and my future looked very bleak. The yells of â€œDai Tenoheika Banzaiâ€ (Long live the Emperor) could be heard as the enemy made their final fanatical preparations. I saw many Japanese troops coming up from the seaside cliffs. They had been hiding in the caves below what is now known as â€œBanzai Cliffs,â€ and the â€œLast Command Postâ€ area. They were determined to die in their last ditch efforts to kill â€œseven to one.â€ It was easy to distinguish the civilians from the military, but even the civilians had the fanatical spirit of the Bushido Code of War. It was do or die, for the vast majority it was going to be â€œdie.â€
During the night of 6 July it was fever pitch all over the Marpi Point area, now called â€œThe Last Command Post.â€ I remained hidden in my little niche. No one was about to search for an American in this last bastion of Japs on Saipan. Iâ€™m sure that they could not imagine a Marine hiding among them. It was a great vantage point for me.
How do I get out of this jam? How will I ever get past thousands of armed fanatics? I donâ€™t dare try to take any prisoners under these circumstances. It seemed deserted when I came into the area, but that was because the Japs were in the caves below the cliff line.
The following is the last entry in a diary taken from the body of a Japanese medic. The entry was being written as I was in hiding in the same area as this Jap soldier. It will serve to illustrate the desperate mentality of do or die of the suicide bent Japs, both civilians and military. They had sworn, for the glory of the Emperor, to kill seven Marines to one Jap: