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 “lone-wolf” 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 “street” Japanese, Gabaldon developed an incredibly effective technique, which resulted in the surrender of about 1,500 Japanese—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 “The Pied Piper of Saipan.” Here, Gabaldon recounts how he single-handedly secured the surrender of nearly 800 Japanese in a single day…

On the afternoon of 6 July I sneaked into the hottest and most dangerous Japanese area of the Campaign – Marpi Point. Again I say, “Ignorance is bliss.” If I’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 “impenetrable” 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 “Gyokusai Banzai” 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 “Dai Tenoheika Banzai” (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 “Banzai Cliffs,” and the “Last Command Post” area. They were determined to die in their last ditch efforts to kill “seven to one.” 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 “die.”

During the night of 6 July it was fever pitch all over the Marpi Point area, now called “The Last Command Post.” I remained hidden in my little niche. No one was about to search for an American in this last bastion of Japs on Saipan. I’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 don’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:

6 July, 1944 – Received an artillery barrage during the night and took refuge among the rocks, as each round approached nearer and nearer I closed my eyes and waited for it. Rifle reports and tanks seemed nearer and everyone took cover within the forest and waited for the enemy to approach.

Soon the voices of the enemy could be heard and machine gun bullets would be heard over our heads. Then the Captain ordered us to take cover. When I looked from around the side of the rock, I could see the hateful bearded faces of the enemy shining in the sunlight.

With a terrific report the rock in front of me exploded and the Sergeant who joined us last night was killed, and also the Corporal received wounds in his left thigh, however, I could not treat the wounded even though I wanted to do so. Everyone hugged the ground and was quiet, waiting for an opening in the enemy.

As I stood up to take a rifle from one of the dead a bullet hit between my legs and I thought I was hit.